Senator Gardner Searches for Meaning in White House Field Trip

Colorado Senator Michael Bennet (far right) boards a bus for a field trip to the White House on Wednesday. Most forgot to pack their lunches.

The U.S. Senate took a field trip to the White House on Wednesday for a “policy briefing” on North Korea that was really just a poorly-disguised photo op for President Trump to convince Americans — on the eve of his first 100 days in office — that he really does do Presidential stuff from time to time. As CNN reports:

It was quite the spectacle.

Nearly every member of the world’s greatest deliberative body piling onto buses to take the mile-long ride to the White House on Wednesday afternoon was the definition of a made-for-TV moment…

…Ostensibly the reason for the trip was a classified briefing on the growing threat posed by North Korea and its quest for nuclear weapons. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, led the briefing. (The quartet later briefed House members — on Capitol Hill.)…

…Trump, of course, is far from the only president (or politician) to stage a photo op. It happens all the time. But rarely do you see US senators used as the scenery the way they were on Wednesday.

As with most field trips, it appears that Wednesday’s “Day at the White House” was not much of a learning experience:

“We learned nothing you couldn’t read in the newspaper,” Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley told CNN’s Erin Burnett Wednesday night. “It felt more like a dog-and-pony show to me than anything else,” Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “I guess it has something to do with this 100 days in office.”

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) displays his “serious North Korea face.”

Meanwhile, Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) put on his “Trump Toady” outfit in an effort to spin Wednesday’s spectacle into something more than just political theater (President Trump himself spent just a few minutes at the big meeting). From Peter Roper of the Pueblo Chieftain:

“I came out of the classified briefing with a pragmatic but sober realization that we face a significant threat from North Korea but we are changing course and are going to put more pressure on that regime,” the Republican senator said.

Gardner chairs a Senate subcommittee on East Asia and has become an often-quoted authority on North Korea. [Pols emphasis]

Go back and read those two sentences one more time. Gardner is an “often-quoted authority on North Korea” who chairs a Senate subcommittee on East Asia, but he would like you to believe that Wednesday’s meeting at the White House brought him to the “sober realization” that North Korea is a problem. Denver7 has a separate story citing fellow Senators Marco Rubio and Jeff Flake talking up Gardner as the Senate’s “go-to person” on North Korea.

If Gardner is truly an authority on North Korea, then Wednesday’s meeting at the White House was complete nonsense and a waste of the Senate’s time. Or…Gardner doesn’t really know much about North Korea and needed yesterday’s field trip to learn about the dangers of Kim Jong Un. It’s one or the other here.

What you can do to fight back this week (April 10)

Today, as you probably already know, Neil Gorsuch was sworn in to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Neil Gorsuch is from Colorado, but his record stands in opposition to the values we care about as Coloradans. Gorsuch’s confirmation is a disappointment, and we can only hope that the grave concerns Americans have expressed about Gorsuch’s judgment are proven wrong.

But it could have been even worse. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado faced intense pressure to support Gorsuch. Elites from both parties, local newspapers, and millions of dollars in ads urged Bennet to vote yes on Gorsuch’s confirmation. In the end Bennet voted against filibustering Gorsuch, hoping to defend the Senate against the so-called “nuclear option.” It was a symbolic vote, since Democrats already had the voted they needed to filibuster and Republicans had already decided to use the “nuclear option” to force a vote on Gorsuch’s confirmation.

Despite all the pressure on Bennet to back a fellow Coloradan, he did the right thing and voted against Gorsuch’s confirmation. Bennet’s vote against Gorsuch proved he puts Colorado values before political expediency. On a day that was bound to disappoint, Bennet did something you can be proud of. And it’s the direct result of actions you took to oppose Gorsuch in his home state.

We’ve got to keep the pressure on our lawmakers. Congress has adjourned for a two-week Easter recess. Cory Gardner continues to hide from his constituents, but other representatives have announced public hearings. It’s vital that Coloradans make their voices heard in these two weeks before lawmakers go back to Washington, where Trump’s destructive budget and many other challenges await.

Here are ways for you to fight back for the week of April 10:


Rally Against Child Abuse

You are invited to join our partners, community leaders, advocates, and volunteers as we come together on the steps of the Margaret Carpenter Park Amphitheatre on Monday, April 10th, 2017 from 5:30 – 6:30pm, to declare April Child Abuse Awareness & Prevention Month. Stand up for the children in our community, make their voices heard, and join in envisioning a bright future for every child.

Where: Margaret W Carpenter Park colorado blvd and112th, Thornton
When: Monday, April 10 at 5:30pm

Click here to RSVP.


Parvais & Saul of The Death Penalty Project

The Distinguished Speakers Board is pleased to announce a free community event this Spring: The Death Penalty Project. Parvais Jabbar and Saul Lehrfreund will speak on April 10th at CU Boulder’s Wittemyer Courtroom in the Wolf Law building. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and the event will begin at 7:00 p.m. There will be a Q&A portion with the audience following the event.This is a concurrent event with the Conference on World Affairs.

Where: Wolf Law Building CU 2450 Kittredge Loop Rd, Boulder
When: Monday, April 10 at 7:00pm

Click here to RSVP.


Trump, Russia and the Panama Papers

Join us Monday, April 10 at 7:30 p.m. as Kevin Hall, the national economics correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers, talks about his work covering the “Panama Papers,” the huge leak of files detailing how the wealthy use offshore structures to avoid paying taxes in their home countries. McClatchy was the only U.S. newspaper partner during the yearlong, global investigation. Hall’s Panama Papers work has already won awards from George Polk, the Overseas Press Club, SABEW Best In Business, Scripps Howard, Online Journalism Association, Barlett & Steele and the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

Where: The Denver Press Club 1330 Glenarm Pl, Denver
When: Monday, April 10 at 7:30pm

Click here to RSVP.


CO FAMLI Act Rally & Press Conference

Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act (FAMLI) HB17-1307 is introduced! FAMLI Act is significant! The United States is the only industrialized country in the world without paid family leave. We are thrilled that Representative Faith Winter has sponsored the bill again and is leading with a Colorado solution to ensure the well-being and financial stability of working families.

Where: 9to5 Colorado, 1634 Downing St, Unit A, Denver
When: Tuesday, April 11 at 12:00pm

Click here to RSVP.


Final Resist Trump Tuesday–Resistance Recess!

The first Resistance Recess in February was a huge success, and constituent activity has been widely credited with building the power to stop Trump and Ryan from taking away our health care. As Trump remains under investigation and as Congress continues to push Trump’s unconstitutional and dangerous agenda, we must make sure that no one allows the passing of time to normalize this president and his harmful policies.

Where: Skyline Park, 1125 17th St., Denver, Colorado
When: Tuesday, April 11 at 12:00pm

Click here to RSVP.


Durango Protest Against the Bombing of Syria

No Justice No Peace!

Where: Santa Rita Park, 2700 Main Ave, Durango
When: Tuesday, April 11 at 4:00pm

Click here to RSVP.


The Frontlines Are Everywhere: Grand Jury Resistance Tour

This Spring #NoDAPL water protectors and the Water Protector Anti-Repression Crew will be facilitating trainings across Turtle Island sharing knowledge about resistance to the grand jury convened against water protectors at Standing Rock. We want to build our capacities for strong movement defense against state repression.

Where: Fort Lewis College 1000 Rim Dr, Durango
When: Tuesday, April 11 at 5:30pm

Click here to RSVP.


NO to Right to Discriminate Bill – Call Night

Join us at the One Colorado office to call our supporters about LGBTQ equality. The Colorado Legislature introduced a bill this week that, if it became law, would legally allow discrimination against the LGBTQ community. Senate Bill 17-283 would allow businesses and individuals to claim that any belief they hold gives them permission to exempt themselves from non-discrimination laws they don’t want to follow.

Where: One Colorado 1490 Lafayette St, Ste 304, Denver
When: Tuesday, April 11 at 6:00pm

Click here to RSVP.


Trump Tax March Comedy Benefit Show

Strengthening Democracy Colorado and the Denver branch of the Tax March for Donald Trump’s Tax Returns is putting on a special show at the Oriental Theater filled with several of the top comedians around Denver! Joining us for the show are comedians Zac Maas, Christie Buchele, Harry Baber, Conner Roma, and Alan Bromwell!

Where: The Oriental Theater, 4335 W 44th Ave, Denver
When: Tuesday, April 11 at 7:00pm

Click here to RSVP.


ACLU of Colorado – Women & Families Wednesday

Join ACLU of Colorado at the Colorado State Capitol for our Women & Families Wednesday!

Where: Colorado State Capitol, 200 E Colfax, Denver
When: Wednedsay, April 12 at 8:15am

Click here to RSVP.


Testify in Support of HB17-1256–Increasing oil and gas setbacks from schools

HB17-1256 requires oil and gas operations yo be 1000′ from school property line. If it is good enough for marijuana dispensaries, oil and gas should be held to the same standard. The hearing will be in room 357 upon adjournment which should be around 10 am.

Where: Colorado State Capitol, 200 E Colfax, Denver
When: Wednedsay, April 12 at 10:00am

Click here to RSVP.


Religious Exemptions In Disguise Press Conference & Hearing

This Wednesday, April 12th, the State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee of the Colorado Senate will consider a Right to Discriminate bill that would let individuals and businesses claim ANY of their personal beliefs — including religious beliefs — allow them to refuse to follow non-discrimination laws they don’t like. Join us for a press conference in the West Foyer of the Colorado State Capitol at 12:20 p.m. with a coalition of Colorado business owners, faith leaders, and community groups.

Where: Colorado State Capitol, 200 E Colfax, Denver
When: Wednedsay, April 12 at 12:20pm

Click here to RSVP.


Rep. Mike Coffman Townhall (CO-06)

Right-wing Rep. Mike Coffman is holding a town hall meeting to discuss “all of the critical issues facing our community, state, and nation.” This event is open to residents of Coffman’s district only and registration is required.

Where: Education Building 2 South, CU Anschutz Campus
When: Wednesday, April 12 doors open at 5:00pm

Click here to RSVP.


March for President Donald Trump’s Tax Returns

President Donald Trump’s team has gone back and forth over whether or not they will be releasing his taxes, and no date has been set in the event that they are. We have one demand: President Donald Trump will release his tax returns.

Where: Denver’s Civic Center Park, 101 W 14th Ave, Denver
When: Saturday, April 15 at 10:00am

Click here to RSVP.


Thanks again for everything you are doing to fight back against President Trump and the far right here in Colorado and in Washington. The hard fact is that elections matter, and we’re not going to win every battle. But every time we respond to the latest bad news, and show the world that Trump does not speak for all of us, that’s a small victory we can build on.

America will outlast Donald Trump and emerge stronger. You are the reason why.

BREAKING: Bennet Will Vote No On Gorsuch’s Confirmation

UPDATE: The Hill:

Bennet initially opposed a Democratic filibuster of Gorsuch’s nomination, siding with Republicans in a failed vote to end debate. After Republicans changed the rules and lowered the procedural threshold from 60 votes to 51, he voted against Gorsuch.

Bennet has blamed both parties for the stalemate and added on Thursday that the decision to go “nuclear” does “lasting damage” to the Supreme Court…

With Bennet’s opposition, 45 senators are expected to vote against Gorsuch’s confirmation. Only Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.) — who are each up for reelection in red states in 2018 — are expected to join Republicans in their support.

—–

Sen. Michael Bennet (D)

Sen. Michael Bennet’s long-awaited statement just released moments ago via the Colorado Independent, Colorado’s senior U.S. Senator will be voting against the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court:

Today’s changes to the Senate’s rules have done lasting damage to the Supreme Court and our process for approving nominees. With these changes, justices may now be confirmed with the narrowest partisan majority. Allowing the judiciary to become a pure extension of our partisan politics is precisely the outcome our Founders feared. Moving forward, lifetime appointments to our highest court could become just another political exercise.

We cannot ignore this new reality, and I am forced to consider President Trump’s current nominee – and all future nominees – in that context.

I am proud Judge Gorsuch is from Colorado. He is a qualified judge who deserves an up-or-down vote. That is the tradition of the Senate, and it is why I opposed a filibuster before the rule change.

Judge Gorsuch is a very conservative judge and not one that I would have chosen. For the reasons I made in my floor speech, I had concerns about his approach to the law. Those concerns grow even more significant as we confront the reality that President Trump may have several more opportunities to transform the Court with a partisan majority.

For all these reasons, I will vote no on the nomination.

Bennet’s decision to oppose Gorsuch’s nomination puts an end to weeks of pressure from both sides, and should go a long way to restoring trust in Bennet among the Colorado Democratic base. Again, Democrats had the votes needed to mount the now-crushed filibuster of Gorsuch without Bennet, which left Bennet free to argue for the preservation of the Senate’s deliberative traditions. That argument was unsuccessful, but now Bennet can claim the high ground as he casts his vote against Gorsuch on the merits.

And yes, barring something no one expects at this point Neil Gorsuch will now be confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court. It was always really a question of how that would happen, not if, and what kind of resistance would be possible on the way to that inevitability. We’d say opponents acquitted themselves as well as they possibly could under bleak circumstances.

As of tomorrow afternoon, it’s all over–except some shouting, and of course decades of Gorsuch on the court.

Hey Sen. Bennet, These Nice People Found Your Backbone

Since President Donald Trump’s inauguration, there have been weekly protests against Sen. Cory Gardner over the range of issues making headlines from Washington, D.C. outside Gardner’s downtown Denver offices near 17th and Arapahoe.

This week, following the announcement Monday that Colorado’s Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet will not join the Democratic filibuster of Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, the protests moved south–to Bennet’s Denver office at 11th and Sherman:

The hardy group, unfazed by heavy snow that had fallen just hours before in Denver, marched south along Lincoln St. from the Civic Center area to Bennet’s offices:

And delivered a petition calling on Bennet to oppose Neil Gorsuch. A friendly Bennet staffer (below right) accepted the petitions–and something else, too:

You’ll find out on Friday, the day the Senate is set to vote, if Sen. Bennet received the, um, delivery! We’ll update this post with statements and coverage of today’s event as we see them.

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…)

CALL SEN. BENNET and other things you can do to fight back this week (April 3)

Saturday morning in Denver’s Civic Center Park, hundreds of Coloradans braved rain and snow to send a message to Colorado’s Senators objecting to Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A message you could see from space.

Learn more about this amazing event at the Denver Post and CBS4.

Many thanks to our hard-working friends in local grassroots groups Indivisible Denver, Indivisible Front Range Resistance, and Together We Will Colorado for helping make this visual demonstration a huge success. Week after week, I am awed by the energy and creativity of Coloradans who have stepped up to fight back against Donald Trump and the right wing’s dangerous agenda for our country.

This morning, Colorado’s Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet announced that he will not join the filibuster against Gorsuch’s nomination. It’s very disappointing that Sen. Bennet has chosen not to stand with the Democratic caucus in the United States Senate and take every action possible to oppose Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. And it’s critical that we redouble our efforts to demand that he vote no on Trump’s illegitimate nominee.

The first thing you need to do to fight back this week is call Sen. Bennet’s office and demand he vote no on Gorsuch’s confirmation. To reach Bennet’s Denver office, call 303-455-7600. For Bennet’s Washington, D.C. office, call 202-224-5852. Let Sen. Bennet respectfully know that you are disappointed he will not filibuster Gorsuch, and that a vote to confirm Gorsuch will seriously damage his relationship with his progressive base of support.

Once you’ve taken action to stop Gorsuch, here are lots of other great ways to fight back for the week of April 3:


Resist Trump Tuesday: Tell Bennet #StopGorsuch

MoveOn Front Range has spent the last ten Tuesdays Resisting Trump in Denver’s Skyline Park outside of Senator Gardner’s office. This week, we turn our attention to Senator Bennet, who has yet to say if he will vote to advance the nomination of Judge Gorsuch, whose extreme views will take us back decades. We know that a Donald Trump Supreme Court will legitimize his hateful policies, undo decades of civil rights progress and destroy the foundations of our democracy for generations, and now we need to make sure that our Democratic Senator stands with us. We intend to form a moving picket line all around the block that includes Bennet’s office. Bring signs!

Where: Sen. Michael Bennet’s office, 1127 Sherman St., Denver
When: Tuesday, April 4 ay 12:00pm

Click here to RSVP.


The Gorsuch Nomination and Issues at Stake for the Future of the Court

Join us for a panel discussion on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court rules on the most pressing issues of our time and impacts nearly every aspect of our lives. Our speakers will discuss how this nomination will affect communities already at risk under the current administration. Representing women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, workers’ rights, and more, they will provide particular insight on how Gorsuch’s judicial approach threatens progress on the issues at stake and the future of the court. As the impending vote on his nomination nears, join us for a discussion on how it affects you and the issues you care about.

Where: Ross Cherry Creek Public Library, 305 Milwaukee St., Denver
When: Tuesday, April 4 ay 5:00pm

Click here to RSVP.


National Popular Vote Town Hall with State Senator Andy Kerr

Please join me for a special town hall to continue the discussion on my National Popular Vote bill which was killed by Senate Republicans earlier this legislative session. I will be joined by Melissa Hart, Professor of Law at the University of Colorado Boulder, and Elena Nunez from Colorado Common Cause. More speakers to be announced.

Where: Alameda High School, 1255 S Wadsworth Blvd, Lakewood
When: Tuesday, April 4 at 6:30pm

Click here to RSVP.


Denver Urban Camping Ban is Finally On Trial!

The DHOL homeless activists who had their sleeping bags confiscated in the cold of November 28, 2016, will HAVE THEIR DAY IN COURT! Denver’s inhumane Urban Camping Ban is finally on trial! Defendants Randy Russel, Therese Howard and Jerry Burton face multiple counts of 38-36.2 “Unauthorized camping on public or private property” as they advocated for homeless rights on the steps of Denver City Hall. The three are represented by gonzo defense attorney Jason Flores-Williams. They come before Judge Lombardi in Division 3H.

Where: Lindsey-Flanagan Courthouse, 520 W Colfax Ave, Denver
When: Tuesday, April 4 at 9:00am to Friday, April 7 at 5:00pm

Click here to RSVP.


Resistance Happy Hour

Denver Resistance Happy Hour, April 6, 5:30pm, Lowdown Brewery at Lincoln and 8th. This is the first of what will be a monthly event, every first Thursday. People will come to hang out with like minded folks, to share ideas, to recruit for their own projects, to motivate and get motivated, to find a place in the movement, to commiserate at times and to celebrate.

Where: Lowdown Brewery, 8th and Lincoln, Denver
When: Thursday, April 6 at 5:30pm

Click here to RSVP.


We all know that elections matter, and that we’re not going to win every battle we are obliged to fight now that the far right is in control of Washington, D.C. But every time we fight back, it is making a difference. It makes a difference right now, like when massive protests across the nation helped scuttle the first attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And it makes a difference for the future—organizing and energizing our friends and neighbors to ensure what happened on Election Day 2016 is never repeated.

We’re here to make it right, no matter how long it takes. Thanks once again for standing with us all the way.

Bennet Won’t Filibuster Gorsuch And It’s Not Time To Panic (Yet)

Sen. Michael Bennet (D).

UPDATE: Senate Democrats apparently have enough votes to sustain a filibuster against Gorsuch, even without Bennet.

—–

The story this morning from the Denver Post’s Mark Matthews is not going to make Sen. Michael Bennet’s Democratic base here in Colorado very happy:

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet won’t support a filibuster of Judge Neil Gorsuch, describing Democratic efforts to block the Colorado native as taking the Senate in the “wrong direction.”

But the Colorado Democrat still won’t say whether he’ll actually vote to put the 10th Circuit of Appeals judge on the U.S. Supreme Court — even though a full Senate vote is expected Friday.

“Using the filibuster and nuclear option at this moment takes us in the wrong direction,” Bennet said in a statement.

The Colorado Independent’s Mike Littwin was first to report the news:

“I don’t think it’s wise for our party to filibuster this nominee or for Republicans to invoke the nuclear option,” Bennet says.

That makes him the fourth Democratic senator to break from the ranks, and the only one from a state that voted against Donald Trump. Republicans still need four more Democrats to defect to block a filibuster, and, at this point, it seems unlikely they’ll get them.

This vote was always going to be a lose-lose proposition for Bennet. He would either have to enrage the Democratic base with a decision that looks like heresy — which is what he’s done — or vote against a fellow Coloradan who is strongly supported by the downtown legal and business establishment, which, not coincidentally, generally supports Bennet. Gov. John Hickenlooper laid out the case when he said he wouldn’t blame Democrats for trying to delay or block Gorsuch after the Merrick Garland fiasco, but that he was “honored” a Coloradan as talented as Gorsuch was nominated.

There’s no question that the left in Colorado, who has put tremendous pressure on Bennet to set aside the geographic and other ties to Neil Gorsuch and oppose his nomination, will be irate over his decision not to join the filibuster. But as Littwin points out, it appears that Democrats will have the forty-one votes they need to proceed without him, and if that count is secure it’s entirely possible that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer gave Bennet a pass–to appease locals who don’t want him to block Gorsuch outright.

With all of that in mind, the real question for Bennet becomes how he will vote in the likely event Republicans crush the Democratic filibuster by invoking the so-called “nuclear option,” which will bypass the 60-vote requirement to proceed to the Senate floor for the confirmation vote. Gorsuch’s judicial record and well-documented right-wing political views put him so far at odds with Bennet and Democrats that a vote to confirm him would be a very serious breach of faith with his base, and would leave Bennet vulnerable to attack from his left every time Gorsuch makes an adverse ruling.

It’s not our intention to shield Bennet from criticism over what most Democrats will consider to be the wrong decision–some egregiously. It’s just important to keep all the moving parts in this battle in their proper perspective. This was an important moment for Bennet to stand up for his stated values, and he didn’t.

But it’s not his last chance to do so. So stay tuned until the end.

#WeObject: Colorado spells out resistance to Neil Gorsuch

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This morning, community groups including Indivisible Denver, Indivisible Front Range Resistance, and Together We Will Colorado hosted The People’s Filibuster at Denver’s Civic Center Park: an event for Coloradans to stand up and be visually counted in opposition to Neil Gorsuch’s opposition to the U.S. Supreme Court. Hundreds attended this event despite the rain and snow in the Denver area:

During today’s rally, participants spelled out the words “We Object” in the Greek Amphitheater of Civic Center Park, which was captured by aerial video:

It is absolutely critical that Coloradans speak out at this moment to oppose Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Neil Gorsuch is just the latest in a series of horrible choices by Donald Trump. Gorsuch’s fringe views on health care and contraception make him an enemy of Colorado women. On the Supreme Court, Gorsuch would be a vote to roll back women’s rights, environmental protections, and hard-won protections against discrimination in the workplace. Gorsuch has even been endorsed by the founder of the National Organization for Marriage, an anti-LGBT extremist group. Gorsuch may hail from Colorado, but his record stands in opposition to Colorado values.

The simple fact is that this Supreme Court appointment was stolen from President Obama last year in a shameful act of political treachery. No Democrat should in any way cooperate with or otherwise enable Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination, including Colorado Democrats. To do so would only hand Trump another undeserved victory.

We will not stand by and allow Donald Trump to steal this Supreme Court seat, and install a Justice who would skew our law toward injustice for generations. We will not be silent while a judge who has a proven disregard for the rights of women, working people, and even the terminally ill–who Colorado voters overwhelmingly voted last year to give compassionate options to ease their suffering at the end of life.

We urge Colorado’s U.S. Senators to reject Gorsuch’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Many thanks to our hard-working friends in local grassroots groups Indivisible Denver, Indivisible Front Range Resistance, and Together We Will Colorado for continuing to lead and organize resistance in our community.

Bennet Bites Back Over “Auto IRA” Plans

Sens. Cory Gardner (left) and Michael Bennet.

A behind-the-scenes battles in Washington that could have impacts on upcoming legislative debates in Colorado–not to mention existing policy in several other states–flared up today. The U.S. Senate voted to overturn an Obama-era easing of regulations to allow local governments to set up retirement savings plans for workers that don’t otherwise have coverage. Politico wrote about this under-reported fight this week:

As soon as this week, the Senate is poised to overturn two Department of Labor rules that concern retirement savings. But instead of tying firms in red tape, the rules actually reduce the burden of regulations on states and businesses trying to help people save for retirement. So repealing them would put the obstructive regulations right back in place.

The disagreement stems from laws passed in five states—California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland and Oregon—that require employers without 401(k)-style retirement plans to automatically enroll their workers in state-run retirement accounts. The idea is to create a new, automatic retirement-saving option for themillions of workers who don’t have access to any kind of retirement plan that deducts from their paycheck. (Though auto-enrolled, workers could opt out.)

Those laws might not seem like they’d involve the federal government at all, except that a 1974 law, the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), ties employers up in a number of rules if they establish or maintain a worker’s retirement account. ERISA is intended to protect workers, but it also makes retirement plans more costly to run, and is a big part of why many smaller employers don’t offer 401(k) plans. When the five states passed the new savings law, firms started to worry they’d be held liable to ERISA standards, making the new laws just as expensive as running their own 401(k)s, even though they only function as middlemen.

So last fall, the Department of Labor issued two rules—one for states and one for municipalities—providing a “safe harbor” so that auto-IRA plans will not fall under burdensome ERISA requirements. These “safe harbor” rules are the ones the GOP wants to roll back.

Today, the Senate voted to re-impose the old rules on local governments who operate these kinds of savings plans–and Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado took to social media to condemn the move:

Colorado’s other U.S. Senator Cory Gardner voted the other way–but there’s reportedly some hope he might be brought around to support state-based retirement plans on a separate but related measure the Senate hasn’t yet voted on. This could all become first-person relevant to Colorado with legislation introduced in the state legislature, House Bill 17-1290, which would create a Colorado Secure Savings Plan. It’s our understanding that the bill does have a provision for dealing with changes from Washington, but obviously it wouldn’t be desirable.

These locally-administered “auto IRA” programs have support from progressive economics and fiscal policy groups, since they give workers without other long-term retirement savings options a low-overhead way to participate–which pays major dividends later in life both for workers and governments who would otherwise pay to support them in retirement. Bennet is on the right side with his Democratic base here, and we’ll be watching to see if he can peel Sen. Gardner off before the next vote.

Wouldn’t that be a refreshing change?

Democrats Will Filibuster Gorsuch–All Eyes on Michael Bennet

UPDATE: 9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman:

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) hasn’t responded to the growing calls within his party to try to block President Donald Trump’s first pick for the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Thursday morning, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer promised a filibuster of Judge Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation vote, which sets the stage for Republicans to use the so-called “nuclear option” to confirm Gorsuch with a simple majority…

“Michael has not decided on how he will vote on the nomination or a potential filibuster,” Bennet spokeswoman Laurie Cipriano told 9NEWS. “He is closely watching this week’s hearings and carefully reviewing Gorsuch’s record before he makes a decision.”

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Sen. Michael Bennet (D).

Washington Post via Denver Post:

As the Senate Judiciary Committee was hearing from witnesses for and against Judge Neil Gorsuch, his Supreme Court nomination was delivered a critical blow: Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., announced he would oppose Gorsuch and join other Democrats in filibustering the nomination, making it likely that the judge will struggle to find the support needed to clear a 60-vote procedural hurdle.

Gorsuch “was unable to sufficiently convince me that he’d be an independent check” on President Donald Trump, Schumer said in a Senate floor speech.

Gorsuch is “not a neutral legal mind but someone with a deep-seated conservative ideology,” Schumer added. “He was groomed by the Federalist Society and has shown not one inch of difference between his views and theirs.”

The resolve by Senate Democrats to proceed with a filibuster of Neil Gorsuch’s nomination sets off a battle that may end in the long-feared “nuclear option,” short-circuiting Senate rules to eliminate the 60-vote requirement to end debate on a Supreme Court nomination. Or, it’s possible that Republicans could blink–the “nuclear option” is already a fact of life for Senate-approved nominations other than the Supreme Court, but to take this step for the nation’s singularly important lifetime appointment would be a radical step with portentous consequences.

And the one question that Colorado needs answered, right now: will Sen. Michael Bennet join his fellow Democrats? This is the question that will drive the news in our state today (well, aside from that healthcare thing).

And depending on what Bennet does next, maybe across the nation. Stay tuned…

Colorado Christian U: Gorsuch Our Kind of Hater

Neil Gorsuch.

A fundraising email from Jeff Hunt, vice president of Colorado Christian University, extolls Judge Neil Gorsuch’s “conservative values”–and makes predictions about Gorsuch’s values on the U.S. Supreme Court that Gorsuch probably won’t want to validate during confirmation hearings:

Judge Gorsuch has proven he’s pro-life, pro-family, and pro-religious liberty, which is exactly why the radical Left is rallying against him.

His rulings are very promising from a conservative perspective, which is why it’s critical we rush to his aid immediately and ensure he’s confirmed…

As a native of Colorado and a devoted follower of Christ, we couldn’t be more excited about what Judge Gorsuch will do to help overturn Roe v. Wade, uphold traditional marriage, and protect our religious freedom. [Pols emphasis]

When our past president, Bill Armstrong, was serving in the U.S. Senate, a young Neil Gorsuch even interned for him.

The late Senator Bill Armstrong helped mentor this brilliant conservative legal mind, and now he has the chance to ascend to the nation’s highest court where he will defend our values for decades to come.

We wouldn’t say that any of this is a surprise, although traditionally Supreme Court nominees don’t give specific answers on how they might rule on specific cases. What this message does do, however, is give some perspective on the origins of Gorsuch’s political views.

And if CCU is to be believed, that would be Gorsuch’s anti-choice, anti-gay, pro-bigotry political views (no word on how Gorsuch feels about the new Beauty and the Beast movie).

Bennet Introduces Gorsuch With Praise For Merrick Garland

TUESDAY UPDATE: Sen. Michael Bennet’s introduction of Neil Gorsuch appears to impressed somebody notable:

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Word spread late last week that Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet would join GOP Sen. Cory Gardner in introducing U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch of Colorado to the Senate Judiciary Committee today. This afternoon that took place–with Gardner giving his widely-expected glowing endorsement of Gorsuch, and as for Bennet…well?

 

In short, Bennet warmly praises Gorsuch, saying he “exemplifies some of the finest qualities of Colorado.” That and several other statements by Bennet praising Gorsuch in terms that seem to gloss over very serious policy differences between these two men will be enough to make Colorado Democrats quite nervous.

Niceties aside, Bennet did speak out strongly against the treatment of Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee who was denied a hearing by Republicans for almost a year. Bennet makes it clear that he considers “Judge Gorsuch a nominee to fill the Garland seat on the Supreme Court.” With that said, Bennet says that “two wrongs don’t make a right,” and that Gorsuch should receive a fair hearing.

Sen. Bennet didn’t give any definitive indication on how he intends to vote on Gorsuch, and it’s a longstanding tradition for a nominee’s home-state Senators to introduce them. But the first blush of reactions we’ve heard from Democrats are lukewarm at best. Bennet’s vote for or against Gorsuch represents what may be the greatest test of his values since his appointment in 2009, and it will be remembered.

Stay tuned, this drama is just warming up.

Bipartisan Resolve To Defend Marijuana Proves Sessions’ Folly

Molon labe.

As Brian Heuberger reported for the Colorado Statesman this week, there may be Republicans in Colorado willing to publicly support parts of the new administration’s agenda–but on the subject of Colorado’s legal marijuana industry, which is under direct threat from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, there is no daylight between Colorado Republicans and Democrats:

With U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions hinting that the Trump administration might intensify the enforcement of federal marijuana laws, Colorado leaders from both sides of the aisle have come to the defense of the state’s legal marijuana industry in an uncommon show of solidarity in what many consider to be divisive political times of unmatched proportion.

High-level Colorado politicians like Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper have both publicly defended what has become a lucrative recreational marijuana industry for the state. And many other state officials have joined them in contending that Colorado has a constitutional right to legalize marijuana and that the regulations established by the state have been statistically proven to have been effective so far.

Supporters are quick to emphasize the positive economic impact the industry has had in Colorado and the likely downward economic spiral that would occur should that now-bustling industry be tampered with by the federal government.

Likewise, both Rep. Mike Coffman and Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman are promising to fight any move by Sessions to clamp down on marijuana in Colorado:

Rep. Mike Coffman is suggesting he might use the power of the purse to protect Colorado’s legal marijuana industry…

If Sessions does take action Coffman said he’d “have to fight the Attorney General on this.” He suggested he’d do so through congress’ power to appropriate money for the administration’s budget.

Colorado’s Republican attorney general, Cynthia Coffman—a legalization opponent who says she would defend state law against Sessions—speculated, “It sounds like there is room for states to have legalization … But what it seems to portend is the federal government will be at the borders to stop marijuana from crossing state lines.”

The reason why you have all of these public officials in both parties standing shoulder-to-shoulder on marijuana, despite the fact that most of them opposed legalization to begin with, is that the experience of legalized marijuana in Colorado has rendered the issue moot here. Public support has grown, not declined, since Colorado led the way into a legalization trend that has now grown to numerous states–including all-important California, the most populous state in the nation.

In short, on this issue, our local Republicans and Democrats are responding to the clear wishes of their constituents. They know that to join Sessions on a crusade against legal pot would be politically disastrous for Colorado Republicans at this point. And the fact is, if Sessions does decide to shut down Colorado’s billion-dollar legal marijuana industry and in the other legalized states, Republicans could pay dearly at the polls in the next election all over the country including Colorado–regardless of what local Republicans do to oppose it.

So be at least a bit reassured, stoners. For the moment, both parties have got your back.

Gorsuch/Anschutz Exposé Puts Bennet on Hot Seat

Phil Anschutz.

The New York Times put out a story late yesterday that’s driving a lot of discussion in Colorado–detailing very close ties between U.S Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch and Colorado billionaire Phil Anschutz that raise a number of previously unasked questions:

Mr. Anschutz’s influence is especially felt in his home state of Colorado, where years ago Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, a Denver native, the son of a well-known Colorado Republican and now President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, was drawn into his orbit.

As a lawyer at a Washington law firm in the early 2000s, Judge Gorsuch represented Mr. Anschutz, his companies and lower-ranking business executives as an outside counsel. In 2006, Mr. Anschutz successfully lobbied Colorado’s lone Republican senator and the Bush administration to nominate Judge Gorsuch to the federal appeals court. And since joining the court, Judge Gorsuch has been a semiregular speaker at the mogul’s annual dove-hunting retreats for the wealthy and politically prominent at his 60-square-mile Eagles Nest Ranch.

“They say a country’s prosperity depends on three things: sound money, private property and the rule of law,” Judge Gorsuch said at the 2010 retreat, according to his speaker notes from that year. “This crowd hardly needs to hear from me about the first two of the problems we face on those scores.”

As an outside counsel for Anschutz’s business empire, Gorsuch reportedly worked on a number of high-profile cases. But the big news in this story, something we and we’re pretty sure most Coloradans were not aware of, was Anschutz’s apparent heavy lobbying for Gorsuch’s appointment as a federal judge in 2006. Since his appointment, Gorsuch has apparently recused himself from some–but not all–cases that came before his court with a relationship to Phil Anschutz.

A surprising omission from this New York Times story is the fact that Gorsuch’s service as counsel to Anschutz overlaps with Sen. Michael Bennet’s tenure as Managing Director of the Anschutz Investment Company. Bennet’s employment by Anschutz is of course a matter of record, but obviously disclosure of these ties between Neil Gorsuch and Phil Anschutz invite new questions about how that association might affect Bennet’s vote to confirm Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. Sen. Bennet has been very reserved about Gorsuch’s nomination, and is publicly undecided on whether to support him.

With Democrats generally hardening in opposition to Gorsuch as confirmation hearings prepare to begin, this could be a big moment for Sen. Bennet to refute some of the persistent criticism he gets on his left. A vote against Gorsuch–and especially against cloture to proceed to the simple majority confirmation vote itself–is an opportunity for Bennet to prove he’s his own man, at a moment it would really count.

Whether he likes it or not, Bennet is now front-and-center in the Gorsuch confirmation battle. Stay tuned.

Tell Colorado’s U.S. Senators to reject Neil Gorsuch

The time has come for Coloradans to speak out against Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. Because Gorsuch is from Colorado, the spotlight is on our state, and it is absolutely critical that Coloradans make our voices heard at this moment.

Tell Colorado’s U.S. Senators to oppose Neil Gorsuch’s nomination.

Neil Gorsuch is just the latest in a series of horrible choices by Donald Trump. Gorsuch’s fringe views on health care and contraception make him an enemy of Colorado women. On the Supreme Court, Gorsuch would be a vote to roll back women’s rights, environmental protections, and hard-won protections against discrimination in the workplace. Gorsuch has even been endorsed by the founder of the National Organization for Marriage, an anti-LGBT extremist group. Gorsuch may hail from Colorado, but his record stands in opposition to Colorado values.

The simple fact is that this Supreme Court appointment was stolen from President Obama last year in a shameful act of political treachery. No Democrat should in any way cooperate with or otherwise enable Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination, including Colorado Democrats. To do so would only hand Donald Trump another undeserved victory.

We will not stand by and allow Donald Trump to steal this Supreme Court seat, and install a Justice who would skew our law toward injustice for generations. We will not be silent while a judge who has a proven disregard for the rights of women, working people, and even the terminally ill–who Colorado voters overwhelmingly voted last year to give compassionate options to ease their suffering at the end of life.

Sign our petition calling on both of Colorado’s U.S. Senators to reject Gorsuch. We will deliver this petition to both Sen. Cory Gardner and Sen. Michael Bennet before they vote.

Thank you. We’ll update with more ways to take action as Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings get underway.