U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Monday he intends to vote in favor of the two-year budget deal passed last week by the House and expects enough Republicans to join him to clear the Senate’s 60 vote threshold.
The budget agreement was negotiated by congressional leaders from both parties and passed through the Republican-controlled House overwhelmingly last week. The proposal seeks to avoid another government shutdown and scales back some of the automatic budget cuts scheduled under sequestration.
However, support for the deal is expected to be closer in the Senate where the Democratic majority will need some support from Republicans in order to pass the bill with 60 votes. Blumenthal, a Democrat, said Monday he expects the deal will pass the Senate this week with close to, if not every Democrat, and a some Republicans voting for it.
“I think Republicans ought to share the same interest we all have in ensuring that we avoid the self-inflicted, manufactured crisis. We can’t lurch from one fiscal cliff to another, one shutdown to the next. We need to avoid these self-inflicted crises and harms to the economy. I think Republicans will share the view that this budget is far from perfect but a compromise that advances us and avoids the kinds of crises that we’ve seen all too often,” he said.
Blumenthal called the bill a “far from perfect” compromise. He and other Democrats would have liked to see the proposal include an extension of long term unemployment benefits. The emergency unemployment program is set to expire this month.
Here in Connecticut, between 20,000 and 22,000 unemployed residents could claim their last unemployment benefit payment on Dec. 28, three days after Christmas, if Congress does not act to extend the program. However, unemployment is not among the issues addressed in the budget agreement.
U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro was the only member of Connecticut’s congressional delegation to vote against the budget bill. In a press release, she said her vote was in large part based on the bill’s failure to address the unemployment insurance issue.
“Most troubling is this bill’s failure to extend unemployment insurance for the millions of long-term unemployed, during the Christmas season. Federal unemployment insurance will expire on December 28, throwing 26,000 in Connecticut into a desperate state. It is unconscionable for Congress to go home after leaving such critical work undone,” DeLauro said.
Blumenthal said he would be supporting the bill “with some reluctance because it is a compromise and avoids the continued sequester cuts, the slashing, across-the-board cuts, in favor of smart cuts.”
In a statement, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said he also intends to support the budget bill, even if it is not the legislation he would have written.
“This budget deal will spare our country from another senseless government shutdown and from even more automatic budget cuts scheduled to take effect in January. It also begins to roll back those damaging sequestration cuts over the next two years. That is welcome news in Connecticut, where tens of thousands of defense jobs hang in the balance, and countless other education, medical research, and infrastructure investments are threatened,” Murphy said.
Both senators said they intend to keep working on the unemployment issue. Blumenthal said he hopes to see a bill passed to extend the emergency benefit early next year.
“I think extending unemployment insurance is critical not only to the men and women who have been out of work for so long in record numbers but also to our economy. We need higher levels of consumption that come with the extension of unemployment insurance,” he said.