Ayotte: Divided Government will Bring Bipartisanship [VIDEO]
New Hampshire's junior Senator briefs business leaders at BIA luncheon.
U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, met with business leaders on Jan. 25, outlining a number of initiatives she was working on while giving those in attendance an overview of the current standoff between political parties in Washington and the difficult road ahead for entitlements and the budget.
The luncheon was part of a series of events sponsored by the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire, the state’s chamber of commerce, which the group holds a number of times a year.
Ayotte opened the conversation talking about her committee assignments, which changed slightly in 2013, to include a seat on the Homeland Security Committee which will have “oversight over all government agencies” as well as the Aging Committee. She lost, however, a seat on the Small Business Committee, “as much as my heart is there.”
Ayotte said shared the frustration of many residents and business owners concerned about Washington being so divided at times, calling it “a very challenging time.” But, she added, there was a lot of communication and working together going on behind the scenes between Democrats who controlled the White House and the Senate, and the Republicans that controlled the House, that would work towards advancing legislation.
Ayotte pointed to the models forwarded by President Ronald Reagan and Speaker Tip O’Neill in the 1980s and Bill Clinton and Speaker Newt Gingrich in the 1990s that led major reforms in Social Security and welfare, calling them models that “we need to get back to in Washington.”
Although she was disappointed that a “big picture fiscal agreement” was not created in the wake of the dramatic fiscal cliff situation at the end of 2012, Ayotte was happy that 99 percent of Americans did not receive an income tax rate hike and that sequestration was not implemented by randomly hacking at the budget.
However, she added, at least $4 trillion in spending during the next 10 years needed to be cut, at a minimum, in order bring stability to the federal budget situation. Ayotte said she supported a “dollar for dollar bill” of cuts and debt limit ceiling increase in order to bring the debt ratio down to about 20 percent of gross domestic product.
Paying down the $16-plus-trillion debt will be a main focus of her budget work noting that the federal government was currently borrowing 40 cents on every dollar it was spending, running trillion dollar deficits each year. She feared that the Federal Reserve keeping interest rates at historic lows would cause a financial problem in the future when rates rose.
For every 1 percent rise in interest rates, another $1 trillion is owed, Ayotte said adding, “It’s not really a stretch to see a 2 percent in the future” calling it “a real urgency.” The fights in Washington, she said, were about a vision for the country but ultimately, if the debt wasn’t addressed, it will reduce the future choices of leaders.
Ayotte said she co-sponsored the No Budget, No Pay Act, that recently was approved in Congress, in order to force the discussion on getting the budget and deficit problems addressed.
Entitlements and other mandatory spending line items that make up about 60 percent of the federal budget are another problem that she wants to focus on in the coming year, pointing to solvency issues with both Social Security and Medicare, which are both expected to begin running deficits in 2033 and 2024, respectively.
The average family, Ayotte stated, pays about $119,000 into Medicare but takes out $357,000 in terms of benefits. She said the demographic ratio between when the programs were created and today were quite different, with far fewer workers putting money into the system than there are people taking out. She called for a discussion of gradually increasing the retirement age and means testing while not impacting current beneficiaries.
“There is only one option that we can’t take when it comes to mandatory entitlement spending and that’s doing nothing,” she said. “We don’t have an option to do nothing and sometimes people come to you and want to say, ‘We can’t do anything, we can’t touch this.’ I firmly believe that saying that means you’re for bankruptcy of these programs.”
Ayotte said it was disappointing that President Barack Obama raised the pay of Senators and Representatives by Executive Order during the fiscal crisis and she was co-sponsoring a bill that would not allow raises to be implemented while the federal government was running a deficit.
She also promoted the need for tax reform and protecting New Hampshire businesses that sell items online from having to collect sales taxes for other states, calling the Main Street Fairness Act “a disadvantage to New Hampshire,” one of only five states that doesn’t have a sales tax.
Ayotte also pointed to reducing new regulations noting that she just had a meeting with community bankers who were complaining about the massive amount of new regulations that were brought on by Dodd-Frank.
Ayotte also said the country needed to stand up to countries like North Korean which was recently in the news, saber-rattling with nuclear weapons testing, and believed that the United States needed to keep Iran from becoming a nuclear power.