Donald Trump is Officially the 45th President of the United States

President Donald Trump speaks at his Inauguration Ceremony.

Well, this is really happening. As the Washington Post reports:

Donald John Trump was sworn in Friday as the 45th president of the United States, taking office on a day that has featured smaller crowds and more subdued ceremony than previous inaugurations — but still ushers in a transformative shift in the country’s leadership.

Trump, 70, was administered the oath by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. His wife Melania Trump stood at his side. The oath was given using two Bibles — one from President Lincoln’s inauguration, and another that Trump’s mother gave him in 1955.

Trump began his inaugural address by proclaiming that with his victory, “the United States of America is your country.” With now former president Obama and three previous presidents watching from behind him, Trump seemed to condemn them as unfaithful to the popular will, saying that his inauguration signaled that “the people” would rule the country again.

And off we go…

Trump Makes Final Cabinet Choice Hours Before Inauguration

President Donald Trump has finally nominated someone for every cabinet position.

At this time yesterday, soon-to-be-President Donald Trump had selected someone for all but one top-level cabinet post. As the Huffington Post reports, Trump made his final big “You’re Hired” announcement Thursday evening:

President-elect Donald Trump named Sonny Perdue, the former Republican governor of Georgia who famously prayed for rain during a 2007 drought, to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday

“Sonny Perdue is going to accomplish great things as Secretary of Agriculture,” Trump said in a statement. “From growing up on a farm to being governor of a big agriculture state, he has spent his whole life understanding and solving the challenges our farmers face, and he is going to deliver big results for all Americans who earn their living off the land.”

Perdue’s nomination comes less than 48 hours before Trump’s inauguration ceremony and completes the president-elect’s proposed Cabinet, which does not include a Hispanic member. Reports of the nomination circulated Wednesday night…

…Perdue, 70, is well known for leading a prayer service at the state Capitol in Georgia in hopes of bringing an end to a 2007 drought.

Colorado Latin@ Lawmakers Tell Trump To Leave DACA Kids Alone

Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran.

A release from Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran a short while ago asks President-elect Donald Trump for some compassion for undocumented students in the United States through no fault of their own:

Speaker Crisanta Duran, Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman and the seven other members of the Latino Democratic Caucus issued a letter this morning to President-elect Donald Trump asking that he declare Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients will be allowed to remain in the U.S. under his administration.

“We are simply asking that the president-elect put an end to the fear and uncertainty of the 742,000 men, women and children, and the millions of our fellow Americans that know them as our friends, neighbors, family members and coworkers,” stated Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, the first Latina Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives. “We are talking about keeping families—children and mothers and fathers—together. This is their home and they are a part of us.”

“Hard-working Coloradans, from the Front Range to the San Luis Valley, have made so many positive contributions to the communities they grew up in. Yet, now they live in fear of being torn apart from their families. The President-elect must send a message that the American dream is open to them, and commit to keeping DACA in place,” said Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, D-Denver.

In Colorado, undocumented students who have graduated from our state’s high schools are able to attend state colleges and universities at essentially in-state rates–a privilege undocumented students don’t enjoy everywhere. The program is a rough equivalent to the federal DREAM Act, which stalled in the Republican-controlled Congress and is now a non-starter under Trump. Colorado’s ASSET law eliminates a formidable barrier to these kids maximizing their contribution to the American economy.

Which is of course all they want to do. It’s worth noting that children who registered under the DACA program did so in good faith, under the promise that they would be spared from deportation and given work authorizations. Unfortunately for DACA registrees, they are now the best-documented undocumented residents of the United States. Which means if Trump decides to throw them out now, they’ll be much easier to find than most undocumented immigrants. In that event, those trying hardest to play by the rules would pay the highest price.

About the only thing we can say confidently is that whatever happens won’t be long now. We hope it’s an outcome that all Americans can be proud of.

GOP Shower Stall Showboating Backfires

Rapper Birdman’s golden toilet.

The Denver Post’s Jennifer Brown reports on a Colorado budget line-item raising hackles among Republican lawmakers:

A request for $235,109 to make nine bathrooms at a state mental-health hospital suicide-proof is prompting outrage from Republican lawmakers who suggest it is evidence of wasteful government spending.

The reaction to the proposal in the context of a $28 billion budget illustrates the intensity of the spending battles expected in the 2017 session as Colorado lawmakers negotiate a deal to find more money for big-ticket priorities, such as a potential $500 million bond to improve roads and transit…

“Are you using the same contractor that the feds and military does that costs us a million (dollars) a toilet?” asked Sen. Jerry Sonneberg, R-Sterling. “You simply do the math, it’s $20,000 a shower. Couldn’t you remodel a whole bathroom for that?”

Sonnenberg later took to Twitter to say of the request: “You can’t make this stuff up.” He included a photo of the budget request document and wrote “NO” at the top.

As the Post reports, this budget request stems from a suicide attempt last year at the Pueblo state mental hospital. That attempt identified a need to change the design of showers at the facility to make it harder to tie off a noose. Of course we’re not talking about your home bathroom, which would likely cost less than $20,000 to remodel. These are bathrooms in a secure facility, designed to be tamperproof and to protect mentally ill Coloradans from self-harm. The changes would continue existing suicide-proofing that has already occurred at other state facilities.

Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, suggested the price tag is too much and remains unconvinced it is necessary, even as he acknowledges that preventing suicide “is a great thing.” [Pols emphasis]

We haven’t heard yet if this request was approved today by the Capital Development Committee, but we’ve heard that Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg’s public disparagement of this line-item is making at least some fellow Republicans politically uneasy. The amount may sound excessive at first glance, but in the proper context it’s not really unreasonable at all.

And suicide prevention is just not something we would advise grandstanding against.

Of Course Rick Perry Doesn’t Know Squat About Energy Secretary

Rick Perry, our next Secretary of Energy (whatever that means).

As revealed yesterday in a stunning piece in the New York Times, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry — Donald Trump’s choice for Energy Secretary — doesn’t really have any idea what his potential new job actually entails:

When President-elect Donald J. Trump offered Rick Perry the job of energy secretary five weeks ago, Mr. Perry gladly accepted, believing he was taking on a role as a global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry that he had long championed in his home state.

In the days after, Mr. Perry, the former Texas governor, discovered that he would be no such thing — that in fact, if confirmed by the Senate, he would become the steward of a vast national security complex he knew almost nothing about, caring for the most fearsome weapons on the planet, the United States’ nuclear arsenal…

…Mr. Perry, who once called for the elimination of the Energy Department, will begin the confirmation process Thursday with a hearing before the Senate Energy Committee. If approved by the Senate, he will take over from a secretary, Ernest J. Moniz, who was chairman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics department and directed the linear accelerator at M.I.T.’s Laboratory for Nuclear Science. Before Mr. Moniz, the job belonged to Steven Chu, a physicist who won a Nobel Prize.

And…now we have Rick Perry. Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine sums up Perry and the Department of Energy with a simple Tweet:

Gardner Disses Obama Hard One Last Time

As caught on camera by The Hill yesterday, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner is snarling mad at outgoing President Barack Obama over the commutation of whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s sentence as the clock ticks down toward Donald Trump’s inauguration:

REPORTER: And what about the Manning commutation?

GARDNER: The, I’m sorry?

REPORTER: The Chelsea Manning commutation.

GARDNER: Uh, look. The last actions Barack Obama has made is to stab Israel in the back with passage of the U.S. resolution, now he’s stabbed the American people in the back by pardoning a traitor. [Pols emphasis]

It could have been worse, we suppose. We’ll refrain from speculating how lest we give Gardner any ideas.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (January 19)

It’s your last night in the White House, so you know what that means…who is picking up the keg? It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. 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…

► Congressional Republicans continue to push ahead in trying to repeal (and possibly replace, maybe) Obamacare despite the fact that public opinion polls regularly show rising support for the Affordable Care Act. As the Washington Post reports, this has led to a political strategy whereby GOP elected officials go out of their way to avoid talking about the issue to other people:

After Sen. Thom Tillis said he would be talking to constituents live on Facebook Wednesday, more than 200 people submitted questions — many of them pointed queries about his views on health care.

While Tillis’s office had advertised a 30-minute event, the senator ultimately appeared on camera for 11 minutes, answering eight questions read to him by a staff member…

…Tillis did not acknowledge any of the follow-up questions that popped up in the comments alongside his video, including requests for more details on the GOP replacement plan. But he did avoid the sort of viral spectacle that many of his fellow lawmakers have encountered over the past week as the debate over repealing the Affordable Care Act got underway in Washington…

…Seven years after unruly Democratic town halls helped stoke public outrage over the Affordable Care Act, Republicans now appear keen to avoid the kind of dust-ups capable of racking up millions of views on YouTube and ending up in a 2018 campaign commercial. Only a handful of GOP lawmakers have held or are planning to host in-person town hall meetings open to all comers — the sort of large-scale events that helped feed the original Obamacare backlash in the summer of 2009.

There is definitely a very good plan somewhere, so don’t you worry about that. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) wouldn’t lie to you, now would he? Jason Salzman calls on Colorado media outlets to be specific in their questions for Republicans about actual replacement specifics.

 

► Congressman Tom PriceDonald Trump’s choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services, took a heavy grilling on Capitol Hill on Wednesday in his first batch of Senate confirmation hearings — with a good deal of discussion focused on Obamacare and the mythical Republican “replacement plan.” Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) sounded fed up with this vacant talk of a replacement plan and absolutely went off on Price.

 

► If you are planning on attending the “Women’s March” in Denver on Saturday, the Denver Post has some suggestions for navigating the event. More than 40,000 people are expected to descend on Civic Center Park on Saturday morning.

 

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Thursday Open Thread

“We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.”

–Martin Luther King, Jr.

Betsy DeVos Bombs in Education Sec. Confirmation Hearings

Betsy DeVos might want to do a little homework before she next talks to the Senate.

Holy crap, Betsy DeVos! President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education had her first Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday evening, and it did not go well was an absolute train wreck.

As the Washington Post reports (as well as Mother Jones, Slate, and a number of other media outlets), DeVos might be the most ill-prepared cabinet nominee we’ve seen in quite some time:

At her contentious confirmation hearing as Donald Trump’s nominee to be education secretary on Tuesday, Betsy DeVos was asked a question by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) about an important education debate involving how student progress should be measured. The query essentially rendered her speechless as she appeared not to know how to answer. When Franken told her he was upset she didn’t understand it, she did not protest.

That was just one of several moments during the hearing in which DeVos either displayed a lack of knowledge about education fundamentals or refused to answer questions that Democratic members of the Senate Education Committee believe are critical to her fitness for the job.

When Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) asked her whether she would agree that guns don’t belong in schools, she said: “I will refer back to Sen. [Mike] Enzi and the school he was talking about in Wyoming. I think probably there, I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the schools to protect from potential grizzlies.”

Guns in schools protect kids from grizzly bears? Amazingly, this wasn’t the worst comment DeVos made on Tuesday. DeVos seemed completely unfamiliar with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; she declined to agree with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) that all schools that receive public federal funds should be held to the same standards of accountability; she botched a question about gainful employment regulations; and she seemed clueless about the debate over measuring student growth through test scores, which seems like a pretty obvious topic for discussion.

DeVos didn’t even have an answer for Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) when he asked her about lessons learned from failures in trying to implement public charter schools in Detroit (DeVos is a Michigan native who was a primary architect of Detroit’s charter schools plan). This answer to this question should have been right in her wheelhouse, but instead DeVos tried to respond to Bennet by outlining a history of Detroit.

Ladies and gentlemen, your nominee for Secretary of Education!

Sen. Michael Bennet Shreds Price on Price of Obamacare Repeal


Jezebel’s Julianne Shepherd reports on a fiery exchange today between Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Tom Price, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Heath and Human Services. The subject was the large budget deficit forecast to be incurred from the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, which you would think good conservatives like Rep. Price would have qualms with:

[W]hen Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) opened up his line of questioning with the kind of genial chit-chat we’ve gotten from the Republicans, you could be forgiven for your surprise, especially from a Democrat who’s held nominees’ feet to the fire for the past few weeks.

Well, it was a ruse. Turns out, his friendliness was a lead-in to an impassioned delivery about the hypocrisy of Republicans in their efforts to repeal ACA last week, and in doing so he contextualized the knotty relationship between the ACA and the budget better than anyone I’ve seen. His vehemence and anger really hammered home how alarming the Republicans’ proposal was—and it also seemed to shake Rep. Price to a tangible degree.

Jezebel has the full seven-minute exchange posted with their story, and we recommend watching the whole thing. The transition from congenial small talk to demanding an answer to this question is remarkable, showing a flash of resolve from the often-reserved senior senator from Colorado that we expect did indeed catch Rep. Price off-guard. That Republicans are suddenly willing to accept huge new deficits from the repeal of Obamacare, when the law was reducing deficits before, is just one of many thorny contradictions they have yet to explain–relying on invective and diversion avoid having to answer the question.

Thanks to Sen. Bennet we now know that on the high cost of repealing Obamacare, Republicans don’t have an answer.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (January 18)

Your job ends on Friday and you have to move out of your house; kind of a weird way to end eight years as President. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. 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…

Donald Trump can replace the “-elect” from his title on Friday when he is inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. Meanwhile, officials in Washington D.C., Colorado, and across the country are preparing for a weekend of protests and marches. As the Denver Post reports:

Thousands of Coloradans plan to make the nearly 1,700-mile trek to the nation’s capital for the Women’s March on Washington; more are expected to attend sister marches in Denver and across the state.

Hailing from all walks of life, and marching for a variety of causes, several participants said it was their wish that the demonstrations help weave together the spectrum of activists looking to oppose Trump over the next four years.

“Marches make a difference. Activism makes a difference. If you don’t like what’s happening in Washington, then get involved,” said Polly Baca, a former Colorado state lawmaker who participated in the 1963 March on Washington.

While many Democratic elected officials are skipping Trump’s inauguration, Colorado Democrats such as Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) are planning on attending Trump’s big day on Friday. Perhaps Polis and Bennet just want to see if the band “3 Doors Down” really is still alive.

 

► Governor John Hickenlooper wants Colorado lawmakers to consider a couple of proposals designed to raise more money for public education. As Brian Eason reports for the Denver Post:

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Tuesday asked Colorado lawmakers for a 50 percent increase in sales taxes on recreational marijuana starting July 1 to send an additional $42 million to public schools.

The Democrat wants to increase the recreation sales tax on pot to 12 percent effective July 1, the same day the levy is scheduled to fall to 8 percent. The current tax rate is 10 percent.

The move is part of his plan to fill a $135 million shortfall in school funding caused by a constitutional provision that mandates a cut in residential property taxes — a primary source of money for local classrooms.

In addition, Hickenlooper proposed to cut the senior homestead property tax exemption in half, freeing another $68 million for schools. The shift would allow seniors to claim a tax break on the first $100,000 in their home value, rather than the first $200,000 allowed in current law.

Republican legislators are instinctively opposed to doing anything that would increase revenue while they wait for the Free Market Fairy to fix all of our problems.

 

► Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander is all but carrying Betsy DeVos across the finish line as she seeks to secure approval as Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education:

After postponing the secretary of education nominee’s hearing for a week, the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (known as HELP) rescheduled it for last night at the very unusual time of 5 p.m. (It then started 15 minutes late.)…

…Despite howls of protest from every Democrat on the committee, Alexander allowed each member to ask five minutes of questions. He permitted just one round of questioning, compared to the three rounds that Rex Tillerson and Jeff Sessions faced last week. Most committees also give members 10 minutes per round, not five…

…Furthermore, Alexander scheduled DeVos’s grilling before the U.S. Office of Government Ethics has even completed a review of her potential conflicts of interest. Eight years ago, Republicans insisted that every Barack Obama nominee be cleared by the OGE before a hearing was held.

As the Washington Post reports, DeVos made a number of very strange statements in her first confirmation hearing on Tuesday.

Elsewhere, Senate Republicans may be rubber-stamping Trump’s cabinet picks, but they aren’t in any hurry to complete their work; Trump will begin his first term as President on Friday with less than half of his proposed cabinet approved for work by the Senate.

 

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Gardner Obamacare Repeal Misdirection Continues

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

We took note of word last Friday that Sen. Cory Gardner was in town for the long holiday weekend, and expressed hoped that the local press would be able to press him for answers about the impending repeal of the Affordable Care Act–a process that began last week with Senate votes presided over by Gardner, who had the job of gaveling down Democrats attempting to lodge a protest to the action.

On Monday, 9NEWS’ Kyle Clark did manage to extract this quote from Gardner:

Republican Senator Cory Gardner, who would not commit to having an Affordable Care Act replacement that covers everyone with insurance now:

“What we’re trying to is make sure that we fix the mess that Obamacare created. In Colorado, hundreds of thousands had their insurance canceled, despite the promise that they’d get to keep the plans that they liked. So if you heard Mike Enzi (a Republican Senator from Wyoming) on the floor of the Senate, when the first step to repeal and replace Obamacare was taken, he talked about building a transition to make that sure people who are currently enrolled are taken care of while we build a replacement plan that we can move to that’s better than Obamacare.”

As we’ve noted many times in this space, Gardner’s reference to “hundreds of thousands” of Coloradans who had their “insurance cancelled” is fundamentally misleading. In virtually all such cases, these were notices to renew to plans that comported with the ACA’s coverage standards. Those affected did not lose their health coverage, they renewed to plans that were compliant with the ACA.

And that’s key to understand. The rate of uninsured did not go up in Colorado under the ACA, it went down. Dramatically.

But what’s going to happen when Gardner repeals Obamacare? That’s the part we don’t know–but it’s a very good bet that the “replacement” will not cover as many people. And that means there will be Coloradans who are covered by Obamacare now who will lose their coverage. Lose it–and unlike the “cancellations” Gardner has grandstanded on for years, not get it back. That’s the difference between Gardner’s rhetoric and the reality of repealing the ACA, and no reporter should accept Gardner’s line about “hundreds of thousands of Coloradans having their insurance cancelled” under Obamacare without asking this obvious followup question.

With that said, we’re glad to see any questions being asked. Keep that up.