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Kuster, Pappas Back Biden ‘Build Back’ Plan Adding Billions in Debt, Benefits for Illegals

U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas says the Biden’ Build Back Better” plan he voted for last Friday “is fully paid for and will reduce the deficit by $112 billion.”

Rep. Annie Kuster also says the bill “is fully paid for” by “making super-wealthy corporations and the top one percent pay their fair share.”

But nearly every economic review of the legislation, including the Congressional Budget Office analysis they both claim to rely on, says the bill will add billions in new debt. And the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) projects the actual cost of the bill is closer to $5 trillion.

That is just one aspect of the budget reconciliation bill Kuster and Pappas helped pass in a straight partisan vote (Maine’s Rep. Jared Golden was the only Democratic “no” vote) that has received little attention from New Hampshire’s media. Democrats say the Child Tax Credit monthly checks, increased healthcare subsidies, and taxpayer-funded pre-K for all will be popular with voters. And they may be right. But there are other details almost certain to appear in campaign ads next year.

 

ADDING TO THE DEBT

New Hampshire’s congressional delegation touted their votes when the House bill passed last week, even as the Congressional Budget Office released a report indicating the $1.75 trillion social spending bill could increase the deficit between $160 and $360 billion over ten years, despite Biden administration promises the spending will be covered by increased taxes.

And the CRFB points out the Democrats’ plan includes ten years of revenue, but only includes spending on some of the largest items for five years — or even one. For example, the Child Tax Credit sending monthly checks to couples earning up to $150,000 costs $130 billion. But Democrats only include it in their 10-year plan for just one year. Assuming the checks don’t stop in 2024 — an election year– and instead last for the entire 1o years, the actual cost is an additional $1 trillion. None of which is paid for in the current plan.

 

BENEFITS FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS

Under the Trump administration, recipients of the monthly Child Tax Credit checks ($300 per child under age six and $250 for each child ages six to 17) had to have Social Security numbers. Under the Build Back Better bill passed by Kuster and Pappas, that requirement is gone, allowing many more people in the U.S. illegally to collect the taxpayer-funded benefit.

The bill also includes a 10-year “amnesty-lite” program in the form of work permits, Social Security numbers, eligibility for welfare benefits, and the ability to get a driver’s license for some 4 or 6 million illegal immigrants. The Washington Post calls it “the largest mass-legalization program for undocumented immigrants in U.S. history.”

 

TAX CUTS FOR THE WEALTHY

The Biden budget lifts the cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions for federal filers from $10,000 to $80,000. Few Americans — and very few Granite Staters — pay $80,000 in state and local taxes. According to the left-leaning Tax Policy Center, the top 20 percent of earners would reap more than 96 percent of the benefits of a SALT repeal, and the top one percent of all earners would see 57 percent of benefits.

 

Lifting the SALT deduction cap helps subsidize the costs of high local taxes in places like Massachusetts, New York and California. But it does little for the taxpayers of the Granite State. The roughly 10 percent of folks in New Hampshire who itemize deductions only receive about 0.4 percent of the total SALT deduction benefits.

 

MASSIVE INCREASE IN THE SIZE OF THE IRS

Public pressure killed the Biden administration’s plans to increase bank reporting requirements to reach more lower-income earners — a plan supported early on by both Kuster and Pappas. However, House Democrats did vote to drastically increase the size of the IRS in hopes of collecting more tax revenues.

Democrats voted to add $88 billion of new funding for the IRS, including $45 billion dedicated to enforcement and $4 billion to administer green energy initiatives. The biggest expense will be some 80,000 new IRS agents to conduct audits. The revenue target set by the legislation is $400 billion in additional tax collections over ten years. Given that high-income earners tend to have tax attorneys handling their finances, many observers believe this $40 billion a year will come from small business owners and upper-middle-class individuals.

Democrats dismiss this data, arguing the benefits of the bill outweigh any problems.

“This legislation will lower taxes while bringing down the cost of the everyday expenses that burden so many Granite Staters,” Pappas said. “It will invest in a strong workforce that will help our small businesses and economy thrive. It will lift up working people, give our kids the best head start we can, and chart a course for a healthier, stronger, more resilient future.”

 

Pappas and Kuster Break With Biden, Progressives on Payouts to Illegal Immigrants

Granite State U.S. Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas have a reputation for being loyal Democratic Party soldiers. But on one of the hottest political issues of the moment — cash payouts to immigrant families separated at the border — they have both broken with President Joe Biden and progressives in their party.

At issue is the Biden Justice Department’s current negotiations with the ACLU and other immigrant advocates over a proposal to pay perhaps as much as $450,000 in reparations to illegal immigrants who were separated from their children during the Trump administration.

First asked about the reports, Biden called them “garbage,” adding “That’s not gonna happen.”

But just three days later, on November 6, Biden reversed his stance and claimed any such taxpayer-funded payments were a moral obligation. “If in fact, because of the outrageous behavior of the last administration, you coming across the border, whether it was legal or illegal, and you lost your child, you lost your child! … you deserve some kind of compensation no matter what the circumstance. What that will be, I have no idea,” Biden said.

The Trump administration separated around 5,500 children from their families when they were caught illegally crossing the border. At the reported $450,000 per child, the settlement will be close to $2.5 billion.

It’s a position embraced by pro-immigration advocates and social-justice organizations — but rejected by Kuster and Pappas.

“Absolutely not. I don’t support any kind of settlement like that,” Pappas told radio host Jack Heath on Wednesday.

Pappas is heading into an uphill reelection fight once the new map for the First Congressional District is complete in the spring. With a likely GOP advantage in a newly-drawn district, supporting payouts to undocumented migrants is politically problematic.

The next day, Kuster echoed Pappas’ position on the same radio show.

“That’s not happening. The president has said that’s not happening,” Kuster mistakenly told Heath.

With New Hampshire Republicans turning her district even more Democrat-leaning (no Republican has carried it since 2010), Kuster is believed to have a safe seat, despite her unimpressive polling. However, it’s possible a national Republican wave election could break against Kuster, particularly with Biden polling in the 30s in swing states like New Hampshire.

A recent NBC News poll found Americans trust Republicans more on border security than Democrats by a 27-point margin, their largest advantage among 13 areas polled. In the most recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, Americans said they’d prefer to be represented by a Republican in Congress over a Democrat by a margin of 51 to 41 percent. That’s the largest GOP advantage in the generic preference question in the history of the poll.

“If you’re a Democrat and President Biden won your seat by 16 points, you’re in a competitive race next year,” House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) recently declared. “You are no longer safe.”

Kuster and Pappas aren’t just abandoning the Biden administration’s position, they are also moving to the right of immigrant activists and progressives with their position. 

Eva Castillo, director of the New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, said the families are owed something for the resulting trauma.

“I think they should pay the families something,” Castillo said. “It was a callous decision on the part of the government, the least we could do is pay them for their pain and suffering,” she said.

The ACLU, which is suing the government over the separations, also agrees that families ought to be compensated.

“For the sake of these families, the Biden administration must repair the harms inflicted by family separation and ensure such an atrocity never happens again,” Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project wrote.

While illegal border crossings have been trending downward since July, the number of migrants apprehended at the U.S. southern border in October is 128 percent higher than October 2020, when Trump was still president, according to data released this week by Customs and Border Protection (CBP). July saw more than 213,000 border crossings, a 20-year high.

New Hampshire’s Delegation Celebrates Signing of Biden’s $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Bill

U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster stood in the White House Rose Garden Monday moments before President Joe Biden was due to sign the $1.2 trillion infrastructure spending, celebrating the spending.

“A billion dollars coming to New Hampshire for roads and bridges and highways, we’re even going to get rail back to New Hampshire,” Kuster said in a video posted to Twitter.

As Kuster spoke, the United States Marine Corps Band played “76 Trombones” from the Broadway show, “The Music Man,” about a con artist who made big promises he couldn’t keep.

Kuster and the rest of New Hampshire’s congressional delegation celebrated Biden’s signing of the bill, citing the investments in roads and bridges, as well as broadband internet for rural areas like New Hampshire, public transportation expansion, and investments in clean drinking water.

“This bill has so many elements that will be game-changers for our families and our economy,” said Sen. Maggie Hassan.

Hassan is facing a potentially tough reelection bid despite presumed front-runner Gov. Chris Sununu bowing out of the race last week. Polls show Biden’s spending package is popular, even if the president himself is not.

Rep. Chris Pappas, whose congressional career faces possible extinction thanks to Republican-led redistricting, also supported the spending plan.

“I’m pleased the president has signed this legislation into law, and I look forward to beginning the work of repairing our infrastructure,” he said.

Both Pappas and Kuster’s poll ratings dipped into negative territory in the latest New Hampshire Institute of Politics poll, a first for both of them. Pappas was at 42 percent favorable to 46 percent unfavorable, Kuster landed at 40 percent to 46 percent.

The only Democrat not facing reelection this year, Sen. Janne Shaheen, touted her role in crafting the spending legislation.

“As a lead negotiator, I fought to ensure New Hampshire priorities were front and center: that includes investments to upgrade our water infrastructure – including robust support to combat PFAS contamination – and to bring high-speed internet to every corner of our state,” she said.

Backing the nominally bipartisan infrastructure plan, which had 13 Republican House votes, is risky for the three incumbents facing voters next year. Biden is underwater with Granite State voters, according to the most recent polling data. His recent polling average is 42 percent approve/52 percent disapprove. As Gallup reports, “Currently, 34 percent of independents approve of the job Biden is doing, the lowest of his term to date. His approval among independents has fallen a total of 21 points since June, including nine points since August.”

Biden is also trying to push through his $1.75 trillion Build Back Better social safety net spending package that includes spending on daycare, cash payments to parents, and green energy policies. Given a 30 percent spike in inflation, a majority of New Hampshire voters may not want to see all of that spending. Only 37 percent of Granite Staters want the “Build Back Better” multi-trillion-dollar spending package to pass, while 40 percent would like to see both spending bills killed, according to the polls.

And a Scott Rasmussen poll taken in August, before inflation become a top-tier issue, found 59 percent of voters nationwide believe increased government spending leads to inflation. Only 14 percent disagreed.

What Did Kuster and Pappas Actually Vote For? Deficit Spending And A Vehicle Mileage Tax.

On Friday night, the media coverage was dominated by the question: “Will she or won’t she?” Would Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) get the votes she needed to pass the “BIF” — the bipartisan infrastructure bill?

Now that it has passed in the House by a 228-206 vote, with 13 Republicans voting in favor and six Democrats voting against it, it’s time for another question:

What the heck did Congress just vote for?

All four members of the New Hampshire delegation voted for the $1.2 trillion spending plan. (Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen voted for it nearly three months ago. It was trapped in the House since.)

Most of the coverage of the “BIF” has focused on the traditional infrastructure spending, including:

— $110 billion in funding for roads, bridges, and major projects;

— $66 billion investment in rail, most of which will go to Amtrak;

— $65 billion for broadband infrastructure and development;

— $7.5 billion for electric vehicle chargers.

That’s certainly the focus of Hassan and Rep. Chris Pappas. “Investments in our roads and bridges, water systems, and broadband are critical to our future economic growth and way of life in New Hampshire, and they will help us continue to rebuild our economy and regain our competitiveness following the COVID-19 pandemic,” Pappas said after the vote.

Pappas specifically touted the more than $1.5 billion in the additional road, bridge, and transit spending over the next five years, “representing a 47 percent funding increase in fiscal year 2022 and additional increases in years to come.”

Who could object to a nearly 50 percent jump in spending on roads? And cell phone users who travel the Granite State are likely pleased by the idea that their notoriously spotty service might improve.

But these are the headlines of Friday’s late-night vote. In the fine-print, Granite Staters will find New Hampshire’s delegation also voted for:

More Deficit Spending

Despite repeated assurances from President Joe Biden that infrastructure spending “costs zero dollars,” the BIF  costs more than $1 trillion. What Biden meant, his allies say, is that it won’t cost any borrowed dollars, that Americans can feel good that neither of his infrastructure bills will add to the deficit.

Unfortunately, they’re wrong on that count as well. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) published its score of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (as opposed to the much-bigger reconciliation) in August, and they found the legislation would directly add more than $340 billion to the deficit.

A Vehicle Mileage User Fee Pilot Program

SEC. 13002 of the bill is the “National Moter Vehicle Per-Mile User Fee Pilot Program.” The objectives of the program, according to the legislation, are to “test the design, acceptance, implementation, and financial sustainability of a national motor vehicle per-mile user fee” and “address the need for additional revenues for surface transportation infrastructure.”

Critics of the program point to the phrase “additional revenue” as opposed to “replacing revenue.” They say it’s a sign the goal is to add a mileage tax on top of the current gasoline taxes, rather than to replace them. And, they note, a mileage tax takes away one of the few incentives to drive an electric car — namely, lower costs.

Biden’s defenders say it’s just a pilot program and the administration has no (announced) plans to impose such a national fee. The pilot might encourage individual states to pursue it, however. Just as the state of New York has passed a ban on the sale of regular internal-combustion engine cars as of 2035. Every car sold as of that date in New York must be a zero-emissions vehicle.

EV Chargers for Electric Cars That Don’t Exist

Speaking of EVs…

The $7.5 billion Congress just passed for electric vehicle (EV) chargers is, according to the White House, just a down payment on the funding needed to install 500,000 public EV charging stations by 2030.

The question is, who’s going to use them?

First, from a statistical standpoint, virtually nobody owns EVs in the U.S. As climate expert Matthew Lewis recently noted, of the 280 million or so registered cars and trucks in the country, only about 2 million are fully electric. Even if the nation added another 2 million electric vehicles a year — which would be a sales level far beyond anything the nation has seen — there would still be fewer than 15 million EVs on the road — still a tiny fraction of the total.

And then there’s the charger technology. In a recent interview for Emerging Tech, EV expert Brendan Jones, president of Blink Charging, talked about the chargers this tax money will buy:

“Jones said that in a good scenario, it takes about six months for an L2 charger—which need up to 8 hours to fully charge a car and make up 82 percent of public chargers in the U.S.—to go through permitting and get in the ground. Meanwhile, a D.C. fast charger (also known as an L3 charger) takes 60 to 90 minutes to charge a car, but can take considerably longer to build.”

How many drivers can park in a public lot for 8 hours to charge their cars? Or even for 90 minutes?

Advancing The Controversial Reconciliation Spending Bill

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, the House cast a straight party-line vote to move Biden’s so-called “Build Back Better” bill forward. It was a key step to get to what Pelosi says will be a vote before Thanksgiving on the legislation itself.

That’s the $4 trillion plan that includes massive social spending and more than half a billion on green energy policy. In the new Suffolk University poll for USA Today released Sunday, Americans are split on this bill, with just 47 supporting it and 44 percent in opposition. And only one in four Americans says they believe it will help them and their families.

Which brings up perhaps the most relevant fact about the votes cast for the infrastructure bill by New Hampshire’s congressional delegation: They didn’t address the issues Americans care about most.

Inflation. Bare store shelves. A lack of workers. The lingering impacts of COVID on daily lives, particularly on schools and children. Those are the things voters said last week brought them to the polls. Notably absent: Road and bridge construction, train travel, or the Green New Deal.

Even if Americans were in the mood to add billions to the national debt, there isn’t much information to show Americans would want to borrow this much money for EV chargers and Amtrack trains.

Will Energy Policy Politics (Finally) Heat Up in New Hampshire?

The U.S. government just told American households should expect to see their heating bills jump as much as 54 percent over last winter.

The many Granite Staters who rely on heating oil and propane could wind up spending $500 more to heat their homes this year, it reported.

Here in New Hampshire, a state that already pays the fifth-highest electricity prices in the continental U.S., the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) announced an overall bill increase for most residential members of about 17 percent starting next month.

New Hampshire’s Consumer Advocates Donald M. Kreis says “Your electric and natural gas bills are about to go up, substantially, and you are not going to be happy about it.”

State Rep. Michael Harrington (R-Stafford) a former member of the Public Utility Commission (PUC) agrees. “Regrettably, Don is correct. Rates are going way up this winter,” he told NHJournal.

And that’s on top of a 30 percent surge in the cost of gasoline in the past year, from $2/gallon to around $3.10.

That’s a lot of economic pain, which would traditionally mean an opportunity for political gain. So, why aren’t any New Hampshire politicians talking about energy prices?

It’s not hard to make the case that New Hampshire’s congressional delegation is on the wrong side of the issue. The top reason for rising prices is the lack of access to natural gas, and New Hampshire’s federal legislators are supporting policies to restrict natural gas production.

“In New England, most of our electricity is produced by burning natural gas,” Kreis notes, observing that on a typical day, “56 percent of the electricity in New England was being produced by natural gas generators.  So when the price of natural gas goes up, our electricity rates increase as well.”

That is certainly the case for co-op customers. “Natural gas and electricity prices in New England are closely linked,” said Brian Callnan, NHEC Vice President of Power Resources & Access. “As the price of natural gas has risen over the past several months, so has the cost to purchase electricity to serve our members.”

Natural gas prices are soaring in part because we had a relatively warm summer. Gas that would have been stored for the winter was used to generate electricity for AC. But they’re also rising because global demand is surging, while the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress are discouraging natural gas production and transportation.

Pipeline politics are popular among Democrats. On his first day in office, President Biden issued an executive order canceling the Keystone XL pipeline. In July, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy announced they were canceling the Atlantic Coast pipeline due to “legal uncertainty” in the face of repeated challenges from progressive pipeline opponents. And the plug was pulled on the PennEast pipeline just months after winning a major victory before the Supreme Court for similar reasons.

Then there are the restrictions on production. “Under the Biden administration, no new drilling has been allowed on federal lands,” Harrington says. “Remember, the Bureau of Land Management owns about 10 percent of the land west of the Mississippi River. So over the past eight months, existing wells have closed, as all wells do eventually. But unlike last year, new ones didn’t open. As this continues, prices for natural gas will continue to go up.”

If this looks like a perfect storm of pain for energy customers, the forecast is actually worse. The Build Back Better plan backed by Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen includes huge increases in energy costs for consumers, according to analysts. A big one is the $150 billion “Clean Electricity Performance Program,” which will raise costs on utilities that don’t increase their level of carbon-free electricity each year.

That, in turn, will force Granite State utilities into price competition for that in-demand power and costs are all but certain to rise — thanks to policies pushed by Democrats. Those policies can be defended as part of the fight against climate change, but it’s hard to argue they aren’t adding to consumers’ costs.

If you’re a member of Congress running for re-election, this is not an argument you want to have. And in the past, Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas, along with Hassan and Shaheen, have largely been able to avoid the most extreme green politics in their party. The “Green New Deal” resolution in the House has more than 1oo cosponsors, but none of them are for New Hampshire. Hassan and Shaheen have repeatedly refused to take a position on the legislation, either.

But if the expensive green policies currently in the Build Back Better reconciliation bill are still there when Democrats pass the bill, the Granite State’s delegation will have no place to hide.

 

New Hampshire Democrats Moving Further to the Fringe

This week, the New Hampshire Democratic Party will hold its annual state committee meeting to elect new officers to serve through the 2018 elections. Judging by their honored guest and keynote speaker, the Democrats have failed to learn anything about the 2016 Presidential election and are instead doubling down on a dangerously extremist leftwing ideology.

On Saturday evening, Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison will share his vision for America. It’s a vision that will no doubt make the likes of Annie Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter stand on their chairs and cheer. But it’s a vision that should make regular working Granite Staters shudder.

Ellison comes from the extremist wing of the Democratic Party – the wing that puts ideology over the needs and concerns of working families. Consider Ellison’s authorship of an “alternative” budget in 2015. Ellison’s budget called for a breathtaking $4 trillion in job-killing tax increases. He’d want us to believe these were just tax increases on the “rich.” But the truth is Ellison’s budget was no friend to American taxpayers. It advocated for an increased gas tax, increase taxes on retirement savings, restricted itemized tax deductions, jacked up taxes on savings and investments, and imposed a new carbon tax, among other terrible ideas. Ellison’s budget was a smorgasbord of loony leftwing policy ideas that would have put government in control of just about everything while crippling family budgets.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said Ellison’s budget “offers a more liberal alternative than that proposed by either party or the President.” The President to which they were referring was Obama. Incidentally, Hillary Clinton was too conservative for Ellison, too. He called her a Republican while declining to endorse her in September, 2015.

Worse still, Ellison’s budget represents something of a conservative compromise for him. In it, he calls for a top tax rate of 49 percent. Elsewhere Ellison has advocated for tax rates as high as 63 percent. “There’s plenty of money,” he argued. “It’s just that the government doesn’t have it.”

It’s not just financial freedom that Ellison opposes. He’s against personal freedom, as well.

Rep. Ellison is openly hostile to the rights of gun owners. In Congress, he has proposed legislation to severely limit the amount of ammunition sold and called for a so-called assault weapons ban.

When asked by Bill Maher in a 2014 interview why the Democratic Party didn’t “come out against the Second Amendment,” Ellison responded, “I sure wish they would. I sure wish they would.” Understand Ellison here isn’t calling for gun control – he’s calling for the full repeal of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.

What is the New Hampshire Democratic Party saying about itself by showcasing Rep. Ellison? It appears fully embrace this radical worldview, which is so belligerent to regular working folks. It’s an odd takeaway from an election in which working people walked away from the liberal policies of the Democratic Party in droves.

Ellison is a close ally of New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley. The Democratic National Committee rebuffed their alliance, which would have made Ellison the party’s national chair and Buckley a high-ranking party official. Apparently, their liberal worldview was too much for the national party to bear. Instead they chose a Clinton insider to head the party.

But this liberal tandem isn’t going away. They’re just bringing their goofy leftwing routine to New Hampshire in hopes of radicalizing the Live Free or Die state.

What Trump’s Budget Proposal Means for New Hampshire

Although it’s just a budget blueprint, President Donald Trump’s proposal that was released Thursday has already made waves in New Hampshire. It’s hardly a done deal, though, and the president’s budget is usually just a suggestion or a statement of policy they want to see done. Now, the House of Representatives, the body who has the real power of the purse, will draft its plan and the budget process kicks off from there.

Overall, Trump wants to increase defense spending, and in order to offset that bump in funding, he is proposing $54 billion in cuts to other domestic programs. Those cuts are already being criticized in the Granite State because several of the programs he wants to slash would impact the people who rely on or utilize those funds from the federal government.

Here’s what Trump’s budget proposal means for the programs and people in New Hampshire:

 

MEALS ON WHEELS

The senior nutrition program has become the poster child for the impact of Trump’s budget proposal. Even U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., was in the state on Monday visiting the Strafford Nutrition Program (SNP) in Somersworth criticizing the president for wanting to slash funding for Meals on Wheels.

“This is not, and should never be, politicized,” she said at a roundtable event. “These programs are for everybody, men and women who have worked and have found themselves either disabled or old or poor or all of the above, who need nourishment, and we have to be there for them.”

Jaime Chagnon, the director of SNP, said she would have to cut 2,500 meals from her program if they lost their federal funding. About 80 percent of their revenue comes from state contracts, which are in large part funded by federal grants, she said.

Yet, Trump’s budget doesn’t specifically call for the elimination of the Meals on Wheels program. It cuts Community Development Block Grants, which fund about 3 percent of the national Meals on Wheels program. The national program relies heavily on donations. At the local level, though, Chagnon said the percentage is likely much higher.

However, Trump’s budget — known as a “skinny budget” — is a first outline, and it’s largely silent on the senior nutrition program. Expect Meals on Wheels to be in the spotlight as more specifics and later versions of the budget come out.

 

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT BLOCK GRANTS (CDBG)

As mentioned, Trump’s proposal calls for the elimination of these grants, which provide communities with grants for economic development and housing projects.

The Granite State received $8.7 million in CDBG for a number of programs ranging from Meals on Wheels to upgrading sidewalks.

Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas said last month in his proposed budget for the Queen City that if CDBG were to continue, they would support programs such as the Boys & Girls Club, City Year, and the Queen City Bike Collective.

Those grants have also been used extensively in the North Country. For example, Berlin used a $500,000 CBDG to assist Capone Iron North Wood to begin operations in the city. The city also received three grants for a total of $1.35 million for its Neighborhood Reinvestment Program, which assisted more than 90 homes, including for the elderly, disabled, and low-income, to improve or upgrade their properties.

 

LOW-INCOME HOME ENERGY ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (LIHEAP)

LIHEAP is one of the more far reaching programs in the state that would feel the effects of a Trump budget. The program helps heat the homes of thousands of low-income Granite Staters, nearly 28,000 actually, and received more than $25 million in federal funds for the current fiscal year, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Trump’s budget blueprint called LIHEAP “a lower-impact program and is unable to demonstrate strong performance outcomes.”

The funding is through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is expected to see a 16.2 percent cut in funds, or $12.6 billion less than last fiscal year. The state Office of Energy and Planning administers LIHEAP and contracts with Community Action Agencies for on-the-ground work.

In the North Country, over 6,000 households in Coos County and northern Grafton and Carroll Counties, received assistance through the program from the Tri-County Community Action Program, according to the Berlin Daily Sun.

 

NORTHERN BORDER REGIONAL COMMISSION (NBRC)

The elimination of this program probably received the most criticism from New Hampshire’s Democratic congressional delegation.

Trump’s budget cuts this commission, which was set up to invest in the economy and infrastructure in the North Country, but also in Maine, Vermont, and New York. From 2010 to 2015, the commission invested $3.3 million in New Hampshire projects.

“The Commission has also provided important funding for treatment and recovery services in the region as we work to combat the heroin, fentanyl, and opioid crisis,” said U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan in a statement. “Eliminating the Northern Border Regional Commission would be harmful to the infrastructure needs and economic development efforts in the region, and I will fight strongly to ensure that these cuts never happen.”

U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster echoed similar sentiments. Even N.H. Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn from the North Country weighed in on the budget and the elimination of the NBRC.

“We need to make smart investments in order to expand opportunity for all, support businesses throughout our state, and lay the foundation for a new generation of economic growth,” he said in a statement. “I’m very disappointed with the amount of harm that President Trump’s budget proposal will cause to NH’s North Country and urge our Congressional delegation and Governor [Chris] Sununu to oppose the elimination of this vital Commission in the Trump budget.”

 

NOAA FUNDING

Several environmental officials were concerned that Trump’s budget cuts would end several of their programs that they say are crucial to coastal industries and research.

Programs including the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and New Hampshire Sea Grant are at risk of being defunded due to Trump’s proposed 17 percent budget cut to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Conservation and coastal research officials say they are concerned the National Estuary Program, New Hampshire Coastal Program and Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership are also poised to lose funding, according to The Portsmouth Herald.

 

DEFENSE, VETERANS AFFAIRS

So who is poised to actually benefit from Trump’s proposed budget? Well, if you work in the defense industry or veteran’s affairs, then those areas would see an increase in funds.

Specifically, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs would see a 6 percent bump, or $4.4 billion, and Department of Defense would receive a 10 percent increase, or more than $52 billion.

In New Hampshire, that means defense contractors, like BAE Systems in Nashua or Manchester, and gun manufacturers, such as Sig Sauer, could see more work in the future. Sig Sauer recently won a $580 million, 10-year contract with the U.S. Army to manufacture pistols.

The question remains, though, if these industries see more money, how much of an impact would that have on the state’s economy?

Also, many policy experts say Trump’s budget outline is shifting a lot of funding obligations to the state. If the state doesn’t have the means, they could put that on the cities and towns, with many rural communities, who heavily voted for Trump in November, footing the bill.

“President Trump campaigned on the promise that he would look out for those in rural, economically-disadvantaged areas like the North Country, but instead, his budget proposal stabs them in the back,” Woodburn said. “Instead of supporting efforts to bring new jobs to the North Country, his budget puts corporate special interests ahead of the hard-working people of New Hampshire.”

Everyone will be waiting to see what of Trump’s blueprint ends up in the House’s version of the budget and how Trump supporters react to the potential shift in cost to the communities.

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A Look at Shea-Porter, Kuster’s War Chests Hints Toward 2018 Midterm Elections

It’s never too early to be thinking about the 2018 midterm elections. For the incumbent party in the White House, it usually means losing seats. However, Republicans are poised to retain control of the House and Senate, barring any major catastrophe, which would give Democrats the advantage.

In New Hampshire, it could mean tough races for Democratic incumbent Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Annie Kuster, and their final campaign finance filings for the 2016 election cycle can provide clues on what to expect for their reelection campaigns.

Assuming they run again for their seats, Kuster and Shea-Porter enter the 2018 contests with a significant difference between them in their total cash on hand.

Shea-Porter only has approximately $3,800 in the bank as a result of a tough election against former Republican Rep. Frank Guinta and Independent candidate Shawn O’Connor. Out of the 435 representatives in the House, she has the fifth lowest cash on hand total.

Kuster, on the other hand, sits modestly with just over $1 million stashed away.

The median amount that lawmakers who won their races in 2016 have in the bank is about $367,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a nonpartisan research group tracking money and lobbying in elections. Specifically for House candidates, it’s about $361,000.

Of course, for party leaders they have the biggest war chests since they are expected to raise money to help their colleagues. House Speaker Paul Ryan had the highest cash on hand in the House with $9.1 million.

“The typical pattern is that campaigns that are in tough reelections or open seat battles will almost never have any money left,” said Caleb Burns, a partner at Wiley Rein LLP, to the CRP. “But conversely, the opposite is also true, where members of Congress have extraordinarily safe seats and don’t feel the pressure of having to raise a lot of money.”

That’s especially true for New Hampshire’s representatives. Kuster was assumed to have a relatively safe seat in the Granite State’s 2nd Congressional District, while Shea-Porter in the 1st Congressional District was always going to have a tough time ousting Guinta.

So what does this mean going into next year’s race?

Well, it shouldn’t come as a surprise, but the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) included Shea-Porter and Kuster in their initial 36-member target list.

Kuster spent nearly $2.2 million against Republican challenger Jim Lawrence. He spent less than $100,000, and yet, Kuster only defeated Lawrence by 5 percent, 50-45 percent, respectively, with Libertarian John Babiarz receiving 5 percent. The NRCC figures that if they can recruit a decent candidate and put a little money into the race, they could have a chance at ousting Kuster.

For Shea-Porter, the 1st Congressional District is always a toss up, mostly because it’s been a Shea-Porter versus Guinta contest every two years since 2010. The NRCC and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee usually throw a decent amount of funds toward the district’s candidates. It also helps the NRCC that Shea-Porter has been kicked out by voters before and she defeated Guinta in a crowded field. She won by a margin of 162,080 to 156,176, while independents O’Connor and Brendan Kelly and Libertarian Robert Lombardo garnered a total of 46,316 votes among them, possibly to the detriment of Guinta.

However, Republicans swept the 1st District in every other federal race. Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by about 6,000 votes, former Sen. Kelly Ayotte beat Sen. Maggie Hassan also by about 6,000 votes, and Gov. Chris Sununu defeated former Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern by about 18,000 votes. With the right candidate, the NRCC believes they can flip the district again.

Any ideas on who’s going to run against Shea-Porter or Kuster?

As recently as Wednesday, one Republican has indicated that he’s “seriously” interested in challenging Shea-Porter in the 1st District.

John Burt, a four-term New Hampshire House member from Goffstown, told WMUR that he has spoken with conservatives throughout the state and region about running for Congress. He said he hopes to make a final decision in the coming weeks.

“I have no doubt that I can beat Carol Shea-Porter,” he said. “In 2018, it’s going to be another 2010-type sweep of Republicans heading to D.C. and also to the New Hampshire State House.”

Other Republicans being talked about as possible candidates include state Sen. Andy Sanborn from Bedford and former state commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services John Stephen, who is also a former gubernatorial and congressional candidate.

Don’t be surprised if Guinta makes another run for the seat he lost. Neither Shea-Porter nor Guinta ruled out running again in 2018 if they lost.

Earlier this month, the DCCC made Kuster the chair of its “Frontline” incumbent retention program, which gives special attention to vulnerable Democratic incumbents, so they must feel confident that she can win again in 2018.

However, former state Rep. Joe Sweeney of Salem previously told WMUR that he is “in the very early portion of exploring a run” for the 2nd District against Kuster.

“I firmly believe that Congresswoman Kuster does not adequately represent the district, and her performance and voting record presents a winnable path,” he said.

Senate President Chuck Morse could also be a potential candidate. The Salem senator is listed on the National Governors Association’s website as a former governor of New Hampshire. He served as acting governor for two days from January 3 to 5, when former Gov. Hassan resigned early to be sworn in as U.S. Senator. The New Hampshire Union Leader sees him as an option for Republican Party operatives still looking for a candidate.

Voters shouldn’t rule out seeing the two Republican frontrunners from the 2nd District GOP primary on the ballot either. Former House Majority Leader Jack Flanagan from Brookline indicated that he was hearing from supporters to run again in 2018. He lost the GOP primary to Lawrence by about 5,000 votes. Also, with Lawrence’s close finish to Kuster in the general election, he heard calls from supporters to consider yet another run. If he did, this would be his third congressional bid in six years.

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The Complex Stances of NH’s Politicians on Trump’s Immigration Executive Order

After President Donald Trump issued his immigration executive order on Friday, which put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily barred travelers from Syria and six other countries, New Hampshire’s congressional delegation was quick to respond.

But for some of the Democratic lawmakers, their statements are at odds with their previous rhetoric and voting records.

Before getting into their statements, it’s important to reiterate what Trump’s executive order entails. You can read guides from USA Today and Reuters. But here’s the quick highlights:

  1. His executive order suspends all refugee entry for 120 days.
  2. It indefinitely suspends entry by Syrian refugees.
  3. The order blocks for 90 days all immigration of citizens of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen, which are Muslim-majority countries.

Since he announced his executive order, Green Card holders and permanent residents of the United States have been detained at airports, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the order, and protests have erupted at airports across the country. Trump’s administration has made it clear that the immigration ban would not apply to Green Card holders.

Sen. Maggie Hassan probably has one of the most unclear records when it comes to immigration and Syrian refugees. Following the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, Hassan became the first Democratic governor in the country to call for a pause in Syrian refugee resettlement.

“The governor has always made clear that we must ensure robust refugee screening to protect American citizens, and the governor believes that the federal government should halt acceptance of refugees from Syria until intelligence and defense officials can assure that the process for vetting all refugees, including those from Syria, is as strong as possible to ensure the safety of the American people,” said Hassan’s spokesman at the time.

And she never wavered from that position throughout the extremely close campaign against Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte. Ayotte was known for being a foreign policy and immigration hawk.

But now, it seems Hassan is singing a different tune. She called Trump’s executive order “un-American” and her office said that she never supported an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees.

“Senator Hassan believes we can strengthen the vetting process for all entryways into the country while staying true to the values that make America the greatest country on earth. She never has and never will support a policy like what the President has put into place with this executive order, which is a backdoor Muslim ban and religious test that goes against American values. Senator Hassan will work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reverse this un-American executive order that will make America less safe,” her office said in a statement to WMUR.

“Senator Hassan strongly opposes this un-American and dangerous executive order which includes an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees, something that the Senator has never supported,” her office added. “The Senator believes that we can strengthen the process for all entryways into the country while remaining true to our values and engaged in addressing this humanitarian crisis.”

So while that statement is technically correct, since she only supported a “temporary halt” in Syrian refugees, not an indefinite ban, some people are wondering where she really stands on the issue. Was she reacting to the Paris attacks with what she thought was the best decision or was she pandering to voters on her right? It’s still unclear.

Rep. Annie Kuster also has an interesting position on Syrian refugees and immigration policies.

Kuster called for a broad expansion of former President Barack Obama’s administration’s program to bring Syrian refugees to the United States before the Paris attacks. She joined other House Democrats in signing a letter to Obama, calling on him to increase the number of refugees to be allowed in the United States to 200,000 by the end of 2016.

But after the terrorist attacks, Kuster didn’t mention anything about bringing in more Syrian refugees. She actually voted with Republicans for a stronger vetting process.

“I am fiercely protective of our national security and believe we must be tough and smart in pursuing policies that protect Americans both at home and abroad,” she said in a statement. “As we work with our allies to defeat ISIS without endangering American lives in another civil war, we must maintain and expand rigorous screening and security checks for any Syrian refugee fleeing terrorism by seeking to enter our country.”

She joined 46 other Democrats and all of the House Republicans to pass the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act. The bill expanded the screening process for refugees attempting to enter the United States from Iraq or Syria by requiring the Federal Bureau of Investigation to conduct its own background checks in addition to those conducted by the Department of Homeland Security.

In defense of her vote, Kuster told New Hampshire Public Radio that, “it doesn’t pause the program. It doesn’t apply a religious test. It’s a certification that the person does not pose a threat to the security of the United States.”

But Kuster is now the only member of New Hampshire’s congressional delegation that did not release a statement after Trump’s executive order was announced. Instead, she took to Twitter for a very brief statement that didn’t really say if she was for or against the ban.

She followed that tweet up later with another one that said, “Not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans, we can balance security & compassion. USA founded on freedom from religious persecution.”

Both Kuster and Hassan have brought up religion in their statements, saying they believe his executive order is a religion test as a way to ban Muslims from coming to the United States. That point is still debateable and up for interpretation. There are many media reports that have former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani saying it is a “Muslim ban” as Trump put it.

But other articles say religion already plays a role in federal asylum and refugee law. David French from the National Review has an extensive piece on it and Politifact rated former Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s claim that religion plays a role in refugee screenings as “Mostly True.” Obviously, the law leaves much room for interpretation, so expect several legal experts to weigh in on the subject in the coming weeks.

As for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, they both have been the most consistent in their language when discussing Syrian refugee resettlement and immigration.

Shaheen was supportive of allowing more Syrian refugees to come to America during Obama’s presidency and she hasn’t changed her mind after Trump’s executive order.

“We’re among those members of Congress who think that the United States can and should do more, both to try and take in more of the refugees who have been vetted, but also to support — in every way we can — the humanitarian crisis that has been created,” she said in 2015.

After Trump’s announcement, she said in a statement, “This executive order is un-American and grossly inhumane. We are a nation of immigrants and should remain welcoming to all nations and faiths, particularly those who are fleeing violence and oppression. Refugees, from Syria in particular, are fleeing unspeakable terror and hunger, and it’s unconscionable that the United States will no longer provide any of these refugees a safe haven.”

Shea-Porter said the United States should welcome Syrian refugees, but should also ensure they are properly vetted. She voted with House Democrats against a 2013 Republican amendment that would defund Obama’s executive orders on immigration.

“I think we’re very capable of absorbing a certain number of refugees who are fleeing their country for the same reasons that we would,” she said in 2015. “I think we all need to know exactly what kind of vetting is being done.”

She released a very straightforward statement on Saturday rejecting Trump’s actions.

“Our nation’s founders built this nation on dreams of a better, more tolerant society, and now we must stand together and defend and preserve those ideals,” she said. “I call on President Trump to immediately reverse his actions, and I invite all Granite Staters to join me in letting our refugee and immigrant neighbors know that we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them as one community.”

 

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