The first official entrant in the 2016 presidential Grand Prix started his engines this week. But if the pundits are right, he won’t be the first sitting legislator to seek the highest office in the land. Quite the opposite, six members of Congress so far have been said to be actively seeking the presidency, all running against each other.
When Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, officially announced his candidacy, quick-eyed watchers saw audience members wearing T-shirts supporting Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, who also is mulling an attempt at the presidency. Add Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., both of whom have been said to be in the race, and you have four sitting Republican senators vying against each other.
Then you have Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., making a clean half-dozen. That doesn’t count the former-but-still-perhaps-influential senators, congresspeople, mayors, governors and wealthy/connected businesspeople also said to be considering the seat to be left open by President Barack Obama.
With such a crowded field of candidates, many of whom are sitting legislators, we decided to ask Connecticut’s congressional delegation how the race for president might affect Congress’ ability to conduct the business of government.
The tone among Connecticut’s congressional delegation remains hopeful when asked about the future, though not without qualifications.
The ability of Congress to do its job has already been put into question. Cruz, for example, is credited with being the architect of a government shutdown, reading pages from “Green Eggs and Ham” as a filibuster tactic. More recently, the Department of Homeland Security fell victim to partisan bickering that threatened to shut the department down through lack of funding, and the election is still 20 months away.
“November 2016 is a long way off, and the American people expect their elected leaders to work to move the country, not their personal political ambitions, forward,” U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, said. “I hope that any member of Congress who’s thinking about running for higher office is serious about governing this year and not focused on scoring political points for next year.”
Chris Harris, spokesman for Sen. Christopher Murphy, said the senator hopes election-year politics won’t get in the way.
“As you can imagine, Sen. Murphy wishes the work here in the Senate was insulated from election-year politics,” Harris said. “The first few months of this Republican congress hav been disappointing, but he remains hopeful that Congress can get some important things done before the presidential campaign starts to dominate everything else.”
U.S. Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, said not all of his fellow legislators can be expected to put politics aside, though most of them will.
“Regardless of any election, many of my colleagues and I will remain focused on jobs, lowering the burden of student debt, strengthening benefits for seniors, fixing our nation’s infrastructure, and other vital issues facing Connecticut and the nation,” he said.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, like his colleagues, said Congress can work together. “Regardless of the national political landscape, he continues to believe that bipartisan progress is possible,” Connecticut Communications Director Elizabeth Benton said on Blumenthal’s behalf.
Blumenthal “remains focused on his key priorities — growing jobs, supporting veterans, protecting consumers, and advocating for the needs of Connecticut families,” Benton said. “He will continue to reach across the aisle to achieve those goals.”
Murphy, too, would like to believe that Republicans will be partners on his important issues. “One area where he’s particularly optimistic about making progress in is reforming our broken mental health system,” according to Harris. “Right now he’s working with Republicans in the House and Senate to introduce and pass a bipartisan bill to increase access to mental health services.”
Esty: Pass a Budget or Don’t Get Paid
With the Republican-controlled Congress in the midst of a budget dispute, Democrats are arguing against a federal budget proposal presented by their colleagues across the aisle.
Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, like her fellow Democrats, voted against the budget. Esty also co-sponsored H.R. 187, called the “No Budget, No Pay Act,” which does exactly what it suggests.
“I’m a cosponsor of the No Budget, No Pay Act, which simply states that if Congress doesn’t do its job and pass a budget, members of Congress shouldn’t get paid,” Esty said in a release. “I urge members from both sides of the aisle to come together on a commonsense budget that will boost the economy and create more broadly shared opportunity and prosperity for middle-class families.”
Members of Congress are currently paid $174,000 a year.
DeLauro Proposes Tax on Sugar
U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, presented a recipe she says is intended to combat obesity and diabetes.
The Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax (SWEET) Act would institute a tax of one cent per teaspoon of caloric sweetener, such as sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, excluding beverages considered to be healthy, like milk and juice, when it’s made from 100 percent juice.
“There is a clear relationship between sugar-sweetened beverages and a host of health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and tooth decay,” DeLauro said in a release. “We are at a crucial tipping point. The SWEET Act would help correct the path we are currently on.”
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.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Introducing CTNewsJunkie’s latest offering – updates on Connecticut’s congressional delegates and their activities at the nation’s Capitol.
We are launching this feature in conjunction with our installation of new software from VoteTocracy.com, which provides a database of information on bills and lawmakers from around the country, and the option for you, our readers, to register with VoteTocracy to vote “yes” or “no” on bills your delegates are considering.
Just float your mouse over the highlighted words in these reports, and windows will pop up to provide you with more information. VoteTocracy is free for you to use. Just follow instructions to register and let your voice be heard. Click here for more info on VoteTocracy. We hope you enjoy this new feature!