christine stuart file photo
U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy (christine stuart file photo)

A bill intended to combat human trafficking and co-sponsored by Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal has become a “political football” in Washington, with Republicans setting their sights on Blumenthal’s seat in 2016.

Blumenthal is one of a few Democrats who have been the subject of a series of robocalls launched by the National Republican Senatorial Committee this week.

Stepping away from the Senate floor Thursday to address the issue in a short interview, Blumenthal said the robocalls are exploiting what should be a bipartisan issue.

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“These robocalls are especially regrettable in their timing because they reflect a goal of exploiting this issue politically and turning it into a political football,” he said.

The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, H.R. 181, is intended to expand the ability of law enforcement officials to investigate and respond to cases of human trafficking. The bill would also create a fund for victims of human trafficking from fees paid by individuals convicted of human trafficking.

Republicans, however, added language from the Hyde Amendment barring use of federal funds to pay for abortions. Democrats responded by refusing to vote on the bill. The robocalls accused Blumenthal of “filibustering” in an attempt to stall the legislation:

“I’m calling from the NRSC with an urgent message about Senator Richard Blumenthal. Senator Blumenthal is filibustering bipartisan legislation to combat human sex trafficking. Senator Blumenthal already voted for this common sense legislation in his Senate committee, so one would think Senator Blumenthal would be leading the charge to get this bill passed, instead of blocking it.”

Blumenthal said the Hyde language is “severely antithetical” to the goal of the bill.

“My objection is to one provision, that would impact victims of sex trafficking and exploitation by undercutting their rights to obtain reproductive services,” he said.

In a prepared statement, NRSC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek said, “It’s clear that Senate Democrats are more interested in scoring cheap political points than they are with helping women and children who have been victimized by human traffickers.”

Blumenthal stopped short of acknowledging an attempt to filibuster, and said that the bill did have bipartisan support.

“I am actively involved in discussions about possible paths forward to removing this highly objectionable provision,” he said. “There are reasonable members of both sides of the aisle who are working for a bipartisan solution here.”

In addition to Blumenthal, the NRSC targeted Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Results from a Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this week suggested that Blumenthal’s approval rating is as high as it has ever been, with 64 percent of respondents approving of the senator’s job so far.

Colleges Could Get ‘Manufacturing’ status

A measure establishing a program to encourage the proliferation of engineering programs in colleges and universities has been proposed with bipartisan support, according to a release from U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty.

The so-called “Manufacturing Universities Act” would offer $5 million annually to colleges with the intention of improving engineering programs with an emphasis on manufacturing and support for students in those programs.

“Connecticut is built on its strong manufacturing tradition and thrives as a national leader in manufacturing, particularly for defense, biomedical, and energy industries,” Esty said. “Our state is home to over 5,000 manufacturers that provide good paying jobs for Connecticut families, but manufacturers often struggle to find workers with the right skills.”

Esty co-sponsored the legislation with, among others, U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., who said the bill was intended to help create a skilled workforce.

“As a small business owner who worked in manufacturing for over 35 years, I understand the difficulty in training and finding qualified manufacturing workers,” said Congressman Collins (R-NY). “To expand manufacturing in the United States, we need to have a workforce capable of filling these skilled jobs.”

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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