Capital Beat: Even in minority, conservative House Republican bloc has loud voice
When a right-to-work bill came to the House floor last week, the Republican caucus mostly stuck together: 140 voted for it, while only 18 voted against it. (The bill died at the hands of the Democratic majority, 212-141.)
But during the nearly hour-long floor debate, it wasn’t Minority Leader Gene Chandler of Bartlett or Deputy Minority Leader David Hess of Hooksett who led the fight. The first two speakers to rise were Rep. Al Baldasaro of Londonderry and Rep. Pam Tucker of Greenland, and the last person to speak for the bill was Mont Vernon Rep. Bill O’Brien, the former speaker of the House.
All three are current or former leaders of the conservative House Republican Alliance: O’Brien is a former chairman, while Baldasaro and Tucker are current co-chairs, along with Epsom Rep. Carol McGuire.
The right-to-work debate illustrated how the alliance’s members have taken this year to the role of a vocal minority in the House, speaking at times with a louder voice than the House GOP’s formal leadership.
Both sides say there’s no conflict there. After all, they said, the House Republican Alliance is a subset of the House Republican caucus.
“We may be a loud voice, but . . . we work hand in hand with our leadership, and they’re well aware on some of our planned debates that we have on the floor,” Baldasaro said.
Chandler said he works with the alliance to coordinate floor speeches and the like. Alliance members may have taken prominent roles during the right-to-work debate and the fight last month over banning guns in the House, but Chandler said his own focus is on rounding up votes, not getting quoted.
“Most Republicans voted for those issues, and we just let them have the speakers on the floor,” Chandler said. “From my perspective, I’m
more concerned with outcomes and keeping as many Republicans together on as many issues as we can, rather than pontificate on things.”
The House Republican Alliance has been around for years, and comprises the GOP caucus’s more conservative members – “the conscience of the Republican Party,” as McGuire put it. It had a lot of influence during the last session, when O’Brien was speaker, Tucker was deputy speaker and McGuire and Baldasaro both chaired committees.
It has less now, after Democrats made big gains in November. Tucker ran for minority leader after the election but lost to Chandler.
The alliance remains active, with “many” members, according to McGuire. It meets weekly, making recommendations on bills, rounding up speakers for floor debates and mentoring new representatives.
“One of the reasons I came to the HRA when I started in 2009 . . . was that I was looking for positions on bills. Especially when you’re a freshman, you don’t necessarily know what’s going on in other committees because you’re so overwhelmed with the process, the people, the place,” Tucker said. “So I was just naturally drawn to the HRA, because it was taking these principled stands.”
They’re recruiting candidates with an eye to 2014. Baldasaro predicted Republicans would retake the House then, though Tucker and McGuire were more cautious.
“We’re certainly going to try,” McGuire said.
For now, they said, the alliance is keeping an eye on the nearly 500 bills filed in the House that haven’t yet come to the floor for debate.
“Everyone has their own pet issues, and those who are most well-versed on them have a tendency to speak rather loudly on them,” Tucker said.
Rep. Don LeBrun may not have said what you heard he said.
In letters to the editor and postings on the web, people have said that during a meeting last Tuesday of the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee, LeBrun, a Nashua Republican, said words to the effect that instead of spending money on people with disabilities, there is another option: voluntary euthanasia.
No so, according to Rep. Jim MacKay, a Concord Democrat and the committee chairman.
“That is totally wrong,” MacKay said. “It is not what he said.”
LeBrun said, during a discussion of long-term care, that elderly people should have choices and one choice could be euthanasia, MacKay said. He said LeBrun said nothing about that being an alternative to paying for services.
“I was relating a story, and part of the story got to euthanasia, or death with dignity, whatever you want to call it,” LeBrun said. “And it was a story and was not directed at anyone.”
A letter published in Friday’s Monitor called for LeBrun to resign. He said that isn’t going to happen.
“Nobody is going to force me to do something when I did nothing to deserve it,” LeBrun said.
Texts from Judy
Judy Reardon, longtime aide to Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, celebrated her birthday last week by becoming a minor internet sensation.
A tumblr page, “Texts from Judy,” began posting captioned photos in the style of “Texts from Hillary,” a Hillary Clinton-themed blog that went viral in 2012. In each photo, an unimpressed Reardon replies to texts from the likes of Justin Bieber (“lol put Usher on the phone”), Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker (“You tweet about shoveling driveways in Newark, mine could use some sand.”) and President Obama (“You can chill out now, Barack. No more primaries for you.”).
The blog was created by former New Hampshire Democratic Party spokesman Collin Gately – with plenty of input, he said, from others.
“A lot of her colleagues and people that are friends with Judy and have worked with her and known her for a long time wanted to come up with a birthday present for her,” Gately said.
Reardon pronounced herself impressed, and said the meme made for a “very special” birthday. “I think Collin Gately is a new media genius,” she wrote in an email from sunny St. Croix.
Blue Books coming
The new Blue Books should be in by the end of the month, according to the Business and Industry Association.
The BIA bought the biennial publication, formally The Handbook of New Hampshire Elected Officials, last year. The new edition went to the printers last Monday, said Adrienne Rupp, the BIA’s vice president of communications.
They should arrive “any day,” she promised Friday.
Burton the dean
Ray Burton is serving his 18th term on the Executive Council, and despite his recent cancer diagnosis, shows no sign of taking the path of Pope Benedict XVI and stepping down. (He says it’s curable and he should be done with treatment in two or three months.)
Just how long has Burton been on the council? The Bath Republican has served with nine governors and 11 attorneys general – though when it comes to the office down the hall from the Executive Council chamber, Secretary of State Bill Gardner has been in office even longer.
And Ben Belanger, a Plymouth State University senior, is Burton’s 142nd intern since he first took office in 1977.
State of the seats
When Obama delivered his State of the Union last week, members of Congress continued the three-year-old tradition of mixed seating, instead of separating by party affiliation.
So, who did our officials snag as seat mates?
Shaheen and Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte sat with their counterparts from North Dakota, Republican John Hoeven and Democrat Heidi Heitkamp. Second District Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster sat with Rep. Jackie Walorski, an Indiana Republican.
And 1st District Rep. Carol Shea-Porter? The Democrat didn’t say on Twitter, and we didn’t hear back from her office.
Tapper on tap
CNN’s Jake Tapper is making a couple of stops in the state this week to talk about his new book, The Outpost.
Tapper, the cable network’s chief Washington correspondent, will be at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, at St. Anselm College, tomorrow at 7 p.m. And Tapper e_SEnD a Dartmouth College graduate, Class of ’91 – will be up in Hanover on Tuesday for a 4:30 p.m. event at the college.
Tapper tweeted last week that, despite trips to the first-in-the-nation primary state, he has “no current plans” to run for president in 2016.
Ayotte’s reply, also on Twitter: “That’s what they all say.”
At the State House
House budget-writers will get to work this week, now that they have Gov. Maggie Hassan’s budget proposal in hand.
The House Finance Committee, along with its Senate counterpart, will meet with Hassan Tuesday morning. The House panel will then begin meeting with agencies, and by Friday, its divisions will start to work on their sections of the budget.
The full Senate won’t meet again until March 7, but the House meets Wednesday, with a bill to repeal the state’s new education tax credit program on its agenda.
The Executive Council also will meet Wednesday.
The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee will be hearing testimony Thursday in Representatives Hall on four gun-related bills, on the same day the House Public Works and Highways Committee is scheduled to debate and vote on Nashua Democratic Rep. David Campbell’s bill to raise the gas tax and hike vehicle-registration fees.
Odds and ends
∎ Shaheen, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has been awarded the Navy’s Distinguished Public Service Medal by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.
∎ Salem Republican Rep. Marilinda Garcia has joined the Future Majority Caucus, a new national group to support female, Hispanic, Asian and African-American GOP candidates.
∎ Holly Shulman, former spokeswoman for the New Hampshire Democratic Party and Obama for America, is now at the Treasury Department in Washington as a spokeswoman for international affairs.
∎ Tommy Schultz, former New Hampshire spokesman for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, is director of public affairs at JDA Frontline, a D.C. public relations firm.
Special election season
Nashua will hold a special election Tuesday for one of the two vacant seats in the House.
The Ward 4 seat vacated by Stacie Laughton, a Democrat and convicted felon who resigned after November’s election, will be filled by either Democrat Pam Brown or Republican Elizabeth Van Twuyver.
The second empty seat, in Manchester’s Ward 2, will be filled in a March 19 special election by either Republican Win Hutchinson or Democrat William O’Neil.
Neither election will change the balance of power in the House, where Democrats have a 219-179 majority.
(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or
firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)