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Hassan talks border wall; reflects on time in D.C.

By KEN LIEBESKIND - For The Telegraph | Dec 21, 2018

NASHUA – Facing a potential government shutdown before Christmas due to squabbles about President Donald Trump’s proposed wall at the southern border – not to mention working to bring more funding to New Hampshire to battle opioids and water pollution – Senator Maggie Hassan stays rather busy these days.

Amid all this, Hassan managed to find time for an interview with The Telegraph to reflect on her first two years in office, while also discussing several of the ongoing issues in Washington, D.C.

Hassan, a Democrat, spent four years as New Hampshire governor before narrowly defeating former Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte in the 2016 campaign.

The Telegraph: “Where do you stand on the threat of a government shutdown over financing for a border wall?”

Hassan: “I remain very concerned when the president says he would be proud to shut down the government. There is bipartisan agreement on a funding plan for the Department of Homeland Security and I would like the president to look at the funding plan and give his support for the rest of the fiscal year, so we can go on with our work with government up and operational. If the president isn’t going to do that, I would urge him to extend the current funding for this fiscal year. It’s obvious, we have to commit to a range of solutions in regard to strengthening border security, particularly when it comes to drug interdiction.

The tools include physical barriers and we need to add agents and better roads on the border and more technology that lets us keep up with the evolving tactics of drug cartels.”

The Telegraph: “It sounds like you support everything but the wall.”

Hassan: “Look, there are physical barriers like fencing that are important. And when you talk to agents, they want to see the other side of the fence. And it depends where on the border it is. We need to strengthen our border, but do it in a way that’s fact based, not symbolic.”

The Telegraph: “What will the impact of the two houses of Congress being led by different parties have in 2019?”

Hassan: “I think we have a real opportunity to do what people in New Hampshire do all the time, which is to work across party lines to solve problems. I’m hopeful a Democratic majority in one chamber and Republican in another will make everyone inclined to problem-solve and listen to each other and it will be incumbent on the White House to be part of the solution and focus on getting things done. We have to wait on the special counsel to conclude the investigation and see where that leads us. But what I’m focused on is making sure that people in our state know our platform is to work hard so our kids will have a better future.”

The Telegraph: “On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest, how would you rate your first two years in the Senate?”

Hassan: “Oh heavens, I will let pundits rate me. I’ve enjoyed the privilege and honor of representing the people of New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate and focused on the example they’ve set of working across party lines to get things done. In the first two years I’ve worked with both parties, including my Republican colleagues on a number of bills, 61 of which have been signed into law by the president. I continue to focus on expanding economic opportunities, supporting our small businesses, and making sure our country is safe, secure and free.”

The Telegraph: “How has the legislation you’ve sponsored helped New Hampshire residents?”

Hassan: “There are a number of areas to cover here. First on the opioid epidemic, which continues to be our biggest public health and safety challenge, I’m pleased we’ve been able to get additional funding into our bipartisan spending agreement for combating the opioid epidemic. Then, we needed to work with the administration to make sure the formula they used to help the hardest hit states gives New Hampshire its fair share of funding, so that’s how we were able to get an additional $46 million over two years to build out comprehensive prevention treatment and recovery measures. I’ve also supported the issues of broadband and reorganizing tech education centers. I’ve been hearing from New Hampshire businesses about their needs to align their curriculums with the needs of the 21st century economy, and want to make sure students with learning challenges are included to get career training and be part of the work force.”

The Telegraph: “Have you worked on legislation in response to water contamination in Merrimack and Pease?

Hassan: “I sure have. I should say residents of the Granite State have been absolutely critical in helping lawmakers understand how per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have impacted their communities. Right before we had the first ever Senate hearing on PFAS contamination, I met with advocates from Merrimack who were making excellent points that I put into a bill that would require the (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) to develop maximum contaminant levels for PFAS and develop safety guidelines so we can clarify what kind of safety measures we should have for public water systems around the country.”

The Telegraph: “Is the legislation is in progress?”

Hassan: “Yes it is. And I also joined the delegation that is working with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the ATSDR that will take additional steps to assess PFAS contamination in Merrimack. There’s more work to be done, but we are beginning to educate our colleagues. And it isn’t a partisan issue. We all want safe drinking water for our citizens and it will continue to be an area of real focus.”

The Telegraph: “How does your work as senator extend your service as governor?”

Hassan: “What I tried to do as governor and what I try to do in the senate is to follow the example of the people of New Hampshire, who solve problems every day without regard to political party.”

The Telegraph: “What are your goals for 2019?”

Hassan: “It is very easy for people who are watching the news to just hear about the conflict and I don’t want to sugar coat it. But despite that, we really are looking to find solutions to the most significant problems we have and I’m hoping for the opportunity in the next Congress to focus on that, with some attention to issues like health care.”


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