First District candidate Carol Shea-Porter outlines congressional agenda
Shea-Porter Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »
Carol Shea-Porter is trying to reclaim for seat in Congress ; Tuesday, October 23, 2012.
(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »
Democrat Carol Shea-Porter learned a few lessons when she lost her seat representing New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District in the Republican landslide of 2010.
“People were frustrated,” she told the Monitor editorial board last week.
And when it came to the signature piece of the previous congressional session, the health-care reform law?
“We should have explained it better. We didn’t defend it enough,” she said.
Shea-Porter, who lives in Rochester, is running to reclaim the seat from Republican Rep. Frank Guinta, the former mayor of Manchester. She spent an hour interview defending the health-care law and other legislation she supported during her two terms in Congress, and describing what she would do going forward if elected.
If she could go back, she said, she’d defend the health-care reform law as “a consumer-friendly change in the way insurance companies deal with us,” she said.
The law has slowed the growth of insurance premiums, she said, and expanded coverage for young people who can stay on their parents’ plans until they are 26 years old. More aspects of the plan will go into effect in 2014, including a penalty for businesses with more than 50 employees that do not offer insurance.
But Shea-Porter resisted descriptions of the plan as forcing employers to offer coverage. “Technically, nobody has to offer health insurance,” she said.
In addition to the health-care law, during her time in office, Shea-Porter voted for the auto industry bailout, higher fuel efficiency standards for new cars, the federal stimulus package, increased protections for teenagers applying for credit cards and cuts to interest rates on student loans.
“This is a good list of things that we got done. . . . This is big important stuff,” she said.
In the two years since she left office, Shea-Porter said she spent time traveling the state and talking with Democrats about her concerns about Guinta and other Republicans.
She said her main priority if elected would be promoting job growth, through a veterans job corps; an infrastructure bank to fund repairs and upgrades to roads and bridges in a private-public funding partnership that would employ construction workers; and by offering tax credits for companies that move jobs to America, while eliminating deductions for moving expenses when jobs go overseas, she said.
Shea-Porter said she supports retaining the tax rates put in place in a series of tax cuts under President George W. Bush for all earnings up to $300,000. Income above that level should be taxed at earlier rates, and the corporate tax rate should be lowered, she said.
“Our corporate tax rate is too high, but the way the code is written, it’s only a suggestion. Nobody pays it,” she said. “I’m not going to push a number, though. I’m comfortable with anything if it means they are going to start to pay.”
The first step of tax reform, however, is campaign finance reform, she said.
Legislators spend more of their time trying to raise funds for re-election campaigns than they do in committee hearings. Reforming how elections are funded, starting with full disclosure of all donors to political action committees and nonprofit groups that run campaign advertisements, would give Congress more independence when looking at deductions in the tax code or government subsidies.
Second on her list, though, is “protecting the social programs we have, making sure those programs stay in place for the people who need them.”
Without social safety net programs, “where do you imagine anybody going? If (Republicans) privatize Social Security, if they attack Medicare or they take food stamps away or they take away Meals on Wheels, part of the social services grant they tried to eliminate, where do people go? . . . People understand now, you still need to offer an alternative. The problem doesn’t simply go away because you decide you’re not going to spend to address it.”
Many of the programs Shea-Porter advocated for are targeted for cuts in the sequestration planned for early January as a result of failed talks around lowering the debt.
For two reasons, she believes Congress should find a way to stop the cuts from happening.
“It’s in our best interest to make sure that we continue educating and take care of our commitments,” she said. “The other part is, to slash like that, you throw so many people out of work. Then you’re applying, like, shocks to the economy.
“We should gradually work on the debt and the deficit, it’s our responsibility . . . but this is a mess.”
When she first ran for Congress in 2006, Shea-Porter was concerned about the effect of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on the national debt, she said.
She voted against President Obama’s military surge in Afghanistan, and she said she stopped supporting the idea of an extended U.S. presence there after seeing the country in person.
“We do need to have a light footprint there because we do have enemies there. We need intelligence and special forces. What we don’t need is a lot of U.S. soldiers,” she said. “For us to assume that we could somehow or another pull this country into the 20th century, never mind the 21st, is just not correct.”
Shea-Porter praised Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte for opposing the sequestration cuts. Ayotte was one of several Republicans Shea-Porter spoke kindly toward, a group that included Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar and former Delaware congressman Mike Castle.
The last two lost their seats in Republican primaries to more conservative candidates.
Shea-Porter linked Guinta to the Tea Party, saying “the Republicans that are (in Congress) now have purged their moderates.”
“Heck, they’re even working now on the next tier of the moderate-slash-conservatives,” she said. “They’ve set themselves on a course that means they can’t negotiate.”
(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)