U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal speaks to reporters in Hartford. Credit: Mike Savino / CTNewsJunkie

HARTFORD, CT – Shortly before getting on a plane Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal made a plea for bipartisan effort to continue funding the federal government.

Lawmakers have until Sept. 30 to reach a compromise among themselves and the White House, as a short-term spending plan approved in the spring is set to expire.

Blumenthal, speaking at a press conference at Legislative Office Building in Hartford, said he’d prefer a full budget but stressed the need to have any spending plan in place before Oct. 1.

“This fight is about avoiding an unnecessary, deeply harmful shutdown,” Blumenthal said.

He put the blame on Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, pointing out the U.S. Senate’s Appropriations Committee has approved 12 funding bills with bipartisan support. Those bills, which Blumenthal expects to pass in the Senate, would create a full federal budget starting Oct. 1.

The House has not reached a similar point as the conservative wing of the Republican caucus has said it won’t support any spending plan unless certain conditions are met. 

Rep. Majorie Taylor Green, R-Fla., said last week that she would oppose any plan until Congress launches an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, according to The Hill.  

The Freedom Caucus, meanwhile, unveiled a list of demands in August that included spending cuts below what Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., agreed upon; addressing the “unprecedented weaponization of the Justice Department and FBI; and a bill to build more wall along the southern border and restrict asylum for those seeking safety in the U.S., among other proposals. 

Republicans currently hold a 10-seat majority in the House, meaning McCarthy either needs to win over his caucus or risk angering them by working with Democrats. As part of his bid to become speaker in January, McCarthy agreed to make it easier to seek to remove him from the post. 

Blumenthal Tuesday opposed the demands and an impeachment inquiry, in particular, should not be included in budget negotiations. 

“I have to believe that this hostage taking and brinkmanship on the House side among those far right, MAGA Republicans is designed to simply slow down or stop the functioning of government,” he said. 

He also warned that a shutdown would be bad for the country and the economy. The last federal government shutdown occurred in December 2018 and lasted for 35 days. 

Blumenthal said it’s not yet clear how a shutdown would affect operations for the Federal Aviation Authority and key law agencies, as well as pay for active duty military personnel. 

He also said the stalemate is holding up votes on funding he viewed as critical, including $24 billion in aid to Ukraine, $14 billion for natural disaster relief, $4 billion for border security and $1.4 billion for for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC. 

He also said the talks are holding up other key votes, including reauthorizing the Farm Bill. The National Governors’ Association sent a letter Tuesday to House and Senate leaders urging them to reauthorize the Farm Bill. 

The group said Congress needs to update the bill to reflect changes since 2018, including inflation and a labor shortage. 

“Global markets have also changed significantly, and today we are more acutely aware of the important role played by American producers to secure the food supply chain,” the NGA wrote in the letter. 

The Friends Center for Children, meanwhile, urged Congress to renew $24 billion in pandemic-related aid for daycares and preschools. The funding is set to expire at the end of the month. 

“The reality is that child care access and affordability was a crisis long before the pandemic,” the organization said in a statement. “The pandemic laid the realities bare, as providers closed and parents pulled their children out of programs during the public health crisis.”

Blumenthal said he also has other priorities he wants to push once a funding bill is secured.

Those include a defense spending plan that includes contracts for Connecticut’s defense contractors and pushing his Kids Online Safety Act, a bipartisan attempt to require social media platforms to act in the best interest of children. 

Blumenthal also said he plans to hold another hearing soon to look into a proposed merger between the PGA and Saudi-backed LIV golf tour. 

He has raised concerns that the deal would help the Saudi royal family to engage in so-called “sportswashing,” or using the popularity of professional sports to change their image. 

Blumenthal would not say he expects representatives from LIV or the Saudi royal family’s Public Investment Fund. Neither entity sent a representative to a hearing in July