After a fourth failed vote on an already House-approved measure to fund the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, majority Republicans in the Senate will split the bill, bringing an immigration-free measure up for a vote days before a lack of funding causes the department to shut down.

The deadline to pass a measure is Friday, after which the department would be at least partially shut down.

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“The essential workers will be there but they will lack support the others provide,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., told The Day last week.

Republicans had tied a roll-back of President Barack Obama’s immigration policies to the funding measure, which failed on the Senate floor for the fourth time Monday, falling 13 votes short of the 60 votes needed to pass the bill.

The House version, H.R. 240, has already been approved, without the help of Connecticut’s delegation.

Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he would offer a separate bill that deals specifically with the immigration issues in question.

“It’s another way to get the Senate unstuck from a Democrat filibuster and move the debate forward,” McConnell said after the failed vote.

Both of Connecticut’s senators have previously voiced their opposition to the combined measure.

“It seems like there are a lot of Republicans in Congress who would rather talk about deporting children who were brought to this country without documentation, rather than talking about funding the very agency that every day seeks to keep our homeland free from threats,” Sen. Christopher Murphy said.

College Savings Could Be Used for Computers

A bill that would allow technology costs to be covered by 529 plans, used for college savings accounts, took a step closer to becoming law this week.

Introduced in January and co-sponsored by, among others, Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, H.R.529 would amend the IRS code. The intention is to “allow payments from qualified tuition programs (529 plans) for the purchase of computer or peripheral equipment, computer software, or Internet access and related services to be used primarily by the beneficiary while enrolled in an eligible educational institution,” according to the official summary of the bill.

Obama spoke about 529 plans in his January, and Himes tweeted his own approval a few days later.

“I like 529 plans,” Himes tweeted. “Have them for my kids. Happy president dropped his idea on them.”

Bill Would Support STEM Education

Rep. Elizabeth Esty was one of seven representatives this week to co-sponsor H.R.1020, called the STEM Education Act of 2015.

The bill, which has moved to the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, supports existing grant programs and defines what STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education means. 

Specifically, the bill supports the “design and testing of innovative STEM learning models” and programs, and points funding toward increasing “engagement for K-12 students, K-12 teachers, and the general public.”

Jordan Fenster is an award-winning freelance journalist. He lives with his family in Fairfield County. He can be reached by or @JordanFenster on Twitter.

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