Chances improve for national park in Hartford’s Coltsville

Washington – The chances of establishing a national park in Hartford’s Coltsville neighborhood have improved because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has held tough on keeping a lands package in a massive defense bill – despite pressure to strip out the lands package to allow speedy approval of the bill.

Reid has scheduled a final vote on the $577 billion defense bill for Friday. Because some GOP senators, led by Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, have objected to the lands package, saying it does not belong in a defense bill and is a waste of taxpayer money, unanimous consent to fast-track the bill eluded Reid this week.

But bickering over the budget bill is forcing Congress to stay in session longer than expected – both chambers wanted to recess on Thursday — and gave Reid time to hold a procedural vote on Thursday that would end debate on the defense bill and allow a final vote on Friday.

“The congressman remains optimistic on passage,” said Ed Skowronek, press secretary to Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, who has for years introduced bills to make Coltsville into a national park.

The Coltsville National Park boundaries would include the complex of 19th century factories; the Colt residence, called Armsmear; the Church of the Good Shepherd; Colt Park; the Potsdam cottages; and the James Colt House.

At least 60 votes are needed for the bill to overcome Thursday’s procedural hurdle. But chances it would win that support are good because the defense bill, which would authorize billions of dollars for Connecticut’s defense industry, also authorizes payments to defense contractors in nearly every other state, approves spending on the war in Afghanistan and the campaign against ISIS and authorizes the pay of all of the nation’s military officers and troops.

The lands package was attached to the military bill by frustrated lawmakers trying to seek national parks and new heritage areas for their states. They have been thwarted in their efforts because Congress has not approved a lands bill since 2009.

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