Sununu says he has relationship with Trump administration to ‘get things done’

  • Gov. Chris Sununu AP file

For the Monitor
Published: 2/1/2018 5:15:15 PM

Gov. Chris Sununu says his opposition to an offshore drilling proposal is being “strongly considered” by the Trump administration.

And while he didn’t receive any assurances, Sununu said, he has “no doubt” that he’ll reach an agreement with federal authorities on New Hampshire’s request to add a work requirement for Granite State Medicaid recipients.

The governor made his comments the day after he met in the nation’s capital with leading administration officials, one of several trips to Washington he’s made in the last year.

Sununu is opposed to a recent move by President Donald Trump to dramatically expand offshore oil drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The administration’s proposal, announced Jan. 4, would allow for offshore drilling in the North Atlantic region, including off New Hampshire’s coastline. Sununu said he discussed his opposition in a face-to-face meeting Wednesday with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.

“I’ve been pretty clear about my opposition to them drilling off New Hampshire’s small but very pristine coastline,” Sununu said.

“It was clear that we were a low target area for them and that our feelings on the matter would be strongly considered,” Sununu added. “So I took that as a big win for New Hampshire.”

New Hampshire’s first Republican governor in a dozen years and the state’s all-Democratic congressional delegation are on the same page with offshore drilling. All four members of the delegation oppose the Trump administration’s offshore drilling proposal and have co-sponsored a bill to prevent offshore drilling in New England.

Sununu said he did not consult with the state’s congressional delegation before the trip, and he did not speak highly of their efforts.

“They have their thoughts on it. They seem to tweet things out and write letters and all that,” he said. “I think the best way is to sit in the room and talk to these folks. I know exactly what’s best for the state of New Hampshire, and we were able to convey that to Secretary Zinke. He was very open and listened very closely to a lot of our issues, and I think we got a great result out of it.”

Sununu bristled at a new effort by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts to build a coalition of eastern seaboard governors to oppose the Trump administration’s offshore drilling proposal.

“Other people can do coalitions and talk all they want and threaten lawsuits. I’ll work with people directly and get results,” Sununu said. “And yesterday was a great example, I think, of getting a very positive result for the state of New Hampshire.”

He said teaming up with other governors to possibly seek legal action to prevent offshore drilling was a last resort. And he called on other governors to follow in his footsteps and go to Washington to meet with Zinke.

“My focus is obviously about New Hampshire. I’m not there to advocate for other states,” Sununu said. “I think every governor should be down there talking directly with the secretary, frankly.”

While in Washington, Sununu said he also met with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Director Seema Verma to discuss the state’s plan to reform Medicaid. New Hampshire and at least nine other states are pushing for federal waivers to allow them to install work requirements for those on Medicaid.

“There were no assurances, but it was incredibly positive. We were able to go line by line through some of the issues,” Sununu said. “I have no doubt that we’re going to come to a final agreement here in very short order.”

The governor added that Kentucky’s work requirement plan, which federal authorities have approved, is a good model to follow.

“It doesn’t mean we’re going to copy their model, necessarily. But we can work off a lot of the dynamics that they put into theirs to make ours meet the needs of New Hampshire,” he said.

Sununu’s trip to Washington came the day after the president delivered his first State of the Union address. Asked about his frequent visits to Washington over the past year, the governor touted his close contact with the West Wing and the Cabinet.

“I’m really the only strong advocate that has a relationship with this administration that can get things done,” he said.

Sununu’s trip came the same day U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan joined fellow Democrats in calling for a Government Accountability Office review of what they called the “Trump administration’s failure to meaningfully address the opioid epidemic.”

“The administration has done little to nothing since declaring the crisis a public health emergency” in October, the two senators argued.

Sununu disagreed.

“I think the president and his team are working very hard, turning over every stone they can, to see all the different ways that they can come up with some kind of funding mechanism,” he said.

Sununu, who supported Trump during the 2016 general election, gave the president a thumbs-up on his State of the Union address.

“I thought it was a great speech. I thought he was really trying to show unification,” Sununu said. “He is a president that really shares my goal in really getting the job done.”

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