The House of Representatives was out and the Senate had a shortened work week because of the Veterans Day holiday, but there was still plenty of activity in Congress. The Senate approved a final defense bill that authorizes billions of dollars in spending on weapon systems developed in Connecticut. The Federal Railroad Administration took a big step forward on an ambitious overhaul of the rail system in the Northeast Corridor. And a former West Hartford resident, who now has the huge task of developing and coordinating State Department plans to defeat the Islamic State, tried to sell that campaign to key members of Congress, including Sen. Chris Murphy.
The American Medical Association made official its opposition to the proposed Aetna-Humana and Anthem-Cigna mergers with a letter asking the Justice Department to block the plans. The AMA said the mergers would end competition in many markets and erode patient care. The insurers say the consolidation will result in cost savings.
Money for defense, none for the NFL
The Senate approved a $607 billion defense authorization bill that would allow Congress to boost spending on Connecticut-based defense programs in fiscal year 2016. It also has a “Buy American” provision sponsored by Sen. Chris Murphy and Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s proposal to ban Pentagon spending on paid tributes to soldiers at professional sports game — events aimed at boosting military recruitment.
Transportation transformation in the works
The Federal Railroad Administration took a major step forward on a plan to overhaul the Northeast Corridors’ train service with a draft environmental impact study of three alternatives. The most ambitious would include a 20-mile tunnel under the Long Island Sound and the introduction of high-speed trains that would travel, on the average, 220 miles per hour. After considering public comments on the three plans, the FRA will settle on one next year.
Hard sell for a top State Department official
Former West Hartford resident Brett McGurk, now a top State Department official in charge of developing U.S. policy to fight the Islamic State, pitched the Obama administration’s campaign against ISIS to members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, including Sen. Chris Murphy. But it is a hard sell, because Connecticut lawmakers — and many others — say they are concerned about “mission creep” and an open-ended conflict that is likely to involve a substantial number of U.S. ground troops.