Connecticut lawmakers vote for budget deal

WashingtonAll of Connecticut’s House members voted for the six-month “continuing resolution,” which passed the House on a rare bipartisan vote Thursday evening.

The House Thursday voted 329-91 for the stop-gap measure that would continue funding the federal government for six months, avoiding another crippling fight and the specter of a government shutdown before Election Day.

“Nobody wanted a government shutdown right now, even though the numbers aren’t perfect,” said Rep. Chris Murphy, D-5th District.

The $1.047 trillion budget would set government spending until March 31 at a rate slightly higher than the current fiscal year.

The short-term budget includes money to help Midwestern farmers who’ve suffered from drought and $88 billion to continue the war in Afghanistan.

But almost everything else is kept at 2012 funding levels.

That won’t please New England governors who wanted Congress to boost spending on the low-income heating assistance program.

Fourteen governors, including Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, asked congressional appropriators to boost the level of funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, but their pleas fell on deaf ears.

There was also some concern freezing the funding level for the Navy would not allow Electric Boat to continue its pace on submarine production

At a hearing of a House Armed Services subcommittee this week, Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, sought assurances from Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley that there would be enough money to build two submarines next year.

“We think we’re in pretty good shape…,” Stackley responded.

The Senate is expected to vote on the six-month budget plan next week. It’s likely to be the last substantive act of Congress before November’s elections.

While the budget deal avoid a government shutdown, it does not address the problem of looming “sequestration,” or automatic budget cuts that disproportionally affect the defense budget.

To embarrass Democrats, Republican leaders called for a vote on a measure Thursday that would require President Obama to submit a plan to Congress that would avert the looming cuts to defense spending.  That could only be done by slashing funds for social programs.

All Connecticut House members — and all but two other Democrats — opposed the legislation.

“I voted ‘no’ on the sequester because I thought it was a mess to begin with,” Murphy said. “But you can’t fix it by carving out one piece of the budget.”

In a statement, Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, accused Republicans of violating an agreement made last year that allowed Congress to approve a rise in the debt ceiling.

“We agreed last summer that cuts to both defense spending and safety net programs would go into effect at the beginning of 2013 in order to compel both sides into an adult discussion about long-term deficit reduction, but now the GOP is walking away from (its) own deal,” Himes said.