The federal government faces a partisan budget showdown and possible shutdown at the end of April. Posturing and game playing are thick in the air. But Colorado’s senior and junior senators have a bipartisan solution to cut through the gamesmanship…by upping the ante of gamesmanship. Their proposal as reported by Ernest Luning in the Colorado Statesman, is, in the event of a shutdown, to impose an hourly quorum call between 8:00 a.m. and midnight. Senators not dutifully appearing in the chamber could be subject to arrest by Senate Sergeants.
But, conditions on triggering enforcement make the proposal appear toothless. The measure activates only if a majority of senators is absent, and only if those present vote to direct the Sergeant to round up the truant Senators.
Senators Bennet and Gardner describe their handiwork to the Statesman thusly:
“Washington’s habit of turning routine responsibilities into manufactured crises has to end,” Bennet, a Denver Democrat, said in a statement. Maintaining that Washington dysfunction has grown under the Trump administration, he added, “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.”
Gardner, a Yuma Republican, said he was proud to work across the aisle with Bennet on the proposal and called it proof that Coloradans won’t quit working for the American people, regardless of party.
“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.”
Count this taxpayer unimpressed with the proposed austerity. Budget clashes reflect serious divisions in public priorities, schisms between the executive and the legislature, regional tensions, and a failure of leadership from the major players. The statesmanship and deal making necessary to break the logjams is unlikely to be on rich display in the buzzing senate chamber. More likely it will be in an office somewhere around a large table with representatives of both chambers, both parties, and both political branches hammering out an outline they can sell to their members and constituencies.
President Trump does not seem impressed by the bargaining leverage, his spokesman reportedly demurring: “We dn’t want to getinto which senators are being naughty and which are being nice.” The smirking call to “lock ‘em up till they do their job,” is not a serious proposal to bridge the gap. Maybe Senators Bennet and Gardner, who are reportedly respected and able operators could put steadying hands on colleagues’ shoulders and help bring people together.