Former senators weigh in on government shutdown

On Washington Unplugged, former Senators Bob Bennett (R-UT) and Byron Dorgan (D-ND) spoke with CBS News chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford about the possibility of a government shutdown -- which could happen in a matter of weeks if Congress fails to agree on a bill to fund government operations for the rest of the year.

Both men, now senior policy advisers with Arent Fox LLP, were in the Senate during the last government shutdown in December 1995, when the Republican-led Congress could not agree with President Bill Clinton on a spending bill. Bennett reacted critically and told Crawford, "I think the last shutdown was a serious mistake... The Republicans came out of that looking like petulant children."

Dorgan agreed with his Republican counterpart. "It's just stamping a big word, failure, over the political process... I mean, this is not rocket science," he said.

Crawford also got their take on the current debate over President Obama's 2012 budget.

"I don't think anyone's pleased about any budget that's out there at the moment," Dorgan said. "I just think political parties, the Congress and the president need to send a signal to the American people that they understand the urgency of this and are willing to do tough things to try and put the country back on track."

Bennett added that the "fundamental issues of how you make the economy strong" are being ignored by Congress. "Unfortunately, the debate is being looked at as if it were a sum zero game."

Bennett said, "You can cut spending and hurt the economy. You can raise taxes [improperly] and hurt the economy. It's much more complex and much more sophisticated, and frankly, more difficult than the slogans that are being thrown out there on both sides."

Watch Bennett and Dorgan discuss the budget above, or check out other parts of the interview below:

Former Senators Reflect On Life After Congress:

Bennett: Tea Party Sen. Mike Lee "Not a Joe Miller: