Chris Murphy: Lives at stake in budget

Stamford Advocate

Editor’s note: These are excerpts from U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy’s address to Congress Thursday.

Colleagues, I wanted to come to the floor this afternoon to just talk very briefly about the real world impacts of the decisions we’re going to make in the next week or so regarding the future of the budget. And I really implore my Republican colleagues here, most especially Republican leadership, to get this job done and not put us on another continuing resolution (C.R.).

... (N)ational security is not just housed in the Department of Defense.

National security is also about making sure that our families are secure, that our communities are secure. And so we believe that we should increase funding for the Department of Defense, but we should also make sure that our schools have teachers.

...OK, we love defense spending in Connecticut. Why? Because we make a lot of big-ticket items for the Department of Defense. We make the helicopters at Sikorsky. We make the submarines.

...We’re going to be building a lot more submarines over the next 10 years. We’re now building two fast attack submarines a year. We’re going to start building the new ballistic missile submarines, the Columbia class. And Electric Boat needs to hire 14,000 employees over the next 10 years. ...And if they can’t, we cannot make the submarines in the United States or we cannot make the parts that go into the submarines in the United States. ...

So the Department of Labor has a partnership with ... the Eastern Connecticut Manufacturing Pipeline. That is a public-private partnership that seeks to train hundreds of individuals in the skills necessary to build the submarines. They got 4,500 applications over the past year. They can’t place all those people because they only get a certain amount of funding from the Department of Labor. But they were able to train 500 new workers for Electric Boat ...

The problem is, the money for that program is running out. And with another C.R., they can’t get renewed funding for that program. ...

Second, let me talk to you about the real-world implications of not funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program. ...

In Connecticut, letters have gone out to families whose children are insured through CHIP telling them that by the end of this month — that is 20 days away — they lose their insurance.

And so, here’s what Tara from Washington, Connecticut, writes to me. She says, “despite our full-time employment as a couple... my husband and I do not make enough money to buy health insurance for our children in addition to our other mandatory expenses.” ...

“This is where the Children’s Health Insurance Program comes into our lives. I can’t even begin to tell you the anxiety I faced when I was pregnant with my daughter crying every day because I didn’t know how we were going to make ends meet. Thank god for a family friend who happened to be an insurance agent. She told us about CHIP. And suddenly some of that anxiety was quelled. We’ve been blessed to have CHIP in our lives...”

I’m saying CHIP. She actually writes in this letter Husky. Husky is the name of the CHIP program in Connecticut.

“Last month our daughter was prescribed a nebulizer. Two months ago my son caught it from her and it required two medications. Co-pays and premiums are manageable and they got the care that they needed. I read in the local paper this weekend that letters were going out to us telling us that our coverage is going to end on Jan. 31.”

She’s writing this in December. She says,

“We’re a week away from Christmas and what should be a happy time of year has now turned into stress and depression. How am I going to get insurance for my kids?...”

... When we debate the budget, it has to have attached to it a long-term, if not permanent extension of the children’s health care insurance program because there are families out there just like Tara who are doing everything we ask them to do. ...

Finally, let me talk to you about the importance of making sure that we get the right amount of disaster funding to Texas, Florida, and in particular, to Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico matters to us in Connecticut because we have the largest percentage of our population with Puerto Rican roots than any state in the country. We’re so proud of that. ... The governor of Puerto Rico has requested $94 billion for Maria recovery and rebuilding. And I’m just back from Puerto Rico. I can report to you that that island is still in crisis. One hundred days after the hurricane hit, more than half of the island, half of the households still don’t have electricity. If that was happening in Connecticut or Alaska or Louisiana, there would be riots in the street.

... We are 100 days after the hurricane and we still haven’t approved a disaster assistance package and the Trump administration is nickel and diming the island on the money we have already authorized. ... Mold is growing in these homes because you can’t dry out the moisture without electricity. Kids are enduring more frequent and more intense bouts of asthma. People are dying because they can’t refrigerate their medication or keep their ventilation equipment running. This is what’s happening in the United States of America.

...It was reported to us that it was the highest volume of people leaving Puerto Rico since the hurricane, on that day, Jan. 2. ... Those in Puerto Rico don’t think Congress is serious about putting back on the electricity. They waited a month, they waited two months, they waited three months, and then they said enough.

...We don’t have a city that’s much bigger than 100,000. And so in Hartford, they have 388 new Puerto Rican students — new, meaning, have come since the hurricane from the island. Waterbury, Connecticut has 268. New Britain, a really small city, has 213. Bridgeport has 179. And these are kids that, they’re glad to have shelter and schooling in Connecticut, but they don’t want to be in Connecticut. They came in under duress. They came to Connecticut as refugees. They want to be back in Puerto Rico. And the stress that it’s putting on our schools is serious ....

So let’s get the job done. Let’s write a budget. Let’s at least agree to the overall budget numbers. Let’s fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Let’s get Puerto Rico and Florida and Texas everything that they need. Newsflash, that’s our job. I yield the floor.