As much of the country breathed a sigh of relief at congressional action temporarily avoiding a government shutdown over the weekend, Connecticut officials stressed Monday the urgency of passing a more substantial funding bill before November.
President Joe Biden signed legislation funding the government until mid-November late on Saturday, after the House and Senate passed the bill just hours before the federal government was slated to shutdown. The legislation only succeeded after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy rejected demands from members of his caucus and relied on Democrats to secure a bipartisan vote to put the measure over the finish line, according to the Associated Press.
During a late morning press conference in New Haven, Democratic members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation and state officials had harsh words for the segment of the House Republican caucus determined to include deep spending cuts in the resolution.
“Right now we have some folks, extremists, jackasses in the House of Representatives, Republicans, who are kicking it down,” Gov. Ned Lamont said as he recalled a quote from former House Speaker Sam Rayburn, who reportedly once said “Any jackass can kick a barn door down, but it takes a carpenter to build it back.”
Members of Lamont’s administration highlighted some of the people and programs at risk of disruption: thousands of federal and military workers potentially going without pay, more than 47,000 women and children who may lose food assistance, and 116,000 families whose home heating assistance could be in jeopardy if the federal government shuts down.
“A 45-day reprieve is not enough for our families because hunger does not take a break,” Social Services Commissioner Andrea Barton Reeves said. “Because homelessness does not take a break, because being able to have access to health care does not take a break. It never has a reprieve.”
Although the Senate worked in a bipartisan manner to pass a funding resolution, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy described the barriers to funding the government as a deeply partisan issue in the House.
An unsuccessful funding resolution, drafted by House Republicans, contained deep cuts to nutritional programs and a home heating initiative known as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program or LIHEAP, he said.
“We are dealing with a radicalized Republican Party in the House of Representatives,” Murphy said. “Every one of them wants to gut services for poor people and a small group of them wants to shutdown the government completely. So I am glad that we were able to keep the government open and operating for 45 days but we have a real fight ahead of us.”
The resolution that passed did not include support sought by the White House to assist Ukraine with the ongoing invasion by Russian forces. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said the federal government was running out of approved funds to support the war effort.
“Ukrainians are dying, they’re bleeding and giving their lives on the battlefield right now as we speak,” Blumenthal said. “We need to give them the arms and the tools they need to successfully defend against [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s murderous invasion.”
Before Congress moves to adopt funding for the government or Ukraine, it is likely the House will grapple with its own leadership. Over the weekend, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla, told CNN’s Jake Tapper he intended to file a motion this week to force a vote on removing McCarthy as House speaker.
On Monday, Murphy said Republicans lacked both the votes to oust McCarthy and a good alternative to replace him. A motion to fire McCarthy only served as a distraction, he said.
“That is a fight that maybe is interesting to the cable news shows but it’s pretty uninteresting to most everybody that I represent in Connecticut, who wants the government to do its job,” Murphy said.