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Back home, GOP freshmen find fiscal responsibility can be tricky business

House Speaker John Boehner criticized President Obama Thursday, saying he punted on entitlements in his proposed budget. "When we say we're going to cut spending, read my lips, we're going to cut spending." (Feb. 17)

The tea party movement played a big role in electing Guinta, and those same groups are now closely monitoring his actions. The umbrella New Hampshire Tea Party Coalition, for instance, urged supporters to phone Guinta's office to urge his opposition to the fighter engine.

On Thursday, Joseph W. McQuaid, the influential conservative publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader, criticized Guinta in a front-page editorial for working with fellow freshman Republican Rep. Charlie Bass to rescue the engine program.

"We fault him, and Bass, for ignoring the pleas of both the Bush and Obama administrations to cut $450 million for a wasteful, duplicative jet fighter engine that happens to affect some jobs in Hooksett," McQuaid wrote. "Their effort failed, which is fortunate. The country is in crisis. Everyone needs to suck it up."

Guinta's rationale on the engine vote is that competition is always better. He believes it will lower costs over time and provide greater certainty for the military.

"We have to be effective and efficient as a government. And we've got to do what's in the best interest of defending our nation," Guinta said.

But he conceded that old habits, especially when it comes to home-state interests, die hard. "Changing that congressional behavior is happening to some extent," he said, "but it won't happen immediately."

Some look at the House bill, recognize it will never pass the Senate, and wonder what exactly Guinta has accomplished.

It's a relief to hear lawmakers pledge to tackle the nation's fiscal problems, said H. Bliss Dayton, a Bradford banker, after hearing Sen. Kelly Ayotte, another newly elected Granite State Republican, speak on Wednesday. But he wonders why none of his state's new lawmakers is offering a broader vision for reshaping government.

'Reckless cutting'

"I see a lot of potential for reckless cutting," Dayton said. "What I don't see is much discussion of what's the purpose of having a public sector, and how should it be designed?"

The House spending bill would cut $1.3 billion in federal funding for community health centers. It would erase leftover stimulus funds that Exeter Hospital is counting on.

In a conference room at Exeter, chief executive Kevin Callahan told Guinta that the House bill would undercut one of the pillars of local health care: a community health center that treats low-income residents. If the center didn't exist, patients would go to the emergency room for basic services, at many times the cost.

"That is a way of providing health care that I think most people don't take advantage of," Guinta interjected.

Mark Whitney, the hospital's head of strategic planning, urged Guinta to seek out the people who run the center to learn more about their work. "I think that would be a great conversation," Whitney said.

Later, in an interview, Guinta said the House bill "is only step one."

"There are things that I prefer not be in there," he said, including the health center cuts.

But, Guinta said, "I'm measuring it against, we have to send a message. There is genuine expectation that this Congress will set the course properly again. And to different people it means different things."

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