BEDFORD – Congresswoman Annie Kuster is no stranger at New England Council events, but Monday was her first time attending a congressional breakfast as the speaker and not as a member of the audience.
Rep. Kuster was meant to share the stage with Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter in a double feature, but Shea-Porter was a no-show, citing an unspecified scheduling conflict. The event took place at the Bedford Village Inn, which is in Shea-Porter’s district, on a day in which Congress is not in session.
“I’ve never joined a more dysfunctional organization,” Kuster said of her first two months in Congress. “They refuse to compromise. They set up a crisis atmosphere,” Kuster said, without specifying whether she was referring to Congress as an institution, to one party, or to the administration.
Nonetheless, Kuster expressed optimism. She cited her experiences getting to know other freshmen members of both parties, and spoke of her involvement in what she called the
United Solutions Caucus. The group focuses on policy everyone can agree on, with an operating principle of, “Let’s leave the differences at the door for this conversation.” Kuster said the group is up to 40 members, about half of them Republican, and that the group is “pulling everything to the middle.”
Kuster’s remarks repeated her theme of working across aisles in a bi-partisan manner, which was well received by the business oriented audience of 60 people. Describing herself as a “frugal Yankee” who was “born bi-partisan,” Kuster said, “There’s no question in my mind that we do need to cut spending.” She objected to the sequester’s across-the-board cuts as not how businesses would go about things.
Kuster said she thinks she has a 100 percent voting record with Speaker John Boehner, due to the nature of the bills that have advanced this far. She cited the Violence Against Women act as an example, and the No Budget No Pay bill. “I’m not voting for a congressional pay raise. They haven’t done their job,” Kuster said, again being vague about who “they” is.
Kuster fielded questions on workforce education (she’s for it!), immigration reform (for that, too), and free trade agreements.
On free trade, Kuster pledged only to consider deals one treaty at a time. “This is one of the
areas where I have resisted being pigeon holed,” Kuster said. “On social issues, I am what they call progressive. But on the rest of the issues, I’m business-oriented.”
“I’m not going to make an agreement up front that I’m going to be for every trade deal,” Kuster said – leaving herself open to supporting protectionist policies for industries such as paper mills.
email@example.com, March 11, 2013