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Dec 7, 2015 11:02 PM

Steinhauser: War of words over Ayotte's no-fly-list votes

NH1 Political Director -

CONCORD – Sen. Kelly Ayotte gave a thumbs down to President Obama’s prime time speech from the Oval Office on fighting terrorism in the wake of last week’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.

“I think unfortunately he did not lay out any new strategy for what we’re going to do overall to defeat ISIS,” New Hampshire’s Republican U.S. senator told NH1 News on Monday.

But minutes after the President Sunday night said that "Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun," Ayotte appeared to be in agreement.

“We need to come together now &pass law 2 stop those on no fly list from buying guns, w/ due process for Americans who are wrongfully on list,” Ayotte tweeted soon after Obama concluded his speech.

But the words “due process” in Ayotte’s tweet are crucial to this political argument.

Monday, New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley told NH1 News that Ayotte’s tweet “absolutely was misleading. It’s really despicable that Sen. Ayotte, in this time of crisis, would try to mislead the people of New Hampshire. She voted to allow people who are on the do not fly list to purchase machine guns. Simple.”

The vote Buckley’s talking about happened last week, when Ayotte voted against an amendment by Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein of California that would have allowed the federal government to ban the sale of firearms to anyone on the terrorist watch list. Ayotte voted against the amendment, as did the three Republican senators running for president: Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida.

Ayotte told NH1 News that “the Democratic amendment last week was a political stunt.”

“I think that it’s important for people to understand that the vote that we took in the Senate last week on the Democratic amendment would have gutted the underlying bill that we we’re working on to repeal the most onerous parts of Obamacare,” she added.

And Ayotte said that the Feinstein amendment “had no due process in it for Americans who believe they’re wrongfully on that list.”

Democrats disagree. Feinstein has said that her measure would allow those who were denied firearms to take the Justice Department to court to overturn the decision.

Ayotte instead voted in favor of an amendment by Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn.

“The amendment that I did support actually ensures that the attorney general can keep those on the terror watch list from purchasing guns with due process,” Ayotte told NH1 News.

But Buckley said the Cornyn measure “was an NRA supported piece of legislation. She (Ayotte) has an NRA A rating. She’s going to do whatever she can to cover up her voting record.”

Ayotte decried the attempts “to make this a political football,” but added that “of course the leader of the Democratic Party in New Hampshire is always going to make politics out of everything.”

Both amendments failed, a sign that gridlock in the nation’s capital over gun control remains firmly in place, even in the wake of last month’s terrorist attacks in Paris, where more than 130 people were killed by ISIS, and last week’s shootings in San Bernardino, that left 14 dead at the hands of a married Muslim family that was radicalized and influenced by ISIS.

Ayotte is up for re-election next year and is facing a strong Democratic challenge from Gov. Maggie Hassan. The contest shaping up to be one of the toughest, most bitter, and most expensive Senate showdowns in the 2016 cycle.

A spokesman for Hassan said she supports the Feinstein amendment.

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