Blumenthal, Murphy split on budget bill that averts shutdown

Washington – Connecticut’s Democratic U.S. senators, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, split over a massive omnibus spending bill the Senate approved late Saturday, ending the threat of a government shutdown with just hours to spare.

Murphy voted for the $1.1 trillion bill; Blumenthal did not. The 56-40 vote came after a day of wrangling over the bill’s funding of the Department of Homeland Security, which conservative Republicans said would help President Obama implement his recent steps to stop the deportation of  millions of undocumented aliens.

The bill funds Homeland Security only through February, which will give the incoming Republican-controlled Congress another chance to strip the immigration funding.

Meanwhile, liberal Democrats, including Blumenthal, objected to the bill because it would ease a reform adopted after the financial crash that bans federally insured banks from trading financial instruments called derivatives. They were also opposed to a provision that relaxed federal pension rules and another that would lift a cap on rich donors who contribute to political parties.

“Sadly, slipped into this measure at the last moment were massive special interest giveaways rolling back taxpayer protections against risky financial maneuvers by banks, reversing transportation safety rules, undercutting pension rights, and opening huge loopholes for billionaires to increase their influence on political campaigns and candidates,” Blumenthal said. “That is why I voted against this flawed measure — poisoned by special favors flagrantly contrary to the public interest.”

The derivatives provision, which is championed by Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, and the change in campaign finance laws also caused an uproar among House Democrats. The House approved the omnibus bill Friday by a narrow margin. Himes was the only member of Connecticut’s congressional delegation to vote for it.

On Saturday, Murphy voted for the omnibus too.

“Voting for the budget bill today was a tough decision for me,” Murphy said. “The process that led to this package is another unfortunate example of the dysfunction that has become the norm in Congress, and I’m unhappy with a number of the unrelated policy provisions that were dropped in at the last minute.”

But Murphy also said the alternative to supporting the bill “would be worse” in that it would result in a government shutdown that “would inflict real pain on millions of people in Connecticut and across the country.”

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