Ken Salazar Out for Governor; Perlmutter Run Looks Closer

UPDATE: Peter Marcus of the Colorado Springs Gazette:

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter is expected to announce a run for governor as early as the end of the month, ColoradoPolitics has learned.

“If it was up to me, we would announce sooner rather than later,” confirmed Perlmutter campaign consultant Steve Welchert, a high-profile Democratic strategist.

Perlmutter’s pending announcement was pushed up by news that former interior secretary and U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar will not pursue a run for governor in 2018 on the Democratic ticket.

—–

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County)

Late last night, the Denver Post published an editorial from former Senator and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, in which Salazar makes clear that he will not run for governor:

The 2018 election for governor of Colorado is a keystone to the future greatness of Colorado. Several individuals, both Democratic and Republican, have expressed an interest in serving as governor. I will not be among them.

This has been a difficult decision, because I love Colorado. I believe I would have won an election for governor, and that I would have been a successful governor for all the people of Colorado. However, my family’s well-being must come first.

Salazar had been contemplating a run for governor for many months. Just a few weeks ago, Salazar told the Denver Post that he thought he could wait until the end of the summer to make a decision on 2018 — a timeline that was not at all realistic.

In the meantime, there has been a growing chorus of voices pushing for Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County) to run for governor. Perlmutter had said publicly and privately that he was not interested in challenging Salazar in a potential Democratic primary, but now that this is no longer a concern, the chatter surrounding Perlmutter should start to grow exponentially.

Yes, there are other Democrats already in the race or contemplating a run — including Mike Johnston and Cary Kennedy — but Perlmutter is the juggernaut candidate that Democrats have been hoping for in 2018. Perlmutter currently represents the single most important electoral county in Colorado (Jeffco), and he has won every one of his six races for Congress by at least double digits.

Make America Great (Except for Science, Arts, and Poor People)

President Trump unveiled his federal budget plans today, and HOLYCRAPWHATAREYOUTHINKING? As the Washington Post reports:

President Trump on Thursday will unveil a budget plan that calls for a sharp increase in military spending and stark cuts across much of the rest of the government including the elimination of dozens of long-standing federal programs that assist the poor, fund scientific research and aid America’s allies abroad.

Trump’s first budget proposal, which he named “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” would increase defense spending by $54 billion and then offset that by stripping money from more than 18 other agencies. Some would be hit particularly hard, with reductions of more than 20 percent at the Agriculture, Labor and State departments and of more than 30 percent at the Environmental Protection Agency.

It would also propose eliminating future federal support for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Within EPA alone, 50 programs and 3,200 positions would be eliminated.

The cuts could represent the widest swath of reductions in federal programs since the drawdown after World War II, probably leading to a sizable cutback in the federal non-military workforce, something White House officials said was one of their goals.

“President Trump’s proposed budget will have devastating consequences for our country and for Colorado. I will do my best to fight against the cuts affecting hardworking families, federal employees, businesses and research organizations.”

— Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County)

Trump probably doesn’t have the support in Congress to enact this budget proposal, which includes dramatic cuts to popular programs that nobody in their right mind would stand behind. Indeed many Congressional Republicans reacted with swift opposition. Again, from the Washington Post:

Congressional Republicans also protested cuts that might hurt their districts and states. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who had been White House budget director under President George W. Bush,  issued a statement “strongly opposing” Trump’s proposed elimination of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Portman vowed to “fight to preserve” the program, which he said had been “an invaluable resource” to Ohio by generating more than $80 billion in benefits in health, tourism and recreation. [Pols emphasis]

Yeah. Good luck finding a lot of Members of Congress who are willing to look the other way while popular local initiatives get whacked. The attack ads for someone like Sen. Portman virtually write themselves (here’s an outline of the specific programs that would be all but eliminated under Trump’s proposal). In fact, congress may be protecting Trump from himself by opposing this plan; as Politico explains, the result of Trump’s budget proposal would be a devastating blow to a good number of Trump voters:

But while Trump’s first stab at budget politics has some eye-popping cuts, if passed it would also hurt many of the voters who supported him as a result of its slashing of after-school programs, job training and disease-fighting research — a line item that both Republicans and Democrats tend to support.

Unless the Department of Defense is ready with an advanced new weapon that can blow up cancer and keep kids from getting in trouble after school, Trump’s $54 billion in extra defense spending isn’t going to mean squat for most Americans.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (March 8)

Happy International Women’s Day! Let’s go ahead and see if we can 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 has joined with House Republicans to promote a major healthcare policy change that some Republicans are calling “Obamacare-lite” (in order to conserve letters, we’re just going to stick with “Trumpcare”). Despite any happy talk you may hear from individual lawmakers, the conservative backlash is well underway. Today, the American Medical Association announced that it could not support Trumpcare, either.

Good luck trying to find consensus on Trumpcare among Colorado’s Republican delegation to Congress. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) has been a vocal supporter of the new health care legislation — even before he had a chance to read the draft document. Coffman is excited about what he calls a massive entitlement reform that would quickly eliminate Medicaid. Meanwhile, Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) continues to insist that he is opposed to any proposal that would gut Medicaid.

Politico examines seven specific pitfalls that could derail Trumpcare entirely, including a poor reception from the healthcare insurers and providers. Many conservative Republicans are also not happy with the plan being pushed by House Speaker Paul Ryan.

 

► House Republicans are moving quickly as they try to enact Trumpcare. As the Washington Post explains, outside groups are being left to figure out the details:

The House GOP is moving so fast — with debate starting in the Ways and Means Committee and Energy and Commerce Committee less than 48 hours after they unveiled their bills — that lawmakers have not yet received any estimates from congressional budget analysts of how much the plans would cost or, significantly, how many Americans could be expected to gain or lose insurance coverage…

…An analysis by S&P Global predicts the legislation would lead to a loss of coverage for 2 million to 4 million of the roughly 16 million Americans who bought their own health plans through the ACA’s marketplaces or separately. More adults 35 and younger would gain coverage, while fewer adults 45 and older would be insured, according to the analysis…

…The GOP plans also would undo an ACA rule that allows insurers to charge their oldest customers no more than three times what they charge their youngest and healthiest ones. Instead, insurers could charge five times as much…

…Larry Levitt, senior vice president for special initiatives at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said more low-income people would have a hard time affording benefits under the Republicans’ American Health Care Act. “There will be more losers than winners,” he said.

It’s not all bad news — Trumpcare is great if you are already rich.

 

► The Colorado legislature could end up convening a special session this summer if Trumpcare makes it through Congress.

 

► Women haven’t disappeared in Colorado, but this is what it might look like if they did.

 

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

Deep Jeffco Bench Ready For Perlmutter’s Next Move

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County)

Ernest Luning at the Colorado Statesman reports on the next generation of Colorado Democrats in Jefferson County, waiting to move up in the event Rep. Ed Perlmutter makes the decision to run for Governor in 2018:

Two Lakewood Democrats say they’re likely to run next year for the 7th Congressional District seat represented by U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter if the six-term incumbent Democrat jumps in the race for governor.

State Rep. Brittany Pettersen told The Colorado Statesman this week that she will run for the suburban congressional seat if Perlmutter seeks the gubernatorial nomination in 2018, and state Sen. Andy Kerr told The Statesman he’s “very seriously looking at it.”

The two legislators share many of the same constituents — Kerr held Pettersen’s House District 28 seat for three terms before winning an open seat in the upper chamber in 2012 — and both say their ability to win in their own swing districts means they’d be contenders for Perlmutter’s suburban swing seat.

Although Rep. Perlmutter’s seat is on-paper competitive, his strong leadership and deep ties to his Jefferson County constituents have made CD-7 completely unwinnable for the GOP since defeating Rick O’Donnell for Bob Beauprez’s open seat in 2006. The last real attempt at the seat was in 2012, when the late Joe Coors lost to Perlmutter 53-41%. Since then Perlmutter has faced only B-List opposition.

With that said, we do expect that Perlmutter giving up the CD-7 seat to run for Governor would embolden Republicans to make another attempt. Either Sen. Andy Kerr or Rep. Brittany Pettersen would make for excellent general election candidates against any Republican we could think of who might run–especially in potential matchups against Tim Neville, Lang SiasLibby Szabo, and other early names that have been floated.

With the biggest variable everyone is waiting on being Rep. Perlmutter’s next move, we don’t expect to see any major updates in this race until he makes his decision–a decision that reportedly depends on whether former Sen. Ken Salazar decides to run for Governor. But if Perlmutter does jump, there is a deep bench in Jefferson County waiting to fill resulting vacancies all the way down the ticket.

“Draft Ed” Movement Pushing Perlmutter for Governor

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County)

UPDATE: The Gazette has corrected their story with the appropriate Facebook link. We have adjusted the excerpt below to reflect the change.

—–

As Peter Marcus reports for the Colorado Springs Gazette, an online campaign to convince Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County) to run for Governor is growing quickly:

There seems to be more of a buzz surrounding the Jefferson County Democrat these days, though Perlmutter has been playing things close to the vest.

A Facebook page has been created, “Draft Ed Perlmutter for Governor.”

“Run, Ed, Run! Ed Perlmutter’s always a true congressman with character. Now a whole lot of us want him to be a governor with guts. Draft Ed for Gov!” the page states.

“Ed’s district has always been a top target for House Republicans. And he’s always won it, and BIG! If nominated, Ed Perlmutter will keep the Governor’s Mansion blue — and he’ll stand up to Donald Trump like few others can,” a post on the page states.

Backers of the page are even paying for Facebook sponsorship status, though who the backers are has been a mystery to many in the Jefferson County Democratic community.

The link provided in the story above directs readers to Perlmutter’s congressional campaign website; we’re assuming this is a mistake and is meant to point to this “Draft Ed Perlmutter for Governor” Facebook page instead.

 

Ken Buck Only Member of Colo. Delegation to Back Travel Ban

Rep. Ken Buck presses whatever button President Trump prefers.

Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley) has generally refused to answer reporter questions about his position on Donald Trump’s travel ban for immigrants, leaving local news outlets such as Denver7 and the Denver Post to guess about his position on one of the more pressing issues in the country. But Ernest Luning of the Colorado Statesman will not be denied; as Luning reports, Rep. Buck on Monday offered his unqualified support for the Muslim travel ban:

“Our country has always offered hope for the oppressed and homeless, but hope also requires safety and security,” Buck said. We should not let people into this country unless we can thoroughly vet them. America welcomes Muslims from 190 countries and temporarily bans all individuals from 7 countries. The President’s executive order is a temporary effort that addresses a serious issue with terrorist hot spots.”

Congressman Buck is the only member of Colorado’s Congressional delegation to offer his full support for Trump’s travel ban. Even Colorado Springs Rep. Doug Lamborn made it clear that he opposes Trump’s Executive Order creating the travel ban.

Cynthia Coffman Laying Groundwork for Gubernatorial Bid

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman wore this red thing to the Jan. 20th “Deplorables Ball.”

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is up for re-election in 2018, but she is apparently taking a hard look at running for Governor instead. We hear that Coffman has been meeting with consultants about a potential run for the state’s top job, where she would join a Republican field already likely to include State Treasurer Walker Stapleton and Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler.

After she was first elected in 2014, Coffman was briefly considered something of a rising star in the Colorado Republican Party. That spotlight dimmed considerably, however, when she inexplicably emerged at the center of a weird blackmail scandal aimed at trying to unseat State GOP Chairman Steve House not long after House was elected to oversee the State Republican Party (Coffman had endorsed House for the role just a few months earlier). The Coffmangate Scandal has never really been resolved, though Coffman is on the record with the media trying to explain why her actions did not constitute blackmail.

When House announced early last week that he would not seek re-election as State GOP Chair, it cleared up a significant hurdle that would have made a gubernatorial run much more awkward for everyone involved. From what we hear, Coffman is not particularly happy with her job as Attorney General and wouldn’t need much convincing to abandon a run for re-election.

We’re still skeptical that Coffman would be able to put together a strong team around her in a potential Gubernatorial bid (would you want to work for someone with such a penchant for tossing people under the bus?), but her recent rhetoric does seem to indicate that she could be testing the waters for a big jump in 2018. Coffman looks to be trying to channel the support of Donald Trump backers as she positions herself for a potential primary battle. As Ernest Luning wrote for the Colorado Statesman on Jan. 23:

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman told the crowd that she had noticed something different starting on the night of Nov. 8, when Trump defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to win the presidency.

“I realized I was taking deep breaths, in and out, for the first time in two years,” she said. “For me, in my two years as attorney general, I think I have been holding my breath, waiting for the next over-reach from Washington, D.C., the next horrible Supreme Court decision that does not understand or appreciate the 10th Amendment, and suddenly I could take a deep breath and not worry nearly so much about the state of our country or our beautiful Colorado.”

Cynthia Coffman was not exactly a vocal Trump supporter before the election, but she seemed to sense the rising tide on Election Night at a victory celebration for her husband, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) when she put a fist in the air and yelled, “Go Trump!” (jump ahead to :30 in the video below).

Cynthia Coffman may be trying to be the “Trump candidate” for Governor in 2018. That might not be such a great idea 18 months from now.

Democratic ’18 Guv Race a Two-Plus Affair (For Now)

Ken Salazar, Ed Perlmutter.

Ken Salazar, Ed Perlmutter.

Veteran political reporter Peter Marcus opens some speculation about the 2018 Colorado gubernatorial race over at Colorado Politics, and there are a couple of points worth reinforcing even at this early stage of the game:

Ken Salazar and his inner-circle have been quiet about what the San Luis Valley Democrat’s intentions are, though many say he is first considering the impact a run would have on his family. Salazar has already had a long career in politics, so he might just want to retire, his friends say…

Another name that keeps popping up is U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Golden, a strong campaigner who has the ability to bridge the party.

“I think he’s thinking about it, he’s trying to decide how he can best serve the state and what we need to do for the future of Colorado,” said state Rep.-elect Chris Kennedy, a Jefferson County Democrat who is close with Perlmutter.

“The biggest thing we need to take away from the election is that authenticity matters, and that’s a place where Ed Perlmutter is really strong,” Kennedy continued.

Other Democratic names in the mix for discussion purposes in Marcus’ story include former Colorado Treasurer Cary Kennedy, Sen. Michael Merrifield of Colorado Springs, and Sen. Michael Johnston of Denver–the latter being a relatively “dark horse” contender who even most political insiders don’t realize is interested in the race.

Despite a healthy field of well-qualified potential Democratic candidates, at this point serious discussion has to boil down to former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Golden. Either of these candidates are top-tier in terms of qualifications and name ID. For many years now, there has been a presumption among insider Democrats that the successorship to Gov. John Hickenlooper was Salazar’s to turn down, but Marcus is correct that this presumption may be wearing thin with the passage of time. Salazar has served at high executive levels, but he has been out of any kind of office for several years. Salazar’s most recent work with Hillary Clinton’s abortive transition team may not freshen his resume enough to clear the field for the 2018 gubernatorial race.

One other point to consider is that Perlmutter moving up to the gubernatorial race would free up a “logjam” of qualified Jefferson County Democrats to ascend–into his seat, and then into seat(s) vacated by successor candidates. It’s to Perlmutter’s credit that he has proven such an able representative in CD-7, there has never been any real dissatisfaction among Democrats with him–let alone a primary challenger. But if Ed moves up, there are lots of able young Democrats who would be ready to move up with him.

We’ll be watching closely to see what both Salazar and Perlmutter decide.

Get More Smarter on Friday (August 19)

Get More SmarterThe Rio Olympics come to a close this weekend. 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…

The Get More Smarter Show is back today, featuring an extended interview with Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County). Watch the interview and find out if Rep. Perlmutter will be going to Mars (no, really).

 

► Paul Manafort has resigned as campaign chairman for Donald Trump’s Presidential bid, just two days after Trump made significant leadership changes at the top of his organization that appeared to leave Manafort on the bench. As Chris Cillizza writes for “The Fix,” Manafort’s departure confirms the obvious:

Campaigns never, ever like to admit they are making a change as a result of problems within their operation. It shows weakness, they theorize, and weakness is bad when you are trying to get someone elected president of the United States.

Which brings me to this week and the insistence by everyone affiliated with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign that the addition of Breitbart News boss Stephen Bannon and the elevation of pollster KellyAnne Conway to the two top jobs within the organization was DEFINITELY not a shake-up.

Conway said Wednesday that calling it a shake-up was a misnomer. Rather, she said, this was an effort to “expand the senior team that allows us to meet the needs,” adding: “I think Paul Manafort as chairman and Rick Gates as deputy have done a phenomenal job building our campaign over last five or six months to put it in a competitive place going into the fall. So I look forward to continuing to work with both of them.”

Or not.

On the plus side, perhaps we have seen the last of Trump legal counsel Michael Cohen making a fool of himself answering questions on TV.

 

► Meanwhile, Trump expressed something similar to actual remorse in comments Thursday in Charlotte. Politico ponders the question of whether or not this signals an actual shift for Trump, or just an out-of-character blip on the radar:

The Republican nominee on Thursday night delivered one of his most surprising speeches yet, expressing “regret” if his past inflammatory rhetoric had caused personal pain. It was a stunning statement coming from a candidate who has said “to apologize for me is very difficult” and that his last sorry was “too many years ago to remember.”…

…But this isn’t the first time Trump has been reeled in only to return to his explosive ways. Following the firing of campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and the elevation of Manafort in June, Trump delivered a scripted and targeted speech on the stakes of the election and the importance of defeating Clinton…

…The pivot didn’t stick, however, as Trump made a series of inflammatory statements after the convention that sent his poll numbers into free fall.

If you’re holding your breath…you should probably stop.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Coffman’s “Oversight” of VA Hospital = Too Little, Too Late, Too Partisan

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Joe R*  has to go to the VA hospital for psychiatric care again – the third time this year.  An obese middle-aged man with thick grey hair, Joe wears a Vietnam ballcap,  sunglasses because he’s mostly blind, Tshirt, shorts, and flip-flops. He ‘s off his meds again, belligerent, paranoid, barely coherent. When the police come, they evaluate his condition, and gently talk him into the ambulance. But where will the ambulance take him?

Aerial view of VA Replacement Hospital 10/2015

Aerial view of VA Replacement Hospital 10/2015 – 50% completed after 11 years and $1 Billion

The “old” VA hospital on 10th and Clermont, where Joe has gone for 25 years and where they know him well, no longer has an emergency room for psychiatric triage, and they only have 20 beds in their psychiatric wing.  So the VA farms “psych emergency” patients out  to several area hospitals. Where he’ll end up, nobody knows.

Wherever the ambulance takes him, the new hospital won’t have his medical history. They won’t know what meds he’s supposed to be taking or how long he’s taken them. They won’t know what works and doesn’t work with this particular disabled veteran. So they will trank him up and warehouse him for a few days or a week, and then send him back home. This is how the VA treats those with “mental health injuries” while awaiting opening of the shiny new VA hospital.

What Joe needs, says his case manager, the social worker, and his doctors, is a residential treatment center that specializes in long term psychiatric needs of veterans. The VA had plans for such a facility, as part of the new and improved Denver VA Medical Center. The Veterans Administration has been designing and building a new “Replacement Hospital” for 12 years.  The cost of this facility has gone from $328 million to its current 1.73 billion price tag – and that may not be the final cost, and doesn’t include the psychiatric rehabilitation wing that Joe needs, nor will it have room to accommodate the outpatient caseload expected  when it is slated to  finally be completed 1/23/2018.

(more…)

Perlmutter Draws GOP Opponent With Some…Interesting Views

Bruce Baker in an extremely dark image provided by his campaign website.

Bruce Baker in an extremely dark image available at his campaign website.

Republicans in Congressional District 7 (Jefferson County) now know the name of the candidate who will not be defeating incumbent Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter in November.

Perlmutter has consistently churned out double-digit victories every two years no matter whom the GOP sets in his path, so you don’t need to know much about Westminster city council member Bruce Baker to conclude that he has virtually no chance at defeating Perlmutter. But just in case, as Ernest Luning reports for the Colorado Statesman, you’ll be interested to know that Baker sounds like a pretty terrible candidate anyway:

We need to end immigration — all immigration, not just illegal immigration,” Baker told The Colorado Statesman Tuesday. “We built this country for ourselves and our posterity, not the world’s posterity. I’m more concerned about the well-being and success of Americans than I am about some smart, willing, friendly immigrant coming from somewhere else.”

Uh, okay. Stop immigration altogether? Even Donald Trump won’t touch that one.

He said that Republicans needed to step up and draw the line on immigration the same way the party opposed slavery and went on to compare the two issues.

“Immigration is an institution of slavery,” Baker said. “It’s built on the exploitation of people. Immigration is the exploitation not only of the immigrants coming in but of the natives being displaced from their jobs. That needs to end.”

Immigration is like slavery as apples are to…yeah, you lost us completely there with the slavery comparison.

Baker is also proposing establishing a high tariff on all imports as a way to address what he called concerns about global warming and shrinking resources…

…The tariff, he said, should start at 10 percent and then be raised “on a consistent basis,” resulting in “self-sufficiency.”

So, a 10 percent minimum tariff on all imports? Let us know how that works out.

 

 

Ed Perlmutter Backs Iran Nuclear Weapons Agreement

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D).

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D).

A press release from Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s office a short while ago announced his support for the agreement between the P5+1 group of leading nations and the Islamic Republic of Iran, to prevent that country’s development of nuclear weapons:

“I support the Iran Agreement (Agreement) negotiated by the United States, Germany, China, United Kingdom, France, Russia, the European Union and Iran. The U.S. and its international partners have committed to a diplomatic solution that I believe reduces and limits Iran’s ability to develop or manufacture nuclear weapons and is in America’s best interests. This Agreement should also reduce nuclear tensions in the Middle East and will make our friend and ally, Israel, safer and less prone to nuclear conflict with Iran.”

“I have reached these conclusions after reading and re-reading the Agreement and its attachments, reviewing numerous articles pro and con, attending classified and unclassified briefings, discussing the Agreement with its proponents and opponents, and listening to military and diplomatic experts, friends, family and constituents.”

“This Agreement has far reaching and historical impacts for our foreign policy and for our international security. The Agreement is a nuclear non-proliferation agreement limiting Iran’s capacity to build nuclear bombs. It is not – nor is it intended to be – a peace agreement which resolves or eliminates all threats.”

“So, despite the diplomatic progress made toward reducing Iran’s nuclear capabilities under the Agreement, further steps must be taken to deter and discourage Iran from fulfilling its threats and to assist Israel in defending its national security.”

In Rep. Perlmutter’s statement, he outlines a range of additional steps he wants to see taken, including additional military support and cooperation with Israel, support for Israel in the United Nations, and continued congressional oversight of the agreement’s implementation. Rep. Perlmutter, a reliable supporter of Israel with ties to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), was undecided on the Iran deal for some time and was heavily lobbied by both sides of the agreement during the August recess.

Perlmutter’s support for the deal is therefore a very significant development, and puts any attempt to override President Barack Obama’s veto of the GOP-controlled Congress’ fully-anticipated disapproval of the deal that much farther out of reach.

How The Hell Can You Oppose This Bill?

The Schlagetters.

The Schlagetters.

The Colorado Independent’s Nat Stein reports on legislation co-sponsored by Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, along with Reps. Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis in the House:

Sen. Michael Bennet joined 21 other senators to introduce a bill on Monday that would reinstate honor for the estimated 100,000 military service members discharged since World War II for their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Restore Honor to Service Members Act has 97 co-sponsors in the House version, including Democrats Reps. Jared Polis and Ed Perlmutter. An identical bill failed along party lines last session.

Before the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010, service members outed as LGBT were forced out of the military with the status of “other than honorable,” “general discharge” or “dishonorable,” depending on the situation. Without honor, these veterans don’t have access to certain benefits they earned, such as health care, the GI bill and military burial. An other-than-honorable-discharge status is treated as a felony in some states, making it impossible to vote and nearly impossible to find employment.

“‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was a backward looking policy that undermined our national security and stood contrary to our national values,” Sen. Bennet said in a release. “It’s time to take steps that will help ensure these men and women receive the benefits they rightfully earned.”

The bill would correct the record by forcing the Department of Defense to remove mention of sexual orientation from discharge, reissue personnel records and hear oral testimony from people who experienced discrimination in the military. The move is more than symbolic — it would legally restore the rights that LGBT veterans have been denied.

With the end of the military’s much-reviled “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy,” along with changes in civilian law like the recent Supreme Court ruling striking down bans on same-sex marriage in the states, restoring/upgrading the discharge status of thousands of military members who were discharged over the years due to their sexual orientation seems like a no-brainer. We would compare such an action to the government’s apologies to segregated minority servicemen, or even Japanese internees–all similarly victims of past discriminatory policies that have now been repudiated. Of course we should do this.

Unfortunately, this measure by all accounts has very little chance of passage in the fully GOP-controlled Congress. Without at least a few Republican Senators willing to buck prejudice within their party and help move this bill forward, it remains what seems like a no-brainer, but in the present reality is a nonstarter.

And despite everything LGBT Americans have to celebrate today, that really sucks.

DeGette Skipping Bibi Netanyahu’s Speech

Benjamin Netanyahu.

Benjamin Netanyahu.

Controversy is building in Washington over an address to Congress by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scheduled for March 3rd–just weeks before Israeli elections, and not invited by President Barack Obama as a breach of diplomatic protocol. Netanyahu's address, pertaining to negotiations with Iran over that country's nuclear program, is controversial in Israel for the same reason, with a majority of Israeli voters saying the speech should be cancelled. Reuters:

The speech has caused controversy in Israel and the United States, where the Democrats and the White House are angry that the Republican speaker, John Boehner, invited Netanyahu to speak at a sensitive time in the nuclear negotiations between Iran and six big powers including Washington, and only two weeks before Israel's closely fought March 17 election.

Following complaints from opposition parties, election chief Salim Joubran decided that Netanyahu's address should be broadcast with a five-minute delay in Israel, giving news editors time to cut any statements deemed partisan…

President Barack Obama, at odds with Netanyahu over the Israeli prime minister's criticism of the nuclear talks, will not meet him during his visit, saying it is a breach of protocol to receive a foreign leader before an election.

As of now, most members of Colorado's delegation reportedly plan to attend Netanyahu's speech, including all the Republicans, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, and Rep. Jared Polis. Rep. Ed Perlmutter hasn't made a public announcement yet. The one Colorado representative who has said she will not attend Netanyahu's speech is…well, we just gave it away, it's Rep. Diana DeGette. Rep. DeGette has a scheduling conflict on March 3rd:

Congresswoman DeGette will not be able to attend Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech. She has had a long-standing scheduling commitment that morning to address a clinical research group about her 21st Century Cures initiative, and we just learned this morning that the Prime Minister’s speech is scheduled for 11:00, which creates a conflict for her.

Other than a highly one-sided report in the Boulder Jewish News, DeGette's decision to not attend Netanyahu's address hasn't received much press. We expect that will change as long as the speech isn't cancelled, that others will be given many chances to comment, and that Rep. Perlmutter's decision whether or not to attend will be closely watched. It's a longstanding presumption in American politics that categorical public support for Israel is mandatory for any real political viability. The problem with this address to a Republican-dominated Congress is that Netanyahu is making a partisan issue out of something that historically hasn't been. And it's forcing a conflict of loyalties that American supporters of Israel haven't been made to reckon with.

In Israel, Netanyahu has been roundly criticized even by some of his right-wing allies, mostly for appearing to put his ties to the Republican Party ahead of the close relationship Israel has always had with the United States. [Pols emphasis]

It should be noted that attending a speech is not the same thing as agreeing with it. But insofar as Netanyahu is involving Colorado politicians in Israeli domestic politics without their consent, we're obliged to point out that not every friend of Israel is a Likudnik.

Or, for that matter, a Republican.

Big Line Updated

We've updated The Big Line 2014, so head on over and take a look.

From where we're sitting, things don't look a whole lot different than they did when we last updated the Big Line. The Senate race is still close, though we maintain that Sen. Mark Udall will ultimately prevail over Congressman Cory Gardner as Democrats outperform Republicans in the ground game and the antics of the right-wing Jefferson County School Board convince more voters to oppose Republicans in general.

As for the other two marquee races in Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper seems to be steadily pulling further ahead from Republican Bob Beauprez, and the battle in CD-6 between Congressman Mike Coffman and Democrat Andrew Romanoff is a true toss-up at this stage.

What say you, Polsters? Let us know in the comments below.