Weekend Open Thread

“Voting is completely important. People in America think democracy is a given. I think of it as an ecosystem, and what gets in the way of it is politicians and apathy.”

–Henry Rollins

So You Want To “Repeal Obamacare,” Do You?

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

UPDATE: Oh, and BTW, people kinda like Obamacare after all — and are signing up in record numbers.

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With the election of Donald Trump as President and solid Republican majorities in the U.S. House and Senate, President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, is seen as a very likely target for swift repeal. After all, Republicans have made the promise to repeal Obama’s signature reform law central to the last three general election campaigns. But as Salon’s Matt Rozsa reports, the plan to repeal Obamacare is looking more convoluted every day:

Republicans are be determined to pass an Obamacare repeal bill as soon as Donald Trump becomes president in January, but after that, everything seems to be up in the air. And so, in true free-market fashion, they’re prepared to give the health insurance industry a massive bailout to counter the problems they’re going to create. [Pols emphasis]

Republicans in congress are talking to health insurance companies, The Hill reported Thursday, hoping that they can prevent a collapse of the insurance market if and when they repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The idea is for the Trump administration to pay any insurance companies that suffer heavy losses as a result of Obamacare’s repeal. This approach may prevent premiums from rising and patients from being dropped by their plans (maybe), but it would certainly be viewed as a bailout to insurance companies — one of the very charges Republicans made against President Obama when he was trying to pass the Affordable Care Act.

That Republicans are settling on a plan that would give insurance companies an enormous bailout to weather losses caused by the ACA’s repeal is particularly galling here in Colorado, where Sen. Cory Gardner has grandstanded against the idea of “Obamacare bailouts”–like the loans provided to Colorado HealthOP, the Obamacare insurance co-op forced to shut down last year after federal funds to keep the operation solvent while starting up were cut off. Despite Gardner’s role in cutting the co-op funds off, Gardner mischaracterized the “bailout” of the co-ops in terms that surely can’t make this new plan to bail out commercial insurers look good:

Several co-ops counted on these bailout provisions to keep premiums artificially low. Because these premiums were artificially low and since many co-ops were planning on receiving the bailout, many could no longer cover their expenses.

In other words, exactly what Republicans plan to do with the rest of Obamacare–bailouts to keep premiums “artificially low!” Except Republicans don’t find this presumably much larger bailout to be a problem, since it’s helping getting rid of a law they don’t like. Unfortunately, it’s anybody’s guess what we’ll end up with in the long term. The new “plan” for repeal involves a three-year “transition period,” during which Obamacare will continue to function in some capacity, followed by its eventual replacement with…something else.

They haven’t figured that part out yet.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, made a similar point. “I think once it’s repealed, you will have hopefully fewer people playing politics and [instead] coming together to try to find the best policy,” McCarthy said, before adding that “a date certain that something’s going away . . .  you know you have to have something done.” [Pols emphasis]

For the millions of Americans and thousands of Coloradans who have gotten covered through the Affordable Care Act, and millions more who have benefited from the law’s numerous reforms to coverage and care that have nothing to do with premiums, this is not reassuring in the least. As for Gardner, now so willing to swallow the “bailouts” that outraged him before they became part of a Republican plan?

Is there no one left to call out his absolute hypocrisy?

DNC Chair Candidates Converge On Denver

FRIDAY UPDATE: News breaking from today’s Democratic chair forum via Peter Marcus:

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seanscreamWashington Post via the Denver Post, big Democratic names are arriving in Denver for a forum tomorrow featuring candidates to be the next chair of the Democratic National Committee:

The “Future of the Party Forum” comes as the race for chairman of the Democratic National Committee has emerged as a proxy battle for the direction of the party with President-elect Donald Trump preparing to enter the White House and Republicans retaining control of both chambers of Congress.

The hopefuls planning to participate Friday include Ray Buckley, the chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party; Howard Dean, a former governor of Vermont; Keith Ellison, a Minnesota congressman; and Jaime Harrison, the chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party.

Several others are also eyeing the race, including Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, who earlier this week laid out her vision of where the DNC should head in a Medium post. The proposals from Hogue, who has yet to declare her candidacy, include re-examining the electoral college, in which Trump prevailed despite losing the popular vote to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota and former Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont are by most accounts the two top names in the race to be the next DNC chair. Ellison has attracted a bevy of endorsements from leading Democrats like Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, while Gov. Dean’s last tenure as DNC chair is fondly remembered by Democrats due to the success of his so-called “50 State Strategy”–a strategy that coincided with Barack Obama’s victory and the last Democratic majority in Congress.

We’ve been insulated from the worst in Colorado, but since Dean’s chairmanship ended, Democrats have lost power at every level of government, from the U.S. Senate to state houses around the country–and now the White House. The bitter presidential primary battle this year between Sanders and Hillary Clinton, which ended the rule of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz in a hail of acrimony, has left deep divisions that the next chair will have to bridge.

We doubt tomorrow’s forum will see much press coverage, but it could tell us a lot about the Democratic Party’s future.

Will Steve House Ever Be Governor? (Answer: No)

houseforgopchairPeter Marcus writes for Colorado Politics:

Colorado Republican Party Chairman Steve House is unsure whether he will seek re-election next year as he continues to mull a run for governor in 2018.

House, who has served as chairman of the party since March 2015, said he doesn’t want to put the party through chaos if he does choose to enter the gubernatorial race.

“If I were to run for governor, the one thing I would not do is run for chair again,” House told ColoradoPolitics.com.

“Just because I don’t run for chair doesn’t mean I’m going to run for governor. But the one thing I wouldn’t do to the party is run for chair and then drop out and run for governor, because I think that would be too damaging for the party.”

The first and most obvious point here is that the GOP field to run for Colorado’s open gubernatorial seat in 2018 is full of bigger names than party chairman Steve House, such as Treasurer Walker Stapleton. It would be a major surprise for all of the candidates higher up the food chain to pull out or fail to the extent that House might be competitive.

As far as House running again for Colorado GOP chairman, it’s hard to see that working out much better. House’s high-profile clash with Attorney General Cynthia Coffman was enormously damaging to both House’s and Coffman’s reputations, and the unresolved bad blood stemming from that red-on-red battle strongly points to a change of leadership at the earliest opportunity. And all that before even considering the still-unresolved #NeverTrump fiasco, part of a chain of events that could leave Colorado in the proverbial doghouse during the incoming Donald Trump administration.

What was it House did before he got into politics again? That’s probably where he should be looking for his next opportunity.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (December 1)

Get More SmarterDecember? Holy crap! 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…

► Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) famously pledged during the 2016 campaign that he would “stand up” to Donald Trump if the Republican nominee were elected President. Well, Congressman, here’s a good opportunity for you — unless you happen to think that Sarah Palin is somehow uniquely qualified to serve as the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Coffman is, after all, the Chairman of the Oversight and Accountability Subcommittee within the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

 

► President-elect Donald Trump begins his post-election victory lap today with stops in the Midwest. From the Washington Post:

The billionaire businessman quipped throughout the campaign that America is going to win so much when he’s president that people are going to get tired of winning. This morning he flies to Indiana to tout the first such win, a deal he cut with Carrier to keep 1,000 jobs in the U.S. that were otherwise going to Mexico. (He’ll tour a plant that will no longer be closing.) From there, he flies to Cincinnati for a blowout rally at U.S. Bank Arena, the first stop of a “Thank You Tour” that will also take him to Iowa and Michigan in the coming days.

► Questions continue to swirl about Donald Trump’s “deal” with Carrier that purportedly will prevent moving 1,000 jobs to Mexico. For Republicans, this is a particularly thorny issue; interfering with the free market is not exactly a core GOP issue.

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

The Perfect Chance For Mike Coffman To “Stand Up To Trump”

Former Gov. Sarah Palin (R).

Former Gov. Sarah Palin (R).

ABC News reports, the parade of horribles making up President-elect Donald Trump’s prospective Cabinet took another wild turn yesterday:

Sarah Palin is under consideration for secretary of veterans affairs, a close Palin aide and a top Donald Trump transition official told ABC News.

The Palin aide said that Palin recently told Trump transition officials, “I feel as though the megaphone I have been provided can be used in a productive and positive way to help those desperately in need.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs is the largest government agency, with over 300,000 federal employees and a budget of $182 billion for 2017…

Palin, the GOP’s 2008 vice presidential nominee, has not been to Trump Tower in New York City to meet with the president-elect, but she was one of his earliest and highest-profile endorsers. The Palin aide said she has had discussions with the transition team, and the top transition official confirms this.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who resigned from office before completing her term after celebrity called above her responsibilities as governor, has little relevant experience for the important job of VA Secretary–and it’s very difficult to see how she would be a qualified candidate for this position. Depending on how you feel about Palin, one of America’s most polarizing and brash political luminaries, you might find that to be an understatement.

GOP Rep. Mike Coffman, a veteran who has campaigned hard on his efforts to “hold the VA accountable” for cost overruns at the Aurora VA hospital construction site, promised voters in his swing district that he would “stand up to Donald Trump”–a promise already in question after Coffman enthusiastically backed up Trump’s harsh immigration agenda as soon as the election was over.

Well folks, assuming Coffman’s concern for the Department of Veterans Affairs was a real thing instead of just a political affectation to win votes, we expect he’ll have to comment about a perhaps singularly unqualified candidate to run it.

Right?

Denver Post’s Bizarre Backhanded Endorsement of Beauprez

THURSDAY UPDATE: Sen. Cory Gardner adds some Marcomentum to Beauprez’s bid:

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Bob Beauprez.

Bob Beauprez.

Moments ago, the Denver Post’s editorial board released…well, the title makes it clear it’s an endorsement of two-time Colorado GOP gubernatorial loser Bob Beauprez for Interior Secretary in President-elect Donald Trump’s administration, but the content?

It’s not quite damning with faint praise, but…

We were glad to learn Beauprez had made President-elect Donald Trump’s list for the position that oversees federal lands, even if environmentalists were not.

Beauprez has gotten a bad rap in the environmental community, perhaps deservedly, [Pols emphasis] as a man who subdivided his parents’ farm into a sprawling housing development and golf course in Lafayette. And for his recorded votes in Congress to open up more federal lands for oil and gas leasing while reducing regulation surrounding critical habitats for endangered species.

Remember, folks, this is a newspaper with a longstanding editorial tradition at least somewhat in acknowledgement of fundamentals like science and critical thinking. And we are talking about a politician who says that climate change is a “complete hoax.”

But apparently, says the Post’s editorial board, that’s no problem! Because the world is going to hell anyway.

No seriously, that’s what they say:

It’ll be a stark transition for the nation’s public lands no matter who Trump taps as the next secretary of the interior. [Pols emphasis] For Colorado and the West, that transition will be made a bit easier by having someone in office who we know and trust.

With a few edits, this endorsement of Beauprez for Interior Secretary could made easily made into an editorial opposing his nomination. It’s not the first time the Post’s editorial board has left us scratching our heads as to the decisions that led to an oddly-worded backhanded endorsement, which are sometimes rumored to emanate from a higher level than the editorial board members themselves. If so, that could indicate Beauprez is a more serious candidate for the job than first thought, in which case we’ll be talking about “Both Ways Bob” much more going forward.

Either way, in this case not only is the Post again making an endorsement contrary to their stated editorial position on the pertinent issues, they’re straining their credibility to the breaking point to do it.

Thursday Open Thread

“There is a strong tendency to get used to and accept very bad things that would be shocking if seen with fresh eyes.”

–Ray Dalio

Darryl Glenn’s Unfortunately-Named Consulting Firm Highlights Old Problem

Crossfit champion and political enthusiast Darryl Glenn.

Workout warrior/political enthusiast Darryl Glenn has some advice for you.

You may have missed the news earlier this week that El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, fresh off his “campaign” as the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, is opening his own political consulting firm. As the Colorado Springs Gazette reported on Monday:

The El Paso County commissioner said DLG Esquire Attorney at Law will focus on assisting strategic policymakers, business and neighborhood leaders in “implementing innovative solutions to growing community challenges.”

“My experience as a county commissioner has taught me that the best ideas often come from our neighbors, church groups and community. But turning a great idea into a reality takes knowledge and ability,” Glenn said in a statement. “That’s where DLG Esquire comes in. Our team takes an idea and gives it life.” [Pols emphasis]

Glenn’s firm will help clients navigate the initiative, social enterprise and campaign processes, according to a news release.

We can all agree that “DLG Esquire” is a horrendous name for any business that isn’t an escort service; try telling your boss that you want to hire “DLG Esquire” for any reason and make sure to let us know how that conversation turns out. Of course, if you’re interested in paying Darryl Glenn for political advice (or to come up with advertising ideas) then the name you write on your check is probably the least of your problems.

But there is a larger issue at play here regarding outside employment for full-time elected officials in El Paso County. Back in 2011, the Colorado Springs Independent ran a well-sourced story trying to understand why full-time elected officials in Colorado Springs are allowed to moonlight in any capacity…and guess who showed up with a quotation?

Just because El Paso County’s elected officials are paid $87,300 a year doesn’t mean they can’t have second jobs. Several do. Two own law firms, another runs a bed and breakfast, and yet another works in real estate.

No law or policy bans such moonlighting, or even requires officials to divulge those outside interests, although the four officials referenced above have done so. And with no mandate for disclosure — unlike in city or state government — there’s no way for voters to know when county elected officials might encounter a conflict of interest between their public and private roles…

Commissioner Darryl Glenn, who took office last month, says county officials should have to report private interests and assets, like City Council members must, and also disclose potential conflicts. (“I don’t have any,” he says.) Similarly, state officials are required to report sources of income and ownership on personal financial disclosure forms.

Glenn still has his hand in two businesses. He helps his wife run the Ultimate Fitness Zone “in the evening and on weekends.” And he retains ownership of Glenn Law Firm PC, despite serving as the commission’s liaison to the court. He says he has “restructured” his role in the firm and no longer takes cases, leaving his wife as sole litigator, “because I have to interact with the chief judge.” [Pols emphasis]

Need a key vote from an El Paso County Commissioner? It wouldn’t be a bad idea to hire Glenn’s consulting firm in the meantime; go ahead and try to argue that this isn’t a blatant conflict of interest.

Some Colorado municipalities do have policies in place that discourage outside employment when you are being paid a full-time salary for a full-time job, but this is a policy that should be implemented and enforced at a statewide level. While it’s true that the term-limited Glenn won’t be serving on the El Paso County Board of Commissioners for much longer, it’s completely absurd that he is allowed to operate a political consulting firm while simultaneously casting votes on behalf of residents of one of Colorado’s largest counties.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (November 30)

Get More SmarterThere are 24 shopping days until Christmas.  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…

► President-elect Donald Trump continues to talk in vague terms about separating himself from his business affairs once he is sworn-in as President in January. Trump Tweeted on Wednesday that documents “are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations.” Uh, ok.

 

► Remember Donald Trump’s promises to “drain the swamps” of political patronage in Washington D.C.? This is probably not what you had in mind. Even when he does go a different direction with top political appointments, Trump ends up filling his own swamp with strange creatures. From the Associated Press:

President-elect Donald Trump has filled more top posts on his economic team — picking former Goldman Sachs executive Steven Mnuchin as treasury secretary and financier Wilbur Ross to lead the Commerce Department.

Mnuchin is confirming that he and Ross are joining Trump’s Cabinet, pending confirmation by the Senate.

Mnuchin was Trump’s top fundraiser during his Presidential campaign.

 

► House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi had little trouble winning re-election to her post as head of the Congressional Democrats. From the Washington Post:

Pelosi easily toppled Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), a seven-term lawmaker who launched an upstart bid to lead House Democrats two weeks ago in response to the party’s disappointing November election results…

…Pelosi vowed to expand the number of seats at the leadership table to stave off defections and leave her firmly in charge of a caucus ruled by an “iron fist,” as Senate counterpart, Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) once described her leadership style.

There are 194 members of the House Democratic caucus, and four nonvoting delegates are allowed to vote in caucus elections. On Wednesday, 197 of the 198 members showed up. Pelosi won with 134 votes, compared with 63 votes for Ryan in a secret-ballot election held in the committee room of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Colorado Democrats had been split on their choice for Minority Leader. Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County) publicly backed challenger Tim Ryan, while Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Denver) and Jared Polis (D-Boulderish) remained quiet on their choices and presumably backed Pelosi for re-election.

 

► Former Congressional candidate and outgoing state Senator Morgan Carroll plans to make a bid to lead the Colorado Democratic Party.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump supporter and former Congressional candidate George Athansopoulos is pushing to become the next head of the State Republican Party. Current State GOP Chair Steve House has not yet decided whether or not he will seek re-election early next year.

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

Caption This Photo: President-elect Donald and an Unhappy Mitt

Here’s the photo making the rounds as meme fodder today, from President-elect Donald Trump’s dinner with 2012 GOP presidential loser Mitt Romney at the Jean Georges restaurant in the Trump International Hotel:

You’ll recall that Gov. Romney was one of Trump’s most vicious critics during the Republican primary, calling Trump a “fraud” and charging that Trump’s “promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.”

Now that Trump is President-elect, that crow looks wonderful.

Wednesday Open Thread

“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. Yet that will be the beginning.”

–Louis L’Amour

Morgan Carroll Runs For Colorado Democratic Party Chair

Sen. Morgan Carroll.

Sen. Morgan Carroll.

As the Denver Post’s Mark Matthews reports, Colorado Democratic Party chairman Rick Palacio announced today that he will not seek another term, creating an opening for one of the most important jobs on the left side of the aisle in our state:

Rick Palacio, the chair of Colorado’s Democratic party, announced in an email Tuesday that he won’t seek re-election to the position he’s held for six years.

With a “new year also comes new beginnings, so I’m reaching out to you to let you know that when our party reorganizes this spring, I will begin a new adventure and I won’t be seeking re-election as your party chair,” he wrote.

Palacio did not specify in the email what he plans to do next, and in a follow-up phone call declined to say what’s ahead for him. But he said he wants state Sen. Morgan Carroll, who lost a bid this year to unseat U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, to take his place.

What we’ve heard is that Sen. Morgan Carroll is in, and is busy as we write consolidating support among the party faithful. Carroll may not be the only candidate to throw her hat in, with the last unsuccessful challenger to Palacio, Dave Sabados, and Bennet for Colorado outreach director Lily Griego both rumored to be interested. With that said, Carroll is certainly the biggest name in the mix, and her years of experience as a legislative candidate make her a highly qualified choice–perhaps enough to clear the field entirely.

We’re sure to have more updates as the party chair election gets closer, so stay tuned.