Connecticut lawmakers say sentiment growing to halt base closings

Connecticut lawmakers, intent on saving New London Submarine Base in their state, said Wednesday sentiment is growing in Congress to halt the base-closure process largely because of concerns that it is not the right time to shutter military installations.

The mood in Congress "ranges from increasingly skeptical to downright angry and opposed," Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., told reporters Wednesday morning. "I think there's a real chance that Congress will rise up against these recommendations."

Specifically, the Connecticut delegation said members -- even those who do not stand to lose an installation -- do not want to close bases during wartime and before the Pentagon completes sweeping strategic reviews.

This fall, Congress will have the opportunity to pass a joint resolution disapproving the list in its entirety. Lawmakers cannot take individual installations off the list, nor do they vote to approve the list. The joint resolution of disapproval has not been passed in the four previous base-closure rounds, but there is a "greater likelihood today than ever before," said Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn.

Republican Rep. Rob Simmons, whose district includes New London, said he is considering voting down the list, even if the independent commission evaluating the Pentagon's recommendations decides to take the submarine base off the list.

"I certainly am prepared to vote against the whole list should I have the opportunity," said Simmons, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. "I don't like this process. I voted against it, and I'll be seriously considering voting against it again."

In the meantime, the Connecticut delegation is entering the home stretch of its intense, four-month lobbying effort to save the base and the more than 8,000 military and civilian jobs directly tied to the base, and potentially thousands of other support positions at a nearby Electric Boat headquarters. Over the next several days, the lawmakers plan to present their case to the nine commissioners, who will make final decisions on base closures during public meetings in Virginia next week. Past commissions have approved the vast majority of the Pentagon's recommendations.

"We are fighting uphill here," Dodd said. "Let's not kid ourselves."

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