Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, whose state is still cleaning up from last month's epic flooding, provided a glimpse of what the shutdown means to victims of a natural disaster while in Washington today.
Children in his home state are at risk for E. coli and other diseases, because federal officials can't test previously flooded areas where they are playing, Hickenlooper told me and Olivier Knox of Yahoo! News. He also said flood victims are being left without shelter because federal aid through the Department of Housing and Urban Development is being blocked.
"We just had the worst floods we've had in the history of the state, so we've had issues like 20 million gallons of raw sewage got dumped into our river systems. And so we've had flood water - we have E. coli at high, dangerously high levels in many, many places," said Hickenlooper. "In many ways you couldn't have a worse time to have a shutdown. I mean it really is a tragic failing on many, many levels."
While workers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency remain on the job helping victims in Colorado, the flooding has demonstrated the vast range of federal services that ordinary Americans rely on when tragedy strikes, Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said.
"It's amazing. You want to start appreciating all the things that the federal government does for those people who are most at risk, have a major disaster and then take away all those services, and you'd begin to see," he said. "Just shelter - forget about housing, but just a place for people to stay while they're trying to get their lives together after the worst thing that ever happened to them and every level. The scientific measuring of water quality - making sure that E. coli isn't on the grass where little kids are playing."
"We're going to have some sick kids almost for sure just because of the shutdown," he said. "My question to the knuckleheads in Congress, you know, where is the - if you're going to represent people, you've got to have a certain level of empathy."
Hickenlooper is widely discussed as a potential 2016 presidential contender.
When he was asked whether he placed any blame on the president, he responded, "I think everybody has to step up, and I'm not going to blame one party or another, or one branch of government or another. There's obviously a number of different steps that got us to this point, but now we're at that point."