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NH Law Not Impacted by SCOTUS Ruling, But NHDems Still Vow to Fight

New Hampshire’s elected officials responded with anger and outrage to the news of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning the 50-year-old Roe v. Wade decision, sending the regulation of abortion back to the states and the people. New Hampshire Democrats promised to fight. 

“I am angry and heartbroken by today’s Supreme Court decision. We knew this was coming, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Elections have consequences, and I will never stop fighting for access to abortion and a woman’s right to choose,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said on Twitter.

Sen. Maggie Hassan called the ruling a “radical” decision.

“The Supreme Court’s radical decision to take away a woman’s freedom – her right to bodily autonomy – has pulled us back decades,” Hassan said. “Abortion is a fundamental right. I won’t let this be the final word on our freedom, and I will keep fighting.”

U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster (D) said the conservative majority on the Supreme Court will go further unless Democrats win elections.

“Make no mistake – they are coming for contraception. They are coming for same-sex marriage. Elections matter. Vote,” she tweeted.

Alito’s majority opinion explicitly confronts that particular argument, saying, “Rights regarding contraception and same-sex relationships are inherently different from the right to abortion because the latter (as we have stressed) uniquely involves what Roe and Casey termed ‘potential life.'” However, Justice Clarence Thomas, in a lone concurring opinion, suggested any cases resolved based on “substantive due process precedents” — which includes cases involving birth control and same-sex marriage — should be “reconsidered.”

Governor Chris Sununu released a statement repeating the fact that New Hampshire’s law isn’t impacted in any way by this ruling. “Regardless of this Supreme Court decision, access to these services will continue to remain safe, accessible, and legal in New Hampshire,” Sununu said.

Nevertheless, U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, D-Manchester, still claimed the Supreme Court’s ruling impacted women in the Granite State.

“This decision is a devastating blow against the health, well-being, and personal freedom of women in New Hampshire and all across our country,” Pappas said.

And state legislators like Senate Minority Leader Donna Soucy (D-Manchester) went so far as to “implore” Sununu  “to call the Legislature back in for a special session to enshrine the right to safe, legal abortion care here in New Hampshire.” She did not explain how the court’s ruling affected abortions in the state.

State Sen. Tom Sherman, D-Rye, who is running to unseat Sununu, said he would fight to ensure women continue to have the right to abortion in New Hampshire.

“I trust women to make their own medical decisions, & I will fight to codify into N.H. law the right to a safe and legal abortion,” Sherman tweeted. “Access to safe abortions & contraceptives have allowed women to grow their careers and make choices that are right for them & their families.”

All four members of the state’s federal delegation support the Women’s Health Protection Act, which, if passed, would force states to allow abortions without restriction through all nine months of pregnancy.

Dartmouth Health, the state’s largest healthcare provider, issued a statement on Friday affirming it would continue to provide abortion.

“Dartmouth Health is unwavering in its belief in the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship to make the best-informed decisions for patients to reflect their needs and healthcare priorities,” the statement read. “We also strongly believe that abortion is an essential component of healthcare. Like all medical matters, decisions regarding abortion should be made by patients in consultation with their healthcare providers.”

While Democrats in New Hampshire and national were blaming Republicans for the decision, Kristen Day, Executive Director of Democrats for Life, pointed out that the party’s extremist stance on abortion likely cost it the support needed to protect Roe.

“Abortion activists are responsible for the Roe being overturned. They overstepped by celebrating abortion and advocating for it for up to 9 months. The Democratic Party embraced these extremists leading to Republican majorities all over the country,” Day wrote on Twitter.

New Hampshire Republicans offered muted praise for the ruling, emphasizing the court’s decision moves the issue back to the states.

“I’m proud of my pro-life record in the New Hampshire State Senate,” said Senate President Chuck Morse (R-Salem), a candidate for U.S. Senate. “Last year we settled the law in New Hampshire that permits abortions in the first six months while banning late-term and partial-birth abortions in the last 12 weeks of a pregnancy – a policy that the vast majority of Granite Staters support. This decision has no impact on New Hampshire. I strongly believe that the states should have the right to govern policy in their respective states as the Supreme Court has ruled,” Morse said.

Retired Gen. Don Bolduc, who is also running in the GOP U.S. Senate primary, applauded the court’s decision as well.

“As a pro-life candidate, I believe the Supreme Court made the right decision. After the death and destruction I’ve seen across war-torn places in Afghanistan and Africa, I believe all life should be protected,” Bolduc said. “We must understand that this opinion does not outlaw abortion. It returns the decision to the individual states to make the decision they think is best for their citizens. Here in New Hampshire, our state has already passed our own laws well before this Court decision. That is precisely how the Founding Fathers intended our Constitutional Republic to function.”

Kevin Smith, R-Londonderry, another GOP U.S. Senate candidate, said state legislatures are the appropriate place to make decisions about abortion laws.

“I support returning the matter to the state legislatures, so the people in each of those states have a say in determining when it is appropriate to put reasonable restrictions in place, such as New Hampshire has done on late-term abortions,” he said.

In the GOP primary for the First Congressional District, several candidates were quick to give credit for the ruling to former President Donald Trump.

“I applaud the Supreme Court’s righteous decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Today, life wins, and the rule of law has prevailed. God Bless the Justices, and thank you President Trump!” said Karoline Leavitt, who is hoping to challenge Pappas in November.

Rep. Tim Baxter (R-Seabrook), another candidate in the crowded First District field, also thanked Trump, and said more work needs to be done.

“We need proven conservative leaders in Congress who will stand up against the radical abortionists’ attempts to codify abortion into federal law, and I look forward to defending the lives of the unborn once I’m elected to Congress,” he wrote.

Cornerstone Action, which has promoted pro-life legislation, issued a statement predicting violence against pro-life groups as a result of the decision.

“We expect today’s news will hasten political polarization around the country and inflame a hateful totalitarianism which threatens America’s constitutional order. We must also focus—more than ever—on the physical safety of pregnancy care centers and churches and, ultimately, on protecting the separation of powers and the rule of law,” Cornerstone said.

The Sununu administration appeared to take those concerns seriously.

Friday afternoon, New Hampshire’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division issued a state-wide alert after activists were gathering to protest the decision at several locations throughout the state.

“The State Emergency Operations Center has been partially activated as of 4:00 PM on Friday, 6/24/22 to monitor multiple events taking place across the state in response to a Supreme Court decision.”

Shaheen Calls Sununu ‘Cowardly’ On Guns. But Remember Carl Drega?

In the wake of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen took to Twitter to accurse Gov. Chris Sununu of cowardice. But her own record as governor is problematic.

In response to a tweet from Sununu regarding the Robb Elementary School shooting, Shaheen wrote, “How can anyone be complacent with this status quo? Refusing to enact common-sense gun reforms is cowardly, irresponsible, and deadly.

“Buffalo. Uvalde. Tulsa. Las Vegas. Orlando. Newtown. Parkland. Aurora. Columbine,” Shaheen added. “The list goes on.”

But there is another town she could have added to the list: Colebrook, N.H.

In August 1997, Carl Drega shot and killed four people in Colebrook, including two New Hampshire State troopers in the state’s only mass shooting. 

Carl Drega

Described as a disgruntled loner who blamed local officials for his wife’s death from cancer, the 62-year-old Drega had repeatedly been involved in disputes over zoning regulations and property taxes with the town of Columbia, N.H. Years of frustration boiled over into deadly rage on August 19 when state troopers Les Lord and Scott Phillips pulled him over for excessive rust on his truck.

Drega stole the dead officers’ police car and drove to Colebrook District Court to hunt down Judge Vicki Bunnell, who was also a Columbia selectwoman and had a restraining order against him. Drega shot her eight times in the back. When Dennis Joos, editor of the Colebrook News and Sentinel, tried to wrestle the AR-15 away from him, Drega killed him, too.

Drega went to his house in Columbia and set it on fire. He was confronted by N.H. Fish and Game warden Wayne Saunders, who Drega shot and wounded. He then fled across the river to Vermont for a last stand, during which three more law enforcement officers were wounded before Drega was finally shot to death.

It was a shocking crime in a small community. A library in Stewartstown was later named for Joos in honor of his courage. Books have been written about the horrific events of that August day.

And who was governor in 1997? Democrat Jeanne Shaheen.

In the aftermath of New Hampshire’s only mass shooting, then-Gov. Shaheen didn’t sign any laws restricting gun ownership or making it more difficult to buy AR-15s. Indeed, Democrats have held the corner office for 19 of the 25 years since Drega’s rampage and New Hampshire still has some of the least restrictive gun laws in the nation. 

NHJournal repeatedly contacted Shaheen’s office for a comment about her gun control record, her accusation of cowardice against Gov. Sununu, and what she would do in response to the mass shooting in Texas. She declined to respond.

Associate Attorney General Jeff Strelzin, Director of the Public Protection Division, said the FBI defines mass shooting incidents as those with four victims, not including the shooter or shooters.

“The Congressional Research Service defines mass shootings as multiple, firearm, homicide incidents, involving four or more victims at one or more locations close to one another,” Strelzin said.

While Drega’s shooting is the only one to meet the FBI’s definition of a mass shooting, Strelzin said there are two other incidents in which three people were shot.

In July 2007, Michael Woodbury shot and killed three men in a store in Conway. In 2010, Ken Arsenault shot three people in Pittsburg. One victim later died.

Both of those shootings also occurred on the watch of Democratic Gov. John Lynch. During his record four terms, no significant gun restrictions were put into place.

Hassan’s contribution to gun control as governor was vetoing the constitutional carry bill that Sununu would go on to sign into law.

The Gifford Law Center, a non-profit dedicated to preventing gun violence, gives New Hampshire an F in gun control laws.

“New Hampshire lacks many basic gun safety protections and, in fact, has weakened its gun laws in recent years—state lawmakers must reverse this deadly trend,” the Giffords ranking states. “New Hampshire has not passed any meaningful gun safety laws in years, and recently enacted a law that allows people to carry loaded, hidden handguns in public without a background check or permit.”

But according to Jim Goulden, a Nashua defense attorney who specializes in gun crime cases, New Hampshire politicians who support gun control usually end up out of office.

“I don’t know of any New Hampshire politician who has pushed for greater gun control,” he said.

New Hampshire’s gun laws tend to focus on punishing people who use firearms in the commission of a crime, or who possess firearms while being legally prohibited from doing so, he said. Goulden said the results of New Hampshire’s laws are evident.

“If we’re going by crimes involving firearms, New Hampshire has very good gun control, we have very few gun crimes,” he said.

Last year, the FBI released crime statistics for 2020, finding a 30 percent surge in murders nationwide, but not in New Hampshire. According to the FBI’s data, there were 6.5 murders per 100,000 people nationally. In New Hampshire, it was 0.9 per 100,000 or 12 murders for all of 2020.

The 2020 statistic may be an anomaly. Michael Garrity, director of communication for the New Hampshire Department of Justice, said the state typically averages about 19 murders per year, and 2022 is following the trend.

“There have been 11 so far this year, so there has been no spike in homicides,” he said.

Goulden said no matter the gun laws anyone wants to propose, the only real change will happen when people start getting serious about addressing mental illness.

“Until people start taking personal responsibility for themselves and their own families, mental illness, always going to be an outlier,” he said.

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.

Are Hassan, Shaheen Ready to Kill the Filibuster?

D.C. Democrats, including President Joe Biden, are once again targeting the filibuster, floating a plan to eliminate it for a vote to raise the debt ceiling. On Wednesday morning, Delaware Democrat Sen. Chris Coons told CNN “there very well may be” 50 votes in the Senate to change the filibuster rules to allow for a simple majority vote on the debt ceiling. Coons spoke of “a lot of passion in the caucus” given the current game of chicken with Senate Republicans on the issue.

By Wednesday evening Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) had repeated yet again his opposition to undermining the filibuster rule, a rule he and his fellow Democrats used repeatedly during the Trump presidency. In fact, in April, 2017, a bipartisan group of more than 60 U.S. Senators signed a letter urging then-Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell to preserve the legislative filibuster.

Among those defending the filibuster: Senators Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen.

But now that President Biden is saying eliminating the filibuster, at least for raising the debt ceiling, “is a real possibility,” where are New Hampshire’s two U.S. Senators? Are they standing by their defense of the rule, or are they following their fellow Democrats who’ve flipped on the issue?

Neither senator would respond to questions about their current position on the filibuster.

For months Democratic leadership in the Senate strategized that they could get enough Republican votes for raising the debt ceiling to reach the 60 vote threshold for cloture. But in response to the Democrats’ decision to move forward on a purely partisan basis with their $3.5 trillion social programs spending plan, Republicans are sitting on the sidelines.

“Since mid-July, Republicans have clearly stated that Democrats will need to raise the debt limit on their own. All year, your party has chosen to pursue staggering, ‘transformational’ spending through unprecedented use of the party-line reconciliation process,” McConnell said. “I have relayed this reality to your Democratic lieutenants for two and a half months.”

The liberal New Republic magazine concedes that McConnell is correct: “[Democrats can] Revise the existing budget resolution for fiscal year 2022, which was used to set instructions to craft the reconciliation bill. The revised resolution can ask the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee to raise the debt limit to some dollar amount.”

Instead, Democrats like Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) are pushing to pass a rule change to kill the filibuster for debt ceiling votes. This is possible thanks to then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid invoking the “nuclear option” allowing the Senate to change any rule (including the filibuster) with just 50 votes.

Which means the Biden-backed proposal to end the filibuster on the debt vote still needs all 50 Democrat votes. Some Senators clearly believe that, other than Manchin, they’re close. Are Hassan and Shaheen on board?

New Hampshire voters aren’t.

In a March 2021 Granite State Panel conducted by the UNH Survey Center, just 30 percent of respondents said they support eliminating the filibuster. Among New Hampshire independents, that number is just 17 percent. (Another 15 percent of all voters say they’d support changing the rule to a “talking filibuster.”)

The filibuster has been part of the Senate in some form since at least the 1840s. The requirement of a two-thirds vote to end debate and bring a bill to the floor, aka “cloture,” was codified into Senate rules in 1917.

Before she signed the 2017 letter defending the filibuster, killing it had been a cause near and dear to Shaheen for more than a decade.

In 2010, Shaheen co-sponsored a resolution with progressive Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) to change the filibuster rules so that legislation would eventually pass with a simple majority. In 2011 and 2013, she backed another set of proposals to change or override the filibuster proposed by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.).

Interestingly, during those years, Democrats were in the majority. After Republicans took control in 2014, Shaheen began suggesting that keeping the filibuster protection for the minority party might be a good idea.

In June, Shaheen and Hassan told WMUR they opposed ending the filibuster but supported some “reforms.” Could those “reforms” include a rule change for the debt ceiling? If Democrats don’t use the existing rules to get it done, New Hampshire voters may find out.

Shaheen Uses Debunked School Shooting Stats During DeVos Grilling

It’s no secret that U. S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) isn’t a fan of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. She opposed DeVos’s nomination and has repeatedly criticized her since.

But this week the criticism veered into a new area: Guns.

During Secretary DeVos’s appearance before an Appropriations Subcommittee, Sen. Shaheen asked her about school safety and guns.  After reading a letter from a high school student in Dover, Shaheen went on to claim that “since 2009, the US has had 57 times more school shootings than the rest of the G7 countries combined. That’s 288 school shootings in the U.S.”

“The question I have for you, Secretary DeVos, is–what are these countries doing that we’re not doing? Do they have fewer mentally ill people? Do they arm their teachers? Or do they have more sensible gun laws?

Secretary DeVos suggested to the committee that the new Federal Commission of School Safety established at the behest of President Trump will not look at the issue of guns and gun violence–which, if true, would appear to be a glaring omission. However, Sen. Shaheen’s claim of 288 school shootings in the U. S. since 2009 also bears scrutiny.

According to researchers at Northeastern University, schools are actually safer than they were in the 90s, and school shootings are not more common.

“Since 1996, there have been 16 multiple victim shootings in schools, or incidents involving 4 or more victims and at least 2 deaths by firearms, excluding the assailant,” the report shows.  Now, Sen. Shaheen did not use the phrase “mass shootings,” which is what most people think of when they hear “school shootings,” so perhaps she simply meant all shootings at K-12 schools.

Ooops. Here’s their data on all school shootings where there was even a single fatality:

Notice that, since 2009, the number of fatal shootings rarely exceeds single digits. That would put the number since 2009 closer to 80, not 288.

Sen. Shaheen appears to be relying on a report from CNN which the network admits is based on their own count of media reports of shootings and not on actual police data. CNN also acknowledges their numbers  include, not just K-12 schools, but  colleges and vocational schools. Many of the incidents are  gang violence, domestic violence, robberies in school parking lots and accidents.

CNN didn’t reveal their raw data, but a previous CNN analysis of school shootings in 2018 included a student shot with a BB gun. Of the 23 school shootings on CNN’s list for 2018, only two meet the criteria of a mass shooting.

Every school shooting is an outrage, of course, and Sen. Shaheen’s questions about how the Department of Education intends to address the issue are certainly legitimate. But including bogus, poorly-sourced and debunked data in the conversation doesn’t advance legitimate debate.

Watch the exchange between Sen. Shaheen and Secretary DeVos here:

N.H. Senators Took Big Dollar Donations From Group Opposing Jerusalem Embassy Move

On June 5th, 2017, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan joined their fellow Democrats in a unanimous vote reaffirming their commitment to the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995.  That act also passed with massive Democratic support (the only Senate Democrat to vote against it was former Klansman Robert Byrd of West Virginia) and was signed into law by Democrat Bill Clinton.

But on Monday, when the Shaheen/Hassan-supported law’s mandate that “the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem” was finally put into effect,  Sen. Shaheen was silent. Sen. Hassan said nothing–despite repeated requests for comment.  The top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer of New York, released a subdued statement “applauding President Trump” for the embassy move. But from New Hampshire–nothing. Why?

It hasn’t always been “no comment” from the New Hampshire delegation. When President Trump announced his intentions regarding the US Embassy in December, Sen. Shaheen criticized the proposal, saying it was “harmful to both U.S. and Israeli interests” and “moves all parties further away from a peaceful solution.”

Is that still her position?  You’ll have to ask her–though you might get some insights from J Street as well. They are one of Sen. Shaheen’s top contributors, donating more than $112,000 since 2013.  And they’ve given more than $200,000 to Sen. Hassan as well.

J Street has been described as a “liberal fringe group” by some, and it certainly has a pro-Left, pro-Obama, anti-Netanyahu view of Middle East policy.  Unsurprisingly, they oppose the embassy’s move.

But what about Sens. Shaheen and Hassan?  Do they regret their support for the Jerusalem Embassy Act less than a year ago? Has something changed?

Will Granite State Senators Play the Gender Card on Gina Haspel Nomination?

Is the GOP playing the gender card to get President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee through the US Senate? And will it work on the two women representing New Hampshire?   That’s the word from the Washington Examiner’s Susan Ferrechio:

Republicans are hoping that Gina Haspel’s gender might help her win the Senate votes she needs to become President Trump’s next CIA director.

Republicans are playing up the idea that she would be the first woman ever to be confirmed to run the spy agency, which could make it much harder for lawmakers, particularly women, to vote “no.”

Gina Haspel’s proponents say other Senate “yes” votes could come from Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen, both New Hampshire Democrats.

Both Hassan and Shaheen voted against previous CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s elevation to Secretary of State over issues unrelated to international diplomacy such as his personal views on LGBTQ issues.  Haspel, on the other hand, was directly involved in the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation and its aftermath.

Will New Hampshire’s two women senators break with their fellow Democrats and back a female nominee? One nominated by President Donald Trump and who has a troubled past regarding the issue of “torture?”

Jeanne Shaheen Unhappy Over Accusations of “Partisan” Vote on Pompeo Nomination

New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen took issue with GOP suggestions that Democrats who voted unanimously against Mike Pompeo’s nomination to become Secretary of State did so for purely partisan reasons.  Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) pointed out that highly-partisan Democratic nominees with views Republicans didn’t support still received the support of Republicans.  Sen. Hillary Clinton, for example, was approved to be Secretary of State by a vote of 94-2.

Senator Shaheen objected to these arguments.  “I’m not going to re-litigate Mike Pompeo’s qualifications,” the clearly annoyed senator told the Senate Foreign Relations committee on Monday. “I don’t think it’s in any of our interests to question each other’s motives and question how we made a decision, and for what we view as our responsibilities on this committee.”

“You [Sen. Rubio and other Republicans]  talked about the number of nominees who had very high numbers of votes from the Senate. There are a number of people I can think of who this president could have nominated who I would be very happy to vote for.”

Shaheen then joined the other Democrats on the committee in a party-line “no” vote.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) spoke after Sen. Shaheen and called the Democrats’ rejection of Pompeo “a deeply partisan action.”  He also disputed Shaheen’s claim that Democrats were willing to support a different Trump nominee for Secretary of State:

“I’m just going to ask my Democratic colleagues… given the qualifications of this nominee, what nominee would you vote ‘yes’ for? I don’t know what nominee would pass muster for you, so I have to say collectively–not questioning any individual’s motives–collectively, this is a deeply partisan action and it is very disappointing.”

Watch Sen. Shaheen’s comments here.

Shaheen Flips On Pompeo Just Before News Hits Of His Secret NoKo Mission

Around 6pm Tuesday evening, NH Sen. Jeanne Shaheen tweeted out that, despite voting to confirm Mike Pompeo for CIA Director a few months ago and saying she “appreciates his dedication” in the position, she refuses to support him for Secretary of State.

“I continue to have deep concerns regarding Mr. Pompeo’s past statements and policy views, particularly in regards to the LGBTQ community, American Muslims and women’s reproductive rights,” the NH Democrat said in a statement.  “For these reasons, I have concluded that I cannot support Director Pompeo to lead the State Department at this critical time.”

Less than two hours later, the Washington Post broke the story that the man Sen. Shaheen declared unfit to serve as America’s top diplomat over his personal religious views has secretly visited North Korea and met with Kim Jong-un.

“The extraordinary meeting between one of Trump’s most trusted emissaries and the authoritarian head of a rogue state was part of an effort to lay the groundwork for direct talks between Trump and Kim about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, according to the two people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the highly classified nature of the talks,” the Washington Post reported.

“The clandestine mission, which has not previously been reported, came soon after Pompeo was nominated to be secretary of state.”

No word on whether Director Pompeo discussed gay rights or abortion with the North Korean dictator.

What should Shaheen do? She was one of 14 Democrats who voted for Pompeo for CIA Director, and the consensus is he’s done a competent job. Now she’s going to bail on him?  If she does, Shaheen faces the prospect of publicly voting to end Pompeo’s efforts to resolve one of the greatest global challenged of the day–the threat of a nuclear North Korea with weapons that could reach the US–over social issues.

Yes, it’s possible (in fact, it’s probably likely at this point) that Pompeo’s nomination will be approved by the US Senate without her support.  But if there is a breakthrough and Secretary of State Pompeo strikes an historic deal regarding North Korea–say, the signing of a peace agreement between the two Koreas– Senator Shaheen will be on the record as having tried to stop Pompeo’s progress after the fact.

Then again, she’s already flipped on Mike Pompeo once before. Maybe she will again.

Patients With Mental Health Disorders Receive More Opioids, Study Suggests

People with anxiety and depression are disproportionately prescribed painkillers. That’s what new research from the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center suggests, adding a complex layer to the opioid epidemic ravaging the United States and encouraging calls from New Hampshire’s congressional delegation to not move forward with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

The findings, which appear in the July issue of the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, show that nearly 19 percent of the 38.6 million American adults with mental health disorders use prescription opioids compared to only 5 percent of those without a disorder. Adults with depression and anxiety receive 51 percent of the 115 million opioid prescriptions distributed each year in the U.S., the study found.

“Because of the vulnerable nature of patients with mental illness, such as their susceptibility for opioid dependency and abuse, this finding warrants urgent attention to determine if the risks associated with such prescribing are balanced with therapeutic benefits,” said Brian Sites, an anesthesiologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock and one of the co-authors of the study.

Image Credit: Dartmouth-Hitchcock

Opioid prescribing in the U.S. quadrupled between 1999 and 2015, and during that time more than 183,000 people died from overdoses related to prescription opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sites also notes that because pain is subjective, “the presence of mental illness may influence the complex dynamic between patient, provider, and health system that results in the decision to write an opioid prescription.”

The study does not give a specific reason why people with mental disorders are more frequently prescribed opiates. The study encourages more research on this population to understand opiate addiction.

Those patients may have some form of physical pain, but their mental condition may cause them to feel that pain more acutely or be less able to cope with it, leading to increased requests for something to dull the pain. As a result, doctors trying to be empathetic to their patients’ complaints may tend to overprescribe opioid painkillers, Stiles said.

Research also shows that patients are more likely to take opioids when there aren’t specialists nearby. A study published earlier this year found that the number of seniors in rural America who take at least three prescribed psychotropic drugs ― including opioids and antidepressants ― tripled over a nine-year period. The study found that many of these prescriptions were given without a proper diagnosis.

Being able to identify a subset of the population that could be more likely to use opioids could help providers and policymakers address opioid use. It “suggests that there may be additional patient- and provider-related factors specific to those with mental illness that increase the likelihood of receiving prescription opioids,” the authors wrote.

U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., was present for a press conference about the study on Monday. She said repealing Obamacare could be disastrous for New Hampshire’s opioid epidemic.

“This is critically important in New Hampshire, as we have gone from second in the nation in deaths from the opioid crisis and heroin to first for fentanyl,” she said. “That’s not what we want to be known as first in the nation for.”

The U.S. Congress is currently in a heated healthcare battle. The Senate is working on legislation to repeal the healthcare law, but a vote on the bill has been delayed due to opposition from Republicans. New Hampshire Democratic Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan have both stated their opposition to the healthcare overhaul and have sent many press releases condemning “Trumpcare.”

“This new study is yet another reminder that, to combat the devastating opioid crisis, we must make mental health treatment affordable and accessible,” Shaheen said in a statement.

Hassan said she opposes proposed cuts to Medicaid that would affect coverage of mental health and substance abuse services.

“As we work to combat the horrific substance misuse crisis that is devastating our communities and taking a major toll on our economy in New Hampshire, this study highlights how dangerous Trumpcare, which includes massive cuts to Medicaid, would be for our state,” Hassan said in a statement. “We need a comprehensive, holistic approach to combating this epidemic that addresses the underlying causes of addiction, including mental health issues.”

To address the overprescription problem within the mental health community, Sites has suggested physicians need more access to alternative medicine besides opioids, including acupuncture, massage therapy, physical therapy, and non-opioid pharmaceuticals.

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