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A new focus

Old habits die hard, and that is exactly the case with U.S Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who occasionally sounds more like he is still an attorney general than Connecticut's junior senator.

The Democrat, soon to complete year one of his first Senate term, made no apologies last week when questioned about issuing a consumer alert from the state Capitol warning shoppers to be on guard about the fees tacked on to some holiday layaway programs by retailers.

"These interest rates are unconscionably high, and they are imposed under the guise of fees and other charges that take advantage of consumers hard hit by tough economic times," said Sen. Blumenthal, at one point hoisting a "Let's Rock" singing Elmo doll to help make his point.

The appearance, and the message, didn't seem very senatorial and harkened back to the senator's two-decade-long stint as Connecticut's attorney general, when his video-friendly news conferences made him a regular on local TV news.

When reporters at the Black Friday press conference made that point - that consumer protection seems better handled by the attorney general - Sen. Blumenthal said the layaway matter was brought to his attention at a public appearance and that he's had calls from five to 10 constituents on the subject.

"Consumer protection remains very much a passion and a focus for me," he said.

On Monday, the senator was harping about federal oversight and safety requirements for certain rental vehicles, announcing that he had sent a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about recent "alarming" reports of rental truck safety violations and the reliability of rental vehicles.

All of which is OK, as long as Sen. Blumenthal remains focused on the Senate's important work, like fixing the nation's budgetary mess and creating jobs.

Those are the issues constituents want their congressional representatives to address. Sen. Blumenthal should refer future consumer issues to George Jepsen, the man who replaced him as attorney general.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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