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For first time, Kuster will serve in Democratic majority in Congress 

  • U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.) waves to supporters as she leaves the Hopkinton High School voting area in Contoocook, New Hampshire on Tuesday, November 6, 2018 GEOFF FORESTER



For the Monitor
Wednesday, November 07, 2018

For the first time in her six years serving in Congress, Annie Kuster’s about to be in the majority.

And the Democrat from New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District is looking forward to what that might afford.

“I’m excited about that. I hear it’s a lot more fun,” Kuster told the Monitor on Wednesday. “And I’m excited about what we can do for the American people.”

The three-term congresswoman from Hopkinton spoke the morning after she convincingly won re-election over GOP challenger and outgoing state Rep. Steve Negron of Nashua by double digits.

Kuster will have a new partner representing New Hampshire in the U.S. House, as Democrat Chris Pappas topped Republican Eddie Edwards to succeed retiring four-term Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in the state’s 1st District.

“I’m very excited about Chris Pappas,” Kuster said. “Chris brings a whole young, fresh energy.”

Pappas predicted that he will have a good working relationship with Kuster. 

One issue he said he already has in his sights is the opioid crisis.

“I look forward to being part of the bipartisan working group that she helped found that’s really leveraged some additional resources for New Hampshire,” he said.

While the Democrats won back control of the U.S. House for the first time in eight years, the GOP made gains in the U.S. Senate.

Kuster predicted that “We’re going to see progress on quite a few issues.”

And she pointed to the president, who she expected to be cooperative.

“I think you’ll see him sign bills into law,” she said. “He may take all the credit for it, but I think he will be a part of moving the country forward because that’s what the American people are demanding. That’s what this election was all about.”

Kuster pointed to health care, prescription drug prices, shoring up Social Security and Medicare as issues where the two parties on Capitol Hill, and President Donald Trump, may find common ground. She even suggested lawmakers and the president may reach a compromise on the divisive issue of illegal immigration.

“I think you’ll see progress on immigration reform. Five and a half years ago the Senate had a big, bold, comprehensive immigration package, and the Republican leadership didn’t hold a single hearing, so I think we’ll see progress on that. And I think we’ll see progress on campaign finance reform, getting the dark money out of politics,” she added.

Pappas pointed to transportation and infrastructure and veterans’ health care as two issues where he could work with the president.

“We’ve got to continue to fix the Manchester VA to expand the services that are available there,” he said.

But both said they’d also keep Trump accountable.

“We do need checks and balances as our founders intended and I think it’s healthy the president’ party doesn’t have a blank check in Congress,” Pappas said. “We need oversight. If I learned anything from my time on the Executive Council, it’s that oversight over the agencies of government is critically important. So I think we can provide that in a nonpolitical way.”

Kuster said that with GOP majorities in Congress the past two years, oversight of the administration has been lacking.

“There’s a lot to investigate only because there’s a lot to question the way he’s run his administration. He talked about draining the swamp. To the contrary, he brought the swamp to the White House and beyond,” she said.

Kuster currently serves on the Veterans Affairs and Agriculture committees.

She said she’s open to new assignments as well. 

“I certainly want to make sure that we take care of our veterans and I like the Agriculture Committee, working on the Farm Bill. But there’s a lot of work out there to be done. If I had a chance to be involved in health care policy, energy policy, environment, I’d certainly jump at the chance. So we just have to wait and see how this all shakes out.”

Pappas said he would like to serve on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“New Hampshire gets the least amount of federal highway aid of any state in the country. I think we can do better than that,” he said. 

Kuster made some history with her re-election victory.

“This district has never sent a Democrat (to Congress) four times, so I’m very proud of that,” she said. “I think my message of bringing people together to get the job done really resonated, not just with Democrats, but with independents and quite a few Republicans as well.”

The congresswoman’s 2018 performance stood in contrast to her 2016 re-election, when she narrowly defeated Republican Jim Lawrence during the same year that Trump won the electoral college to capture the White House, even though he narrowly lost the battle for New Hampshire’s four electoral votes to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

“The biggest difference was last time there was a big race on the top of the ticket. Our polling was very strong right to the end but the top of the ticket changed and we felt the result of this,” Kuster said. “This time we got to run our own race, and we were able to build it from the bottom up.”