Editorial: Five questions for Scott Brown
One of the discouraging things about U.S. politics here in the 21st century is how nationalized the campaigns for Congress have become. Candidates across the country end up talking about the same issues in the same way, their strategies formulated by consultants and party officials in Washington or beyond.
But local voters have local issues on their minds. So as former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown embarks on his New Hampshire “listening tour,” we’d ask him to think hard about some uniquely New Hampshire issues that the state’s next U.S. senator will no doubt need to wrestle with. Here are five to get him started.
∎ Medicaid. Brown, like Republican candidates in every nook and cranny across the country, is likely to make criticism of the Affordable Care Act the basis for his campaign. But part of Obamacare is the generous federal offer to finance an expansion of state Medicaid programs for poor, uninsured residents. In New Hampshire, the Republican-led Senate recently approved such a plan, and the Democratic House is likely to quickly follow suit. Are state lawmakers headed in the right direction? Does Brown believe the federal government should continue this program?
∎ The Northern Pass. New Hampshire political leaders from both parties have expressed extreme skepticism about plans by Public Service of New Hampshire and Hydro-Quebec to bring hydroelectric power from Canada into New England via tall transmission towers across some of the state’s most scenic areas. Does he support the project? If not, does he have other ideas for increasing the region’s energy supply? How high does the issue rank in his list of priorities?
∎ Tar sands oil. And on another energy topic: Is Brown as worried as some New Hampshire town meeting voters about the prospect of bringing tar sands oil from Canada to Portland, Maine, by reversing the flow of an existing pipeline across New Hampshire? Is the process safe? It’s up to the State Department to decide if a presidential permit and a full environmental assessment will be required. What’s Brown’s view?
∎ LIHEAP. It’s an ugly acronym, but one that’s of particular concern to politicians in northern states. The federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, administered locally by Community Action Programs, helps poor people pay their home heating bills. Federal support for the program is notoriously fickle – which means the number of people and amount of support provided varies from season to season. Just this month President Obama included a 20 percent reduction in LIHEAP money in his 2015 budget proposal. The New Hampshire congressional delegation has traditionally made advocating for LIHEAP part of its mission. Is this a program Brown supports? If so, is there a better way to assure continuity of federal support?
∎ The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Regardless of their party, regardless of the year, regardless of the state of the federal debt and deficit, federal legislators from New Hampshire and Maine have long worked together to shield the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard from shutdown. Is this the right position? Is the shipyard critical to national defense? How much should its contribution to the local economy factor into lawmakers’ thinking?
New Hampshire voters will be trying to figure out how much Brown knows and cares about the issues that matter most to them. Now that he’s made his interest in the U.S. Senate race clear, he’s no doubt got some homework to do.