Spicer mum on Bennet-Gardner proposal to arrest ‘naughty’ senators if government shuts down

Author: Ernest Luning - April 14, 2017 - Updated: April 14, 2017

White House press secretary Sean Spicer conducts the daily press briefing on Jan. 21, 2017, at the White House. (Photo by Voice of America, in public domain via Wikimedia Commons)
White House press secretary Sean Spicer conducts the daily press briefing on Jan. 21, 2017, at the White House. (Photo by Voice of America, in public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer this week declined to weigh in on proposals to punish members of Congress if they can’t avert a potential government shutdown at the end of April, saying he doesn’t want to get into which lawmakers are “going to be naughty and nice.”

In his daily press briefing on Thursday, Spicer brushed aside a question about bipartisan legislation sponsored by Colorado’s U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner to arrest senators who aren’t working to resolve a budget impasse in the event of a government shutdown, among other measures aimed at forcing lawmakers to come to agreement. The government is scheduled to run out of money on April 28, just four days after Congress returns from its Easter recess.

Bennet and Gardner last week revived a bipartisan resolution they first introduced two years ago to require that their colleagues stay on the job until a bill to reopen the federal government has been signed into law. Under the resolution, senators who don’t show up for hourly quorum calls — from 8 a.m. to midnight — could face arrest by the chamber’s sergeant at arms.

It’s one of several measures — some punitive — introduced by lawmakers intended to avoid or quickly resolve a government funding crisis.

“There’s a proposal now to punish members of Congress who do not pass this spending plan, in a variety of ways — withhold salary, even arrest,” McClatchy reporter Anita Kumar asked Spicer. “Do you support that Congress should be punished?

“Let’s see,” Spicer responded. “I think we’re making significant progress.  I feel very good about the momentum, and so I don’t want to start getting into whether — who’s going to be naughty and nice.”

A moment earlier, Spicer sounded optimistic that Congress can get past disagreements over President Trump’s request to fund a wall across the country’s southern border with Mexico and other contentious issues, including steep proposed cuts to domestic spending and defunding Planned Parenthood.

“We’ve made very clear to Congress that the president’s priorities are increasing military spending and security of our border.  We’re going to continue to have conversations with Congress, and we feel confident that they’ll do their job.  But those conversations are ongoing,” Spicer told reporters.

U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner (Colorado Statesman archives)
U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner (Colorado Statesman archives)

“Washington’s habit of turning routine responsibilities into manufactured crises has to end,” Bennet, a Denver Democrat, said in a statement. “Coloradans don’t shut their communities down because of a disagreement, and the Senate shouldn’t be allowed to do so either.”

Gardner, a Yuma Republican, called the resolution he is sponsoring with Bennet 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.”

Other proposals would cut lawmakers’ pay during a government shutdown. Another would allow federal government spending to continue while imposing small cuts until Congress can reach a deal, although an official at the nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense sounded skeptical that would work.

“They’re like college students,” Steve Ellis, the watchdog group’s vice president, told McClatchy’s D.C. bureau. “Give them a longer deadline for the term paper and they’re still going to be up doing an all-nighter the night before to get it done.”

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.

One comment

  • Jay

    April 14, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    Docking their pay should definitely be doable. Arrest probably not so much, since the Constitution specifies they cannot be arrested for their actions/words in Congress (article 1, section 6, clause 1). Unless we could somehow define their negligence as a breach of peace?

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