By Benjamin C. Klein
U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-NH, admonished a group of senior citizens to stay active in the political process to stave off cuts to entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicaid.
Speaking Friday at the New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans' conference, Shea-Porter said that protecting entitlement programs is critical to the well-being of senior citizens.
"If you don't sit at the table, you will be on the menu. Seniors, get active; let everyone know you won't be on the menu," Shea-Portersaid.
Before she spoke to the audience of about 30 seniors at the Plumbers and Pipefitters Labor Hall, Shea-Porter said that not only did the recent shutdown accomplish nothing, but that the same thing could happen all over again a couple months down the line when the temporary spending measure ends.
"I think we might be back here in two months because I hear (Texas Sen. Ted Cruz) say they want another round," she said. "If it did happen again, nothing would be accomplished, but some (members of Congress) have decided that they do not respect that (the Affordable Health Care Act) was voted in, the President signed it, and the Supreme Court upheld it, so they decided to the hold the country hostage, and it didn't work."
Shea-Porter added that federal employees who weren't paid during the shutdown will receive back pay for the days missed.
"It's done, it will definitely happen," she said.
Despite nothing being accomplished by the shutdown, Shea-Porter said she is however encouraged to see "moderate and conservative Republicans" stand up to the Tea Party Republicans, whom she labeled as "reactionary."
Speaking to the audience, Shea-Porter said that many Granite State senior citizens are dependent on Social Security benefits, which she said averages just slightly less than $15,000 annually.
"We need to protect Social Security for those that have already paid into it. They call it an entitlement program, but you are getting benefits you have already paid for," Shea-Porter said.
The conference was also attended by a staffer from U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's office, who read a prepared statement written by the senator.
"It is critical we preserve Medicare and Social Security benefits for residents in New Hampshire. Senior citizens have worked their whole lives for these benefits," Shaheen's statement read.
The NHARA is a division of the larger national association, and according to staffer Jennifer Kenny, exists primarily to protect senior housing, health care and retirement benefits.
NHARA member Audrey Buchanon-Swan said that she is nervous that her benefits could be cut, given the current political climate in Washington, D.C.
"I think it's great (Shea-Porter) came to speak to today. We need politicians on our side because I am concerned (Congress) will touch Social Security. We worked all our lives for this, and they want to take away some of it? It's unthinkable, and this shutdown, what a farce that was," Buchanon-Swan said.