GOP Three Sheets To The Wind For Tax Giveaway

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

Politico reports on the party-line votes yesterday in the U.S. Senate to kick “tax reform” into high gear–moving ahead with plans to slash taxes on most Americans, but especially rich ones, in exchange for $1.5 trillion (with a ‘T’) added to the deficit:

GOP leaders, as well as House Budget Chairman Diane Black and Senate Budget Chairman Mike Enzi, have been ironing out their difference and crafted a Senate amendment full of House-requested tweaks. Because the Senate adopted the amendment during its marathon “vote-a-rama” Thursday, the House could clear the fiscal blueprint as soon as next week…

House sources say it’s likely that conservatives will back the accord, given their desire to move to tax reform. The House Freedom Caucus and the Republican Study Committee had been pushing for a quicker timetable, which sources say this budget allows.

Two House sources said the emerging agreement would allow for the House’s higher defense spending number later in the year, something House defense hawks pushed for up to the last minute. The language suggests Republicans plan to raise strict spending caps on the Pentagon, without offsets if need be — something crucial to getting House Armed Services panel members on board.

The deal, however, allows both chambers to increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion via tax reform, matching the Senate’s tax number, one Senate source said. The House had called for a deficit-neutral tax package.

As Politico reports, House Republicans wanted to offset at least $200 million of these tax cuts with proposed cuts to welfare programs, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected that plan. The numbers in the budget “framework” passed yesterday, say Republicans who approved it, don’t mean as much as the procedural power the vote gave Republicans to pass their tax plan without the 60 votes nominally required–thus bypassing Democratic opposition to this wildly irresponsible process.

The point here is that Republicans have committed to the first step, huge tax cuts, without even trying to show how to pay for those cuts. They don’t want to publicly commit to cuts to programs the public supports, which when you get down to it is most programs, so the legislation allows for the possibility–opponents would say certainty–of massive new deficits with the hope that the tax cuts will trigger economic growth that negates the revenue loss. It’s the same logic used by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to justify unsustainable tax cuts–and when the promised economic boom never ensued, the state’s budget fell apart.

But that’s not what matters today. The only objective now is to jam those tax cuts through, and deal with the consequences later! In the highly likely event that the tax cuts fail to work their “Laffer Curve” magic and counterintuitively grow revenues, the same Republicans who passed these tax cuts will use the deficits that result as their excuse to demand the program cuts they don’t want to own today.

Democrats unsuccessfully pleading for fiscal responsibility from the “party of fiscal responsibility,” and then taking the blame for deficits they did not create, is truly one of the more maddening dynamics in modern American politics. It has happened every time Republicans have passed or otherwise forced “tax reform” in recent years, followed by the inevitable call for “tough choices” when reality doesn’t meet their unrealistic forecasts–and it is being set up, right now, to happen again.

At some point, Americans will connect both sides of this monumental scam. But it hasn’t happened yet.

Gardner Sneaks In Another Mute-Button “Tele-Town Hall”

If you blinked, you missed it–yesterday morning, Sen. Cory Gardner announced another one of his trademark “tele-town halls,” set to take place this morning at 10:00AM:

Even if you didn’t blink, and managed to take time at the beginning of a busy weekday to “talk” to Sen. Gardner on practically no notice, hopefully you didn’t miss this morning’s last-minute time change!

Pretty much if you’re either 1. on Cory Gardner’s staff or 2. have nothing whatsoever else to do on a Thursday morning, a last-minute-and-then-rescheduled conference call is something you might reasonably be expected to be able to accommodate. For the rest of us–meaning, well, most of us–this is all kind of farcical. There’s nothing about this experience that makes a constituent feel like they’ve been reached out to for anything like actual feedback.

There’s more to say about the subject of Gardner’s “outreach,” but this off-putting miscue tells its own story.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (October 19)

Mark your calendars — the world is ending on Saturday. 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…

► President Trump is upping his ante on a misinformation campaign about potential Russian interference in the 2016 election, suggesting on Thursday that perhaps the FBI and the Democratic Party somehow conspired together to pay for a reported intelligence dossier on Trump. We’d say that this was getting strange, but we’d be repeating ourselves. From CNN:

The point here is that it is deeply irresponsible for a president of the United States to even flirt with this sort of conspiracy talk. You can love Donald Trump and still believe that the idea that the Russians, the Democrats and the FBI co-funded a dossier designed to discredit Trump’s 2016 campaign is totally bonkers.

Unfortunately, lots and lots of Trump backers will believe this stuff solely by dint of the fact that Trump tweeted it. And that, of course, is Trump’s goal. Muddy the waters and discredit the ongoing investigations into what Russia did in the 2016 election. Make the whole thing into a partisan witch hunt.

But, there is no plausible scenario by which what Trump suggested this morning — a wide-scale conspiracy involving three separate actors across federal agencies and continents — actually happened. That we can’t (won’t?) agree on that seemingly obvious fact is troubling.

 

► Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified Wednesday in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the topic of Russian election meddling took center stage. As the Washington Post explains:

Jeff Sessions was the personification of a hostile witness whenever a Democratic lawmaker questioned him during a contentious five-hour oversight hearing on Wednesday.

The attorney general set the tone early in his first appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee since his January confirmation. “I can neither assert executive privilege nor can I disclose today the content of my confidential conversations with the president,” Sessions said in his opening statement.

There were several yes-or-no questions that should have been easy for Sessions to answer, but he refused. Sometimes what someone will not say is more interesting than what they do…

Sessions declined to discuss anything the president told him before firing James Comey. He pointedly refused to answer multiple questions about whether Trump told him that getting rid of the FBI director would “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation.

Sessions also declined to express confidence in the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller, nor would he say whether or not he would resign his post if President Trump took the extraordinary step of trying to fire Mueller.

 

Cracks are forming in the leadership ranks of the Colorado League of Women Voters over the groups decision to support a controversial redistricting/reapportionment ballot proposal for 2018.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Gardner Goes Full Trump on Cost-Sharing “Bailouts”

UPDATE: President Trump’s decision to cut cost-sharing reduction subsidies (CSR) — which Gardner apparently supports — is directly related to significant increases in healthcare costs in Colorado:

—–

Critically, Gardner refers to these subsidies as “bailouts” for insurance companies, echoing the Trump administration’s line–and signaling clearly that Gardner will not be of assistance in moving forward a bipartisan plan to fund the CSR payments floated this week:

GARDNER: Now we know it contains a bailout to the insurance companies, I think most people across America probably don’t like the fact that we’re giving billions of dollars to insurance companies while they’re still increasing rates dramatically…

But as Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler analyzed in detail a few days ago, the claim that the cost-sharing reduction payments constitute a “bailout” in any sense the term is correctly used is completely wrong–earning the dreaded “Four Pinocchios” on their scale of falsity:

The CSRs were in addition to the premium tax credits received by people making less than 400 percent of the poverty line. (The tax credits were available for any level of plan.) The intent was to make it easier for low-income people to afford the cost of health insurance…

CSRs are not a bailout for insurance companies. A bailout means a company is being propped up with government money after making bad decisions. That’s not the case here…Insurance companies don’t make money through cost-sharing — they are being paid back for money they’ve already spent on behalf of people who purchased their health plans. The president either doesn’t understand the process or is being purposely misleading.

If it’s true that President Trump “either doesn’t understand the process or is being purposely misleading” when he called the CSR payments a “bailout,” it’s true of Cory Gardner as well. In Gardner’s case, we’re not inclined to presume ignorance. In the clip above, Gardner smiles as he refers to the CSR payments as a “bailout,” almost like he knows what he’s saying is nonsense and is a little embarrassed by it.

If so, it’s because he should be. It may not be a surprise at this point for Gardner to echo Trump’s already-proven lies, but it’s pretty galling. For everyone who defended Gardner as “a different kind of Republican” in 2014, this should be the breaking point if they haven’t already reached one.

Because these are just not the words honest people use.

Colorado Springs Refuses To Drop Gardner Protester Charges

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

The Colorado Springs Independent’s Nat Stein follows up on one of the lingering trespassing cases left over from the spate of protests this past summer over health care at Sen. Cory Gardner’s offices–most of which have been dismissed at Gardner’s request, but not in conservative Colorado Springs:

While the debate roiled on in Washington, D.C., Gardner’s home state offices became the sites of “vote no” activism, leading to some arrests. On June 29, disabled activists got wrangled out of wheelchairs and dragged out of their senator’s Denver office, all while chanting “rather go to jail than die without Medicaid!” About a week later, more “health care for all” activists were arrested for refusing to leave that same office. And here in the Springs, activists formerly with the group Colorado Springs Action Network (COS CAN) are headed to trial on trespassing charges stemming from a July 18 visit to Gardner’s local office. If convicted, they could face jail time up to 189 days and/or fines up to $2,500.

The three defendants stand by their actions, insisting prosecutors with the city attorney’s office are taking too punitive an approach to a peaceful protest. And, in a twist, it seems Gardner may agree with them. The senator apparently asked Colorado Springs’ City Attorney Wynetta Massey’s office to dismiss their charges, as he did for at least five of the arrestees in Denver. Denver’s city attorney heeded the request, but the Springs’ city attorney, who declined to comment on the pending criminal case per city spokesperson Kim Melchor, has chosen to press charges…

As we’ve opined already about these cases, dropping the charges is in the best political interests of Sen. Gardner first and foremost. In a situation were protesters are committing civil disobedience for the express purpose of gaining attention via arrest and prosecution, prosecution only plays into protesters’ hands. There’s no question that the images of protesters being violently dragged out of Gardner’s Denver office did lasting damage to Gardner’s image–which is why Gardner asked the Denver city attorney to drop all charges against them.

But in Colorado Springs, by God, they’re going to teach those hippies a lesson!

Their counterparts to the north, who were charged with trespassing in similar circumstances, had their case dismissed at Gardner’s behest. So, what makes this case different? Over a dozen calls and emails to Gardner’s Colorado Springs, Denver and Washington, D.C., offices went unreturned, but a recorded conversation provided to the Indy by one of the defendants, Candi Frank, seems to confirm that Gardner’s people at least tried. In the audio recording, which captures a meeting that followed a Sept. 11 court appearance, Frank can be heard asking the prosecutor, who had just proposed a plea deal, “As I understood it, Sen. Gardner was requesting charges be dropped…?” A voice apparently of the prosecutor, Shantel Withrow, replies, “Yes, he did request that charges be dropped, but in reviewing the case, there is a violation of law that occurred and my office is the one that makes the ultimate decision.”

It’s not Gardner fault that the Colorado Springs city attorney is refusing to drop the charges, but he’s still the one who owns the consequences. The swiftest way out of the bad press Gardner has earned over these protests is to make the underlying cases go away, as happened in Denver. There’s no deterrent value in prosecuting individuals engaged in a political protest, in fact if anything it’s more likely to have the opposite effect. And if the Colorado Springs City Attorney thinks there is deterrent value in prosecuting nonviolent protesters that other jurisdictions dismissed, that invites another discussion entirely.

We’d say the Senator ought to try again.

Gardner on Bannon Insurgency: This is Fine!

Bloomberg News tracks the growing Republican unease over Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist now masterminding what appears to be a nationwide insurgency against the “establishment” GOP–after toppling appointed GOP incumbent Sen. Luther Strange of Alabama in favor of freak-right icon Roy Moore, and at least some manner of contact with prospective Colorado GOP gubernatorial contender Tom Tancredo:

Steve Bannon won’t abandon his war against congressional Republican incumbents, not even after President Donald Trump publicly pleaded for a truce that could salvage the tax overhaul at the heart of his legislative agenda.

Trump’s ousted chief strategist will continue to back insurgent candidates who pledge to usurp Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a person familiar with Bannon’s plans said. His message was made plain on Monday on the Breitbart News website he once again runs: “Bitter Mitch! Triggered by Bannon,” one headline crowed…

Trump is “frustrated” with Senate Republicans over the health-care failure and the challenges that have surfaced in the process of overhauling the tax code, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said Tuesday.

“Republicans need to start figuring out a way to pass stuff, and not look for reasons not to pass stuff,” Mulvaney said on Fox News. “They ran promising tax reform, and we’re sort of hitting a hurdle on that.”

The Trump administration’s tacit support for Bannon’s threats to primary backsliding incumbents and fielding of hard-right pro-Trump candidates for open seats, an acknowledged fact whatever the administration may say publicly on any given day, is primarily a blow against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell’s support for Luther Strange in Alabama, which the Trump administration keyed off of, marked a breaking pint for loss-averse Trump personally. Trump is keenly aware of the discontent among the conservative rank-and-file with the establishment GOP, having ridden it to power, and wants to ensure he remains on the side of right-wing establishment discontent instead of becoming another target.

Where does all of this leave Sen. Cory Gardner, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) who reports directly to McConnell–and pivoted seamlessly from opposing Roy Moore in Alabama to backing him after he won the primary?

Some Republicans on Capitol Hill downplayed Bannon’s threat.

Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Bannon is helping the party in some instances, backing candidates for Democrat-held or open seats who have a good chance of prevailing in their general elections in states like West Virginia and Tennessee.

The fact is, Gardner is in an impossible situation. As everyone who has followed Republican politics in Colorado knows, the NRSC is deeply involved in the GOP primary process in any strategically valuable Senate race. Examples abound: Scott McInnis being forced out of the 2008 U.S. Senate race in favor of Bob Schaffer. Jane Norton openly favored by the NRSC in the 2010 primary. And of course, Gardner himself cleared the field in 2014 with the full support of the organization he now chairs.

But that’s not the dynamic anymore. The NRSC isn’t in charge anymore, and the Alabama Senate primary proved it. That’s why the NRSC’s fundraising is drying up, and Trump is looking outside the party’s power structure for candidates who will carry out his agenda. This is a huge threat to Gardner’s own political power, which is tied to McConnell’s and that of the pre-Trump GOP establishment. As the (nominal) chief political strategist for Senate Republicans, Gardner has to make the best of whatever Bannon gives him to run with in 2018. And he can’t do anything publicly to complain.

For if it prosper, none dare call it an insurgency.

Gardner Gets All Fire and Brimstone on Chuck Schumer

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

As the Charleston Post and Courier reports, Colorado’s Sen. Cory Gardner got into televangelist character at a fundraising dinner for South Carolina Republicans, waxing bombastic in front of the friendly crowd:

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, the evening’s headliner, waxed poetic about his conversion to conservatism at a young age and railed against what he argued is increasing extremism from his Democratic colleagues.

“Our rights come from God, not from Chuck Schumer,” Gardner said, referring to the Senate minority leader from New York. [Pols emphasis]

It took us a minute to put this one together, since we’d say it’s pretty obvious that our rights as Americans do not descend to us from the current Minority Leader of the U.S. Senate. On the other hand, invoking the Almighty against some guy from New York City who…wait, that’s right, isn’t a Christian at allSurefire winner in the Palmetto State.

As it turns out, Cory Gardner can blow a dog whistle as well as anybody.

Gardner’s Push for Trump to Unilaterally Dismantle Obamacare Is Coming to Fruition

(Like we said – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) has yet to comment on Trump’s latest effort to deliver a body blow to Obamacare by eliminating insurance assistance for low-income people.

But in March, Gardner said he hoped Trump would use his presidential authority, ASAP, to dismantle Obamacare.

“We also, I believe, need the Administration to move forward with some of its executive actions,” Gardner told KHOW 630-AM’s Ross Kaminsky. “Those executive actions they can take won’t ever be scored by the Congressional Budget Office. That’s not what the Congressional Budget Office does. But if they take those actions, it could result in significant improvement in the current system.” [listen below]

You may recall, in the spring, the Congressional Budget Office estimated for the first time that tens of millions of Americans would lose health insurance under the House GOP’s proposal to repeal Obamacare. The uninsured would include hundreds of thousands in Colorado.

The specter of millions of Americans losing health insurance generated such coast-to-coast angst and blow back that the seven-year GOP effort to kill Obamacare seemed doomed to die in the House.

So that’s why a gloomy Gardner, calling Obamacare “a disaster for the American people,” was looking at how Obamacare could be rolled back without legislation. Without repealing the law, Trump could do a lot through executive actions, Gardner said, and, bonus, they won’t be scored by the CBO, so we won’t get the nonpartisan estimate of the resultant misery. Not to mention the headlines.

Fast forward to yesterday.

Trump signed more executive orders aimed at Obamacare, as Gardner hoped he would, but it turns out Gardner was wrong about the CBO–at least with respect to one of Gardner’s orders.

That’s because, a few months after Gardner’s radio appearance, Democrats asked the CBO to analyze what would happen if Trump eliminated Obamacare subsidies for insurance on the individual market. The CBO report was completed back in August, but it’s getting a lot of attention now, because it shows that Trump’s order will increase health insurance rates on the individual market by 20 percent in 2018 and that one million more Americans will lose insurance entirely next year, compared with current law.

Obamacare supporters say Congress can stop this chaos, without increasing the deficit, by providing the Obamacare funds that Trump wants to cut. They would be used to lower the cost of health insurance for low-income people, as Obamacare stipulates.

But Gardner will have to change his thinking drastically to get on board. To date, he’s backed everything and anything in Congress to kill Obamacare. And when it looked like Congress wasn’t going to be able to do it, he called on unilateral action by Trump.

Now, with the full repercussions of Trump’s orders out in the open will Gardner shift his position, break his alliance with Trump, and endorse bipartisan congressional efforts to fix Obamacare, rather then nuke it?

(more…)

Trump Doing Gardner’s Dirty Work For Him

UPDATE: From the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative:

“Today, the Trump administration took a deliberate step to sabotage the insurance market and gut protections for people with pre-existing conditions. This Executive Order will allow association health plans to offer insurance that does not provide essential health benefits such as mental health care and maternity care. Consumers could end up purchasing these plans only to later find that they do not provide basic coverage for health conditions like cancer. The Executive Order will also create consumer confusion as they may be tricked into buying limited-benefit plans that don’t provide real health insurance coverage. This will destabilize the individual market as it opens the door for people to buy substandard coverage while leaving the individual market with an unhealthy risk pool and skyrocketing premiums.”

“Rather than helping hard-working Americans, the administration’s Executive Order will lead to some Coloradans buying junk insurance that leaves them without the care they need while others will be left paying much higher premiums. Insurers have already been struggling with the uncertainty created by senseless repeal efforts and other actions by this administration, and this will only increase uncertainty and instability in the individual market.”

“The Trump Administration is not ‘letting’ Obamacare fail. It is actively sabotaging the health insurance market. Everyday Americans will suffer as premiums spike and plans that provide comprehensive benefits become unaffordable or evaporate altogether. It is up to Congress and all of us to raise our voices against this overt destruction of our health care system.”

—–

Politico reports on today’s executive order from President Donald Trump, which could set in motion a series of events very troubling for health insurance markets–helping keep Trump’s promise to destroy the Affordable Care Act, but with lots of collateral damage:

President Donald Trump on Thursday signed an executive order directing an overhaul of major federal health regulations, calling it the first step toward fulfilling the GOP’s promise to repeal Obamacare.

The order is aimed at encouraging the rise of a raft of cheap, loosely regulated health insurance plans that don’t have to comply with certain Obamacare consumer protections and benefit rules. They’d attract younger and healthier people — leaving older and sicker ones in the Obamacare markets facing higher and higher costs…

It’s not yet clear how far the administration will go, or how quickly it can implement the president’s order. But if successful, the new rules could upend the way businesses and individuals buy coverage — lowering premiums for the healthiest Americans at the expense of key consumer protections and potentially tipping the Obamacare markets into a tailspin.

“Within a year, this would kill the market,” said Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation who previously worked at former President Barack Obama’s Health and Human Services Department. [Pols emphasis]

Like a game of Jenga, pulling out individual components of the interlocking framework of risk sharing set up by the Affordable Care Act could cause the whole system to come crashing down–something that is already a threat largely due to the refusal by Republicans in Washington to take any action to stabilize insurance markets, and years of inaction to address routine implementation issues that have cropped up since the ACA was passed in 2010. What this means politically is that Republicans have by any reasonable measure lost the ability to blame the 2010 law and Democrats who passed it for problems occurring today. After so many failed opportunities to replace or just fix easily-addressed problems with the ACA, it’s Republicans who own it now–although you could argue that they owned as soon as they started stripping funding from the law during high-stakes fiscal negotiations with the Obama administration.

So in the event that Trump’s order today to promote cheap health plans that don’t meet the ACA’s coverage standards wreaks havoc on Colorado’s insurance markets, driving up the cost of care for sick people and returning others to the “bad old days” of chintzy health plans that proved useless when actually needed, Coloradans can thank Cory Gardner. After all, it’s exactly what Gardner has repeatedly claimed he wanted. Blaming Obama when this plan comes apart as the experts predict won’t be easy!

Then again, none of this is intended to make health care better. That will be obvious soon enough.

Gardner Blues Continue As NRSC Fundraising Stalls

Sen. Cory Gardner, not smiling.

A story in the Phil Anschutz-owned Washington Examiner today, widely considered a bellwether conservative mouthpiece, makes no attempt to contain the growing frustration from high-ranking Republican donors over the failure by the GOP-dominated federal government to accomplish any of their agenda items since President Donald Trump took office:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is holding off a revolt by his loyal campaign contributors for now, even as other donors angry about Republican failures in Congress reject pleas for cash to support the party’s 2018 campaign.

McConnell, attempting to rebound from stinging defeats on Capitol Hill and the campaign trail, has generally maintained buy-in from his “roster of several hundred committed donors” cultivated since the 2010 election cycle, especially high rollers that write seven-figure checks to the Kentuckian’s super PAC, Senate Leadership Fund…

“It seems like McConnell’s star is fading and Bannon’s is rising,” said Eberhart, who runs an investment firm. This disenchantment has impacted the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Republican Senate campaign committee run by Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado but overseen by McConnell.

The NRSC, which unlike McConnell’s super PAC and affiliated political nonprofit, One Nation, has donations capped by federal limits, raised a scant $4 million in July and August, less than the $4.8 million the organization collected in June, as the Senate GOP’s effort to repeal Obamacare ground to a halt. [Pols emphasis]

Donations to Mitch McConnell’s SuperPAC aren’t subject to the same limits as donations to Sen. Cory Gardner’s National Republican Senatorial Committee, so it’s logical that money would continue to flow to the Senate Leadership Fund. The significant falloff in support for the NRSC can be explained by a number of factors, not least being that organization’s responsibility to support Republican incumbents–even in the face of primary challengers who could leave the “official” campaign organ of Senate Republicans on the wrong side of GOP primary voters.

Which is exactly what happened in Alabama as NRSC-supported Sen. Luther Strange fell to Stephen Bannon-supported Roy Moore. The possibility of “throwing good money after bad” in other upcoming GOP primaries is a very good reason to exercise caution before writing checks to the NRSC.

Needless to say, that’s very bad for Gardner, whose nominally powerful position as the Senate GOP’s campaign chief is rapidly being undermined by Bannon’s insurgency. The one-two punch of losing primaries, followed by having to back fringe nominees, puts Gardner in a horrible position going into an election where Democrats are increasingly hopeful about their still-long shot chances of retaking the U.S. Senate majority.

But like Gardner should have learned when the “Tea Party” propelled him to Congress in 2010, you dance with the one who brought you.

BREAKING: Gardner Makes Statement on Trump/Corker Feud

UPDATE: The extended transcript via the AP:

Way to hold forth there, Senator.

—–

This just in via KUNC’s Bente Birkeland, after Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee stated that the “vast majority of our caucus understands” Donald Trump could set America “on the path to World War III”–what does the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado have to say?

A fat wad of nothing, that’s what.

Cory Gardner Smiles Helplessly As Stephen Bannon Eats GOP

CNN’s Eric Bradner reports–since the victory of hard-right former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore in that state’s special election GOP primary, one of the prime movers in that insurgent win, former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, ambitiously looking beyond that state to other 2018 Senate races in which a strident conservative could oust an incumbent Republican:

In the two weeks since Bannon-backed former judge Roy Moore defeated Sen. Luther Strange in Alabama’s Republican primary, Bannon has expanded his map of targets in the 2018 midterms and ramped up his efforts to establish a donor network to fund his slate of insurgent candidates.

Bannon has added Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer and Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch to the ranks of incumbents he plans to take on.

He had already put in motion efforts to oust Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker and Nevada Sen. Dean Heller. Bannon also plans to get involved in the primaries in West Virginia and Missouri, two of Republicans’ top opportunities to pick off Democratic-held seats next year.

And that’s “just a partial list,” a source familiar with Bannon’s plans said.

There is no one in America who should be more worried about Bannon’s insurgency against Republican incumbents that the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado. The NRSC supported Moore’s appointed incumbent opponent Luther Strange in the Alabama primary, but after Moore emerged victorious Gardner immediately pledged the NRSC’s support–and has stayed aboard even after national exposure of Moore’s highly controversial record left moderates across the country aghast.

Bannon’s recent meetings with prospective Colorado gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo were reportedly followed up last week by reported meetings with Erik Prince, the Blackwater mercenary corporation founder and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, as he considers a run for the U.S. Senate in Wyoming. But the real threat to the GOP Bannon poses is in swing states like Nevada, where incumbent Sen. Dean Heller needs to run to the center in order to survive–and won’t be able to with an insurgent challenger flaming him from the right.

And if Heller loses to a far-right Bannon-backed challenger, it’s 2010 all over again.

As we noted after Moore’s victory in Alabama, President Donald Trump is furious after being caught on the wrong side of that primary. We could easily see Trump deciding to run against the NRSC’s anointed candidates, even against GOP incumbents–an unthinkable prospect before Trump took office. The combination of Bannon energizing far-right primary candidates and the possibility of an unpredictable Republican president going rogue is a nightmare scenario for Gardner and the NRSC.

But if it goes down that way, the last person you’ll hear complain is Cory Gardner. Whatever happens, Gardner’s job will be to put a smile on the situation all the way through Election Day 2018. As quickly as Gardner became an apologist for Roy Moore, he’ll be forced to do the same for every one of Bannon’s insurgent candidates who win their primaries. As the GOP is driven farther into the fringe, Gardner’s job as the chair of the NRSC is to cheer it on.

Win or lose, this will not end well for Colorado’s junior Senator.

ICYMI: 20-Week Abortion Ban Passes U.S. House

Let’s hear it for the boys.

It would be impossible to wrap up this frenetic week of political and other riveting news without mentioning this week’s vote by the GOP-controlled U.S. House to pass the so-called Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act–a measure that bans abortions after an arbitrary 20 weeks of gestation. As The Hill reports, the measure is moving to the U.S. Senate after passing the House with all four Colorado Republicans voting yes:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced a 20-week abortion ban in the Senate on Thursday with the support of 45 GOP senators, two days after a similar bill passed the House.

The “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” which faces long odds in the upper chamber, would make it illegal for any person to perform or attempt an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy with the possibility of five years in prison, fines or both…

The legislation is likely to face a tough sell in the Senate. A similar bill passed the House in 2015 but was blocked by Democratic senators.

With only a 52-seat majority, it would be unlikely Senate Republicans could gather the 60 votes needed to move the legislation to President Trump’s desk. Graham still said he’s “100 percent confident” Senate leadership would bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

Still from Rep. Mike Coffman’s 2014 ad using Planned Parenthood’s logo.

President Donald Trump has said repeatedly he would sign this bill if it made it to his desk, so it’s only the Senate requirement of 60 votes to pass most legislation keeping this bill from becoming the law of the land. Trump has also called many times for the Senate to do away with the 60-vote requirement, but an abortion ban bill is probably not the right vehicle for such a radical change, assuming Mitch McConnell ever works up the nerve to try. The bottom line is that the policy is not supported by authoritative science, no matter how many times supporters claim otherwise.

Nevertheless all four Colorado Republican House members voted for the bill, though only the two safe GOP seats issued statements about their vote. Rep. Ken Buck of Greeley was ebullient:

“Science shows us that unborn children not only experience pain but also may have a chance to survive if born at 20 weeks,” Congressman Ken Buck stated. “We have a responsibility to the unborn babies, our families, our communities, and humanity to end the injustice of late-term abortion.”

Rep. Doug Lamborn managed to get just about every canard into a single quote:

“Babies born at 20 weeks are one step closer to protection from abortion now that H.R. 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, passed in the House. I am pleased to vote “yes” on legislation that defends the most vulnerable people in our society. The United States is in the unfortunate company of only six other countries, including China and North Korea, in allowing elective abortion so late in a pregnancy. Science has proven that babies in the womb feel pain more acutely than even adults, and a bill that is estimated to save close to 3,000 lives a year is worth fighting for.”

As The Hill reported above, the legislation has 45 GOP cosponsors. Interestingly that list of cosponsors does not include the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado as of this writing! That won’t be good for Gardner’s flagging credibility with his Republican base, but it does show how Gardner’s repeated stumbles on the issue have forced him into a more muted position–this, after all, being a man who once bragged about having circulated petitions for Colorado’s failed “Personhood” amendments at his local church. So that will be another interesting angle on this to see resolved. Or in Cory’s case, see him dodge right up to the vote.

And no, it’s most likely not going to pass. But it’s going to come closer than ever to passing, with only a Senate rule already under threat keeping this abortion ban bill from becoming law. Therein lies an important lesson about the fragility of abortion rights in America today. And if it doesn’t instill a sense of urgency in supporters of abortion rights going into the 2018 elections, it’s tough to see what could.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (October 5)

The Colorado Rockies made the playoffs this year, but you missed it if you didn’t catch Wednesday’s game in Arizona. 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…

► Tens of thousands of Colorado children are in serious trouble if Congress does not renew funding for CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program that expired at the end of September. The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday took the first step toward renewing CHIP funding with a bill sponsored by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

 

► Today is the last day for DACA recipients to renew permits before the process is closed under a policy shift announced last month by the Trump administration.

 

► Colorado Senate Republican leaders pledged not to do their jobs when the legislature convened for a brief session to fix an unintentional legislative error this week, and they succeeded in doing nothing once again. But the decisions of Republican leaders such as Senate President Kevin Grantham are looking even worse with the news that legislation to fix SB-267 would have passed in the Senate had a floor vote been permitted.

State Sen. Chris Holbert is among those Republican leaders whose reputations took a hit this week. Holbert was quoted by the Denver Post saying that he “did not swear an oath to uphold the opinion of a court” and preferred to follow his constituents’ interpretation of the State Constitution rather than, you know, facts.

 

► Former Judge Roy Moore, who easily defeated Sen. Luther Strange in a Republican Primary in Alabama last month, showed up unexpectedly in Washington D.C. on Wednesday and caused quite a stir. As the Washington Post reports, Moore apparently met with NRSC head Cory Gardner, despite the best efforts of both men to pretend othewise:

Rather than meeting with McConnell, Moore was on the House side of the Capitol on Wednesday. In a brief interview as he left the office of Rep. Robert B. Aderholt in the afternoon, Moore said he had no meetings set up with McConnell or members of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate majority’s campaign arm, which spent millions trying to defeat Moore in the primary.

“Nothing confirmed,” he said casually, as an aide tried to head off questions. Asked why he decided to come to Washington, Moore simply replied: “Beautiful place.”

In the evening, Moore met with the NRSC chairman, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), according to a Republican close to Gardner and a second Republican familiar with the talk who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the closed-door session. Moore’s campaign declined to comment.

The meeting appeared to be hastily arranged, given Moore’s afternoon remark and Gardner’s uncertainty earlier in the day, as he and other Republicans struggled to save face.

“I haven’t looked at the schedule — I don’t know that yet,” Gardner said around midday, when asked whether he planned to meet with Moore.

The entire story is worth a read; Republicans who feared Moore and his right-wing supporters seem to have plenty of reason to be nervous. Moore’s Senate campaign was also a referendum on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whom the Alabama nominee has openly criticized.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Gardner, Buck Among Top Recipients of NRA Money

As the New York Times reports today, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) are among the top career recipients of campaign money — among current members of Congress — from the National Rifle Association (NRA).

We’ll just leave this here…