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Stay and work to end shutdowns, or get arrested: US Senator's suggestion to politicians

Senator Michael Bennet's suggestions are also part of a bipartisan accountability law he has tried to push.

Stay and work to end shutdowns, or get arrested: US Senator's suggestion to politicians
File picture of the US Capitol. (Picture: US government)

The US government has shut down over an inability of the members of the country's Senate to find terms to agree on continuing the allocation of money to the government. And one Senator - Michael Bennet - has raised a call for all his colleagues to remain in the upper house of the US legislature and continue to work till the shutdown is lifted.

Bennet, a Democrat Senator from Colorado, issued a sharp statement criticising the shutdown. "This is no way to run our government," it began tersely, lining out his own demands for resolution.

"I am convinced that there are people of goodwill in this chamber who want to reach a resolution on behalf of the American people, and we should continue working until we do so," it concluded.

This statement again raised attention to a piece of legislation that he had introduced in 2015, jointly with his fellow-Coloradan Republican Senator Cory Gardner. Called the 'Shutdown Accountability Resolution', it set stringent conditions on how Senators are required to function in the event of a government shutdown, like the one that has brought much of the US federal government to an abrupt halt.

The proposal calls for making it necessary for Senators to stay in the Senate chamber from 8 am to midnight, and for attendance calls - called quorum calls - to be made every hour after the last attempt at proving the minimum attendance required.

The US Senate's quorum rules say the body cannot function without the presence of half of its members - that's 50 of the 100 Senators.

In the absence of a quorum, Bennet suggests, all Senators who have not been previously excused for health or other reasons be summoned to the Senate. If they fail to turn up even then, their arrest may be ordered.

Not just this, the Senate would be forced to function under the provisions of the proposal. It can be adjourned only for two hours at a time. And, when it did reconvene, it would have to do so with a quorum call.

"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 he had released earlier, according to US media reports. "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."

The basic idea behind the proposal is that there should be some personal cost on politicians for allowing government shutdowns to happen. The rationale for imposing such a cost is that politicians may attempt to strike deals and avoid these personal costs - a strong incentive to ensure that government services are not denied to citizens at any point.

The bipartisan Bennet-Gardner 'Shutdown Accountability Resolution' remains in legislative limbo.