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Kuster Plans to Increase Funding for Election Security

Congresswoman Annie Kuster says if she's re-elected to New Hampshire's 2nd District, she's hoping to help pass immigration reform to strengthen U.S. borders and provide a pathway to citizenship.

Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with Kuster, a three-term Democrat, on foreign relations and trade. Morning Edition is speaking with all Congressional candidates this week.

What kind of immigration reform would you intend to support if you had another term in Congress?

Sure, I would support the Senate Bill, a very bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform passed five and a half years ago by two thirds of the Senate. Senator Kelly Ayotte voted for it, John McCain [and] Jeanne Shaheen. I would have voted for it the very next day, but my Republican leadership in the House, first John Boehner and then Paul Ryan, never held a single hearing on that bill.

So what is plausible given the current state of affairs in Congress?

Well the truth is with new leadership in Congress we will get comprehensive immigration reform. We have bipartisan support now for most of the elements of that comprehensive package. That bill people forget had $46 billion to strengthen our borders, and I think that's something that we should do to strengthen our borders. But it also had a pathway to citizenship. It was focused on dreamers, the young people that came here through no fault of their own that are in school, and in jobs and working toward a better life. There's absolutely no reason why we shouldn't come together around immigration reform. Literally it would pass tomorrow in the House if we could get a vote.

In relation to specific issues with immigration here in the Granite State -- visa programs. Of course it's a very important subject here in New Hampshire with tourism being such a major industry. The president is has obviously made clear that he wants to limit these visa programs. What can Congress do?

I disagree with the president and employers here do. I've been on a dairy farm within the last month that needs workers. I've talked to companies, high tech companies, and certainly as you point out the hospitality industry, ski areas, summer attractions. So look Congress should increase the number of visas. The president has been decreasing the number of visas. I think he's wrong. I think the American people would support an increase particularly H-2B visas where people are coming in for seasonal work and helping our economy.

Looking at trade now, trade with Canada [is] deeply embedded in New Hampshire's economy. What needs to be done to improve our trade relationship with our northern neighbor?

Well first of all, don't pick a fight the way the president did. I was totally shocked. I mean nobody is nicer than Canadians. There's no reason for America to threaten that relationship. I do talk to dairy farmers who want some relief, and I think the newly negotiated treaty may have some relief, although it's minimum 3 percent.

This is in relation to the renegotiated NAFTA treaty.

Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR
U.S. Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, D-N.H., answers a question during the NHPR forum this month with Republican nominee Steve Negron.

Right, and it's very minimal, but we are hopeful that that will give some relief to our dairy farmers here in New Hampshire. But I also am very concerned about trade wars generally. I think the president is too erratic. I think he shoots from the hip. I think the idea of foreign policy by tweet is not thoughtful. I visit companies all the time in New Hampshire that are concerned about a trade war with China, aluminum, steel. Where I visited a company just a few weeks ago down in Nashua and one of the machines that they make, the cost of the component parts went up 55 percent just because of this trade battle that the president took on with China.

Well you know the counter argument from the Trump administration is look, things were imbalanced. Things were not fair. We needed to shake things up. Yeah, there might be some pain in the short term but this is for the long term.

Well, I think we do need to constantly reevaluate our trade relationships, but we're not going to win by imposing massive tariffs that then just come back to hurt us. Look, there's always going to be winners and losers in trade, but I want to make sure that we take into account the jobs right here in New Hampshire.

Let's talk about cybersecurity for a moment. There's been concern from voters in New Hampshire about cybersecurity and attempts from countries like Russia and China to hack U.S. elections. Would you support securing federal funding for investing in improving cybersecurity?

Absolutely. I think the evidence is very clear that the Russians interfered with our election in 2016. And I think that we should have a much, much more robust federal response. I've been shocked frankly that the Republican Congress has not done more, nor the administration.

Are there specific bills you would support that would make that federal funding available on the state level? Would this come with federal restrictions? How would you like to see that rollout?

It's called the We The People, and it's a program that the Democrats have put together to rollout in January. And it has to do with shoring up our elections system, making sure that we have the funding for both cybersecurity as well as our whole election processes. Because you know in many parts of the country that's at risk. It would not be difficult for people to hijack the election system. Here in New Hampshire we have paper ballots, which is a good thing, but I want to make sure that our elections are secure. Our democracy depends upon it.

For many radio listeners throughout New Hampshire, Rick Ganley is the first voice they hear each weekday morning, bringing them up to speed on news developments overnight and starting their day off with the latest information.
Mary McIntyre is a senior producer at NHPR.
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