2016 Conversations with the Candidates: U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte

Oct 31, 2016

The Exchange continues its "Conversations with the Candidates" series with U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte, the Republican incumbent and former New Hampshire Attorney General. We talk with Ayotte about immigration, climate change, and other issues of importance in this campaign, as well as the breaking news of the FBI's new probe of Hillary Clinton's emails.


This show will air at 8 P.M. on October 31, and again at 9 A.M. on November 1. 

Watch video of the conversation via Facebook Live:

Highlights from the conversation:

People criticize you for saying you would not support expanded background checks for gun purchases, including transactions for private, online and gun show purchases. Would you be open to universal background checks?

I'm open to it. I want to make sure that whatever we do is a system that will work effectively with [regards to] how it's administered at the state level.

Senator Ayotte also stresses that she wants to protect people's constitutional rights, and avoid creating a registry system that intrudes on these rights. 

Senator Ted Cruz has said Republicans could block a Democratic president from filling a vacant Supreme Court seat indefinitely. Would that be something you would support?

I would not support that. I [have] said that clearly this election has very significant implications for the country, and that obviously we have a vacant supreme court position right now, and that the people are going to weigh in by whom they elect as president in November, and that then we have to go forward with that confirmation process. 

What do you make of FBI Director James Comey's decision to notify Congress that there are more emails that might be relevant to the investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a private server?

Senator Ayotte thinks it would be problematic if Comey received the information about Clinton's servers, and did not notify Congress immediately. 

She also says that she disagreed with the way Comey originally handled the investigation, because he made both the investigative and prosecutorial decisions in the case.

Normally, the investigators would conduct the investigation and then it would be referred to the prosecutors to determine whether there was probable cause. So I, at the time, said I thought there were a different set of standards being applied to this case. 

Do you see North Korea as a significant threat to national security?

Senator Ayotte does believe that North Korea is a significant threat to the United States, and says that the government should use its economic influence in China to pressure China into taking a more active role in preventing North Korea's nuclear development.

China has a very instrumental role in the behavior of North Korea...because North Korea is very tied to China economically, and that's another pressure point where we need to ask China to step up more strongly.

What are our options in dealing with an increasingly aggressive Russia?

My view on Russia is [that] we needed to take a much stronger position [on regulating Russian military involvement in other countries] early on, when we quickly understood that the "reset policy" was not going to work. And so, we've continued to see a pattern of bad behavior. 

Senator Ayotte also notes that she thinks the United States could push its NATO allies to increase involvement in handling Russian military action. 

Would you support a carbon tax to help control climate change?

I wouldn't support a carbon tax...I think it would drive up prices. I have supported the Clean Power Plan because I think that the measures in it were able to meet in [such] a way that helps us address climate change, in a way that also doesn't infringe on making sure that economy and folks can afford the heating that they're paying for. 

Senator Ayotte also believes that the government should invest in research, including storage for solar, and renewable energy.