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Portsmouth Herald: Shea-Porter Sits Down With Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce

Portsmouth Herald//Paul Briand

PORTSMOUTH — U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter yesterday said she is “proud of the work” she’s done not only in the 1st Congressional District but on national issues as well.

She discussed jobs, the Air National Guard Base at Pease, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and other issues at a forum at Seacoast Media Group with the Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce’s Government Affairs Committee.

That pride in her work extended to the Affordable Care Act, which she voted for, while acknowledging to about 20 people in attendance, “There are more steps that we still have to take to make it better for business.”

When challenged during a question and answer session whether the Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare – was a moving away from a free market toward socialized medicine, Shea-Porter choked up when she told the story of a man who wasn’t insured and discovered in an emergency room visit that he had lung cancer.

“They enrolled him, they put him in hospice, and his family took pictures of him every day. They sent them to me; he only lived two more weeks,” she said, her voice starting to thicken. “And I made myself look at those pictures, even though my dad died the same way, with cancer. I made myself look at those pictures because they wanted me to know that that vote had made a difference and they wanted me to keep working on that.”

Shea-Porter is seeking re-election against Republican challenger Frank Guinta. This is their third campaign against each other, with Guinta having unseated Shea-Porter in 2010, and Shea-Porter winning the seat back in 2012.

She listed several federally funded items in the Seacoast that compete against other projects throughout the country. She cited the work to prepare Pease for the arrival of a new fleet of air refueling tankers for the Air National Guard, the work to improve the infrastructure at the shipyard and keep it open from the latest round of military base closings, funding for the new Memorial Bridge between Portsmouth and Kittery, Maine, and funding for future replacement of the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge.

“When we look at the rest of the country, we work to make sure New Hampshire and New England gets its fair share,” said Shea-Porter.

Among the issues nationally besides health care, Shea-Porter cited her work toward improving the economic climate for small businesses.

Asked to list her three priorities if re-elected to another two-year term, Shea-Porter listed small business, rewriting the tax code, and campaign finance reform.

“When you look at what’s happening, who’s done well and who hasn’t, it’s definitely small business and the middle class who are carrying the burden,” she said, adding “manufacturing is key” and she’s working to link manufacturing training to courses at the state’s community college.

She also noted an emphasis on military readiness and the fact cuts to the Centers for Disease Control by the Republican Congress are impacting the country’s response to the growing Ebola hemorrhagic fever crisis.

The congresswoman was asked about her recent vote in the House against President Barack Obama’s request to arm Syrian and Kurdish fighters to combat Islamic extremists known alternately as ISIS and ISIL.

She expressed a concern about “morphing daily alliances.” While she said she supported helping Kurdish forces in northern Iraq, she didn’t want to arm Syrian rebels, who, according to Shea-Porter, “we really don’t know who they are.” She expressed concerns that American weaponry could ultimately “fall into bad hands.”

She recalled discussion of the issue as part of her membership on the Armed Services Committee. “You saw Republicans and Democrats together voting no. Some Democrats and some Republicans voted yes for that, and I said to them, because we had a lot of intense conversations and I don’t fault anybody for their vote, but I said to them, ‘Your vote is a triumph of hope over experience, my vote is experience over hope.”

Commenting about political dysfunction in the House, Shea-Porter partly faulted the schedule set by Republican House Speaker John Boehner.

“We’re not there, we have to be able to be there to talk and work this out and I think that’s one of our largest problems. We’re only there two days a week. You can’t do everything in two days.” She added:” I find it embarrassing that we’re out (of session) again, again and again.”

She said she finds she gets a lot of work done in her committee work on Armed Services and Natural Resources because the approach of members on issues there tends to be more bipartisan.

After the session with the chamber committee, Shea-Porter received the endorsement in Portsmouth of the Alliance for Retired Americans and Senior Votes Count! The political action committee said in a statement that “Shea-Porter’s work to preserve and strengthen Social Security and Medicare for seniors, as well as her fight against privatization schemes or cuts to these earned benefits, confirm her commitment to improving the quality of life for older Americans.”

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