Lawmakers split over bill that prevents government shutdown

Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, and John Larson, D-1st District split with the rest of the Connecticut delegation over a bill that would continue to fund the federal government for another six months.

Despite the opposition of DeLauro and Larson, the stopgap funding bill, known as a continuing resolution, was approved 318 to 109 and on its way to President Obama to sign.

Reps. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District and Jim Himes, D-4th District, all voted for the bill.

Connecticut’s Democratic senators, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, voted for a similar bill on Wednesday.

DeLauro said she voted against the bill because ” it makes permanent the deep, indiscriminate, and harmful budget cuts known as sequestration.”

“These cuts threaten our economic recovery and the health, well-being, and future of millions of American families,” she said.

But the resolution will block the impact of the sequester by adding money to certain programs just before the across-the-board reduction hits. It also gives certain agencies, including the Defense, Agriculture, Commerce and  Justice Department flexibility in deciding which programs to cut.

That is expected to help some of the programs that were set to shrink, including  the Woman Infants and Children nutrition program. But Lucy Nolan, executive director of End Hunger Connecticut! said it’s unclear how many low-income mothers would be taken off a WIC waiting list that’s expected under the sequester.

“One would think this would make a difference,” Nolan said. “How significant a difference, I don’t know.”

Courtney said he is pleased the funding bill gives government contractors some certainty about the federal budget – and may blunt some of the cuts to defense and other programs.

“The (bill) we passed today averts a March 27 government shutdown and, most importantly for eastern Connecticut, preserves the two a year submarine build rate in 2014 we have worked for the past 14 months to achieve,” he said.  “I am pleased that the (continuing resolution)  in its final form undoes some of sequestration’s painful cuts….”

The stopgap  funding bill increased the Pentagon’s operating and maintenance accounts by $10 billion and may possibly reduce the number of planned furlough days – or days of unpaid leave –for about 800,000 civilian employees.

Almost immediately after the bill passed the House, the Defense Department notified employees who could be furloughed  that leave notices scheduled to go out Friday will be delayed until April 5.

With the 2013 federal budget settled, Congress continued its fight over the 2014 budget, which would be implemented on Oct. 1.

This time the delegation stood together. All five Connecticut House members joined all other House Democrats Thursday in voting against a budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that would cut federal programs and lower taxes on the wealthy.