Tags: bill | shutdown | senators | arrest

Under Bill, Senators Can Face Arrest During Shutdown

By    |   Friday, 13 Mar 2015 12:25 PM

Aimed at avoiding an empty Senate floor when a government agency shutdown is imminent or underway, a new Senate bill could result in senators being arrested and dragged, kicking and screaming, into Senate chambers to report to work.

Termed the Shutdown Accountability Resolution (SAR), the bill, jointly introduced Thursday by Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., adds the threat of arrest to already existing procedures by which senators can be compelled to do their jobs, the Denver Post reports.

The bill's impetus comes from the need for a "live quorum," or majority of senators, needed to conduct Senate business, the 2013 government shutdown and the Senate's week-long February recess as the deadline for passing a resolution funding the Department of Homeland Security drew perilously close, the National Journal reports.

"No other enterprise that I have ever worked in produces the kinds of self-inflicted wounds that this institution has been producing over the last several years," Bennet told the Post, "and this is a way of trying to address that."

The Senate normally assumes the existence of a live quorum, even when one is not actually present. However, SAR mandates that during any agency shutdown, the Senate majority leader can call for a live hourly roll call between 8 a.m. and midnight. If a majority of senators are not present during the roll call, the Senate's sergeant-at-arms, at the direction of the present senators, can arrest the absent senators.

Senators first must be urged to attend several times. Then, senators on the floor can compel their presence and, if they haven't appeared within the hour, under the new bill, arrest warrants can be issued, the Journal notes.

"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," Gardner told the Post. "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."

The new bill is "using existing procedure, but this procedure is a little bit of a hammer," Gardner told the Post.

Bennet added: "Here's what we expect. The members of the U.S. 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.' "

In 1988, Sen. Bob Packwood, R-Ore., was carried feet-first into the Senate chamber during a debate over campaign finance reform, The Washington Post reported.

"These changes would at best motivate Congress into avoiding crisis and getting the work done it was elected to do," Bennet said in a statement, The Associated Press reported.

"At worst, they would force senators to stay on or near the Senate floor and actually communicate with one another until they open the government back up."

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Aimed at avoiding an empty Senate floor when a government agency shutdown is imminent or underway, a new Senate bill could result in senators being arrested and dragged, kicking and screaming, into Senate chambers to report to work.
bill, shutdown, senators, arrest
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2015-25-13
Friday, 13 Mar 2015 12:25 PM
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