Get More Smarter on Monday (April 24)

Pop quiz: Name one of two top finishers in Sunday’s Presidential race in France. 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…

President Trump is very angry that he is being judged on the first 100 days of his Presidency, but at least he still has a job. The Washington Post examines the fate of 15 top Trump supporters who didn’t even make it to 100 days in the White House.

 

► President Trump sat down with Julie Pace of the Associated Press for an extensive interview that was absolutely bizarre. Trump is very touchy about any attempts to summarize his first 100 days in office — which have not gone well by any serious estimation — so the President spends most of his time talking about that time he won the 2016 election and about how he is the biggest ratings draw on cable television.

As Chris Cillizza writes for CNN, Trump is starting to sound awfully similar to Uncle Rico:

At issue for Trump is that he continues to seem more interested in how he won the office than what he will do with the office. An occasional reminder of a time when you won is great. But Trump is bordering on Uncle Rico (of “Napoleon Dynamite”) territory here.  If you don’t know what I am talking about, watch this:

“Back in ’82 I used to be able to throw a pigskin a quarter mile,” Uncle Rico recalls. “If coach would have put me in fourth quarter we would have been state champions….no doubt in my mind.”

The point is: Dwelling too much in the past makes you a prisoner of the past. Trump won a historic upset. No question.  But, now he’s president. So, how he got elected — and how no one called it — is now less relevant than what he plans to do in the office.

Michael Kruse of Politico takes a look at “How Trump Succeeds Without Succeeding.”

 

► “Keyser’s Law” becomes official in Colorado.

 

► Construction defects reform legislation passed out of the State House on a unanimous vote on Monday. It is now up to the State Senate to approve HB17-1279.

 

 

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Local Republicans join Trump in proposing to push people off state health insurance rolls

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

In a major change since last year, state Republicans are now proposing specific cuts to Medicaid, Colorado’s health care program for the elderly, disabled, and other poor people.

In 2016, local Republican leaders repeatedly blamed Medicaid, including its expansion under Obamacare, for Colorado’s budget woes, but they didn’t explain how they’d cut Medicaid or alter it to save funds.

But this year, state Republican legislators are advocating specific cuts that would throw people off the state health insurance rolls.

For example, all Colorado State House Republicans, except Bob Rankin of Carbondale and Dan Thurlow of Grand Junction, voted April 7 for a budget amendment to reduce Medicaid eligibility for “adults without dependent children.” The measure, which failed, was opposed by all House Democrats. (here at 807-808).

The amendment aimed to transfer $52 million in state hospital fees, which are used to cover Colorado’s nearly 10 percent contribution to Obamacare, to “rural and critical access hospitals.”

“The goal was to back fill the cuts to rural hospitals within existing resources, while still making sure the most vulnerable portion of the population of single individuals without children still received services,” said State Rep. Justin Everett (R-Littleton), the amendment’s sponsor, who’s also running for state treasurer.

Critics of the proposal questioned whether the amendment would, in fact, help hospitals, whose funding could be cut this year due to do a state budget crunch.

“When you rescind Medicaid eligibility, you’re actually putting us back in a situation where hospitals are going to have to care for uninsured people, which results in higher uncompensated care costs for the hospitals,” said Natalie Wood, a senior policy analyst with the Bell Policy Center,  a progressive organization that aims to “help Coloradans get ahead and stay ahead.” “And when hospitals have uncompensated care costs, they make up for it by passing costs to private patients, or it cuts into their profit margin. So that doesn’t seem like a solution to help hospitals deal with their pain.”

The number of Medicaid recipients who would lose coverage under Everett’s proposal isn’t known, but they’d be adults without dependent children who got insurance under Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid. They must earn less than $15,800 annually to qualify for assistance.

So far, about 450,000 Coloradans gained Medicaid coverage under Obamacare, which is the prime reason the uninsured rate in the state decreased by about half between 2013 (14.3 %) and 2015 (6.7%), according to the Colorado Health Institute.

The change in Republican proposals, from calls for unspecified Medicaid cuts last year to this year’s proposals to strip low-income Coloradans of their health insurance, is already emerging on the 2018 campaign trail.

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Denver To Trump: Back Off Man, We Like Science


Denver Post reporting, but you were probably there from the look of it:

Thousands of scientists and science supporters joined the March For Science through downtown Denver Saturday in the city’s largest rally since the Women’s March in January.

In cities across the globe — as close as Boulder and as far away as Washington D.C. and a German scientific enclave in Antarctica — marchers showed support for evidence-based and science-based public policy, protested potential cuts to federally-funded research and expressed disappointment with the White House’s response to climate change…

Marchers were a mix of younger and older people who traveling from across Colorado, including Boulder, Durango and Bailey. Some were scientists and teachers while others were students and science enthusiasts.

The Colorado Independent’s Kelsey Ray:

President Donald Trump has been notably outspoken against climate change and environmental research. His budget blueprint, essentially a wish list for budget boosts and cuts, proposed slashing EPA funding by 30 percent and reducing funds for environmental research agencies like the National Oceanic and Environmental Administration.

In the lead-up to the march, numerous editorials questioned the premise of scientists acting as activists. Is there a place in science for activism? Should scientists speak about political issues? Perhaps fearful of backlash and further cuts, most government-funded research agencies have forbid their employees from talking about politics.

Many of those at the march, particularly the career scientists, had considered these questions. But they ultimately decided that recent political attacks on climate science were too worrisome not to show up.

We haven’t seen a reliable crowd estimate for yesterday’s march in Denver, but it was certainly in the tens of thousands, and as reported easily the biggest protest march since the Women’s March held a day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Much like the Women’s March, we’ve seen some attempts by Trump supporters to argue the march had no specific target, and that Trump supporters would have had as much reason to attend a March for Science as anybody else.

Against the backdrop of Trump’s huge proposed cuts to federal scientific research of all kinds, and especially research into climate change, this notion is preposterous–as much as claiming the Women’s March wasn’t a direct result of the fact that a man who bragged about sexual assault is now President of the United States. Here in Colorado, home to such a large number of critical federal scientific research facilities, we know very well what the threat is, and who is behind it.

And it looks like the whole rest of the world knows, too.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (April 19)

Enjoy the sunshine today before the rain arrives. 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…

► Colorado lawmakers appear to have finally reached consensus on so-called “construction defects reform” legislation, which could bring an end to a long-running argument — five years, in fact — regarding legal liabilities for homebuilders. The House State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee is expected to make amendments that will advance HB17-1279 this afternoon. 

Elsewhere, state legislators are still battling over the state budget, which is the only bill that they are Constitutionally-mandated to pass each session. Governor John Hickenlooper is expressing confidence that there will be no need for a “special session” later this summer.

 

► Republicans are breathing a sigh of relief after an upstart Democrat just fell short of the 50% required to win outright a Congressional seat that had been represented by Republican Rep. Tom Price (now President Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services). Democrat Jon Ossoff will now face Republican Karen Handel in a June runoff election for a seat that has historically been reliably-Republican. Democrats, meanwhile, are feeling good about what the Georgia Congressional race could portend for 2018.

 

The Environmental Protection Agency is issuing a 90-day stay on the enforcement of new methane emissions rules. Scott Pruitt, the head of the EPA, informed the oil and gas industry of the move in a letter Wednesday to the American Petroleum Institute.

 

 

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Yes, (Some) GOP Senators Did Something Objectively Good

Rep. Lois Landgraf (R) and Rep. Brittany Pettersen (D) celebrate passage of HB17-1186 in the House.

Colorado Capitol observers are still getting their collective heads around a fairly surprising development in the Republican-controlled Colorado Senate: House Bill 17-1186, a bill requiring insurers to cover dispensing 12 months worth of contraceptives to women with insurance coverage, has passed the chamber and is now awaiting Gov. John Hickenlooper’s signature. Similar legislation died in committee in the Senate last year–but with bipartisan sponsorship this session, Colorado Senate GOP leadership not only let the bill go to the floor but celebrated its passage out of the Senate’s “kill committee” in a press release:

Republican Bill Guaranteeing Women’s Health Care Passes Committee

House Bill 17-1186 asks health insurers that are required under current law to provide contraception coverage to extend coverage to provide 12-month’s worth of oral contraceptives for a woman with a prescription…

Reducing barriers to health care for women, and improving access to contraception improves the overall health and well-being of Colorado,” said Coram. “Women’s health care needs require near-constant attention and lifelong commitments. In rural Colorado, the nearest pharmacy can be an hour away and frequent trips are not a reality many Coloradans can afford. Today, we helped improve access for those who need it most, and took a crucial step in decreasing the number of unwanted pregnancies, and the associated repercussions in Colorado.”

After this “Republican” bill passed Senate State Affairs, Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado sang its praises:

“This is an incredible step toward for women and families. It means fewer trips to the pharmacy for people with busy lives or who live in rural areas with longer travel times. It also will result in reducing the number of unintended pregnancies, with a longer reliable supply of birth control. It just gives more stability to women and gives families’ ability to plan their lives,” said Sarah Taylor-Nanista, Vice President of Public Affairs of Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado.

The bill’s final vote in the Senate before heading to the Governor’s desk was 22-11–while certainly not a majority of the Republican Senate caucus, a much healthier margin than many expected. In large part this can be attributed to the work of Sen. Don Coram in the Senate, winning swingable votes on policy by explaining how supporting this measure would also be good politics.

For those of you looking for a “but,” or a last-minute twist that allows for a clean partisan vilification, in the case of House Bill 17-1186 there isn’t one. What happened here was an objectively good thing; reasonable bipartisan cooperation on an issue that hasn’t seen nearly enough bipartisanship. Republicans who supported it can feel good morally and politically, while Democrats achieved a long-sought policy victory for women.

American politics need more stories like this. Many more.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (April 18)

Happy Tax Day, everybody! 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…

► Colorado Democrats are taking the occasion of Tax Day to push legislation that would make it more difficult for politicians like Donald Trump to refuse to release tax returns. As Marianne Goodland writes for the Colorado Independent:

Two days after an estimated 7,000 people took to Denver’s Civic Center Park to demand that President Donald Trump release his tax returns, a House committee okayed a bill to require presidential candidates to make their returns public.

The measure, which is sponsored by Democratic Reps. Edie Hooten of Boulder and Chris Hansen of Denver, would require both presidential and vice-presidential candidates to submit the most recent five years of tax returns. Those who don’t submit those documents won’t appear on Colorado’s presidential election ballot, under the bill.

At least eight other states are working on similar legislation to require those tax returns, Hooten said; six are states carried by Trump in the 2016 election. In other states, although not Colorado, the legislation is referred to as the Tax Returns Uniformly Made Public Act, or TRUMP Act.

Trump is the first major party candidate in 40 years (since President Gerald Ford ran for election in 1976) to not provide his returns, according to Politifact.

At least a dozen Congressional Republicans also agree that Trump needs to release his tax returns before they will take any sort of action on a Trump tax reform plan.

Meanwhile, the Colorado legislature remains gridlocked over the state budget, with both Democrats and Republicans accusing each other of mucking things up. The legislature is scheduled to adjourn on May 10.

 

President Trump is embracing the idea that today’s special election in Georgia could be a referendum on Trump. It’s true that the special election to replace Republican Rep. Tom Price (now President Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services) is being watched closely as a sign of how voters are feeling about the first 90-odd days of the Trump administration. But as Chris Cillizza explains, Trump may be getting louder about today’s election because he could be getting word that Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff is unlikely to surpass 50% of the vote and thus avoid a runoff election with one of 11 Republican candidates.

 

► British Prime Minister Theresa May shocked European political observers — and even those in the United States who even sorta understand how the British election system works — by calling a surprise election on June 8. Here’s a helpful summary from CNN about what happened and why it is such a surprise (and why you should care):

British governments generally last for five years, and the Conservative Party’s administration — then led by May’s predecessor David Cameron — was elected in 2015. The next election was not due to take place until May 2020…

…May, who took over when Cameron resigned in the wake of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, wants to seek a stronger mandate in Brexit talks.

The UK government formally served divorce papers on the European Union last month, signaling the beginning of the end of a relationship that endured for 44 years.

But her party only has a slim majority in Parliament, and opposition parties have attempted to throw rocks in her path towards Brexit.

 

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Get More Smarter on Monday (April 17)

You know there is still a rogue Easter Egg in your backyard somewhere. 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…

► We’re halfway through the month of April, and there is still no end in sight to the large-scale protests of Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration. Denver7 has more on a big Denver rally on Saturday:

Thousands took to the streets in Denver demanding to see President Donald Trump’s tax returns.

Protesters gathered at Civic Center Park and rallied together Saturday afternoon to ask for transparency and honesty from the president when it comes to his financial dealings.

The Tax March in Denver, one of more than 150 held across the nation, was also held in the hopes of creating pressure for Congress to enact legislation forcing elected officials to release their tax returns.

More rallies are planned for this weekend with a focus on addressing Climate Change.

 

► One of the biggest political stories in the country this week is taking place in Georgia, where the outcome of a special race to replace Republican Rep. Tom Price (now President Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services) could foretell big changes in the 2018 election. Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff may be able to get better than 50% of the vote in Tuesday’s election and avoid a runoff election with one of 11 Republican candidates. As CNN explains:

That’s what makes this race so fascinating: It shouldn’t be competitive. When Rep. Tom Price was tapped as Donald Trump’s health secretary, Georgia politicos were readying for what was likely to be an all-Republican fight featuring a few token Democrats. But Ossoff has jolted the 18-candidate field and unified most of the district’s Democrats and Trump skeptics.

Republicans are concerned enough about this race that President Trump took to bashing Ossoff on Twitter this morning.

 

► The White House is taking criticism from a late Friday announcement that visitor logs would no longer be made public. As the Washington Post writes:

Donald Trump appears to have made a cynical calculation that he will not pay a high political price for being the most secretive president since Richard Nixon.

All the leaks about infighting among senior staff and the president’s proclivity for tweeting have created a false sense that the public knows what is happening inside his White House. In fact, the administration has gone to great lengths to conceal pertinent information from the American people.

After dodging questions on the subject for weeks, the administration waited until the afternoon of Good Friday to dump the news that it will not follow former president Barack Obama’s policy of voluntarily disclosing the names of most visitors to the White House complex. The president’s communications director cited “grave national security risks” as a justification, even though Obama had made an exception for national security.

 

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Get More Smarter on Friday (April 14)

Have a Good Friday. For that matter, have a good Saturday and Sunday, too. 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…

► Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) has been all over the news in the last few days following a town hall meeting earlier this week that did not go particularly well for the longtime Republican politician. On Thursday, Coffman made some interesting statements in an interview with Kyle Clark of 9News that included a sharp rebuke to Republicans who continue to complain — with no evidence — about “fake protestors” badgering Members of Congress. Here’s the relevant excerpt:

CLARK: Do you think they’re ‘fake protesters?’

COFFMAN: You know, I really don’t. You know, God bless the Republican Party for what it does, but I don’t–the fact is that they had to register for the event because we wanted to make sure that the people were from the district. And so, ah, uh, I thought it was a great event, I thought it was very lively, uh, I thought, I felt they were very committed, uh, to their issues, uh granted the audience leans left relative to the district, but they’re the people who are most concerned. With potential changes, mostly to Medicaid. And so I respect the fact that, you know that they were there, they were voicing their views, and they were not shy about it…

…I mean the fact is that, I think that the reality is, that sure there are some organizers there. But the vast majority of these people are simply committed activists in their own right. Uh, and they are not paid. They are simply, this is where their heart is. And I respect that.

Coffman’s answer here is not only a rebuke to the hysterical nonsense coming from partisan Republicans, but a sharp blow to Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) as well. Gardner has been trying to months to make the argument that people who are disappointed with his actions are “fake” or “paid” protestors, and Coffman’s words make this a difficult narrative to continue.

 

► Not all is well for Rep. Coffman, who is still getting poor reviews for his ham-handed town-hall event on Wednesday.

 

► As for Gardner, he is meeting today with employees of CoBank in Greenwood Village. It’s sorta like a town-hall meeting, except that you can’t come. Gardner took a tour of Devils Canyon in Western Colorado on Wednesday; he’ll go anywhere so long as he isn’t likely to run into actual constituents.

 

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Andy Kerr First to Make Big Launch for CD-7

State Sen. Andy Kerr (D-Lakewood)

As Peter Marcus writes for the Colorado Springs Gazette, state Senator Andy Kerr (D-Lakewood) kicks off today what could be a long and complicated race to succeed Rep. Ed Perlmutter in CD-7:

In a launch video, Kerr said he plans to “take leadership to Washington, the Colorado way.”

“Colorado has taught me what it means to be a leader,” Kerr said in the more than three-minute video. “I’ve learned that good leaders are known for what they do, not for what they say. That’s leadership, the Colorado way.”

The video features images of scenic Colorado views, Kerr with his family, teaching a group of students in a classroom, holding a town hall in a brewery, snowboarding, and, of course, Kerr riding his bike, something that has become a staple of his image…

…Kerr will hold a formal campaign kickoff Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. at  Dunstan Middle School in Lakewood. He also on Wednesday launched his official campaign website.

Also announced in the Democratic race is state Rep. Brittany Pettersen, also from Lakewood. Pettersen, like Kerr, made her intentions known shortly after Perlmutter announced his run for governor.

Kerr is a middle school teacher in Jefferson County who has also served in the state legislature since 2006, both of which make him the early leader in this race. We are still waiting to hear more about which Republican candidates will take a look at this open seat in 2018, but it is expected to get crowded.

Republican Lawmaker Defends Driver’s License Vote Amid GOP Attack

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

State Rep. Hugh McKean (R-Loveland) last week took to Facebook to defend his vote for a state program providing drivers licenses to immigrants.

McKean was under attack by fellow Republican State Rep. Dave Williams of Colorado Springs, who called Democrats and Republicans “shameful” for opposing a budget amendment Friday that would have cut a program giving drivers licenses to, in Williams’ words, “illegal aliens.”

“This program is something that I have been told by farmers in my District is vital to help their employees in obtaining insurance so that they can limit their liability when those workers have to leave the farm, even for a few hundred yards,” McKean wrote on Facebook in response to Williams attack. “After an hour of debate, virtually none of which was related to the budget discussion, nothing was offered to mitigate the effects of a very broken federal immigration system. I will continue to vote for my District and continue to put pressure on our Congressional delegation and our President to fix this flawed system. I will never tell my colleagues in the House how to vote. I count on them to know their Districts and know what their people need.”

Williams use’ of the word “illegal immigrant” in his amendment angered Democrats, like Thornton Rep. Joe Salazar.

“This is an alt-right show,” Salazar told the Colorado Statesman’s John Tomasic. “When you pass a policy like this, people learn how to drive better and they have insurance. They take tests that insure they know how to drive on our roads safely, which lowers insurance rates… But it has to be a show for some, not about policy, not about what’s good for Colorado, but because we have to put sparklers and glitter over a show and use hateful language in order to get people’s attention. We should rise above the show.”

“What we should be talking about here are citizens, the citizens we’re supposed to be representing and protecting,” Williams told the Statesman. “This program is another program that attracts illegal aliens to our state and in turn endangers our public… This is a sanctuary city policy. If by keeping this policy in place the majority wants to endanger our citizens, I won’t be a part of it.”

Williams’ amendment was one of a slew of measures offered last week by Republicans who said they wanted to transfer funds from existing programs to transportation. Other GOP amendments, also defeated, would have raised Medicaid co-pays, reduced Medicaid eligibility, and eliminated funding for red-light cameras and a state patrol aircraft program.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (April 11)

The Colorado Rockies are 5-3 going into tonight’s home series against San Diego, currently one of the worst teams in baseball. Here’s hoping baseball will matter in Colorado this summer. 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…

► Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) has already drawn a Democratic challenger for 2018. As Brian Eason writes for the Denver PostJason Crow brings a solid military background to the race:

An Army veteran, the 38-year-old Crow served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, first as a paratrooper and then as a Ranger, before returning to Colorado for law school. Today, he’s a partner at the Denver law firm Holland and Hart, where he advises businesses on compliance issues involving government regulations.

Calling the country’s politics broken, Crow said he wants to focus on the issues that matter to working families and to break through the divisive partisanship that increasingly has come to define Congress and Washington.

 

► With Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s decision to run for Governor in 2018, the race to succeed him in CD-7 is underway. State Rep. Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood) has already announced her bid, and state Senator Andy Kerr (D-Lakewood) will formally kick-off his campaign on Wednesday.

 

► Voters in Kansas get the first chance to use the ballot box to voice their displeasure with President Trump today. Republicans are nervous about a special election in Kansas’ 4th Congressional District, where Democrat James Thompson is making a late surge to defeat Republican Ron Estes in a fight for the seat that opened up when former Rep. Mike Pompeo was confirmed as Director of the CIA. As Chris Cillizza explains for CNN:

The race was clearly moving in Democrats’ favor over its final days. Noted nonpartisan political handicapping site The Cook Political Report moved the race from “Solid Republican” to “Lean Republican on Monday. “Republicans familiar with recent polling describe extremely high Democratic intensity and very low GOP enthusiasm in what is likely to be a very low turnout special,” wrote Cook House analyst David Wasserman.

A loss here would be a huge problem for Republicans — especially considering that they appear to be no better than an even-money bet to hold Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s now-vacant seat in another special election next Tuesday in Georgia’s 6th district.

President Trump carried this district by 27 points last November, so even a close race would be a major concern for the GOP.

 

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (April 5)

Welcome back, Springtime. 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

► Senate Democrats are trying to conduct a filibuster over the Supreme Court nomination of Colorado Judge Neil Gorsuch, but as “The Fix” explains, there’s probably not much the minority party can do to stop this train:

Mostly while we slept Tuesday night, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) seized the Senate floor for roughly 15 hours in an attempt to launch an old-school filibuster to block Judge Neil Gorsuch from getting on the Supreme Court. He ended it around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday morning.

But his filibuster came too late to be able to derail or even delay Gorsuch’s confirmation. In fact, it probably wasn’t even technically be a filibuster. That’s because procedurally, there’s nothing he nor his colleagues can do to stop Gorsuch from getting a vote on Thursday to advance his nomination — and, ultimately, not much they can do stop him from getting on the court…

…there is one thing that can force a talking senator to yield the floor. And it’s the one thing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) set in place Tuesday: A vote to end debate on Gorsuch.

There aren’t many rules on how long a senator can talk, but there are tons of rules about how long senators have to wait to vote. For example, McConnell knew his colleagues in the minority were going to filibuster Gorsuch — either by actually talking, like Merkley is, or threatening to talk, like Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has. So before anything began, McConnell filed a motion to vote to end that debate. That motion, called a cloture motion, has to wait two days before it is “ripened” and senators can actually vote on it.

 

► Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler is running for governor — for reals this time — and will seek to become the Republican nominee in 2018 through the convention/caucus process. Brauchler is one of many likely Republican candidates in 2018, including State Treasurer Walker Stapleton and former state Rep. Victor Mitchell. As Brauchler told the Colorado Statesman at his campaign launch today, he’s be a better governor than John Hickenlooper because…everything:

“For instance,” Brauchler said, “on transportation, I would have taken a much more hands-on approach to figuring out a way to resolve the transportation issue. We’re here on the precipice where we’re at because we really haven’t prioritized transportation. I would have taken a much stronger approach to education funding. I would have stood up to the federal government that sought to triple the size of Medicaid though Obamacare in our state. And I would have found a way to bring more liberty to more people in a way that would provide the opportunity for greater prosperity in this state.”

Yes, Brauchler would have just waved his magic wand to fund transportation and infrastructure upgrades.

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Whackadoo Republicans Drop Ghost-Written Anti-Muslim Bill

Sen. Vicki Marble (R).

A new bill has been introduced late in the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate–Senate Bill 17-277, sponsored by Sen. Vicki Marble and Rep. Tim Leonard, “concerning the application of foreign laws in Colorado courts.”

The bill addresses the use of foreign laws, legal codes, or systems (foreign laws) by Colorado courts, arbitrations, tribunals, or administrative agencies (courts) in making decisions or rulings. Any court decision or ruling based on such foreign laws violates the public policy of Colorado and is void and unenforceable if the application of the foreign law does not grant the affected parties the same fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges granted under the constitutions of Colorado and the United States.

If the summary of the bill doesn’t clue you in as to its purpose, it’s an attempt to pre-empt the use of foreign laws by local courts–a problem that legal experts say doesn’t really exist, since American law already holds primacy over any foreign laws that might be applied in the United States regarding a contract or other dispute. Of course that might not hold true if Muslims were to, you know, take over America! And apparently that’s the fear, however unlikely and even laughable to most observers, driving this legislation.

And as it turns out, this bill isn’t even Sen. Marble’s and Rep. Leonard’s idea at all. SB17-277 appears to be composed almost entirely of stock language written by the right-wing American Public Policy Alliance. Here’s a sample from their stock language:

The [general assembly/legislature] finds that it shall be the public policy of this state to protect its citizens from the application of foreign laws when the application of a foreign law will result in the violation of a right guaranteed by the constitution of this state or of the United States, including but not limited to due process, freedom of religion, speech, or press, and any right of privacy or marriage as specifically defined by the constitution of this state.

The [general assembly/state legislature] fully recognizes the right to contract freely under the laws of this state, and also recognizes that this right may be reasonably and rationally circumscribed pursuant to the state’s interest to protect and promote rights and privileges granted under the United States or [State] Constitution…

And here’s the same stock language in Senate Bill 17-277:

The state of Colorado has a compelling state interest in protecting its citizens and lawful residents from the application of foreign laws that would result in the violation of any right guaranteed by the Colorado and United States constitutions, including the rights of due process, freedom of religion, speech, press, and the rights to privacy, property, and to bear arms in the defense of self or others;

Now, therefore, although the Colorado general assembly fully recognizes the right to contract freely under the laws of this state, it also recognizes that this right may be reasonably and rationally circumscribed pursuant to the state’s interest in protecting and promoting rights and privileges guaranteed under the constitutions of Colorado and the United States…

Apparently this bill has been shopped in a number of states, and has become law in Tennessee, Louisiana, Arizona, and Kansas. We haven’t found any reports of the law actually being used–but in Idaho, where the bill died last year, local analysis found lots of potential problems:

The fact is, American courts routinely, by necessity, rely on “foreign law” to adjudicate everything from contracts, wills, estates, and tort law, to judgments, marriage and divorce, and child custody. Here’s a simple example: An Idaho driver gets injured in a car accident in Canada with a Canadian driver who also happens to live in Idaho. Because both drivers live here, the American driver sues the Canadian driver in Idaho court, claming the Canadian driver violated traffic laws. Which traffic laws apply? Canada’s, of course.

Explicitly barring “foreign law” in Idaho could have unintended consequences, as noted in the legal opinion on the bill the state Attorney General prepared for Redman. Nothing in the bill on its face violates federal or state law, the AG’s office said, but the legislation “may present contract impairment issues.”

What kind of issues? Let’s take the case of an overseas company doing business in Idaho. What would happen if, under state law, company contracts originating overseas, or judgments involving it, were unenforceable in Idaho? Under those circumstances, would any foreign firm do business here?

As it turns out, the law is necessarily a lot more complex than the xenophobia of a few Republican lawmakers! The legislation says it is effective when foreign law would undermine “fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges granted under the constitutions of Colorado and the United States”–apparently without realizing our state and federal constitutions already protect us from that.

In short, this bill is unsalvageably stupid. Perhaps the only saving grace for the fringe lawmakers who introduced it is that they didn’t write it, because that would have required enough critical thinking to realize the legislation serves no purpose other than to disparage foreigners in general and Muslims in particular. Not explicitly, like the version of this law that passed in Oklahoma in 2010 specifically invoking Shariah law and was later thrown out by the courts–but every debate of this bill, wherever it’s introduced, turns into a free-ranging discussion on the nasty Old Testament-style particulars of Islamic law.

Don’t believe us? Come to the Colorado Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for SB17-277 on April 12th, and witness the sorry spectacle for yourself.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (April 4)

Dreaming of a “White Easter?” 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…

► Congress is scheduled to embark on a two-week recess at the end of this week, but there’s still the matter of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch to consider. Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) announced on Monday that he would not support a filibuster of Gorsuch, though he still won’t say whether or not he will vote in favor of Gorsuch’s nomination.

With or without Bennet, Senate Democrats say that they have enough votes to reject Gorsuch and force a filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is thus likely to invoke the “nuclear option” to limit debate and reduce the number of required votes for confirmation from 60 to 51. The editorial board of the Denver Post is encouraging Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) to reject the “nuclear option”:

Better to have the seat unfilled until senators can grow up and do right by the American people.

Trashing the filibuster over a single nominee would be doing a judge of Gorsuch’s caliber — and the nation — a terrible disservice.

 

► There is a growing school of thought among Congressional Democrats that Republicans would only be hurting themselves by invoking the “nuclear option” on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

 

► Congressional Republicans are mulling their next steps as they attempt to undo Obamacare after the House failed to even bring a bill to the floor for a vote in late March. But as the Washington Post reports, there’s little reason to think House Republicans and President Trump could get a new plan past the Senate:

The new proposal would further relax some of the Affordable Care Act’s regulations, to placate conservatives who thought the previous GOP bill didn’t deregulate enough of it. States could seek waivers to opt out of the ACA’s requirement that insurers cover “Essential Health Benefits,” such as visits to the doctor, prescription drugs and maternity care. They could also opt out of the prohibition against insurers charging more from the sick than from the healthy. House conservatives are now saying this might get them on board.

But the problem is that, since this is a deregulatory change, a bill with this feature in it might not be able to pass the Senate by a simple majority under the “reconciliation” process, which is reserved for provisions with a budgetary dimension, according to Sarah Binder, a congressional scholar at George Washington University. This would trigger a so-called “Byrd Rule” challenge from Democrats, and to get around it, Republicans would have to appeal to the Senate parliamentarian.

Republicans may want to make sure that any potential change protects coverage for “pre-existing conditions” created from repeatedly banging your head against a wall.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Owen Hill Auditioning for Same Movie You’ve Seen Before

State Sen. Owen Hill

Ernest Luning of the Colorado Statesman broke the news on Saturday that state Sen. Owen Hill is mounting a primary challenge against six-term incumbent Congressman Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs:

Hill, a 35-year-old Air Force Academy graduate and small business owner, was reelected in November to a second four-year term representing El Paso County’s Senate District 10. He serves as the chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

Hill ran in the 2014 Republican U.S. Senate primary eventually won by Republican Cory Gardner, who went on to unseat Democratic incumbent Mark Udall. Before Gardner entered the race, Hill received endorsements from Ron Paul, the former congressman and presidential candidate, and the Tea Party Express organization.

But Hill, who first ran for office at age 28 — he lost a bid in 2010 in a different state senate district by just 340 votes to Democrat John Morse, then the incumbent Senate majority leader — defies easy political classification.

Hill is an ambitious conservative switchblade enthusiast who has long been looking to move up in the political world — he had been mentioned as a potential candidate for State Treasurer in 2018 — but settling on CD-5 as his ladder of choice is at once an obvious and questionable decision. We suppose that a CD-5 Primary makes more sense for Hill than embarking on a statewide campaign, though it’s fair to question whether it is even possible to defeat Lamborn in CD-5. 

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Worthless)

Despite representing the safest Republican congressional district in Colorado — GOP candidates for President regularly win CD-5 by 20-30 points — Lamborn has only been able to avoid a GOP Primary once since sneaking through a six-candidate GOP circus back in 2006. Of course, this also means that Lamborn has never lost a bid for re-election despite regularly facing difficult opposition from his own party, so you should attempt to read these tea leaves at your own peril.

Republican voters in CD-5 are also not traditionally enamored with the idea of change. Lamborn is only the second person to represent the district in the last 30 years (former Congressman Joel Hefley served CD-5 from 1987-2007). In the past three decades, the Denver Broncos have more Super Bowl trophies than Colorado Springs has had Members of Congress. 

None of this is to say that Colorado Springs residents don’t deserve better representation in Washington D.C. You can make a solid argument for Lamborn as the single worst Member of Congress in the entire country. Lamborn is an incompetent boob with a special talent for jamming both feet in his mouth on the rare occasion when he actually bothers to show up for scheduled events. As 2016 Republican opponent Calandra Vargas memorably explained:

“Doug Lamborn is the worst. He’s just the living worst. People need to know that Doug Lamborn is the worst. He makes Christians look stupid. He makes Republicans look mean, and he doesn’t offer solutions.”

Those are some exceptionally-strong words from a fellow Republican, but Vargas’ venom didn’t prevent Lamborn from more than doubling her vote total in the June 2016 Primary. Among Republican challengers, Bentley Rayburn came the closest to defeating Lamborn in a 2014 Primary (53-47); two years earlier, Lamborn dispatched GOP opponent Robert Blaha by 25 points.

Recent history hasn’t given us any reason to be surprised that Lamborn has drawn yet another Republican opponent…but history also doesn’t give us any reason to think that 2018 will end any differently for Lamborn. Owen Hill may or may not be a better candidate than Rayburn was in 2014. It’s hard to suggest that it even matters.