Mar 3, 2016 11:24 PM

Steinhauser: Ayotte tells NH1 News she plans to back GOP nominee but wants to 'see how this process plays out'

NH1 News Political Director

DERRY – One day after the Senate voted down a bid to add $600 million to a bill targeting heroin and opioid abuse, Sen. Kelly Ayotte vowed “to continue to fight for more funding.”

And in an interview with NH1 News hours after 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney launched a blistering attack on likely 2016 nominee Donald Trump, Ayotte said she plans to support the eventual nominee but added that she wants to “see how this process plays out.”

New Hampshire’s Republican senator spoke with NH1 News minutes before holding a campaign event with fellow female GOP Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia at Halligan Tavern in downtown Derry. Thursday evening’s event was the first of four over two days Ayotte was holding with her fellow senators across the Granite State.

Ayotte joked that “we have half the Republican women in the Senate here.”

The event was a taste of things to come, as Ayotte runs for re-election this year against Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. The race is one of the most high profile, expensive, and negative Senate showdowns in the country and could be crucial in deciding whether the Republicans hold onto their control of the chamber.

As Ayotte arrived for her event, a small group of Democratic activists outside protested Ayotte’s refusal to meet with any person President Obama would nominee to succeed the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, who was a hero to conservatives.

Ayotte, along with most other Republican senators, supports Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s position that the next president, rather than Obama, should nominate a person to fill the high court vacancy.

“Granite Staters have had enough of Kelly Ayotte’s Supreme Court obstruction that puts her party's leaders before her constitutional duty. From the multiple protests outside Ayotte's office this week, to the constituents gathered outside her campaign event tonight, Granite Staters are sending a message loud and clear: Kelly Ayotte, stop obstructing the Supreme Court and do your job,” New Hampshire Democratic Party press secretary Melissa Miller, who took part in the protest, told NH1 News.

Asked what she would tell the demonstrators, Ayotte said “what I say is that there’s a very consequential presidential election happening right now.”

“I want the people in this country to weigh in on such a consequential nomination by the decision they make for the next president,” Ayotte continued. “Waiting for this direct presidential election and letting the people weigh in with their will is the best thing that we should do.”

In his speech, Romney called Trump a “fraud” and a “phony” who’s “playing the American public for suckers.”

Asked if she agreed with Romney’s criticism, Ayotte simply responded that “I just think obviously we’re in the process that’s playing out right now for the Republican nomination and we’ll continue to watch this process play out and the people across this country weigh in.”

As for supporting the eventual GOP nominee no matter who it is, Ayotte responded that “I plan support the Republican nominee however I’m going to watch to see how this process plays out.”

Ayotte spoke with NH1 News one day after the Senate rejected an attempt by Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire’s Democratic senator, to add $600 million to an overall bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Ayotte. Ernst and Capito voted against the amendment.

Asked about the vote, Ayotte said “I don’t know how they voted on the amendment but I will tell you they have been supportive of the overall bill.”

And Ayotte added that “this is a very bipartisan bill and it’s important that we continue to push it to get it passed for New Hampshire and for the country.”

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