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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

At Fidelity in Merrimack, Ayotte backs more aggressive anti-ISIS actions, but no troops

MERRIMACK – U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte reiterated her opposition to sending troops back into Iraq but said more aggressive bombing and action in concert with Kurdish and Iraqi forces is needed to stem the threat from ISIS.

“I don’t support sending troops there ... but we’re going to have to strike ISIS more,” Ayotte told a meeting of the New England Council, a lobbying group for business and industry, during a luncheon hosted at Fidelity Investments’ campus in Merrimack. ...

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MERRIMACK – U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte reiterated her opposition to sending troops back into Iraq but said more aggressive bombing and action in concert with Kurdish and Iraqi forces is needed to stem the threat from ISIS.

“I don’t support sending troops there ... but we’re going to have to strike ISIS more,” Ayotte told a meeting of the New England Council, a lobbying group for business and industry, during a luncheon hosted at Fidelity Investments’ campus in Merrimack.

The U.S., she said, needs to target its air attacks more aggressively to defeat ISIS, the extreme Islamic group that has taken control of wide swaths of Iraq in recent months, not just to provide humanitarian assistance such as helping people escape from Mount Sinjar.

The U.S. also needs “partners like the Kurds, or the Iraq army ... somebody who is there on the ground,” she said. “We can’t ignore that ISIS is a threat to us, not just Iraq.”

Ayotte is the only one of the state’s four Washington lawmakers not running for reelection this year – she will be up in 2016 – but her itinerary this week resembles that of a candidate. Aside from the hour-long appearance at the New England Council lunch, she began a tour of businesses throughout New Hampshire, including stops at three Nashua firms Monday: UPS on Whipple Street, Axenics on Townsend West, and Monument Construction on Factory Street.

More than 130 people came to hear Ayotte at Fidelity, filling a dining hall at the campus, where about 5,400 people work.

The half-hour remarks from the first-term Republican touched on a number of pieces of legislation that she co-sponsored or supports, including:

Expand the number of days in the year that an employee can work and still be considered “seasonal” and thus not have be eligible for employer-related health benefits under the Affordable Care Act.

Currently, “seasonal workers” cannot be employed for more than 120 days in a row, Ayotte said, saying that some ski areas believe this will cause them to curtail their ski season to reduce their labor costs.

Expand the definition of a “full-time employee” under the Affordable Care Act from 30 hours a week to 40 hours. Businesses’ obligations under ACA are partly defined by the number of employees they have classified as full-time, and Ayotte said she had heard that some part-time employees were having their hours cut to less than 30 because business wish to avoid that trigger.

Ayotte supports reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, which provides credit to firms selling overseas. The charter of the 80-year-old federal institution runs out this fall and some Republican lawmakers and supporters, particularly those associated with libertarian ideas or the tea party movement, have opposed its reauthorization, arguing that the bank favors big firms and is an example of “crony capitalism.”

Ayotte noted that nearly 90 percent of the bank’s transactions involved small or medium-sized businesses. However, because of the relative size of the bank’s credit practices, the large majority of the dollars involved in the bank’s actions go to very large international firms.

Ayotte argued in favor of a permanent extension of the Internet Tax Freedom Act, which banned taxes on internet access or related activity such as email, and against a proposal to create sales taxes for online sales.

She reiterated her opposition to the medical device tax under Affordable Care Act. This 2.3 percent tax on revenue has drawn considerable criticism in New Hampshire, which has a comparatively robust medical-device presence for smaller businesses. Ayotte said the tax was particularly hard for startups.

She backed a provision to allow some federal transportation funds to be used in a state infrastructure bank, where it can be multiplied with other money to target projects. Ayotte said this has been dropped, perhaps inadvertently, in the scramble to temporarily re-authorize the federal highway funding bill.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Brooks on Twitter (@GraniteGeek).