Amid shutdown, Murphy hopeful Senate can fund Coast Guard
New London — U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy was quick to denounce a bill, likely to be brought up for a vote in the Senate in the coming days, to reopen the government, but said he is optimistic that the Senate will pass a bill this week to fund the Coast Guard.
There's a debate, however, whether the bill would apply only to active-duty Coast Guard personnel or include civilian employees, too.
"What I hope we can do this week is pull the Coast Guard out of this mess," Murphy said. "We have legislation that would say that the people who protect us in the Coast Guard should be treated like the rest of the military who are getting paid during this shutdown."
The Connecticut Democrat on Tuesday visited with residents and organizations impacted by the partial government shutdown.
"I'm back here to try to learn more about how the shutdown is affecting Connecticut, but the fact that we aren't in the Senate right now voting on different bills to reopen the government is unconscionable," he said.
Murphy dropped off donations and spoke with volunteers at a makeshift food pantry set up at the Coast Guard Academy for Coast Guard personnel and other federal government workers impacted by the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. The food pantry, now in its second week, has helped more than 1,000 people.
"My job is to try to put this food bank out of business, and to get the funding turned back on as quickly as possible," Murphy said.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday that there would be a vote later this week on a bill that would include President Donald Trump's proposal to trade protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children, called Dreamers, for border wall funding.
"We don't have time to negotiate a comprehensive immigration reform bill right now," Murphy said during his visit to the food pantry. "The president needs to turn back on the government and get these people paid and then we can sit down and talk about temporary protected status, and Dreamers, and border funding."
McConnell's proposal is not going to get Democratic votes or pass the Senate, Murphy said.
"We're wasting time by not being in Washington voting on bills that actually can get bipartisan support," he said.
While the U.S. House has made nine attempts to pass legislation to reopen the government, the Senate has not voted on a single bill to do so.
"If Mitch McConnell brought up any of the bills that have already passed the House to turn back on the government, they would pass," Murphy said. "Republicans would not vote against the House bills to turn back on the government."
Murphy said he supports a bill introduced by U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, on Jan. 3 that would fund the Coast Guard. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., is a co-sponsor. But, according to Murphy, McConnell and other Republicans have said they will bring the bill to the floor only if it applies solely to active-duty personnel.
"I will tell you, the civilians who work here at the academy are part of the same family that the military members are, and if we're going to pass a bill turning back on the funding for the Coast Guard this week, and I hope we do, it should apply to both civilians and the military personnel," he said.
When asked if he would support a bill that applied only to active-duty Coast Guard personnel, Murphy said it was too early to say.
"I want to get money to anybody that I can. I just don't understand why they would try to treat civilians different than the military," he said.