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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County)

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

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

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

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

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

Trumpcare: A Bloodbath For Colorado

Denver7’s Blair Miller reporting on a new study from the Colorado Health Institute on the effects in our state of passage of the House GOP’s Obamacare repeal/”replace” plan–and much like the Congressional Budget Office’s forecast of disaster for millions of Americans, it’s looking really bad for Colorado:

Colorado would lose $340 million in federal funding in 2020 when Medicaid provisions in the GOP-sponsored American Health Care Act run out, and the state stands to lose $14 billion in federal funds by 2030, according to analysis on the proposal released Thursday by the Colorado Health Institute.

The report says the state will have to choose between cutting up to 600,000 Coloradans from Medicaid by 2030 or making cuts to the state budget the nonpartisan CHI says would be “historic.” [Pols emphasis]

CHI’s analysis shows that once Medicaid provisions, including Colorado’s expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, are cut, that the state would start losing about $200 million in federal funding each year starting in FY 2020.

By 2030, federal funding through Medicaid to Colorado would be $2.26 billion less in that fiscal year alone than the state would have received under an unchanged ACA, according to the CHI analysis. The losses would amount to approximately $6 billion total over 10 years just from the AHCA change to a per-capita allotment system.

Like we said, these numbers quantify the local breakout of pain already forecast by the Congressional Budget Office. It should be noted that reduction of eligible Medicaid recipients is a goal of many state legislative Republicans, even as federal Republicans express concern about it. Likewise the principal defense from Democrats for the Medicaid expansion, other than the obvious public health and economic benefits of a healthier population, is that the expansion has been largely paid for with federal funds.

Whether you consider throwing hundreds of thousands of Coloradans off the health coverage rolls to be a disaster or an objective, the number who would be affected is becoming clear.

And it’s a lot of your fellow Coloradans.

Sentinel publisher still preparing to sue lawmaker over “fake news” allegation

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Ray Scott (R).

The publisher of the Grand Junction Sentinel insisted last night that he’s getting his “ducks in a row” in preparation to sue State Sen. Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction) for labeling the Sentinel “fake news.”

“Have you attempted to patch things up with Sen. Scott?” 9News anchor Kyle Clark asked Jay Seaton, publisher of the Grand Junction Sentinel Wednesday, prior to the streaming of a panel discussion on media issues streamed on Facebook. “You’re going to be covering him for years to come. There’s nothing to be gained by media outlets fighting with public officials like this.”

“The only valuable currency in the court system is truth, and so I would like to see how a court actually handles this kind of false allegation,” responded Seaton, insisting that he’s preparing to file a lawsuit against Scott for his claim that the Sentinel is “fake news.”

The panel, titled Getting to Truth in the Age of Alternative Facts, was held to mark “Sunshine Week,” which promotes openness in government. The event was organized by the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, and it was hosted by 9News.

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Trumpcare: Coffman’s Credibility Collapses

UPDATE: Nick Riccardi of the AP, Tweeting Mike Coffman’s tele-town hall yesterday:

File under “clear as mud.”

—–

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman reports–remember five days ago when Rep. Mike Coffman committed to supporting the GOP’s American Healthcare Act “in its current form?” Staking out his position right before the Congressional Budget Office released its damning estimate of 24 million more people without insurance than under the Affordable Care Act?

Yeah, forget all that:

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) says he’s taking more time to review the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“Rep. Coffman is reviewing the [Congressional Budget Office] analysis to see what areas of the American Healthcare Act need adjustments before a final bill is enacted,” spokesman Daniel Bucheli wrote in an email to 9NEWS. “But he is encouraged that the bill leaves in place the consumer protections, such as preexisting conditions and allowing dependents to remain on their parents’ plans until age 26, and he believes the AHCA will face major changes before it’s signed into law.”

That’s different from what Coffman said March 11 on The Craig Silverman Show…

“In its current form, right now I would vote for it,” Coffman said. “I’m obviously concerned about it being changed, and what changes may happen. And I certainly do have some changes to it that I’m pushing, but if I had vote today on the form that’s there, I would support it.”

And don’t forget Coffman’s famous photo from March 7, in which he claimed to be “closely reading” the bill “to make sure it is in the best interest of CD-6 residents.”

So, on March 7, Coffman claimed he read the bill. On March 11, he said he would vote for it “in its current form.” And then yesterday, just hours before holding a tele-town hall, he backpedaled to “still reviewing.” We’re awaiting reports from yesterday’s call to update with any further contradictions/”evolutions” in Coffman’s position.

But folks, this is ridiculous. The only thing that changed between when Coffman claimed to have “read the bill” and said he would vote for it and today is the CBO’s report and the overwhelming public rejection of the bill. Coffman put himself out on this limb with no help, and his original statement that he would vote for the bill “in its current form” was not equivocal.

In short, Mike Coffman is all over the map, displaying the opposite of leadership on this central issue at a time when his constituents can least afford it. The situation reveals Coffman’s great weakness as a hard-right congressman representing a closely-divided swing district–weaker now more than ever with Republicans in full control, pushing an agenda that Coffman embraces at his peril.

And it’s only going to get worse.

Cory Gardner’s Abysmal Poll Numbers

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) does not fare well in new polling results from Keating Research.

The Denver Post reports today on new polling numbers from Keating Research showing that 54% of Colorado voters would rather save or improve Obamacare instead of eliminating or replacing the healthcare law — numbers that have been fairly consistent among Coloradans. But the more eye-popping numbers come in response to questions about the favorability of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma):

…the 503 Colorado voters surveyed in the new poll were less than happy with President Donald Trump: 43 percent viewed him favorably, compared to 55 percent who do not like the new commander-in-chief.

It’s a different story for U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican who jettisoned his support for Trump last year and has spent much of 2017 trying to walk a fine line with the new administration on policies ranging from Russia to healthcare — all the while taking heat from Democrats and liberal activists for other issues, such as supporting Trump’s Cabinet picks.

The poll found a near-split on his approval ratings: 39 percent viewed Gardner favorably compared to the 38 percent who viewed him unfavorably.

But Gardner’s efforts to keep Trump at arm’s length may be hurting his support among Republicans. His approval among GOP voters was 63 percent — a far cry from the 83 percent of Colorado Republicans who approved of Trump.

Gah!

These are absolute horrid numbers for Gardner…and they are also easily explainable. As we’ve said in this space many times, the cardinal sin for any politician is to ignore your constituents, which Gardner has done regularly since the 2016 election. It doesn’t help Gardner that he tries so hard to be all things to all people, but the bigger albatross is his very public decision to avoid having contact with Colorado voters (despite what he has said himself in the past).

When a cardboard cutout is more popular than the man himself, you’ve got problems.

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.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (March 15)

The NCAA Tournament starts tomorrow morning, so get those brackets filled out. Scroll down for more from Get More Smarter, which is also available through microwave ovens. 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…

► Trumpcare appears to be in trouble. Following a brutal Congressional Budget Office review of the GOP healthcare plan, many moderate Republicans are abandoning ship. As CNN reports:

Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said publicly Tuesday that she wouldn’t be able to support the GOP health care legislation after the CBO score revealed the high number of people who would lose insurance.

“I plan to vote NO on the current #AHCA bill. As written the plan leaves too many from my #SoFla district uninsured,” the Florida congresswoman wrote in two consecutive tweets. “As #AHCA stands, it will cut much needed help for #SoFla’s poor + elderly populations. Need a plan that will do more to protect them.”

Republican Rep. Leonard Lance, a moderate from New Jersey who Democrats believe will be vulnerable in 2018, told CNN that he believes the House bill will fail in the Senate. As he eyes his own reelection campaign next year, Lance said he doesn’t want to support a legislation that would be rejected by his Republican colleagues across the Capitol.

“I do not want to vote on a bill that has no chance of passing over in the Senate,” Lance said. “The CBO score has modified the dynamics.”

In light of the new CBO report, Lance said House leaders must make changes to their existing bill and only bring to the floor a version that can survive in the Senate.

It’s not difficult to see the political calculations taking place here. Skittish House Republicans are going to oppose Trumpcare as written because they’ll say that it can’t pass the Senate. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans will demand changes to the bill and just refuse to do anything unless/until the legislation passes through the House.

For a terrific breakdown of Trumpcare, check out this page from the Denver Post.

 

► Allies of President Trump, meanwhile, are warning the big orange man that the GOP healthcare legislation is doomed and are encouraging the President to cut bait before he gets sucked too far into the debate (we’d argue that this has already happened, but, whatever). From the Washington Post:

A simmering rebellion of conservative populists loyal to President Donald Trump is further endangering the GOP health-care push, with a chorus of influential voices suspicious of the proposal warning the president to abandon it.

From headlines at Breitbart to chatter on Fox News Channel and right-wing talk radio, as well as among friends who have Trump’s ear, the message has been blunt: The plan is being advanced by congressional Republican leaders is deeply flawed – and, at worst, a political trap. [Pols emphasis]

Trump’s allies worry that he is jeopardizing his presidency by promoting the bill spearheaded by House Speaker Paul Ryan, Wis., arguing that it would fracture Trump’s coalition of working- and middle-class voters, many of them older and subsisting on federal aid.

It is a bit strange to hear Republicans referring to the American Health Care Act as a “political trap.” If it is indeed a trap, it is one that the GOP set for itself.

 

► Fringe right-wing interest groups in Colorado are demonstrating that they are absolutely not interested in any sort of constructive outcome on, well, anything.

 

 

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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.

Another Try At “Rolling Coal” Ban This Year?

“Rolling coal” is not sexy.

As the Fort Collins Coloradoan’s Nick Coltrain reports–after a substantial outcry over the killing of bipartisan legislation from GOP Sen. Don Coram and Democratic Rep. Joann Ginal to outlaw “rolling coal,” modifying your diesel vehicle to spew clouds of black smoke on demand, Sen. Coram is planning to try again before the end of the legislative session with a new bill introduced in the GOP-held Colorado Senate:

The effort to outlaw rolling coal may have stalled out early on this legislative session, but don’t count it out just yet.

State Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose, plans to introduce a similar bill later this session targeted at stopping drivers who harass others by blasting smoke from their diesel trucks. It would not seek to make the modifications that make doing so possible illegal.

“(Rolling coal) is not done for fuel economy, I can tell you that,” Coram, a rancher by trade, said. “It’s just harassment.” [Pols emphasis]

Each year Ginal’s bill passed the House and failed in a Senate committee on partisan lines with Republicans in dissent. She hoped that Coram sponsoring this year’s version in the Senate would bridge that divide.

Instead, it fell among Republican Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg’s fears that it would lead to California-like emissions regulations for Colorado motorists.

Coltrain reports that Sen. Coram is going to “tweak” the bill in an attempt to allay Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg’s concerns and get the bill through the Senate, and Rep. Ginal will serve at the House sponsor of the new bill. It’s anybody’s guess whether Coram will have more success next time, but it’s face-saving on behalf of his fellow Republican Senators for him to at least try.

Will Colorado finally summon up the will to crack down on the noxious practice of “coal rolling?” We know plenty of pedestrians, bicyclists, and Prius owners who sincerely hope so.

Wingnut Pressure Groups: Why Colorado Can’t Have Nice Things

We mentioned this developing story in today’s Get More Smarter roundup, but the crisis over Republican intransigence on a deal to increase revenue for transportation spending in Colorado is getting worse by the minute–recapping the Denver Post’s report today on an “alternative” to the bipartisan deal between the Senate and House leadership from the #2 Republican in the Senate:

Senate President Pro Tem Jerry Sonnenberg calls his effort “supplemental” but the proposal is a clear alternative to the one put forward by Senate President Kevin Grantham and House Speaker Crisanta Duran.

Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, said his draft bill would not increase taxes and would use $100 million in existing state dollars to cover a much smaller $1.3 billion bond, which is only enough to improve small local roads.

“I am going to do a supplemental transportation bill that may reduce the tax increase, may provide for some help if this transportation bill doesn’t pass,” he said Monday in a briefing with reporters in Grantham’s office.

At the same time, conservative activists led by the Independence Institute are pushing an “alternative measure” called “Fix Our Damn Roads,” which directs the state to find money in the existing budget to pay for roads improvements:

On Friday, Jon Caldara, head of the libertarian-leaning Independence Institute, filed his own ballot measure with the Colorado Legislative Council that calls for $2.5 billion in bonding without the tax increase and without the transit funding. There’s enough money in the existing budget to pay for road improvements, he said, and the legislature needs to stop messing around.

And at the top of the Republican food chain, national conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity is leading opposition under the Gold Dome to the bipartisan roads compromise:

Watching Americans for Prosperity tear into Senate GOP leadership is particularly interesting, since there has been famously little daylight between that group and Senate Republicans ever since former Senate President Bill Cadman credited AFP with the Republican majority after the 2014 elections. The spokesman for Senate Republicans, Sean Paige, is himself a former AFP staffer–and taking fire from his former shop must be an unusual experience.

Both AFP and the Independence Institute are demonstrating a dogmatic unwillingness to compromise on this important issue, placing them well outside even the Republican mainstream–the proof of that being their opposition to a plan negotiated by a Republican Senate President. Both AFP and the Independence Institute have celebrated the “fiscal responsibility” that the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights requires the state to observe, but still claim there is hundreds of millions of dollars of waste in the budget that can be “reprioritized” to fund road repairs. Obviously, only one of those can be true.

At some point, you just have to understand that these groups are not interested in a constructive outcome. Their proposals can afford to be unworkable because they are not intended to be serious. These “alternatives” only exist to thwart debate on the real deal. It’s fine for outside pressure groups to draw an ideological hard line like this, but that shouldn’t be the final answer from responsible elected government officials. Governing, after all, is all about compromise.

Unfortunately, these groups wield enormous power. And too often, they write the script that Republican lawmakers read.

Gardner Proposes Working Around Congressional Budget Office

(Nobody drives in both lanes like Cory Gardner — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

In response to the growing outcry over the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate that 24 million Americans could lose their health insurance under a proposed GOP replacement plan, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) told a conservative talk radio host today that the Trump Administration should step up repealing the national health care law by taking actions that “won’t ever be scored by the Congressional Budget Office.”

“We also, I believe, need the Administration to move forward with some of its executive actions [to repeal parts of Obamacare],” 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.”

Gardner is referring to Trump Administration actions that, analysts say, could throw the national healthcare law into a “death spiral,” even without any action by Congress. Broadly, those actions, some of which have already been taken, would undermine enforcement of the requirement that Americans buy health insurance, undermining the core of the law. At the same time, Trump could make it more difficult and less attractive for people to buy insurance through the exchanges.

With respect to Gardner’s previously stated desire for the Obamacare replacement to provide more stability for those on Medicaid, Gardner said he wants to see unspecified changes in the proposed House bill to address his concerns, released in a joint letter.

(more…)

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (March 14)

If you’re having trouble reading today’s edition of Get More Smarter, note that we are also sending it out via microwave ovens. 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 from Capitol Hill to the White House may publicly insist that Monday’s CBO score of Trumpcare is bogus, but reality is likely to intervene. As the Washington Post reports:

The worse-than-expected Congressional Budget Office forecast seems certain to force meaningful changes to the Obamacare repeal bill now under consideration in the House.

An alarm bell for GOP leadership: Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) is exactly the kind of mainstream conservative whose support House Speaker Paul Ryan needs to secure passage of his pending legislation. After reading the CBO report last night, he came out against the plan…

…Senate Republicans are making it increasingly clear that the House bill, as presently constituted, will be dead on arrival in their chamber.

The Congressional Budget Office estimate that Trumpcare would leave 24 million Americans without health insurance might have actually been generous compared to a separate analysis from the White House. As Politico reports:

A White House analysis of the GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare shows even steeper coverage losses than the projections by the Congressional Budget Office, according to a document viewed by POLITICO on Monday.

The preliminary analysis from the Office of Management and Budget forecast that 26 million people would lose coverage over the next decade, versus the 24 million CBO estimates. [Pols emphasis] The White House has made efforts to discredit the forecasts from the nonpartisan CBO.

 

► An increasing number of prominent Republicans are backing away from Trumpcare in the wake of Monday’s news (“Let’s say the CBO is half-right; that should be cause for concern,’’ said Sen. Lindsey Graham), but Congressional leaders are still trying to convince members to choke down this shit sandwich. The Republican-aligned “American Action Network” is running advertisements praising Congressional Republicans — including Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) — for committing to support the Trumpcare disaster. On Monday, Coffman said that he supports the GOP healthcare bill “in its current form.”

 

► Conversations at the State Capitol about a potential sales tax increase for road construction are getting more convoluted as conservative Republicans balk at the idea. From the Denver Post:

How troubled is the much-acclaimed deal at the Capitol to spend $3.5 billion on Colorado roads to relieve traffic congestion?

Here’s the best indication to date: The No. 2 Republican in the state Senate said Monday he is proposing an alternative to the measure unveiled last week by the Senate’s No. 1 Republican.

Senate President Pro Tem Jerry Sonnenberg calls his effort “supplemental” but the proposal is a clear alternative to the one put forward by Senate President Kevin Grantham and House Speaker Crisanta Duran.

Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, said his draft bill would not increase taxes and would use $100 million in existing state dollars to cover a much smaller $1.3 billion bond, which is only enough to improve small local roads. [Pols emphasis]

Way to get a handle on your caucus, Sen. Grantham.

 

 

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Jeff Sessions Sure Sounds Like He’s Coming For Your Weed

Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Alicia Wallace reporting at the Denver Post’s Cannabist news site on an interview last week of Attorney General Jeff Sessions by conservative pundit Hugh Hewitt–in which Sessions gets even more specific about his options for cracking down on the legal marijuana industry:

Sessions’ latest remarks on marijuana legalization and enforcement came during a radio interview Thursday with conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt.

Hewitt broached the topic of marijuana by asking Sessions whether he would apply the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act to “end this facade and the flaunting of the Supremacy Clause.”

“…And I’m not in favor of legalization of marijuana. I think it’s a more dangerous drug than a lot of people realize. I don’t think we’re going to be a better community if marijuana is sold in every corner grocery store.”

Asked about whether he could send a message by bringing a RICO case against one retailer, Sessions said the Justice Department is analyzing its options.

“Well, we’ll be evaluating how we want to handle that,” he said. “I think it’s a little more complicated than one RICO case, I’ve got to tell you. This, places like Colorado, it’s just sprung up a lot of different independent entities that are moving marijuana. And it’s also being moved interstate, not just in the home state. … And neighbors (Oklahoma and Nebraska) are complaining, and filed lawsuits against them. So it’s a serious matter, in my opinion.”

That Sessions specific cited the example of Colorado, as opposed to other legal marijuana states with functioning retail markets like Washington or Oregon, should indeed worry local marijuana industry supporters. Without the resources to deploy thousands of federal agents to shut down marijuana stores and growhouses, it’s much more likely that Sessions would choose to file suit against one example state, or even prosecute an individual business under federal marijuana laws in order to send a chilling message to the industry. The real objective for Sessions would not be to use federal resources to stamp out the marijuana industry, but to induce states to do so themselves.

Politically, this would be a destructive development for Colorado Republicans ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. The question is whether our one small swing state would count for enough politically to give someone like Sessions pause–or for that matter, any of the marijuana states, most of whom are reliably blue.

Most likely, Sessions doesn’t give a crap about the politics. And if you care about Colorado’s marijuana industry, it’s quite possible that the best chance to defend it was before November 8th, 2016. Federal law is what it is, and the only thing that allowed this new industry to flourish without changing federal law was a permissive executive branch.

And because elections matter, those days are over.