Sen. Michael Bennet: Washington should follow Colorado's example

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U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet

As Congress wastes time in endless debate about shutting down the government and allowing the nation to default on its debt, Coloradans are working together and recovering in the aftermath of unprecedented flooding. The heroism and generosity we’re seeing in Colorado during and after the flood is in stark contrast to the ideology and bluster coming out of Washington.

In Colorado, we had a year’s worth of rainfall in one day alone. It led to historic floods that caused unimaginable destruction. The disaster damaged more than 18,000 homes, forced tens of thousands of Coloradans to evacuate, flooded hundreds of agricultural fields and pastures and crippled infrastructure. Roughly 50 bridges and more than 200 miles of major roadways were destroyed. In total, the floodwaters consumed more than 2,000 miles across 17 counties. Most tragic of all, we lost nine lives.

In the face of this tragedy and destruction, we witnessed the resilience, courage and selflessness of Coloradans from across the state. It has been inspiring. From the first responder who rescued Lyons resident Cheron Boland in the bucket of an excavator to the Boulder Flood Relief volunteers who have been going door to door helping homeowners shovel mud from their houses, we have seen Coloradans of all different ages, backgrounds and beliefs pull together to overcome this tragedy.

In the small town of Jamestown, residents who were cut off from the outside world pooled their resources to ensure that no one in their community went without food or shelter. They rigged a makeshift pulley system to carry food, medicine and supplies to people stranded on the other side of a river and built impromptu bridges with donated lumber. In Boulder, the University of Colorado football team swapped helmets for hairnets and served hot meals to first responders and families who had been evacuated. In Greeley, local businesses organized a Family Fun Night for children who were forced to leave their homes, and in Milliken, a selfless farmer turned a floodgate valve to divert overflowing waters away from homes and into his own crops.

These stories of teamwork and resilience are ones that politicians in Washington would do well to follow. Congress has failed to pass a Farm Bill or take action to fix our broken immigration system. It has not made progress on an energy plan or taken serious steps to improve our infrastructure or education system. Now, the debate has spiraled into a shouting match risking the full faith and credit of our country, and we've had the first shutdown of our government in 17 years.

When Coloradans faced a crisis, they came together, rolled up their sleeves and went to work. Washington should do the same and reach across the aisle to find common-sense, middle-ground solutions for issues like immigration and our debt and deficit.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., was elected to the United States Senate in 2010.

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