Colorado senators' bill would force fellow lawmakers to show up for work or risk arrest
Handcuffed businessman (Shutterstock)

Colorado's two sitting senators -- Democrat Michael Bennet and Republican Cory Gardner -- plan to introduce a bill that would create strict penalties, including the possibility of arrest, on the Senate whenever a federal entity is shutdown.


According to the Denver Post's Mark Matthews, the bill is a response to the recent near-shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security and the 16-day federal government shutdown in 2013.

It would require that while a federal agency or department is in shutdown mode, the Senate would have to take attendance -- or, as it is officially called, a quorum call -- once an hour for every hour between 8 a.m. and midnight. If a majority of the senators are not in attendance, those who are will be granted the power to arrest their absent colleagues.

In theory, the Senate already possesses the power to compel attendance, Sen. Gardner said, but it lacks the ability to enforce it. The Bennet-Gardner bill would be "a little bit of a hammer" to enforce the existing procedural rules.

The idea is that, if threatened with arrest, senators would remain in Washington to work on ending a government shutdown.

"If someone's idea is to grind the government to a halt, then members of Congress ought to be darn well sure they're finding a solution together," Sen. Gardner said. "You can't do it by flying home. You can't do it by going to your respective political corners. You can only do it when you're here together, at work."

Sen. Bennet said that even if the bill were to pass, he did not anticipate an avalanche of arrests. "Here's what we expect," he told the Post. "The members of the United States Senate would understand that if they shut the government down, they will suffer consequences."

"I don't think anybody wants a headline back home saying that 'Senator so-and-so had to be escorted by the sergeant at arms to do their job,'" Gardner added.