Put another way, Ayotte is practically smack in the center of the heated debate on gun policy happening in Congress right now. The Fix spoke to her about it minutes after a majority of senators voted for the compromise she supported (though it was just a test vote to see how much support it had).
Our conversation has been lightly edited for length.
THE FIX: First, House Democrats' sit-in ended after 26 hours Thursday. What did you think of it?
AYOTTE: I think people have a right to certainly express their viewpoints, but at the same time, these are deliberative bodies and they have to be run by federal rules. So while I appreciate they get to share their viewpoint, in the end the body still has to operate on legislative business.
THE FIX: You just had a test vote on Collins's gun-control proposal, and it got a slim majority, but not enough to guarantee Senate Republicans bring it up for a real vote. Talk to me about that.
AYOTTE: Our proposal was not tabled. So that means if it's not tabled, it can still be brought up for consideration, which means I'm hoping that we can come to a result. And I'm willing to continue to work toward that end.
[Ed. note: Senate Republican leaders indicated Thursday they don't plan to bring the compromise up for another vote because it didn't have enough support in the test vote. "We can continue talking about it," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) told CQ Roll Call, "but I don't foresee us voting on anything until somebody can produce 60 votes."
THE FIX: But you only got 52 votes, and Senate Republican leaders were looking for 60 before they considered advancing it.
AYOTTE: I anticipate there will be discussion going forward, and I'm very willing to be part of those discussions. I think we came up with a very common-sense proposal that addresses ensuring that terrorists can't purchase guns, while ensuring that people's constitutional rights are protected. So that's the balance that needs to be addressed. But if people have other proposals that do both those things, I'm certainly open to talking about it with them.
I think the group I've been working with would say the same thing. That's why we came together in the first place.
THE FIX: Talk to me about your vote Monday for both the Democratic and Republican terror watch list proposals. In December, you only voted for the Republican version. Did you switch your vote?
AYOTTE: One of the reasons I opposed [Sen. Dianne] Feinstein's [D-Calif] amendment [to prevent people on the FBI's terrorist watch lists from buying guns] the last time it came up in December is it gutted the underlying repeal of the parts of Obamacare that I disagreed with.
When the president made this speech after San Bernardino and he talked about people on the no-fly list, I was also one of the people that tweeted that I supported the measure and I hoped we could work together on it.
THE FIX: Harry Reid and others say you voted with them to get reelected. What do you make of that?
AYOTTE: Well, Harry Reid hand-picked my opponent [Gov. Maggie Hassan]. So I don't think much of it.
THE FIX: Gun-control groups think they can make your support (or, in their view, lack of support) for gun control an issue in your reelection campaign. What do you make of that?
AYOTTE: I think New Hampshire voters are going to be focused on who can be an independent voice and get results. This is about the economy, national security -- who do we feel is best to make sure the country remains safe and the military remains strong.
THE FIX: What's different about the conversation in Congress on gun policy from a few months ago, the last time there was a mass shooting?
AYOTTE: With all due respect, I don't think anything surprised me about the conversation. As I look at the Orlando situation, first and foremost, this is about terrorism. I'm glad I was able to work on this compromise proposal this week. But that alone isn't going to solve terrorism, and I think we can't lose sight of the fact that we have to get answers to, like, 'Why did the FBI close the investigation [into the Orlando shooter]?' 'What are the gaps in the intelligence system, and what are we going to do to take this fight to ISIS?' I think we have to deal with all of it.
THE FIX: In the days after the Orlando attack, Democrats in Congress seem to be dominating the narrative, and it's all about gun control.
AYOTTE: The fact they've taken this and made it a gun-control debate; that's not an accurate view of all the things we need to address. You're making a huge mistake if you think what happens in Orlando is just a discussion about gun control. You're missing the bigger point, which is: How do we defeat ISIS and radical Islamic terrorists?
One of the reasons they are able to inspire these kinds of attacks is because they have this ability from the territory they have in Iraq and Syria. And we have to continue to diminish their capabilities.