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Shaheen and Ayotte: Agreeing and disagreeing

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As the state’s two U.S. senators, Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte work cooperatively on a lot of issues, even though - since Shaheen is a Democrat and Ayotte is a Republican - they sit on opposite sides of the aisle in the chamber.

Recent cooperative efforts include the release of federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds and support for the Air Force to provide its new in-flight fuel tanker planes to the N.H. Air National Guard Base at Pease.

Lately, they’ve disagreed on certain issues. One example is how to address increasing rates of sexual assaults within military ranks. Shaheen wants reporting these assaults taken out of the chain of command; Ayotte wants the reporting to stay within the command structure but with the help of a specialized advocate for the victim. See a Live Free or Die Alliance post on the issue here.

This week the issue is a political one - the use of the filibuster in the U.S. Senate.

Shaheen supports Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision to drop the so-called “nuclear option” that changes the rules on filibusters. Ayotte opposes it.

Filibuster has been used over the years by the minority party in the Senate to hold up consideration of an issue, most typically a presidential nomination. Senate rules required a 60-vote supermajority to end a filibuster and proceed to an up-or-down majority vote to confirm or reject the nomination. In a chamber that has a slim party majority, the 60-vote super majority can be hard to come by.

Reid’s maneuver on Thursday - approved by the Senate 52-48 - requires only a simple-majority vote to end a filibuster. And it opens the door to the approval of three appointments to Washington, D.C.’s appeal court, nominations that had been held up by the mere threat of a GOP filibuster.

Shaheen has long been an advocate of filibuster reform. See an LFDA story here.

It’s somewhat ironic today that Reid over the years has opposed a change to the rules but found himself compelled to do so now by the partisan gridlock that has come to characterize the U.S. Congress..For her part, Ayotte called the rules change “a raw abuse of power.”

She said (in a Washington Post story reprinted by the Union Leader): “The Democrats’ vote to invoke the ‘nuclear option’ and fundamentally change the rules of the Senate is a raw power grab which is deeply disappointing. Like the manner in which they rammed through Obamacare on party line votes, they have now broken the rules of the Senate to allow them to do the same for the President’s executive and judicial nominees.At a time when Americans want members of both parties to be working together, this partisan power play will only further inflame the partisan divide in Washington."

Their like-mindedness will be on display Monday, when the New Hampshire congressional delegation is scheduled to dedicate the new Squadron Operations building at the Air National Guard base at Pease.

Shaheen and Ayotte will join Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02), N.H. Gov. Maggie Hassan will help Air Force personnel formally dedicate the new operations facility that improves communications and efficiency. All four members of New Hampshire’s congressional delegation toured the building during construction.

Paul Briand is an editor for the Live Free or Die Alliance, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that encourages the discussion and analysis of New Hampshire politics and policies.

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