Rep. Cliff Bentz, Sen. Jeff Merkley are safely hiding as protestors storm the Capitol
ONTARIO — Just days after he was sworn in to his new Congressional seat, Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, is now in hiding with his colleagues at the nation’s Capitol in Washington, DC, as thousands of protestors have stormed their way inside over the results of the presidential election and the outcome of the electoral college votes.
While Bentz said he was anticipating protests, he didn’t foresee anything like this.
“I was anticipating protests, but I didn’t think they’d be breaking doors, windows and crawling into the building,” Bentz said during a phone interview just before 1 p.m. local time. “But that’s what they’ve been doing. It’s pretty sad.”
During the interview, Bentz said he had just heard an update that a woman was shot in the chest, but it was unknown if she was staff or an elected official at the Capitol or a citizen.
The Second District congressman said that he had seen members of what he believed to be the U.S. National Guard and that they were planning to bring in100s more to get the situation back under control.
Although his party is in the minority, Bentz expects that the majority party “will do everything they can to move the process along as rapidly as possible, because it is so important.”
“The sooner we can get back to debating the better,” he said, though added he wasn’t certain if that would happen today, as the light was already starting to fade on Capitol Hill.
Bentz said his message to everybody is as follows.
“Everybody is safe here in my little office, and anxious to get back to discussing issues that are so important to all of us,” he said. “We are working as hard as we can, my little team, to sort through the Constitutional issues — and there are a lot. We are going to do our best to do the right thing.”
Bentz said that violent protests are making things more difficult for he and his congressional colleagues. However, he said that the “wonderful team” he partially inherited from former Rep. Greg Walden are working hard.
Bentz said it was very challenging to try to work on something at the Constitutional level, then “the next minute, rushing to hide so you don’t get hurt.”
“It’s really something,” he said.
As far as his colleagues who may take this time to focus on the political aspects of the situation, he said that was unfortunate.
“We should be focusing on the very important process that deserves very careful attention that involves the Constitution and the very essence of the way we vote,” he said.
And his hope is that it gets managed appropriately so it doesn’t disenfranchise voters.
“I think we have a real job to do and we are doing it as best we can in a way that keeps the faith with an awful lot of people who have lost faith with their government,” Bentz said.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, said during a news conference that “we need to work hard to keep and improve our government,” and that the events of today were not warranted.
“It should never have come to this,” he said.
Merkley said he and his Senate colleagues were on about the sixth speech of debates over accepting or rejecting votes in Arizona when “we heard noises in the hallway, and someone ran in and called for the chamber to close.”
They stayed there until they were escorted to safety.
Merkley said he believes the situation developed as a result of “the failure to have a strong bipartisan pushback to lies and conspiracy theories from the president about the election.
“Much of America sees Trump’s media story, that is completely apart from reality,” he said. “As a result, people believe those lies and false stories, and this is the result at this moment.”