Budget deal applauded

Blumenthal, Murphy say bipartisan pact 'common sense'

By:  Paul Hughes
Republican American

HARTFORD — The state's two U.S. senators applauded a rare bipartisan budget deal Monday, while also warning of more partisan fighting over federal spending and debt to come.

Democrats Richard Blumenthal and Christopher Murphy praised the two-year budget agreement reached last week by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama on Monday as liberating.

The two senators told reporters back home on Monday that the deal largely frees the country from threats of government shutdowns and default on U.S. financial obligations by raising the debt limit.

"Finally, we're getting some common sense," Murphy said.

Yet, Blumenthal and Murphy also cautioned there are potentially more fights ahead because of potential riders on additional legislation that will spell out the actual spending details.

The Congress faces a Dec. 11 deadline to finish work on the budget plan.

Blumenthal and Murphy said far-right Republicans in the House and Senate may continue to push proposals to shut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood, curb enforcement of clean air and water rules, or block new regulations to support minimum wage requirements.

"So, there are still a lot of fights to come because of these potential riders," said Murphy, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The presidential campaigns of four Republican senators also threaten to complicate upcoming deliberations on the appropriations bill, Blumenthal said.

Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas all opposed the budget agreement, though South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham backed it.

Murphy and Blumenthal were optimistic that Congress will manage to pass the appropriations legislation despite any political complications.

"This is a level of certainty we haven't seen before," Murphy said.

Blumenthal and Murphy said the budget deal is good for Connecticut on a number of fronts. It raises federal spending by $80 billion over two years, split evenly between military and domestic programs

The two senators said the $40 billion set aside for military spending includes funding to build two Virginia class submarines per year and earmarks $8.5 billion for the joint strike fighter.

"It is a breakthrough for job creation," Blumenthal said.

ON THE DOMESTIC SIDE, the new budget spares Connecticut $36 million in additional Medicare premium payments, Murphy and Blumenthal said.

They said the budget deal restores previously scheduled funding cuts that would have cost the state 4,000 Head Start slots, paraprofessional services for 6,300 students, job training for 31,000 workers, and family planning for 6,400 individuals.

Both Murphy and Blumenthal credited former House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio for negotiating the budget breakthrough at the cost of his speakership. Boehner resigned in September under pressure from hard-core conservatives, and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin was elected last week to replace him.

"I think it was John Bohener's ability to negotiate a big bipartisan deal because he was no longer reliant on the radical wing of his caucus for votes, and so he was able to reach out across the aisle and get a deal done with Democrats because they couldn't threaten to depose him as speaker any longer," Murphy said.

Blumenthal said Republicans also learned a hard lesson after getting burnt when they forced a shutdown two years ago.

Both senators said the two-year budget deal only represents a respite in the partisan wrangling in Washington, D.C. Murphy predicted it will start up again in 18 months when it comes time to work on the new federal budget.