Bennet, Gardner propose arresting senators if federal government shuts down

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WASHINGTON — Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner introduced a bill to pressure Congress to avoid or quickly end a government shutdown.

The country faces another government shutdown over funding at the end of April. If that happens, the bill, if enacted, would set into motion a constant series of votes until a bill to reopen the government is signed into law. It would keep senators on the job until the government is reopened.

If a majority of senators fails to show up during a shutdown, the Senate sergeant at arms will be told to arrest missing senators.

Congress faces a deadline at the end of April to pass a spending bill to fund federal agencies or face a possible government shutdown.

“With this new administration, we’ve seen even greater dysfunction in Washington. A shutdown is looming at the end of the month, and we cannot afford to be unprepared,” Bennet said.

“Coloradans don’t shut their communities down because of a disagreement, and the Senate shouldn’t be allowed to do so either. This resolution would encourage Congress to avoid such a crisis and work to keep the government open.”

“Coloradans expect their elected officials to do their jobs and work together to avoid shutting down the federal government,” Gardner said. “I urge my colleagues to support this legislation and prove we are a responsible governing body that will do whatever it takes to reopen the government in the event of a shutdown.”

Bipartisan leaders on the spending panels in the House and Senate are making progress on a deal that would wrap several individual spending measures into one “omnibus” spending bill they hope to approve before the deadline.

But time is short and both sides warn that any move to add significant money to build President Donald Trump’s promised border wall could blow up that effort.

“I personally wouldn’t gamble a trillion-dollar bill over $3 billion bucks,” said Oklahoma GOP Rep. Tom Cole, warning it wouldn’t be worth shutting down the government over the $3 billion Trump wants for a wall on the southwest border between the United States and Mexico.

Cole said Congress could deal with that controversial funding request in the future.

Multiple members of both parties said they want to avoid a bill that simply extends current funding levels for government agencies across the board — a measure called a “continuing resolution” — because a “CR” doesn’t update funding policies and priorities the way new appropriations bills do.

“I sense from (Senate Minority Leader Chuck) Schumer and others, there is a genuine desire not to do a continuing resolution. And that would be good for everybody,” Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 leader, said, suggesting the final details will have to be brokered by the top Senate Democrat and the White House.

“But ultimately there are two people who have to do that negotiating. It’s going to have to be Sen. Schumer, because he’s going to have to provide some votes. And it’s going to have to be the president or his designee.”

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