While the budget negotiations between the President and the GOP get tenser, one woman is emerging as a touchstone of the new Republican Party – Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, a freshman in her second year and ranked 99th in seniority, is possibly the most formidable opponent the environmental lobby will ever have to face.
Heels On, Gloves Off
In 2003 Ms Ayotte was a member of the Homeland Security Taskforce, while chief of the homicide division in the New Hampshire attorney general’s office. Twenty years before that she was studying at Villanova University School of Law. While there, she held a position as editor of the school’s Environmental Law Journal, a connection she constantly plays on in her speeches around the country.
Oddly there is no information, no apparent record (other than the fact that she did go to Villanova), of her time as Editor of the Villanova Environmental Law Journal. Nobody has testified that she really was the Journal editor and there is no record of other achievements there. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any information.
However, the experience seems to have left her with lifelong wariness of environmentalists and environmentalism. She stated recently that the idea of man-made climate change was not as important as jobs. Ayotte “said that global warming is a ‘real issue’ and that scientific evidence has shown human activity could have contributed to higher temperatures.” But, “at the same time, she warned against addressing climate change in a way that costs jobs, results in higher energy bills our puts the” U.S. “at a competitive disadvantage to countries such as China and India” (Schoenberg, Concord Monitor, 8/12).
In the news
Ayotte is in the news today, trashing U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice over Libyan policy, and she sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee alongside Senators McCain and Graham, where she has increasingly used a growing partnership with the two senior members to become one of the GOP’s most visible figures.
This week, Ayotte was widely quoted trying to build concern that Rice could succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. Through moves like these, Ayotte has emerged as a newly influential voice in a party that needs more like her.
“She has the potential to be an important voice in the Republican Party,” said Tom Rath, adviser to Mitt Romney who has known Ayotte her entire professional life. He did not confirm her background at Villanova.
Democrats once labeled Ms Ayotte “K Street Kelly” because she had fundraisers in Washington, D.C., attended by some lobbyists. They called her the establishment candidate when she first entered the Senate in 2010, because, despite being in a contested party primary, she almost immediately received the backing of incumbent Republican U.S. senators, including John Cornyn, Mitch McConnell and John McCain.
“I know there are things we will disagree on,” said the devout Roman Catholic, referring to the Republican leadership. “I’m going to stand up for people here in New Hampshire. They don’t want you to vote Republican or Democratic. They want you to vote for New Hampshire and America first, and I understand that.”
Ayotte said that with the economic recession and the massive budget deficit the key issues facing the nation, Congress should not take a pay raise until there is a balanced budget and no federal debt. She said she would also self-impose a limit of two terms.
Ayotte said her fiscally conservative approach began when she was at the Attorney General’s Office. While she has no legislative experience — in fact, this was her first run for any elective officeAyotte opposes restoring the pre-cut higher rates for anyone, regardless of income.
“We should end the class warfare,” she said. “And right now, in a difficult economic time, we shouldn’t be raising taxes on anyone.”
Ayotte said that to raise them would cost New Hampshire taxpayers $300 million.
“For 75 percent of small businesses, their income flows through their personal tax returns,” she said. “Those tax cuts impact about 750,000 small businesses in this country and nearly half the business income in this country. We need to keep those rates stable so businesses can have a climate of certainty and they can start expanding and have our economy recover.”
She said the uncertainty about tax rates and health care premiums has resulted in “a climate that is not one in which you’re going to want to expand, and that’s what we’re seeing.”
Obama’s strongest opponent
Ayotte called for repealing the Obama health care bill and enacting “private market reforms” that allow small businesses to pool for coverage. She proposes to enact tort reform, including limits on non-economic punitive and pain-and-suffering damages.
Ayotte also called for cutting corporate taxes and cutting the capital gains tax. She opposed the Obama stimulus plan, the auto bailout and any future government spending aimed at stimulating the economy.
“I don’t think government should pick the winners or losers there,” she said.
Ayotte is a Nashua native and graduate of Nashua High School. She is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University and the Villanova University School of Law.
She briefly clerked for New Hampshire Supreme Court Associate Justice Sherman D. Horton, worked for a year in private practice and then joined the Attorney General’s Office as a prosecutor in 1998. Among the high-profile murder cases she was involved in, long before the Officer Michael Briggs murder case, were the 1999 conviction of James Dale in the rape and murder of a 6-year-old Hopkinton girl and the 2002 convictions in the double murder of Dartmouth College professors Half and Susanne Zantop.
In 2003, Ayotte became legal counsel to then-Gov. Craig Benson, but returned to the Attorney General’s Office three months later as deputy attorney general. She was named attorney general in 2004 by Benson and then reappointed in March 2009 by Democratic Gov. John Lynch.
Ayotte said her experience in the Attorney General’s Office allowed her to work with federal, state and local authorities on homeland security and anti-terrorism measures.
At 44, Ayotte is a fresh face in a party that has lagged behind in advancing women into its most powerful positions and in making a convincing case to many female voters.
It is an unusual role for a first-term senator, particularly one who arrived in Washington without a national profile. But Ayotte has been tapped repeatedly by the GOP to carry the party’s message.
She has twice delivered the official response to President Obama’s weekly address and served as a tireless surrogate for Romney during his presidential campaign.
Ayotte’s name is regularly included on long lists of Republicans who might run for president in 2016. She laughed off that speculation. “I don’t know where they get that,” she said.
Ayotte and her husband, a pilot with the New Hampshire National Guard, have two children, ages 8 and 5. The senator said many people might see themselves in her everyday effort to balance family and work.”
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