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Hodes misses vote on benefits

Last modified: 7/30/2010 12:00:00 AM
After repeatedly prodding his Republican opponents in the U.S. Senate race to support extending unemployment benefits, Democratic U.S. Rep. Paul Hodes last week missed the vote.

A spokesman for the Hodes campaign said an unspecified "scheduling issue" prevented the congressman from voting July 22 when the U.S. House approved restoring jobless pay for millions of Americans who had been out of work six months or more. Spokesman Matt House said Hodes remains a strong supporter of extended benefits.

Hodes was scheduled to appear in Las Vegas the next day at the liberal bloggers convention Netroots Nation, and by Saturday afternoon he had told a Huffington Post reporter at the conference that Republicans who opposed the extension were "extremist, obstructionist, lying hypocrites who think you don't have to pay for tax cuts for the wealthiest but are holding up help for the neediest."

Hodes was one of four Democrats, along with five Republicans, who did not vote on a bill supported by 241 Democrats and 31 Republicans. The legislation had cleared the Senate two days earlier after a two-month impasse while Republicans argued the government needed to cut spending to pay for the $34 billion extension.

Yesterday, the Senate campaign of former state attorney general Kelly Ayotte latched on to the congressman's roll call absence. The Hodes campaign released statements in March and June daring Ayotte to support the extension, and earlier this month, he held a conference call with reporters to deliver the same message.

"After playing politics for months with jobless benefits, Hodes couldn't find time to vote on the bill or suggest how to fully pay for it, but he could fit in a trip to Las Vegas," Ayotte spokesman Jeff Grappone said in a statement. "Paul Hodes couldn't be more out of touch with New Hampshire if he tried."

Grappone said Ayotte did not oppose extending benefits but believes the extension's cost could not be added to the deficit. Ayotte, like some congressional Republicans, thought the government could consider using unspent stimulus money, he said.

House, Hodes's spokesman, rejected the Ayotte campaign's characterization of the missed vote.

"Paul has consistently supported the plan to extend unemployment benefits, unlike his opponents," House said in a statement. "Kelly Ayotte is marching in lockstep with the Washington Republicans who have held up these benefits, attempting to score political points on the backs of struggling Granite Staters."

House pointed to three votes Hodes cast to extend benefits - on April 15, June 29 and July 1.

"A scheduling issue prevented him from being there to cast his vote, but he clearly supports extending unemployment benefits," House wrote.

When asked about the scheduling conflict, House said in an e-mail that the campaign had nothing to add to its statement.

In a video posted last week on his campaign website, Hodes describes his plans to attend the annual Netroots Nation convention, a gathering of liberal activists and bloggers that attracts attention from Democratic politicians.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke at the convention, and President Obama made a video appearance.

Hodes told viewers of his video he was the only progressive candidate in the New Hampshire Senate race and promised to reject special interests.

"As they say in Vegas, I'm all in," Hodes said.


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