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Norwich — U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Monday the fight to pass federal gun-control legislation, derailed last week by a Senate vote, will eventually succeed.
“Ultimately, the Senate and Congress will do the right thing,” Blumenthal told a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut. “The ‘Connecticut effect’ is not going away, the Senate is not going away.”
Blumenthal touched on several topics, including immigration reform, education and jobs, but devoted much of his 40-minute talk to the Senate’s failure to pass a bipartisan compromise that would have expanded background checks on gun purchases. Fifty-four senators voted for the bill — a 55th, Majority Leader Harry Reid, voted no on procedural grounds, preserving his right to bring up the measure again — six short of the 60 needed to approve it. Four Republicans voted for the bill; five Democrats opposed it.
The Senate also rejected a ban on assault weapons and limits on the size of ammunition clips.
Blumenthal blamed the bill’s defeat on a Senate rule requiring the 60-vote threshold be met. Two years into his first term in the Senate, he said he has twice voted to eliminate the rule, which must be adopted or rejected at the start of each legislative session. For democracy to work, he said, the rule must be abolished.
“We’re not done seeking measures to prevent gun violence,” Blumenthal told the audience at the Holiday Inn. “Newtown has changed the nation.”
He said he will never forget the scene he witnessed in Newtown hours after last December’s massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a gunman killed 20 children and six educators. Parents and relatives of the Newtown victims have had a profound effect on Washington, he said. He added that senators have told him that they left meetings with parents “with tears in their eyes.”
Asked about lobbyists’ influence on senators, Blumenthal said groups that oppose the gun-control bill had spread “major pieces of misinformation” about it, claiming the proposal called for a national gun registry and taking away guns, both of which are false. He said he relied heavily on the input of law enforcement officials in deciding to champion the legislation.
“People who read the bill know it posed no threat to the Second Amendment,” he said.
With immigration reform next up on the Senate’s agenda, Blumenthal said he would support measures to provide the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants with “a path to earn citizenship” and greater border security.
“Immigration reform can be an economic driver,” he said, pointing to the need in some parts of the country for immigrants to fill agricultural jobs. It’s also important, he said, for the United States to recruit highly skilled immigrants for jobs employers can’t otherwise fill.
An immigration bill ought to be tied to greater funding for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education in this country, Blumenthal said.
“We should not depend on skilled workers from abroad,” he said.