MERIDEN — U.S. Sen. Christopher Murphy told a group of healthcare workers and advocates Monday that he will not vote on or discuss any bills unless they address ending the government shutdown.
Murphy joins other Senate Democrats who said Monday the chamber should not vote on anything until the shutdown ends.
The idea of withholding support on Senate matters is gaining some attention among Democrats after President Trump said he won’t support any reopening bill that doesn’t include $5 billion in funding for a border wall. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kansas, has repeatedly said the Senate won’t advance legislation the president won’t support.
Murphy, a member of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, was at the Rushford Center in Meriden Monday to discuss the importance of protecting the Affordable Care Act. But questioners in the audience veered toward the shutdown and its impact.
“I am not going to be voting to proceed on any legislation until the government is open,” Murphy said. “The only debate or vote we should be having is to reopen the government.”
Murphy does not plan to vote to advance the first bill on the Senate floor this year, which would authorize security assistance to Israel and include provisions aimed at promoting security in the Middle East.
Other Senate Democrats are getting behind the strategy to block any legislation and paralyze the Senate to pressure McConnell to pass legislation funding the government, according to media reports.
Murphy said that although he couldn’t speak for his Democratic colleagues, his Twitter feed indicated the strategy was generating support. At least two Republican senators have also expressed their desire to convince McConnell to take up a reopening bill.
The shutdown has shuttered key government functions in the areas of taxes, housing policies and patrolling national parks.
“It’s going to get real for a lot of Americans very quickly,” Murphy told the group. “How does it end? You can’t hold the country hostage, especially after you got your clock cleaned in a mid-term (election).”
Many federal Food and Nutrition Service workers have been furloughed pending reinstatement of funding by Congress. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or (SNAP) will continue operations and eligible households will receive monthly benefits for January, according to a letter to the state Department of Social Services.
Funding is available for state administrative expenses through the end of January.
Other impacted programs include, the Emergency Food Assistance Program, Commodity Supplemental Food Program, and the National School Lunch Program, which are covered by states through federal allocations. Once those allocated funds have been expended, states can choose to continue certain operations under the understanding that funding will not be provided without an appropriations act, according to a notice from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Currently, DSS provides SNAP services to over 384,000 individuals in 215,000 households,” according to state Department of Social Services spokesman David Dearborn. “These numbers include over 133,000 children under the age of 18 and 65,000 individuals age 60 and older. Benefits for January are already in enrollees’ electronic benefits transfer accounts.”
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development workers were also furloughed. According to HUD, funding ended in December.
Public housing agencies will continue operating in the event of a federal government lapse and there are existing systems that will be available to public housing agencies so that they can draw down funding from prior years without review by HUD employees, according to a HUD contingency plan.
Representatives from the Meriden Housing Authority, which serves about 800 families receiving federal Section 8 housing benefits, could not be reached for comment Monday.
State Rep. Hilda Santiago, who represents Meriden’s inner city, said Section 8 landlords have received letters providing information about the shutdown and to prevent eviction.
A message left for a regional HUD spokeswoman stated she had been furloughed and could not answer calls during the shutdown.