New Firestone Findings, Second Explosion Deepen Gaspatch Crisis

Two new and concerning stories going into Memorial Day weekend promise to keep the controversy over oil and gas drilling in proximity to homes and other surface development in Colorado red-hot–the first being a frightening update from the Firestone neighborhood where a home exploded last month after unrefined gas from a leaking flowline seeped into the structure:

Two high concentration pockets of flammable methane gas have been found underneath a street in Firestone’s Oak Meadows neighborhood, where one house already exploded, according to the state’s vapor test findings.

Mitigation is underway, with PVC venting and extraction systems set up in both locations, Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission spokesman Todd Hartman confirmed.

“Monitoring point data indicate that methane in soil is not migrating to occupied residences,” a Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission presentation says…

Both sites are located along a flow line attaching the oil and gas well linked to the house explosion and its production collection battery to the west.

The presence of additional seeps of methane in the immediate area of last month’s home explosion could be seen as confirmation of residents’ worst fears–mitigated by the fact that authorities are already on the scene dealing with the previous disaster, which could be the only reason these new seeps were detected. Testing continues to determine if other gas seeps are present in the area, and to what extent they could threaten the neighborhood built over the wells.

The second story? Another fatal explosion yesterday, this one just a few miles north of Firestone at an Anadarko-owned storage facility, as the Colorado Independent reports:

One worker was killed and three injured near Mead when an oil tank battery exploded [Thursday] afternoon.

The facility, which stores extracted oil and gas awaiting transport, is owned and operated by Anadarko Petroleum, which also owns the improperly abandoned gas flowline that investigators say caused the deadly house explosion in Firestone last month…

Mountain View Fire Battalion Chief Roger Rademacher said three workers working near the tank battery were injured and transported by ambulance. One has serious injuries and the two others are moderately injured. Sheriff’s officials confirmed early this evening that a fourth worker was killed in the blast.

By 6 p.m., police cars had blocked all access roads to the facility. A family, accompanied by a man in a hardhat, could be seen weeping near a road next to the site of the blast. They asked to be left alone and not to be photographed.

The unfortunate fact is that accidents involving oil and gas workers are much more common than disasters like last month’s home explosion in Firestone. Each year there are fatalities from accidents like the one at Anadarko’s storage facility in Mead yesterday. But coming so quickly after the Firestone home explosion as relatively close by, yesterday’s fatal explosion only adds to a freshly growing sense of unease among the public.

Against the backdrop of these events you have an energy industry working overtime to contain the public relations damage, and to mitigate possible regulatory responses that could impact profitability of energy producers. Energy industry PR responses to these events closely parallel lobbying by the gun industry following mass shootings: affected sympathy for victims, followed by expressions of futility in preventing such accidents.

To which we can only say, much like in 2013 when horrific mass shootings finally motivated Colorado lawmakers to take action on gun safety, there comes a point when the body count overcomes the lack of political will.

And that day may be fast approaching.

Finish Your Damn Job, Faye Griffin (Again)

Jeffco Republican Faye Griffin is (politically) immortal.

Faye Griffin will still be serving as an elected official in Jefferson County long after your children’s children have come and gone — even if Jeffco Republicans have to get her cryogenically frozen in order to make it happen.

It looks like we need to update a long-running saga involving Griffin’s political history in Jefferson County. Current Jeffco Commissioner Libby Szabo is rumored to be considering leaving the Commissioner’s office in order to focus her energy full-time on the open Congressional seat in CD-7. If Szabo does resign early from the Commissioner’s office, we hear that current Jeffco Clerk and Recorder Faye Griffin may be in line to replace Szabo. If this is indeed true, it would mean that the 78-year-old Griffin was leaving the Clerk and Recorder’s office in the middle of her third (non-consecutive) term in order to complete her third term as a County Commissioner. This is absolutely ridiculous, and it needs to stop.

We’ve talked about Griffin’s serial seat-hopping in the past, as well as the fact that her constant movement allows Jeffco Republicans to essentially subvert the will of voters. In the last 10 years or so, numerous Republican candidates have “run” for office for the first time with the power of an unearned-incumbency behind them. The Denver Post has also waded into this story and condemned the political malpractice. Take a look at what the Post wrote in October 2014:

When voters support a candidate, they should expect that person will serve the full term of office. It’s not too much to ask…

…Make no mistake, this isn’t about Griffin’s political affiliation. This is about a vacancy system that empowers party honchos instead of requiring special elections for vacancies, and Griffin’s willingness to abandon a commitment in order to continue in public office.

One of the more amazing parts of that editorial comes from an interview with Griffin herself:

We asked Griffin why she would leave the commission two years early, and she was candid in saying it was due to term limits.

Griffin is in the middle of her second term, and if she stayed in the position, she couldn’t run for the commission again — and there would be no other palatable options for her, in her mind.

“In two years, there’s no county office that is open,” Griffin said. So, she is seeking the office she held for eight years, starting in 1998.

Ahead of the 2018 election, there’s good reason for Jeffco Republicans to continue convincing Griffin to keep moving offices. Democrats appear to have a strong candidate for Clerk and Recorder in George Stern, so it is in the best interests of the GOP to try to place a new Clerk and Recorder now in order to give that person enough time to build up their name ID before 2018. And by moving Griffin back to County Commissioner in the meantime, she wouldn’t need to run again until 2020.

After the 2014 election, Griffin was quoted by the Golden Transcript with this comment about her future plans: “I am going to retire sometime, I just don’t know when.” We’re not saying that Griffin should retire — she just needs to finish her damn job for once.

 

Faye Griffin’s Seat-Hopping History
♦ 1998-2006: Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder (2 terms).
♦ 2006: Elected as County Treasurer (4-year term).
♦ 2008: Elected as County Commissioner after ditching Treasurer’s office mid-term. Republican-controlled Commissioners appoint Republican Tim Kauffman to fill remainder of Griffin’s term as Treasurer.
♦ 2012: Elected to second term as Jefferson County Commissioner
♦ 2013: Griffin announces that she will run for Jeffco Clerk and Recorder again in 2014. For the second time in 5 years, Griffin leaves elected office well before end of term.
♦ 2014: Elected as Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder for third time (1998, 2002). Libby Szabo later appointed to rest of Griffin’s term as Commissioner; Szabo elected to full term in 2016.
♦ 2017: Szabo rumored to consider resigning as County Commissioner in order to run full-time for Congress in CD-7. Szabo’s rumored replacement? Faye Griffin, of course.

 

Offering no solution for millions who stand to lose insurance, Gardner maintains that Obamacare must be replaced

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

In what appear to be his first public comments on the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate that 23 million Americans would lose health insurance under the House Republicans’ bill to replace Obamacare, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) expressed no alarm over the finding, maintaining instead that Obamacare must be replaced and that “shortcomings” in the House bill will be taken care of.

But he offered only the vaguest ideas, which provide no basis for substantive judgement, on how this would be accomplished. (listen: May 25, hour 1)

“I think this gives the Senate a good look at what the House bill did, so that we can draft a policy that will actually do the job to replace the Affordable Care Act,” Gardner old KDMT 1690-AM’s Jimmy Sengenberger yesterday. “There’s a number of ideas that we’re talking about, that will be a solution to some of the shortcomings of the House bill, the bottom line being, thought, we need to be able to reduce the cost of insurance to Americans around the country. And we do so by allowing them to buy the insurance policy that they want to buy.”

Asked by Sengenberger for an explanation of how the Senate aims to accomplish this, Gardner told Sengenberger that he and his colleagues are looking at adjusting the tax credits proposed in the House bill.

Gardner: I think what members of the Senate are talking about is how to adjust the tax credit to make it accountable to more of an income means tested manner. So, if you’re older, or you have more health problems, you’ll get more assistance. If you’re younger, and you have higher income, that may mean the tax credit is a little bit lower — less tax credit because you don’t need the assistance of somebody who may have lower income or who may be older, or [in] a little bit less-good health. So we can put those tax credits to reflect the needs of the population.

Gardner also pointed to the idea, proposed repeatedly by Republicans, of allowing for insurance to be sold across state lines.

And he said he wants to push people who currently buy insurance on the higher-priced individual market into group health-insurance plans, which are cheaper. But he gave no details on how this would be done–particularly at a time when employers are shedding benefits packages that include health insurance.

Gardner: “There’s talk of insurance programs that would allow [the sale of] insurance across state lines, association health plans, to get people into group plans, to get people into employer-based plans.

What we’re talking about with the individual market is only about 6 percent of the people who are covered by health insurance. So we can restore competitiveness into the health marketplace, and into individual marketplace for health insurance, and then do everything we can to try to help grow this pool of people in group insurance through employer-based coverage because that’s where most people get their insurance through anyway.

And then we can help start using technology and other means to drive down the cost, overall.

So those are some of the ideas that we’re going to focus on. Health savings accounts, the tax credits, — you know– how do we make sure that states have the right flexibilities and functionalities needed, if they take over Medicaid, so that they can be better responsive to the needs of their state’s population, those are all parts of the Senate conversation.

Tipton Doesn’t Believe CBO Score That Makes Him Look Terrible

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its score of the GOP healthcare legislation (Trumpcare 2.0/American Health Care Act) late Wednesday, and the numbers are absolutely terrible for Congressional Republicans. Thursday’s front page of the Denver Post summed up the bad news in pretty stark terms, as you can see from the image at right.

Colorado Republicans took a variety of different approaches in response to the CBO score. Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley) — who voted YES on the bill earlier this month — talked about how the AHCA was “just the first step” in a long process of “replacing our flawed healthcare system.” Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), meanwhile, did his best to distance the Senate from the House healthcare bill altogether.

Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) does not believe in UFOs, Bigfoot, or the CBO.

And then there’s Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Cortez), also a YES vote on the latest bill, who took a decidedly different approach in responding to the CBO score. Tipton’s full statement is remarkably obtuse, but his argument boils down to this: Tipton doesn’t believe the CBO score is accurate.

This is a completely illogical response, but since Tipton voted in favor of Trumpcare 2.0 before he even knew the impact of the bill, he doesn’t really have anything else to say in his defense:

“The CBO has a long history of making inaccurate predictions about the ACA and has acknowledged that its 2016 baseline measurement of the number of people insured was off by at least 5 million. Despite missing the mark, the CBO has used the inaccurate 2016 baseline as the measuring stick for coverage under the AHCA.”

Tipton says the CBO might have been off by “at least 5 million” people in its 2016 baseline measurement of uninsured Americans, which implies that the CBO score on the AHCA (Trumpcare 2.0) is mathematically inaccurate. Even if Tipton’s math is correct here, that still means at least 18 million more people would lose health coverage under Trumpcare 2.0 compared to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

“Additionally, the CBO cannot predict the decisions individuals will make when they are no longer forced by the federal government to buy an insurance product they don’t want.”

The Congressional Budget Office cannot predict the future, therefore it is worthless. This particular sentence does not end up making more sense if you re-read it again and again (trust us — we tried).

“As the House has worked towards repealing and replacing the ACA, my focus has been on the cost of health care, because measuring success by the number of people who are insured doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when most of these people can’t afford to use their insurance.”

This is dumb. The corollary here is that it makes more sense to measure the number of people who might end up with health insurance that is cheaper but doesn’t actually cover anything. You can also buy a used car for a couple hundred bucks; you won’t be able to start the engine, but look at how much money you saved!

“The AHCA is designed to give Coloradans more choice over their insurance plans, affordable premiums and deductibles, and better access to health care services.”

It may very well be true that the AHCA was “designed” to provide more choice in healthcare, more affordable premiums and deductibles, and better access to services. But that’s not what the AHCA actually does, and the CBO score makes this abundantly clear.

As political statements go, this response from Tipton is pretty awful. Tipton would have been better off following Rep. Buck’s lead by calling the AHCA just a “first step” in a longer process. Instead, Tipton decided to “shoot the messenger” — never a good strategy when it’s clear to most everyone else that the “messenger” isn’t the problem.

The Daily D’oh: Kushner Now a Focus of Investigation

There is so much breaking news lately on the ever-widening allegations about Russian ties to the Trump campaign that it can be difficult to keep track of everything. With that in mind, we’ve created what we’re calling “The Daily D’oh!” to help you stay up-to-date on President Trump and the rest of the White House staff as more news emerges about Russia, James ComeyRobert Mueller, special investigations and everything else related to this ongoing crisis…

 

♦ D’OH!
We’re going to just stick with one “D’oh!” today — and it’s a doozy. From the Washington Post:

Investigators are focusing on a series of meetings held by Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and an influential White House adviser, as part of their probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and related matters, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Kushner, who held meetings in December with the Russian ambassador and a banker from Moscow , is being investigated because of the extent and nature of his interactions with the Russians, the people said.

The Washington Post reported last week that a senior White House official close to the president was a significant focus of the high-stakes investigation, though it did not name Kushner.

FBI agents also remain keenly interested in former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, but Kushner is the only current White House official known to be considered a key person in the probe.

This is where the Russia investigation gets much trickier for President Trump. With family members starting to pop up as persons of interest, Trump may soon have to decide whether he wants to make a deal with federal investigators to save his kin.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (May 25)

Don’t worry — it will totally be warm again some day next week. Maybe. It’s time to Get More Smarter! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The Congressional Budget Office finally released its score of the latest Republican health care legislation, and the numbers are very bad. As the New York Times explains:

A bill to dismantle the Affordable Care Act that narrowly passed the House this month would leave 14 million more people uninsured next year than under President Barack Obama’s health law — and 23 million more in 2026, the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday. Some of the nation’s sickest would pay much more for health care…

…The forecast by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Capitol Hill’s official scorekeeper, is another potential blow to efforts to undo Mr. Obama’s signature domestic achievement. Republican senators have said they will make substantial changes to the measure passed by the House, but even Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, sounds uncertain about his chances of finding a majority to repeal and replace the health law.

Oh, and insurance premiums for people older than 65 would rise by more than 800%. None of this made Colorado lawmakers particularly happy. Here’s the front page of today’s Denver Post:

 

 Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) made a candid admission to Politico in a story published today: Congressional Republicans are obliged to bend and twist in order to accommodate the Trump administration.

 

► Attorney General Jeff Sessions apparently lied to investigators when he was being interviewed for his security clearance. As Chris Cillizza writes for CNN:

The problem here for Sessions — and the Trump administration more broadly — is that the meetings the Attorney General failed to disclose are with the Russian ambassador. Not the ambassador to France or England or literally any other place in the world.

And that means the omissions matter. Because they land amid a federal investigation now being run by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and potential collusion with the Trump campaign. And two congressional investigations into the matter. And the firing of former national security adviser Michael Flynn due to his misleading comments about his own conversations with Kislyak. And the Russia ties of former Trump advisers Paul Manafort and Carter Page. And Sessions’ own recusal from the federal investigation due to his meetings with Kislyak. And the reports that Trump asked then FBI Director James Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn and the Russians during a Feb. 14 meeting.

 

► Today’s special election for a Congressional seat in Montana was thrown into a tizzy when the Republican candidate literally body-slammed a reporter on WednesdayGreg Pianoforte is being charged with misdemeanor assault on Election Day.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

Jessie Danielson Runs To Succeed Sen. Cheri Jahn In Key District

Rep. Jessie Danielson (D).

Rep. Jessie Danielson of Wheat Ridge announced her run for Senate District 20 yesterday, a closely-divided swing Senate seat now held by term-limited Sen. Cheri Jahn:

Serving Jeffco in the State House has been a tremendous honor – and I am proud to have passed laws that are protecting vulnerable seniors, advancing equal pay, looking out for veterans, protecting our environment, and helping Colorado families get a fair shake when the odds are often stacked against us…

With your help, I will go to the State Senate and continue fighting for a better future – by empowering hard-working Coloradans who want to send their kids to great public schools and build a secure future for their families.

Whether it’s legalizing rain barrels or making child care more affordable, I have passed common sense laws focused on helping make day-to-day life a little easier for regular people. Just this year I passed the Wage Theft Transparency Act, which will shine a light on employers caught cheating workers out of their pay.

In the State Senate, I will continue to uphold the Colorado values that make our state a better place to live. The chaos in Washington shows that it’s up to us – here in the states – to stand up to powerful special interests and protect what makes Colorado unique. As state senator, I will never stop fighting for Colorado, for Jeffco and for you.

Sen. Jahn’s last election in 2014 against Republican candidate Larry Queen was a real nail-biter, with Jahn emerging victorious by fewer than 500 votes. Democrats nonetheless consider Rep. Danielson an ideal successor to hold the seat, with an excellent legislative track record and solid campaign skill and experience–good enough that she was considered a possible candidate for Congress to succeed Rep. Ed Perlmutter. Danielson is a sufficiently strong contender that we would be surprised to see a serious primary opponent emerge, though with an open seat you can never rule one out.

Either way, Democrats are feeling good about holding this swing seat on their way to recapturing the Senate majority in 2018, and now you know why.

Coffman Admits Why GOP Can’t Hold Trump Accountable

An eye-opening quote from Colorado’s own Rep. Mike Coffman in a Politico story today about the slow response from congressional Republican leadership to the deepening scandals besetting President Donald Trump’s administration:

The controversy over Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia is mushrooming into an all-consuming Washington melodrama and full-fledged criminal investigation. But don’t look to GOP congressional leaders to ditch the president.

Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are taking a cautious approach to Trump’s Russia scandal, pointedly refraining from criticizing the president and tiptoeing around the topic — or simply avoiding it. It’s a strategy intended to avoid intraparty fights over Trump’s controversial presidency and sidestep confrontation with a president of their own party who has yet to sign key GOP agenda items like repealing Obamacare and cutting taxes…

In a way, those committee investigations — as well as the appointment of a special counsel at the Justice Department— have given Ryan and McConnell cover to sidestep questions by claiming they’re awaiting the findings of those probes. But the reality is that neither man will lead Republicans in taking a hard line against, or call for the impeachment of, the leader of their party — even if the controversy gets uglier and the public clamors for action.

“He’s got to work with the president, so yes, since the election there’s been a change in tone,” Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), said of Ryan’s rhetoric toward Trump. “He has to work with the president to get his agenda passed.” [Pols emphasis]

Coffman’s frank acknowledgement that his party’s leadership is obliged to work with President Trump, thus necessitating a “change in tone” from their prior criticism, also describes Coffman’s own change of tone from before the election until now. Coffman, who ran in 2016 on his most audacious anti-Republican campaign even after years of triangulating off his own party, himself said how “excited” he was to work with the President after winning the election.

The point is that Rep. Coffman has ripped the scab off something critically important to understand about the relationship between Republicans in Congress and President Trump–including self-proclaimed critics of Trump like Coffman. As long as Republicans retain any hope of accomplishing long-sought agenda items like the repeal of Obamacare and tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans in the near term, they need a functional Trump administration to do it. And that obliges them to soft-pedal Trump’s swirling scandals.

This also demonstrates again why Coffman opponents have railed so bitterly against his attempts to triangulate off the Republican leadership in Washington. No matter what Coffman says, or how he personally votes on the issue of the day, he voted for the GOP leadership now taking steps to enact Trump’s agenda.

Scenery aside, that’s the only thing that matters.

Senate GOP’s Civil Rights Commission Idiocy Gets Bypassed

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg.

The Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby updates the strange story of Heidi Hess, the chair of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission who was denied reappointment to the commission by the Colorado Senate GOP’s one-seat majority under circumstances that seem suspiciously like bias against Hess as an LGBT representative on the panel–that, or a comedy of errors that makes the Senate Republicans look incompetent to say the least:

Gov. John Hickenlooper chose to keep her on the commission, a move his office said is legal but one Senate Republicans question.

Republicans, who have a one-vote majority in the Senate, were surprised to learn from The Daily Sentinel that she was still on the seven-member commission. Regardless, Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, said such rejections of governor appointees happen so rarely that he was having his staff investigate the matter.

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, however, agreed that while the governor has the legal right to keep her on the panel until he finds a replacement, even until her new term expires in 2021, he said Hickenlooper is violating the spirit of the Colorado Constitution, which requires consent from the Senate on such appointments.

“It is ridiculous, but apparently that is within his purview and within his right to do so, to go around the Senate that way,” said the Sterling Republican, who led the effort to reject Hess’ confirmation. “It absolutely is against the spirit of the Constitution, but I think it’s completely inappropriate for the governor to wave his middle finger at the Senate.”

As Ashby reports again in this story and we’ve recounted in detail in this space, here’s what happened: Hess was erroneously listed on a website for the Colorado Civil Rights Commission as a “business representative,” despite the fact that in every other description we can find of her role she is listed as an at-large community representative. On the basis of this misidentification, Republicans led by Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg turned on Hess during what should have been her routine reappointment, declaring that she supported the “sue your boss” bill–a reference to workplace discrimination legislation passed in 2013.

Although it was quickly determined afterward that the listing of Hess as a “business representative” on the commission was erroneous, we haven’t seen any acknowledgement of that error from Republicans who voted against her reappointment. Given Hess’ role as chair of the commission as well as representative of both the LGBT community and the Western Slope, voting to remove her from the commission is not something that her friends and supporters–not to mention the governor’s office–took lightly.

What happens next? Well, Hickenlooper says in Ashby’s story that it could take a very long time to find a “replacement” for Heidi Hess–maybe even all the way though the end of her would-be second term in 2021. Colorado Republican Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has washed her hands of the situation, saying only that there might be a legislative remedy to consider in an upcoming session if GOP Senators don’t like Hickenlooper’s response to their misguided vote.

In the end, we rather doubt Republicans are going to push the matter any further under Hickenlooper’s administration. Whatever their motives were for this action–which we’ve heard credibly attributed to revenge over a vetoed bill, Tony Gagliardi’s outsize influence on the caucus, and yes, straight-up bigotry against LGBT people given a rare moment to lash out–it has definitely backfired. There’s nothing to be gained by perpetuating a conflict caused entirely by their own incompetence or enmity (or both).

Time to walk away.

At Least He’s Not Your Berzerk Congressional Candidate

UPDATE: 9NEWS’ Kyle Clark has got a point:

—–

Washington Post reporting, never ever ever let your temper get the best of you like this in politics:

Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate in Montana’s special congressional election, was charged with misdemeanor assault Wednesday after allegedly assaulting a reporter for the Guardian who had been trying to ask him a question. Gianforte, who is seen as the slight favorite in a race that ends Thursday, left what was supposed to be a final campaign rally at his Bozeman headquarters without making remarks.

The Gallatin County sheriff’s office announced the charges in a press release posted to the county website. At a press conference earlier in the day, Sheriff Brian Gootkin said that witnesses were being interviewed, and that four other people had been present for the incident…

Reporter Ben Jacobs of the Guardian reportedly asked GOP congressional candidate Greg Gianforte his opinion about the Congressional Budget Office score of the latest Republican proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act. After Jacobs brushed off one round of dust-off from Gianforte like any reporter worth their salt would do, he asked again. And then:

After Gianforte tells Jacobs to direct the question to his spokesman, Shane Scanlon, there is the sound of an altercation, and Gianforte begins to scream.

“I’m sick and tired of you guys!” Gianforte says. “The last guy that came in here did the same thing. Get the hell out of here! Get the hell out of here! The last guy did the same thing. Are you with the Guardian?”

“Yes, and you just broke my glasses,” Jacobs says.

“The last guy did the same damn thing,” Gianforte says.

“You just body-slammed me and broke my glasses,” Jacobs says.

“Get the hell out of here,” Gianforte says.

The incident was witnessed by a FOX News crew, which posted a commendably straightforward account of the assault:

Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, “I’m sick and tired of this!”

Jacobs scrambled to his knees and said something about his glasses being broken. He asked Faith, Keith and myself for our names. In shock, we did not answer. Jacobs then said he wanted the police called and went to leave. Gianforte looked at the three of us and repeatedly apologized. At that point, I told him and Scanlon, who was now present, that we needed a moment. The men then left.

To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte, who left the area after giving statements to local sheriff’s deputies.

And there you have it, folks! Gianforte’s campaign later put out a statement attempting to blame the reporter for being assaulted, but the FOX News crew’s story had already undermined it. Gianforte is described as the “slight favorite” in this race, which like other recent special elections has been dramatically narrowed by voter discontent with Republicans under President Donald Trump. Montana like Colorado is a mail-ballot state, and a large percentage of votes in this election have already been cast. With that said, lots of Montanans will be voting today as well. After this, maybe a lot more.

So now we get to see if assaulting a reporter the day before the election is, you know, a disqualifier.

Thursday Open Thread

“An oath will encourage fidelity in office only to the degree that officeholders continue to believe that they cannot escape ultimate accountability for a breach of faith.”

–James L. Buckley

“Trumpcare 3.0” CBO Score Released: Another Bloodbath

UPDATE #2: Colorado Democrats weigh in via Denver7’s Blair Miller:

Two of Colorado’s Democratic members of the House, Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis, voted against the bill, and offered their critiques of the bill again following the CBO score.

“Congress should have found out what the bill did before they passed it,” Polis said. “The nonpartisan analysis reaffirms the danger of the Republican health care plan…It has every day consequences that could be the difference between wellness and sickness or even life and death.”

“The latest analysis from the Congressional Budget Office confirms how detrimental the Republicans’ health care bill is in terms of reducing coverage, reducing essential benefits and allowing for discrimination against those with preexisting conditions,” Perlmutter said.

Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver:

“Trumpcare is bad news for a lot of people, as the CBO has shown yet again,” DeGette said. “If this bill becomes law, it will ration care and put insurance companies back in charge. Millions of people will lose their coverage while the cost for others will go up – including those covered through employer plans. People can expect higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs for skimpy coverage that in many cases won’t include essential services such as maternity care and treatment for mental health and substance abuse. And those over age 50 will pay even more – that is, if they can afford the age tax that this plan would impose.

“President Trump promised that no American would lose health insurance under his plan and that he wouldn’t cut Medicare or Medicaid. This bad bill breaks those promises and spells disaster for countless Americans.”

“The onus is now on the Senate to prevent this damage,” DeGette said. “It was dangerously irresponsible for House Republican leaders to ram this bill through the House for a vote with no CBO score. If Republicans really want to provide better health care for Americans, they should work with Democrats on making improvements to the ACA rather than dismantling or sabotaging it.”

—–

UPDATE: Sen. Cory Gardner says don’t sweat the CBO score, that’s just those wacky House crazies:

The CBO score is regarding the House legislation, and the Senate is currently working on its own legislation to rescue Coloradans from the collapsing healthcare law. Obamacare has driven up costs and made it harder for middle class families to find access to quality and affordable care. Anyone who looks at the current healthcare system will see that Obamacare is not working. The status-quo is unacceptable, and Democrats and Republicans have a responsibility to put politics aside and act.

Okay then! Let’s see Gardner come up with a bill that 1. doesn’t kill as many people and 2. can pass the House.

—–

Trumpcare 3.0

Moments ago, the Congressional Budget Office released its score of the latest iteration of the American Health Care Act, a.k.a. “Trumpcare,” which passed the U.S. House before the score was released and is now laying heavy on the U.S. Senate.

Its effects can still be measured in, for lack of a better term, dead bodies:

CBO and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) have completed an estimate of the direct spending and revenue effects of H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act of 2017, as passed by the House of Representatives. CBO and JCT estimate that enacting that version of H.R. 1628 would reduce the cumulative federal deficit over the 2017-2026 period by $119 billion. That amount is $32 billion less than the estimated net savings for the version of H.R. 1628 that was posted on the website of the House Committee on Rules on March 22, 2017, incorporating manager’s amendments 4, 5, 24, and 25. (CBO issued a cost estimate for that earlier version of the legislation on March 23, 2017.)

In comparison with the estimates for the previous version of the act, under the House-passed act, the number of people with health insurance would, by CBO and JCT’s estimates, be slightly higher and average premiums for insurance purchased individually—that is, nongroup insurance—would be lower, in part because the insurance, on average, would pay for a smaller proportion of health care costs. In addition, the agencies expect that some people would use the tax credits authorized by the act to purchase policies that would not cover major medical risks and that are not counted as insurance in this cost estimate…

CBO and JCT estimate that, in 2018, 14 million more people would be uninsured under H.R. 1628 than under current law. The increase in the number of uninsured people relative to the number projected under current law would reach 19 million in 2020 and 23 million in 2026. In 2026, an estimated 51 million people under age 65 would be uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law.

One of the biggest concerns over the newest version of this legislation is the option by states to waive coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act–allowing red states to dramatically change the rules for pre-existing conditions:

[T]he agencies estimate that about one-sixth of the population resides in areas in which the nongroup market would start to become unstable beginning in 2020. That instability would result from market responses to decisions by some states to waive two provisions of federal law, as would be permitted under H.R. 1628. One type of waiver would allow states to modify the requirements governing essential health benefits (EHBs), which set minimum standards for the benefits that insurance in the nongroup and small-group markets must cover. A second type of waiver would allow insurers to set premiums on the basis of an individual’s health status if the person had not demonstrated continuous coverage; that is, the waiver would eliminate the requirement for what is termed community rating for premiums charged to such people.

You’ll recall that Rep. Mike Coffman, who trended toward support for this legislation right up until the vote, in the end voted no because of a “small percentage” of patients who he said could lose coverage for pre-existing conditions. As the CBO’s estimate shows, that “small percentage” could amount to millions of Americans.

All told, the new legislation is only slightly less harmful to Americans than the last version, and the negative effects are still plenty nightmarish to justify the overwhelming public opposition all polling is showing against the bill. Rep. Coffman may have dodged culpability in this latest version of “Trumpcare,” but most of the Republican caucus in the U.S. House including the other three Colorado Republicans are now saddled with this vote.

And for Sen. Cory Gardner, who is crafting the Senate version of this bill behind closed doors, the stakes just got even higher. Coming up with a plan that isn’t political suicide, but can manage to attract support from the hard-right House Republicans who just approved this disastrous bill, seems like a more impossible task than ever now.

Sen. Dominick Moreno Jumps Into CD-7 Race

Sen. Dominick Moreno.

The Denver Post’s John Frank reports, three Democratic state lawmakers are now in the hunt to succeed outgoing Rep. Ed Perlmutter in swing suburban CD-7:

Sen. Dominick Moreno of Commerce City will announce his candidacy Wednesday for the 7th Congressional District post being vacated by U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, who is running for governor in 2018.

He joins fellow state Sen. Andy Kerr and state Rep. Brittany Pettersen, both of Lakewood, in the contest.

Moreno, 32, is touting his legislative record as what sets him apart — noting the bills he carried to require breakfast for students at low-income schools in Colorado and his work this year in crafting a $26.8 billion state spending plan as a member of the powerful budget committee.

“I think I bring the strongest record for actually getting things done, and that goes for the Democrats and the Republicans,” he said in an interview ahead of the announcement.

Sen. Dominick Moreno of Commerce City is a well-loved and respected progressive legislator, and the only one of the three contenders in the ÇD-7 primary to hail from Adams County. Moreno has nothing to lose by running for Congress in 2018, being an off-year for his Senate seat, so he can make the attempt without giving up his current office. Whatever the outcome, this race is a great chance to Moreno to build his name recognition for future upward mobility. And who knows? In a wide-open race, he might even go all the way.

Anybody else want in the CD-7 primary? The water appears to be fine.