“Punching Hippies?” More Like “Barbarians At The Gate”

Sen. Michael Bennet, former President Barack Obama.

The Denver Post has a story up today that is worth reading, despite a headline that some of our more aggressively liberal Democrats might find a bit incendiary–“At town hall that focused on health care, [Sen.] Michael Bennet says single-payer system isn’t best option.”

In a dialogue this week largely focused on defeating efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet dismissed another system elsewhere along the ideological spectrum: government-sponsored, or single-payer, health care.

Bennet, speaking Monday night at a town hall in Greeley, said the existing system should be the focus.

“I think we should have a discussion about how to expand Medicare, so that more people can be part of it or maybe be able to buy it and how to do the same with Medicaid.”

Bennet emphasized that his Democratic colleagues frequently debate a single-payer health care system, but that he was “in the early days of this, myself”. The senator also said he hoped the topic “won’t turn into a litmus test” for Democratic candidates.

Creating an option for individuals regardless of their income or age to buy into government-managed health insurance programs would restore one of the central objectives of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, one lost in the vain attempt to win Republican support for the bill: a “public option” that would regulate the cost of private insurance by forcing it to compete with a nonprofit model. There are good arguments for Democrats adopting a “Medicare for all” platform as part of a broader counterattack on health care leading into the 2018 elections–in addition to this being a way to build on the Affordable Care Act’s success in expanding coverage instead of trying to tear the existing law down.

At the same time, there is a significant percentage of voters on the left who have much more expansive designs for health care reform than reviving a public option, to include a single-payer model like the one proposed in Colorado last year via Amendment 69. This pressure comes despite the fact that Amendment 69 failed by nearly 80% of the vote.

There are a number of reasons why Amendment 69 failed as badly as it did, and not all of them have to do with a lack of support for single-payer health care in the abstract. Many Colorado Democrats who support going beyond the scope of Obamacare to address access to care in America still couldn’t support Amendment 69, believing that a nationwide solution was the only viable path forward–as other states who started down this road themselves discovered. There were also specific problems with the proposal as written that hadn’t been accounted for, costing it support from would-be allies. When you combine soft support on the left with the total wall of opposition from conservatives to anything that can be remotely considered “government health care,” Amendment 69’s fate was sealed. So much so, in fact, that it was more useful to Republicans as a wedge to drive within the Democratic coalition than as a rallying point for Democratic candidates in 2016.

And it has to be said: a radical change to health care like moving the entire nation to a single-payer system is politically no more viable a prospect today than it was in Colorado last year. Where the broader adoption of something Americans know and trust like Medicare could attract enough support to pass–especially after a big Democratic win in 2018–there remains a far too vast ideological chasm between the right and left to achieve more than that right now. Progressives face a years-long task of unwinding pervasive conservative messaging on this and so many other issues. They faced the same challenge in 2010, too, and the total blockade of Democratic policy priorities by Republicans since the passage of the Affordable Care Act raises legitimate questions about whether the highly compromised Affordable Care Act was worth the collateral damage. The combined objectives of policy gains and legislative majorities, in a nation that is as deeply divided as ours, makes this a far more difficult question than impatient ideologues want to admit.

The political reality of this is tough medicine for a left newly emboldened in opposition to President Trump, but it’s critical that Democrats understand the limits of their own political capital. In 2004, Colorado Democrats retook majorities in the state legislature not by proposing far-reaching “Hail Mary” progressive policy goals. They won by pledging to be more competent with the government the voters already knew.

That’s where it has to start today, too.

Get More Smarter on Monday (August 7)

You can visit Colorado State Parks for free today — just bring an umbrella. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Colorado’s top elected officials took part in a “sorta town hall” in Durango on Friday. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Denver) and Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) were on-hand to theoretically discuss the cleanup process from the Gold King Mine Spill, but the only thing that audience members wanted to discuss was Gardner’s awful votes on healthcare. As the Denver Post reports, Gardner faced “an angry crowd”:

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner was shouted at and derided during a Durango town hall Friday afternoon that was slated to center on the Gold King Mine but which focused on almost anything but, as an unruly-at-times crowd pressed the Republican on health care.

“Why on Earth did you vote for the Republican (health) care bill when the vast majority of your constituents opposed it?” one man asked Gardner to cheers…

…One man used his floor time to ask Gardner and Tipton when they would return for a longer, individual town hall with voters. “This venue is entirely too small,” the man complained. “The amount of notice we were given was under 24 hours, and it’s in the middle of the workday.”

Perhaps the most telling thing to come out of Friday’s event is that major Colorado news outlets are clearly fed up with Gardner’s penchant for lies and half-truths. Check out this brief video from 9News:

► The U.S. Senate is in the midst of its August recess, but will they continue to try to do something to repeal Obamacare when they return to session? If it is up to Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, probably not. As Politico reports:

“We’re not going back to health care. We’re in tax now. As far as I’m concerned, they shot their wad on health care and that’s the way it is. I’m sick of it,” Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said Wednesday, a day before he outlined his committee’s agenda for the fall.

That’s a…colorful explanation.

 

► Winning or waiting? What’s the difference, right? They both start with the letter ‘W.’ From the New York Times:

Donald J. Trump promised Americans that they would be exhausted from “winning” on trade under his presidency. But nearly seven months after Mr. Trump took office, the industries he vowed to protect have become tired of something else: waiting.

After beginning his presidency with a bang by withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact in January, Mr. Trump has accomplished little else of significance when it comes to reorienting deals with other countries. Instead, his administration has been struggling to work through the complicated rules that dictate international commerce. All the while, they are learning that bold campaign promises are hard to keep when many voices advocate different plans.

For many businesses that had raised their hopes, frustration is mounting by the day.

America’s steelworkers are on edge as they wait for Mr. Trump to fulfill his promise to place tariffs on steel imports. Home builders are desperate for the president to cut a deal with Canada to end a dispute over its softwood lumber exports. And cattle ranchers are longing for a bilateral pact with Japan to ease the flow of beef exports.

Elsewhere, Trump’s proposal to limit legal immigration to the United States has Colorado companies worried about where they will find the workforce needed to sustain their business.

 

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LIVE: Gardner/Bennet/Hickenlooper “Town Hall”

UPDATE #3: The Denver Post’s Jesse Paul reports from the scene–hoo boy:

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner was shouted at and derided during a Durango town hall Friday afternoon that was slated to center on the Gold King Mine but which focused on anything but, as an unruly-at-times crowd pressed the Republican on health care.

“Why on Earth did you voter for the Republican (health) care bill when the vast majority of your constituents opposed it?” one man asked Gardner to cheers.

“Seven years ago when I ran for Congress I said that I would vote to repeal and replace Obamacare, and I’m going to continue to live up to the promise that I made,” Gardner said, being yelled down. “… The reason is: The Affordable Care Act isn’t working.”

Gardner has been chastised for months by liberal activists for failing to hold an in-person town hall with his constituents, and his first such appearance in more than a year was full of fireworks.

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UPDATE #2: We’re waiting for news stories to be filed about today’s event, in which Sen. Cory Gardner was singled out by the capacity crowd who demanded answers on health care and loudly heckled his highly inadequate rote answers on the subject. The event is reportedly still going on, but we’ll be talking about this confrontation for days–we really thought Gardner would be better prepared for this.

Stand by for updates when coverage comes in…

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UPDATE: Denver7’s feed has extended discussion continuing after the official end of the event:

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Stand by for updates.

Want To Question Cory Gardner? Head For Durango–Now

Sen. Cory Gardner (R), hiding behind people.

A press advisory a short while ago announced a bonafide public town hall meeting tomorrow afternoon with the elusive Sen. Cory Gardner–in the city of Durango in the far southwest corner of the state, about six hours’ drive time from Denver. Gardner will appear with Gov. John Hickenlooper, Sen. Michael Bennet, and Rep. Scott Tipton, although it’s not as newsworthy an event for any of them:

Gov. John Hickenlooper, along with Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet, and Rep. Scott Tipton, will hold a town hall following their visit with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and tour of the Gold King Mine. They, along with representatives from the EPA, will provide an update of their meeting and take questions from attendees.

Durango Town Hall

WHO: Gov. John Hickenlooper
Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet
Rep. Scott Tipton
Durango Mayor Dick White & La Plata County Commissioner Brad Blake will moderate.

WHERE: La Plata County Administration Building Board Room
1101 E. 2nd Ave.
Durango, CO 81301

WHEN: Friday, Aug. 4, 2017
2:15 p.m. — 3:00 p.m.

Doors open to the public and media at 1:45 p.m.

If it goes ahead as announced, this will be the first public town hall meeting for Senator Gardner in 494 days. The lack of advance notice and remote location of the event — not to mention the 45 minute time period — are potent reminders of how difficult it is for constituents to interact with Sen. Gardner, and won’t do anything to appease his critics in more populated areas of the state. With that said, Durango has plenty of homegrown Gardner critics who will line up for this chance to hold him accountable.

On the other hand if these other politicians, for whom public town hall meetings are not the same kind of problem, were to throw their own town hall without Gardner after they all toured the Gold King Mine cleanup site together…well, that would look pretty bad too. We’re inclined doubt this town hall was Gardner’s idea, and there may have simply been no good option other than to take his lumps.

Either way, if you see a miles-long convoy of Subarus, Priuses and VW buses rolling west on US-160 tonight and tomorrow morning, this is probably why.

A Tale of Two Senators in Colorado

These photos speak for themselves, so we’ll just provide a little background information and get out of the way.

The woman in the pictures below is Dawn Russell, an activist with ADAPT who was one of many protestors with disabilities arrested at the Denver office of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) in late June. Russell and her fellow protestors had been engaged in a sit-in at Gardner’s office in an effort to speak with him about not supporting various Republican healthcare proposals — all of which would have led to devastating cuts to Medicaid and other programs that Russell depends on for her own personal health (Gardner ended up voting “YES” on three different Senate Republican bills last week before Arizona Sen. John McCain upended the process with his infamous “NO” vote).

In the second picture, Russell is speaking with Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) at the “Our Lives on the Line” rally in Denver on Saturday.

 

Sen. Michael Bennet: “Where’s The Bill?”

Here’s an excerpt from Sen. Michael Bennet’s speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate today, lambasting Republicans for breaking all of their own rules to pass legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act–and contrasting the opaque process Republicans are engaged in today with lengthy public debate in 2009-10:

BENNET: I don’t understand the impulse of writing the bill in secret, not having–listen to this, folks–not having a single committee hearing! Not one committee hearing in the Senate! Talk about “read the bill,” how about have a bill that’s written down on paper so we can read it? Where are my brethren in the Tea Party that wanted to read the other bill? There was a bill then! There had been a bill for a year and a half. There’s no bill!

At this point, both sides in the Senate are talking past each other–but you’ve got to agree that Bennet has a strong point. After complaining for years about the supposed “closed-door” secrecy in which the ACA was debated, Republicans have embarked on a process so secretive that there haven’t even been committee hearings on the legislation. If Democrats had tried to pass the ACA with the same non-process, Republicans would have called for a revolution. You’ll recall they very nearly did anyway.

Watch the rest of Bennet’s speech below. Who will take issue with him on the merits? We’d like to see it.

At Risk

The Senate health care bill is not in Colorado’s best interests. Call our Senators and let them know that.

Cory Gardner – (303) 391-5777
Michael Bennet – (303) 455-7600

Get More Smarter on Monday (July 10)

Can we just declare July “Fried Chicken Month?” One day just isn’t enough. 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…

► Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock…President Trump’s Russia problem is only growing larger by the day. The New York Times dropped a bombshell on the story over the weekend with news that Donald Trump, Jr. and other leaders of Trump’s campaign met with a Russian lawyer after being promised “dirt” on Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. As a follow-up story in the New York Times explains:

President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign, according to three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two others with knowledge of it.

The meeting was also attended by the president’s campaign chairman at the time, Paul J. Manafort, as well as by the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kushner recently disclosed the meeting, though not its content, in confidential government documents described to The New York Times…

…The meeting — at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, two weeks after Donald J. Trumpclinched the Republican nomination — points to the central question in federal investigations of the Kremlin’s meddling in the presidential election: whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. The accounts of the meeting represent the first public indication that at least some in the campaign were willing to accept Russian help.

While President Trump has been dogged by revelations of undisclosed meetings between his associates and the Russians, the episode at Trump Tower is the first such confirmed private meeting involving his inner circle during the campaign — as well as the first one known to have included his eldest son.

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) is calling for Donald Trump Jr. to speak with the Senate Intelligence Committee about the reported meeting.

 

► You can set aside the “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” analogy for the moment, because as The Atlantic reports, “If there was no collusion, it wasn’t for lack of trying.” Trump Jr. initially claimed that the point of the alleged meeting was to discuss issues of adoption under the Magnitsky Act…but that was only the initial explanation:

Trump Jr. then changed his story, claiming he’d been promised only information relevant to the campaign, by an intermediary he met at the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, owned by his father and hosted in Moscow. (The Washington Post later identified him as Rob Goldstone, a music publicist who said he was working on behalf of an unnamed Russian client.) Trump Jr. brought his brother-in-law Jared Kushner and then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort to the meeting. He said that attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya offered him damaging information about Hillary Clinton, but that when it became clear she did not have the goods, he ended the meeting…

…In other words, Trump Jr. admitted (while acknowledging a prior lie) that he was open to receiving damaging information about Hillary Clinton from the Russian lawyer; he was just frustrated that she didn’t seem to have it. If there was no collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump inner circle, it was not because top Trump aides were against it.

Trump Jr.’s admission here is remarkable. Donald Trump’s tendency to speak unwisely remains one of his greatest weaknesses—his threat to release apparently fictive tapes resulted in a special-counsel investigation that has rocked his still-young presidency—and his children are a chip off the old block. (Eric Trump has admitted, contra claims of separation, that he continues to talk business with his father.)

 

► Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) has always tried to present himself as a “moderate” or “centrist” Republican, but as the Denver Post writes, the Trumpcare debate has shown Gardner’s true colors — and they are all red. From Mark Matthews:

Though the bill’s final language remains in flux, there is little doubt in Colorado political circles about where Gardner will stand at the end of the day — despite Gardner not taking a public position on the first Senate version when it was released in late June.

“In the end Colorado conservatives know that Cory Gardner is going to vote to repeal Obamacare and when there is a final bill Cory Gardner is going to be there,” said Guy Short, a political consultant and longtime Colorado delegate to the Republican National Convention.

ICYMI, Gardner spoke to a small group of constituents in a phone call on Thursday. Gardner’s answers to several pointed healthcare questions were astonishingly awful.

As for healthcare legislation, Congressional Republicans are back at work this week after the July 4th recess, and there are plenty of signs that Trumpcare is in trouble on Capitol Hill. Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said over the weekend that the healthcare legislation is “probably going to be dead.”

 

► Don’t miss the newest episode of The Get More Smarter Show, featuring an interview with state Rep. Alec Garnett (D-Denver).

 

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Darryl Glenn to Join Primary Race in CD-5

Darryl Glenn

The Unicorn rides again! Ernest Luning has the scoop for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, the Republican nominee for Colorado’s U.S. Senate seat last year, notified GOP insiders on Friday that he plans to run for the 5th Congressional District seat held by six-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn in next year’s election, Colorado Politics has learned.

“Colleagues, I want to give you a courtesy heads up before the rumors start that I will be jumping into the Congressional District 5 race within a few weeks,” Glenn said in a text message sent Friday morning to prominent Republicans and obtained by Colorado Politics. “A lot has happened over the last week to move me to running. Have a great day. Darryl”

Glenn becomes the third candidate in the race in the GOP Primary in CD-5, just one day after state Sen. Owen Hill announced a record fundraising haul for Q2 in his own bid for Congress.

Incumbent Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) was first elected in this ultra-safe Republican district in 2006. Lamborn has since been re-elected every two years, but he is such an unpopular dolt that he can never seem to prevent a Republican Primary. Hill jumped into the race in early April and seems to be off to a good start…yet, we’ve been here before. Over the last decade Lamborn has always found a way to crawl into the General Election, where there is virtually no chance of a Republican candidate losing in November.

Could 2018 be different? Lamborn may have a more difficult road to re-election now that a third candidate with strong name ID among Republicans has entered the fray. We’ve said many times in this space that Glenn is the worst statewide candidate in Colorado history; you can make an argument for others (we’re looking at you, Dan Maes), but it’s fair to say that you can’t discuss this topic without including Glenn at the very top of your list. However, Glenn should be familiar to Colorado Springs-area voters after serving two terms as an El Paso County Commissioner prior to his surprise GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2016.

Whenever you have a primary with at least three known entities on the ballot, strange things can happen. Enjoy the ride.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (June 29)

Which country will Sen. Cory Gardner visit next week so that he doesn’t have to show his face in Colorado? 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…

► If you’re looking for other reasons for why the GOP healthcare bill is in so much trouble, you won’t be lacking for ideas. Greg Sargent of the Washington Post singles out an interesting moment on Capitol Hill when Republican Senators first learned of the devastating CBO score on their proposed legislation…and were curiously surprised that the news was so bleak:

If GOP Senators expected the Senate bill to achieve “greater distance” from the House bill, then they were either not reckoning with the fundamental underlying realities of what GOP health reform is trying to accomplish, or they were hoping for some magical formula to materialize that would obscure those realities from view. Here is the basic math: If you are going to cut Obamacare’s taxes on rich people by hundreds of billions of dollars, you are going to have to roll back an enormous chunk of the law’s massive coverage expansion…

…Yet the Post report indicates that Republican Senators were surprised to learn that the CBO concluded that their bill would indeed carry out this trade-off. And they responded by dividing into two camps — one that would attack the purveyor of dispassionate, empirical analysis that had confirmed this to be the case; and one that thought this was futile, because the argument could not be won [Pols emphasis], once voters back home learned how many people would lose coverage under their bill. But why did they expect any other outcome in the first place?

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is firmly entrenched in the first camp listed above; Gardner is desperately trying to brush off the CBO score as unimportant.

 

► A separate story in the Washington Post offers a simpler explanation for the GOP’s healthcare woes:

White House officials and Trump loyalists saw a president diving in to patch up strife and save legislation that had been curbed in the Senate. Some seasoned senators, however, saw a president unable to grasp policy details or the obstacles ahead, and talked with each other after the gathering about what they saw as a bizarre scene. That Republican disconnect has been a constant ever since the Senate health bill was unveiled…

…Instead of moving happily toward passage of the party’s rallying cry, Republicans are frozen and unsure of the political cost of passing the Senate bill — especially with swing voters who in many states have come to rely on aspects of Obamacare and its expansion of Medicaid.

As Politico reports, Senate Republican leaders are still trying to salvage their healthcare bill by offering billions of dollars in sweeteners to address the opioid crisis. Critics of such proposals include Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich, who has said that a few billion dollars for short-term opioid treatment is a “drop in the bucket” compared the the massive financial losses that would be inflicted by decimating Medicaid budgets.

Here in Colorado, Republicans are having plenty of trouble trying to figure out how to explain why the GOP healthcare legislation is not terrible. Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) either doesn’t understand the healthcare bills — or he is flat-out lying to his constituents — when he says that nobody who qualifies for Medicaid will lose that coverage. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) keeps peddling nonsense talking points about rising costs under Obamacare — while failing to mention the fact that insurance rates would rise significantly more under the Republican healthcare proposals.

 

► As the New York Times explains, we finally have a bit more clarification on how President Trump’s Muslim travel ban will be implemented:

Stepsiblings and half-siblings are allowed, but not nieces or nephews. Sons- and daughters-in-law are in, but brothers- and sisters-in-law are not. Parents, including in-laws, are considered “close family,” but grandparents are not.

The State Department issued new guidelines Wednesday night to American embassies and consulates on applying a limited travel ban against foreign visitors from six predominantly Muslim countries. Enforcement of the guidelines will begin at 8 p.m. Eastern on Thursday.

 

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (June 28)

Few things have become as strange as the daily White House press briefing.  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…

► Republicans are scrambling to figure out their next steps after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell abruptly announced on Tuesday that the Senate healthcare bill (“The Better Care Reconciliation Act”) would not be rushed to a vote before Congress takes its July 4th holiday recess at the end of the week.

As the Washington Post explains, Republicans are having trouble finding a reason to push forward with a terrible healthcare bill:

Amid a revolt against the Senate health-care bill, supporters have seized upon something of a last-ditch argument: Whatever you think of this bill, they say, you owe it to your voters. Republicans have been promising for years to repeal and replace Obamacare, the argument goes, and not passing this bill will mean they will have broken their promise.

There is one big problem with that strategy: The GOP base doesn’t seem to see it that way.

Not only aren’t Republican voters particularly keen on this bill, but polls suggest they wouldn’t even blame their Republican members of Congress for failing to close the deal.

A new poll (Marist/NPR) shows that 55% of Americans disapprove of the Senate healthcare plan, with only 17% in favor of the bill. The polling trend lines have shown consistent downward movement.

As Politico reports, the Senate healthcare bill is not dead…yet…while the editorial board of the New York Times says the GOP’s “healthcare hoax” has been exposed.

 

► Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has been in Washington D.C. alongside a bipartisan group of Governors in opposition to the Senate healthcare bill. Hickenlooper and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, held a news conference on Tuesday that was highly critical of GOP healthcare efforts that would include devastating cuts to Medicaid. Hickenlooper specifically called out Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) in his remarks.

Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) is pushing back against Republican claims that Democrats are refusing to work with the GOP on healthcare legislation. Bennet took to the Senate floor on Tuesday to hammer this point home.

 

► A group of protestors with disabilities have been camping out at the Denver office of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) since late Tuesday in an effort to persuade Gardner to oppose the Republican Senate healthcare bill. Gardner has been bullish on the Senate bill despite Monday’s awful score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which estimated the legislation would cut health coverage for at least 22 million Americans.

 

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Get More Smarter on Monday (June 26)

If you’re looking to hire some interns for the summer, please don’t do this. 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…

► Today is another big day in the healthcare policy debate. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is expected to announce the results of its examination of the Republican Senate healthcare bill, also known as “The Better Care Reconciliation Act.” The Washington Post offers a good primer on what to look for in the CBO announcement.

The CBO score is expected to show, once again, that Republicans are dealing with a math problem — and not a messaging problem — when it comes to healthcare discussions. The looming report is one of many reasons why many Senate Republicans think the healthcare bill won’t be able to advance much further before next week’s July 4th recess.

 

► Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) spent the weekend at a conservative retreat in Colorado Springs hosted by the infamous Koch Brothers. The big message out of the weekend discussions at the Broadmoor Resort and Hotel centered around concerns from major right-wing donors that the Senate healthcare legislation doesn’t kill enough Americans isn’t more aggressive about eradicating Medicaid. Predictably, Gardner did not find time to talk to a reporter from the Denver Post about the Senate healthcare bill.

 

President Trump’s Muslim travel ban earned its first non-loss from the Judicial Branch. As the New York Times explains:

The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would decide whether President Trump’s revised travel ban was lawful, setting the stage for a major decision on the scope of presidential power.

Mr. Trump’s revised executive order, issued in March, limited travel from six mostly Muslim countries for 90 days and suspended the nation’s refugee program for 120 days. The time was needed, the order said, to address gaps in the government’s screening and vetting procedures.

Two federal appeals courts have blocked critical parts of the order.

The administration had asked that the lower court ruling be stayed while the case moved forward. The court granted part of that request in its unsigned opinion.

This is indeed as confusing as it soundsPresident Trump, meanwhile, is declaring victory.

 

► Elsewhere in Supreme Court news, the case of a Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a gay wedding will finally be heard this fall. From the Denver Post:

The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday that it would review the case of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple because of his beliefs — a legal fight with high stakes for both religious activists and civil-rights advocates.

For months, the high court has vacillated on whether it would hear the appeal of Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, whose refusal of service to Charlie Craig and David Mullins was rejected by the Colorado Court of Appeals and the state’s Civil Rights Commission.

There’s been one significant change to the Supreme Court, however, since the case first landed on its steps — the addition of Justice Neil Gorsuch, a native Coloradan who became its ninth member this spring after his nomination by President Donald Trump.

Gorsuch!

 

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Get More Smarter on Friday (June 23)

Trumpcare and Russia: That’s pretty much the extent of the news today, but here are a few more headlines worth following. 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…

► Senate Republicans on Thursday released their plan to kill as many Americans as possible make massive changes to healthcare in this country. Vox.com breaks down the Senate Trumpcare bill — officially called “The Better Care Reconciliation Act” — into a handful of “winners” (rich people) and “losers” (pretty much everyone else). As Sarah Kliff explains in a separate story for Vox.com, the Republicans’ primary argument for supporting its healthcare efforts is a complete sham:

Republican lawmakers consistently claim that the Obamacare marketplaces are collapsing, so they need to pass a bill to repeal and replace the health law…

…The marketplaces, though, have refused to cooperate. They are not working perfectly — but they are far from ruinous demise, experts say. But the Republican replacement plan, introduced Thursday, could change that. It contains several provisions that could accelerate the crumbling of the marketplaces and leave millions of Americans with no health care options.

“Honestly, the marketplaces are in okay shape,” says David Anderson, a research associate at Duke University who studies the individual market. “The amount of competition isn’t where some people would like it to be, but this isn’t collapse.”

Republicans such as Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) are all over the place on their talking points; Gardner, for example, was part of the Senate working group on the healthcare legislation, yet he insists that he never saw any of the bill’s proposed language until it was released to the public. And then there’s this nonsense from Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway.

 

► Jennifer Rubin, the conservative columnist for the Washington Post, doesn’t understand what Republicans are doing with Trumpcare:

Instead of getting run over by the right wing of their party, as their House counterparts did, Senate moderates have the chance to strike out on their own and come up with reforms that bolster the exchanges and that improve Medicaid. They can test Democrats’ promise to work constructively across the aisle. Conservatives, meanwhile, should understand that the bill is nothing more than a repudiation of their seven-year fight to repeal the ACA. They will leave a legacy that amounts to: Obamacare, but worse!

 

President Trump announced on Thursday that there are no tapes of his conversations with former FBI Director Jim Comey. Trump Tweeted the news a full 41 days after he first floated the idea on Twitter that such tapes might exist.

The Washington Post does a deep dive into how the Obama administration handled (or failed to handle) information that Russia was trying to influence the 2016 election. Regardless of how Obama handled the information, it is indisputable that Russia’s meddling was intended to help Trump win the Presidential election.

 

► Vice President Mike Pence is in Colorado Springs today to speak at a “Focus on the Family” anniversary event. Not everyone is happy to see the VP.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Bennet Throws Down To Defend Press Access

Sen. Michael Bennet (D)

As the Denver Post’s Jesse Paul reports, a sudden decision by the Republican leadership of the United States Senate to restrict press access to Senators prompted a fierce backlash from Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado today:

Reporters were abruptly barred on Tuesday morning from conducting on-camera interviews at the U.S. Capitol, drawing swift condemnation from reporters and Colorado’s U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.

“The attacks by the president on the free press have been outrageous,” Bennet said in a video statement posted to his Twitter account. “And now for the majority in the Senate to bar reporters from their customary places … is a further attack and it can’t stand.”

As Politico reports, Sen. Richard Shelby of the Senate Rules Committee is in damage control mode after this attempt to curtail press access appears to have backfired:

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Richard Shelby sought to tamp down a media firestorm after television reporters were told by the director of the Senate Radio and Television Gallery that they could no longer film impromptu interviews with senators in Capitol hallways.

On Tuesday morning, Mike Mastrian, the director of the Senate Radio and Television Gallery, which reports to the Rules Committee, told reporters that in order to get approval for a hallway interview with a senator, a reporter must now call the committee’s chief counsel and obtain prior permission from the senator being interviewed…

Shelby (R-Ala.) put out a statement on Tuesday afternoon saying there had been no changes to the existing rules, but suggesting that the new guidelines were a matter of tougher enforcement of existing rules.

“The committee has been working with the various galleries to ensure compliance with existing rules in an effort to help provide a safe environment for Members of Congress, the press corps, staff, and constituents as they travel from Senate offices to the Capitol. Once again, no additional restrictions have been put in place by the Rules committee,” Shelby said.

According to Politico, reporters at the Capitol said they were being hassled in the morning, but by the afternoon “the old procedures were back in place and they were no longer facing any new restrictions.” There’s little question at this point that the attempt to curtail access was made, but a swift retreat under claims of a “misunderstanding” allows Republicans to save face.

The recent open hostility toward the press, led by President Donald Trump but increasingly joined by Republican lawmakers with such high-profile incidents as the violent attack on a journalist by a soon-to-be-victorious GOP congressional candidate, seems to be worse than longstanding complaints from the right about the so-called “liberal media.” Last year in Colorado, Republicans dogpiled on the media in an attempt to defend Jon Keyser from the scandal surrounding his forged ballot petitions–and left them looking like fools after Keyser’s campaign fell apart. Trump’s struggle for legitimacy since taking office has likewise forced many Republicans to trash-talk the media far more than they otherwise would, at profound risk to their own credibility as Trump loses legitimacy on an almost daily basis.

It’s got to end at some point, the question being how many will join in the disgrace before it does.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (June 8)

Slow news day, eh? Well, except for that Comey thing. 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…

► Former FBI Director James Comey testified today in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee about President Trump and allegations of illegal ties to Russia. There’s no shortage of coverage on Comey’s testimony online and in the media, but here’s one take from the Washington Post:

Former FBI director James B. Comey on Thursday essentially laid out an obstruction of justice case against President Trump and suggested senior leaders in the bureau might have actually contemplated the matter before Trump removed him as director.

Comey did not explicitly draw any legal conclusions. Whether justice was obstructed, he said, was a question for recently appointed special counsel Robert Mueller. But he said Trump’s request to terminate the FBI’s investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn left him “stunned,” and senior FBI officials considered it to be of “investigative interest.”…

…Legal analysts have said previously that there was reason to believe Trump might have obstructed justice — both in asking him to shut down the probe into Flynn and then, later, in firing Comey. Comey’s testimony, they said Thursday, clarified and bolstered the case.

Comey testified that he was skeptical of Trump almost from the outset, and he decided to document their interactions because he was “concerned [Trump] might lie about the nature of our meeting.”

This really no sugarcoating Comey’s testimony if you are a Trump ally — this was even more brutal for the President than anyone might have expected. For more on Comeypalooza, here’s another good summary from the Washington Post. More thoughtful analysis is available via CNN and the New York Times. To subject yourself to the entire transcript of Comey’s testimony — which lasted nearly three hours — Politico has you covered.

Locally, the editorial board of the Denver Post didn’t wait long to weigh in on the Comey testimony:

Even if Trump isn’t implicated in colluding with the Russians, even if none of his campaign staffers are found guilty, Comey’s sworn testimony and the known facts about his firing cripple the president’s credibility.

 

► How is the White House reacting to Comey’s testimony? It has been reported that Trump is apoplectic about the entire Russian “cloud” hanging over his presidency, but we haven’t yet heard from the President himself.

Trump’s personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz, is peddling some nonsense about how this actually benefits Trump. Conservative media are also trying hard to make the case that Comey’s testimony somehow clears Trump of wrongdoing, or something. From NBC News:

In the aftermath of former FBI Director James Comey’s highly-anticipated testimony, President Donald Trump’s outside counsel says the president feels “vindicated” and ready to move forward with his agenda for the country.

Marc Kasowitz maintained Thursday in a statement to reporters at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. that Trump never asked Comey for his loyalty, contradicting a key part of the ousted FBI director’s testimony. President Trump’s personal lawyer took no questions and departed the room after delivering the short statement in support of the White House.

“The president also never told Mr. Comey, ‘I need loyalty, I expect loyalty,’ in form or substance,” Kasowitz told reporters.

The White House appears to be trying to deflect Comey’s testimony by hoping to paint the former FBI Director as “one of these leakers.”

 

► According to new poll results from Quinnipiac University, President Trump’s approval ratings have dropped to a new low. Again.

 

► Polls are open in the United Kingdom in what has become a bitter general election campaign. Prime Minister Theresa May is nonetheless expected to maintain control once the votes are counted.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…