Sen. Michael Bennet: Hold Congress accountable for shutdown |

Sen. Michael Bennet: Hold Congress accountable for shutdown

Sen. Michael Bennet/For the Steamboat Today

In October of 2013, Congress shut down the federal government for 16 days putting the U.S. economy at risk and leaving 800,000 people out of work nationwide — 40,000 in Colorado. Estes Park sales tax revenue alone dropped 18.2 percent, two of our national parks lost more than $2 million in revenue each, and the city of Colorado Springs had one of the top percentages of workforce effected by the shutdown.

In addition to jeopardizing the nation’s safety, security and credibility, Standard and Poor’s estimated that the shutdown took $24 billion out of our economy. For countless Coloradans suffering the aftermath of unprecedented flooding, this shutdown was a kick in the teeth.

While paralysis in Washington, D.C., extended the shutdown for more than two weeks, workers across the state continued to do their jobs day-in and day-out. From police officers to teachers, business owners to assembly line workers, they showed up to carry out their duties and fulfill their responsibilities. Coloradans didn’t shut down. Why should Congress?

Congress can learn a little something from the people in our state. That’s why Senator Gardner and I introduced a resolution last month to put pressure on Congress to avoid, or at least quickly end these needless, damaging crises. Our plan establishes new procedures to keep senators at work until they end the shutdown.

It would set in motion a constant series of live quorum calls and roll call votes until a bill to reopen the government has been signed into law. This would mean that senators would have to remain on or near the Senate floor — forcing them to open the lines of communication and work with one another — until the government is reopened. 

This is how it would work. Following a full or partial government shutdown, the Senate would convene at 8 a.m. the following day. If a majority of senators are not present, a roll call vote to request the attendance of the absent senators would take place. Once a majority of senators — or a quorum — is achieved, a roll call vote will occur every hour up until midnight to ensure that the senators are in the chamber and working towards a solution to reopen the government. 

The new procedures would also include consequences for senators who choose not to show up. If the absent senators don’t respond to the request for their attendance, a motion to require their attendance would be put to a vote.

The sergeant of arms would report the names and locations of the Senators who have failed to report to the Senate floor. If the Senate still cannot achieve a quorum at that point, the sergeant of arms would be issued warrants to arrest the missing senators and bring them to the Senate.

Ideally, a bill like this wouldn’t be necessary.  But Washington’s habit of turning routine responsibilities into government shutdowns has to end.  At best, these changes will motivate Congress to avoid a crisis and do the work they were elected to do.  At worst, they would at least force lawmakers to stay on the floor and work together until they find a solution to reopen the government. 

This type of political theater hurts our economy and competiveness, puts our safety and international reputation at risk, and most importantly continues to erode the American people’s faith in their government.  No county commissioner or city councilor in the state of Colorado would put their credit at risk or jeopardize their community because of a disagreement or to prove a point. People wouldn’t stand for it. Coloradans don’t shut down, and Congress shouldn’t either.

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