• Colorado Senators Propose an Arresting Idea to Prevent a Shutdown
  • October 1, 2015
  • Law Firm: McDonald Hopkins LLC - Cleveland Office
  • Two Colorado Senators are resurrecting an outside the box idea to avoid government shutdowns: arrest lawmakers who try to leave town during a shutdown. That’s right, the message to Senators would be to get to work and end the impasse or get arrested.

    Democrat Michael Bennet and Republican Cory Gardner, both of Colorado, originally introduced the legislation in the spring, and they are talking it up again.

    Under the Bennet-Gardner bill, the Senate would be forced to take attendance roughly once an hour - every day - between 8 a.m. and midnight for as long as a shutdown continued.

    The goal of the legislation would be to force lawmakers to negotiate a deal to end a shutdown. What is really interesting is that the bill not only calls for hourly attendance, it also provides that if a majority of Senators aren’t on hand for an hourly quorum call, then missing Senators could actually be arrested!

    The power to compel attendance is a long-standing power in the Senate, but it is not every day a Senator proposes issuing warrants for absentee colleagues.

    But the bill doesn’t just provide for the possibility of arresting Senators during a shutdown, it also includes an equally powerful deterrent - shame. In the event that the Senate moves to arrest absentee Senators, the Sergeant at Arms would be required to report hourly on the names of the Senators absent and to report on any information surrounding where they might be. Needless to say, it’s not hard to imagine the media circus that would flow from such a report.

    The last time the Senate’s arresting power has been invoked to compel attendance was in 1988 during a debate over campaign-finance reform. After a quorum call found that not enough Senators were present, Senate leaders sent the Sergeant at Arms and the Capitol Hill police to force missing Senators to return to the Senate floor.

    In the last century, the arresting power that goes along with Senate attendance has been employed only on a handful of occasions.