Blumenthal makes official Senate debut with trademark speech

Freshman Democrat Richard Blumenthal used his first Senate speech to relay the personal stories of Connecticut families who are “still hurting and still struggling” in the weak economy.

In his maiden Senate speech on Wednesday, Blumenthal said his major focus in the coming year would be on spurring job growth, ferreting out government waste, and standing up to powerful special interests-all trademark Blumenthal campaign themes. And he vowed-ten times-to “fight” for Connecticut voters and the state’s interests.

Blumenthal said his first piece of legislation, to be introduced in the next few weeks, would aim to secure new job opportunities for the nation’s veterans, providing training and education.

“The people of Connecticut are clear about their priorities,” Blumenthal said in his opening remarks from the Senate floor, a time-honored ritual providing a forum for freshmen lawmakers to make an official debut. “They want to be back at work, with good jobs in a growing economy and responsible, smart cuts in government spending to reduce our debt and deficit.”

Blumenthal’s 12-minute speech came a little more than two months into his Senate term, as he is still finding his footing in Washington. So far, Blumenthal has focused heavily on social issues-joining other Democrats to oppose Republican proposals to restrict abortion and cut funding for women’s health care, among other things.

On Tuesday, Blumenthal joined Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, in co-sponsoring legislation that would make it harder for Congress to enact benefit cuts or other changes to Social Security. And today, he’s joining with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and other Democrats to call for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman and allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Blumenthal’s remarks on Wednesday had only a smattering of his ideological bent. It was laced with anecdotes that he’s gathered from the campaign trail and during his recent two-week “listening tour” of the state.

He said the “best moments” of his career have been fighting and winning battles for “ordinary people” as attorney general, a post he held for two decades before winning a bitter and expensive Senate race against Republican Linda McMahon. And he made clear he would play the role of senator the same way, talking about individuals who had asked him to work for specific legislative fixes in the Senate.

“The people of Connecticut don’t need Washington to tell them what’s wrong,” he said. “They need help in making it right.”

Blumenthal spoke to a nearly empty chamber-as most lawmakers do in their maiden remarks as well as during routine legislative debates. “I suggest the absence of a quorum,” he said in wrapping up. Then he got a vigorous congratulatory handshake from Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat of New York, and made his way off the floor.