By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
MEREDITH — U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte told a gathering of supporters at the Wicwas Lake Grange Hall Friday afternoon that she opposes any effort by President Barack Obama to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
In response to a question from the audience on whether the Senate would be able to avoid an Obama Supreme Court nomination vote, Ayotte quickly replied "yes," a stance adopted by almost all Republican senators since Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said within hours of Scalia's death that the Senate would refuse to hold hearings on any nominee put forth by Obama and instead leave the choice of a successor up to the new president who will be elected in November. Obama has said that he intends to nominate a person to fill the vacancy and the White House is vetting a number of potential nominees.
She was joined in her opposition by two fellow Republican senators who campaigned with her yesterday, U.S. Sen. Shelly Capito of West Virginia and U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa.
About 60 people attended the event, which was organized by the Veterans for Ayotte group.
None of the three senators voiced an opinion on Thursday night's Republican Party debate in Detroit or the ongoing battle for the party's presidential nomination which in recent days has seen a strong effort by he likes of 2012 nominee Mitt Romney to challenge the credentials of the Donald Trump, who holds a large lead in national polls over Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Ernst was the only one who mentioned the race at all, saying "We have a really exciting presidential race out there. Regardless of who is at the top of the ticket, you have to get out and vote."
Ayotte implied that the Republican majority in the Senate is at stake in November, twice referring to New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who will likely succeed Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada next year, as the potential next leader of the U.S. Senate.
Ayotte faces a challenge for the seat she was elected to in 2010 from two-term Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, who was criticized by Ernst and Capito for her lack of foreign policy experience. Ayotte also criticized Hassan saying that the governor had been recruited by Reid and Schumer to run against her. Ayotte said her goal is ''to bring New Hampshire values to Washington and not the reverse."
Ayotte also said that she opposes any effort by President Obama to close the Guantanamo Bay prison and move the remaining terrorist suspects being held there to federal prisons in the United States. She said that she wants to see suspected ISIS members who have been captured in the fighting in Iraq and Syria held in Guantanamo.
She also criticized the lack of scrutiny of Syrian refugees coming to the United States and Canada, maintaining that there are inadequate safeguards against terrorist entering both countries.
All three senators talked about the heroin crisis and legislation they are working on to help provide for programs to combat addiction.
Ayotte noted that the state had 420 drug deaths last year and said that the drugs which are taking such a toll are being shipped across the Mexican border by drug cartels, showing the need for more support for law enforcement activities on the southern border.
Also discussed was the need for reforms at the Veterans Administration in order to deal with veteran suicides, which Ernst said are now averaging 22 per day.
U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte speaks at a campaign event at the Wicwas Lake Grange Hall in Meredith Center Friday afternoon. Ayotte was joined by fellow Republican senators Shelley Capito, left, of West Virginia and Joni Ernst, second from left, of Iowa. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)
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