Former GOP state Rep. Mark Hillman’s career in public office may have sputtered out in the bush leagues of the state legislature, but he continues to lob spitwads into the marketplace of ideas via whatever opportunities are afforded him by local media and sympathetic partisan outlets kind enough to republish him. Yesterday, Hillman wrote in the Aurora Sentinel that rural Coloradans like himself are not into this John Hickenlooper character one bit:
This year has no doubt been a tumultuous one for citizens in Colorado and across the country. Some issues (like a particularly bitter election cycle compounded by a global pandemic and endless protests) are new. Others (like a government that shows little regard for rural communities and citizens) are all too familiar for citizens living east of the Front Range.
Many rural Coloradans believe we’re not being heard by our elected officials and John Hickenlooper has not done much to change our mind.
The former governor recently chose to skip the Club 20 gathering of Western Slope organizations. Hickenlooper seems to think that it’s unfair to have to stand up and be held accountable for taking policy positions which could prove ruinous to Western Slope communities. He’d rather not look into the eyes of the folks he knows will be jobless if he wins. This guilt may explain why Hickenlooper has not graced the Eastern Plains with his presence either…
As readers know, Hickenlooper wasn’t the first Democratic candidate to determine that Club 20isn’t representative enough of the Western Slope to kowtow to. We could take a further gratuitous opportunity to point out that politicians who want to win elections go where the people are, and on the Western Slope and Eastern Plains of the state, there just aren’t that many people–but it’s not necessary to be rude. Former Gov. Hickenlooper will certainly get out to the hinterlands between now and November. Especially in the middle of a pandemic, this feeble and premature complaint doesn’t hold water.
He’d rather not look into the eyes of the folks he knows will be jobless if he wins. [Pols emphasis]
This particular line, though, is where Hillman goes definitively off the rails. It’s a regular allegation from Colorado Republicans that Democrats are out to “destroy the oil and gas industry in Colorado.” But if there’s any Democrat in the state to whom that label does not stick, it’s John Hickenlooper. After the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) piled on in support of Hickenlooper’s primary opponent over Hickenlooper’s less-than-hostile relationship with the oil and gas industry as governor, Republicans can’t just pivot 180 degrees and claim that Hickenlooper is going to destroy that same industry.
Well actually, of course they can–it’s ridiculous, that’s all. It’s the same dilemma faced by Sen. Cory Gardner, who has stuck to his script of bashing “socialist Democrats” even after Hickenlooper, who ran for President despite much criticism on a platform of “I’m not a socialist,” became Gardner’s opponent. As much as Hickenlooper irritated ideologue Democrats during his presidential run and to some extent the Democratic U.S. Senate primary with his contrarian branding, these pre-scripted talking points from Republicans against “socialism” simply don’t work against Hick in the general election.
They’re talking about somebody, but not John Hickenlooper.
We interview filmmaker Nick Rosen about his new Cardboard Cory documentary and check in with journalist Erik Maulbetsch of The Colorado Times Recorder about a QAnon rally in Denver.
Also, we talk Kamala Harris as the VP pick; we find Sen. Cory Gardner writing empty bills and advertising everywhere but in Colorado; we update the GOP’s war against the post office; check Lauren Boebert’s arrest records, and so much more.
If you missed our last episode, click here to catch up or scroll through all of our past episodes at GetMoreSmarter.com.
► The actual President of the United States of America has now essentially endorsed the QAnon conspiracy theories. As Chris Cillizza writes for CNN:
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump did something incredibly dangerous.
Asked by a reporter about QAnon, a conspiracy group that has been labeled a potential domestic terrorism threat by the FBI, Trump said this:
“Well, I don’t know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate. But I don’t know much about the movement. I have heard that it is gaining in popularity and from what I hear it’s — these are people that — they watch the streets of Portland — when they watch what happened in New York City in just the last six or seven months, but this was starting even four years ago when I came here. Almost four years, can you believe it?
“These are people that don’t like seeing what’s going on in places like Portland, and places like Chicago, and New York and other cities and states. And I’ve heard these are people that love our country and they just don’t like seeing it.”…
…The President of the United States has now said that he thinks a group of violent conspiracy theorists are “people who love our country” and are a sort of antidote to the protests and violence in major cities in the country.
It’s stunning — even for Trump. And it’s extremely dangerous because it emboldens people who have already shown a willingness to act on their wild conspiracy theories in violent ways.
► Vote! Vote! Vote! As The Associated Press explains, Democrats are hammering home a simple message this week at the Democratic National Convention:
Former President Barack Obama warned that American democracy could falter if President Donald Trump is reelected, a stunning rebuke of his successor that was echoed by Kamala Harris at the Democratic Convention as she embraced her historic role as the first Black woman on a national political ticket.
Obama, himself a barrier breaker as the nation’s first Black president, pleaded with voters Wednesday night to “embrace your own responsibility as citizens — to make sure that the basic tenets of our democracy endure. Because that’s what is at stake right now. Our democracy.”
Throughout their convention, the Democrats have summoned a collective urgency about the dangers of Trump as president. In 2016, they dismissed and sometimes trivialized him. Now they are casting him as an existential threat to the country. The tone signals anew that the fall campaign between Trump and Joe Biden, already expected to be among the most negative of the past half-century, will be filled with rancor and recrimination.
Yet on the third night of the Democrats’ four-day convention, party leaders also sought to put forward a cohesive vision of their values and policy priorities, highlighting efforts to combat climate change and tighten gun laws. They drew a sharp contrast with Trump, portraying him as cruel in his treatment of immigrants, disinterested in the nation’s climate crisis and in over his head on virtually all of the nation’s most pressing challenges.
This big news from Wednesday night at the DNC was Kamala Harris’s acceptance of the nomination for Vice President and former President Obama’scomplete dismantling of Trump. The DNC’s virtual week winds up tonight with Joe Biden’s acceptance speech for the Democratic Presidential nomination.
More political (and coronavirus) news is available right after the jump…
This video of Rick Scott delivering a fundraising pitch for Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado is hard to watch even by Scott’s ghoulish standards. Terrible quality video and audio is nonetheless dreadfully overproduced, complete with an upbeat music track playing much too loudly. Rick Scott should never be filmed with consumer-grade equipment, because let’s face it–he barely looks human on a good day. Watching this video, we keep wondering when the alien in the Rick Scott suit is going to, you know, pop out.
Here’s hoping Scott raises Gardner big money, because no swing voters will be coming on board from this.
This recent bill from Senator Cory Gardner provides some protections for people with pre-existing conditions, but it leaves out a big one: Insurance companies would still be able to deny insurance entirely to people who are sick.https://t.co/CaYLVViGMhpic.twitter.com/FEs99fsQLm
President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner (R) want to dismantle the ACA, but not before Election Day — because voters wouldn’t like it.
President Trump, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) and many other Republican elected officials have long campaigned on dismantling the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was signed into law by then-President Barack Obama a little more than 10 years ago. Legislative efforts to dismantle the ACA have failed (thanks, John McCain!), so Republicans are now hoping to kill Obamacare through a lawsuit that will be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court.
As CNBC reports, the highest court in the land will indeed hear the case against the ACA…but not until AFTER the November election:
The Supreme Court announced on Wednesday that it will hear arguments in a case challenging the constitutionality of the landmark health care legislation known as Obamacare on Nov. 10, one week after Election Day.
A decision in the case, which could disrupt the health care coverage of tens of millions of Americans, is expected by June of 2021.
The announcement comes in the middle of the Democratic National Convention, which has featured criticism of the president’s muddled health care promises, and could provide a boost to liberal efforts to target Trump on the issue.
But the move to hear the case after Election Day also pulls the notoriously opaque Supreme Court out of the electoral spotlight somewhat, ensuring that the arguments themselves will not influence November’s contest.
Opposing the ACA served Trump well in 2016 and was the driving narrative behind Gardner’s 2014 Senate campaign. But in recent years Americans have consistently expressed support for the ACA (most recently by a 51-36 margin), which puts Republican candidates in a difficult position in 2020 — and no doubt played a role in convincing the courts to wait until after the election to hear the case. In Colorado, for example, Republican congressional candidate Lauren “Q*Bert” Boebert is so worried about how the issue plays in CO-3 that her campaign won’t even answer questions about whether or not she supports the ACA lawsuit.
Gardner also does not like to answer questions about this lawsuit or his general opposition to the ACA, despite voting dozens of times to eliminate the ACA or its various protections. Gardner affirmed his support for the ACA lawsuit just a few months ago, though he comically ducked six different questions on the subject in a July interview with Ryan Warner of Colorado Public Radio. Gardner is now trying to inject life into his struggling re-election campaign by introducing a one-sentence bill in the U.S. Senate meant to convince voters that he actually does support things like protections for people with pre-existing conditions (just last month, The Washington Post fact-checked Gardner’s claim that he supports protecting pre-existing medical conditions as false, with its highest nonsense rating of “Four Pinnochios”).
Gardner’s new pre-existing conditions bill is an effort to allow him to look like he’s doing something on the issue, even though there is no chance his bill goes anywhere before Election Day. But actually doing something isn’t the point, just like actually destroying the ACA through the Supreme Court isn’t as important as telling your base that you want it to happen.
Meanwhile, Gardner’s opponent in the Senate race, former Gov. John Hickenlooper, released a new ad today highlighting his work to ensure health care coverage for 500,000 Coloradans. Hickenlooper talks about what he did do to help Coloradans with health care, while Gardner can only discuss what he might do differently. It’s not a hard choice for voters.
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) says repeatedly that he wants to protect people with pre-existing conditions from losing their health insurance, yet he’s voted repeatedly to eliminate or gut the federal requirement that insurance companies cover people with pre-existing conditions.
Now Gardner has introduced a bill, the text of which has yet to be released, that would, according to a news release from the senator’s office, “guarantee Coloradans with pre-existing conditions have health insurance coverage protections.”
Experts say Gardner’s legislation appears to be motivated more by politics than substance, especially given that federal law, under Obamacare, as well as Colorado law already requires insurance companies to cover Coloradans with pre-existing conditions.
“Big picture, this seems to me like a late-in-the-day effort to protect the senator politically, given his support for repealing the pre-existing condition protections in the ACA in 2017 as well as public opinion about the Trump administration’s current efforts to undo pre-existing condition protections at the Supreme Court,” said Sabrina Corlette, a professor at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute.
Other health experts agreed with Corlette.
“To me, this is just a political stunt because these protections already exist at the federal and state level,” says Adam Fox, Director of Strategic Outreach for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. “This is pure politicking. If Gardner really wanted to help people with pre-existing conditions, he would protect the ACA, denounce the lawsuit against it, and make sure our Medicaid program is fully funded through the health crisis.”
If Gardner and other Republicans were to repeal the ACA (which they were unable to do in 2017 when they had the power to do so) and pass Gardner’s bill (which might narrowly protect people with pre-existing conditions), the “entire health care system would be thrown out of whack,” said Fox, predicting high premiums, millions of uninsured people, and the prevalence of so-called junk insurance, pushed by Trump and Gardner, that doesn’t cover what consumers expect from health insurance.
“If you have the protections for people with pre-existing conditions, but you don’t have some of the other protections, like essential health benefits, no annual and lifetime [coverage] limits, and preventive services, you could end up with insurance that, yes, you technically could buy, but it wouldn’t cover much of what you need without the ACA.”
A sprawling report released Tuesday by a Republican-controlled Senate panel that spent three years investigating Russia’s 2016 election interference laid out an extensive web of contacts between Trump campaign advisers and Russian government officials and other Russians, including some with ties to the country’s intelligence services.
The report by the Senate Intelligence Committee, totaling nearly 1,000 pages, provided a bipartisan Senate imprimatur for an extraordinary set of facts: The Russian government undertook an extensive campaign to try to sabotage the 2016 American election to help Mr. Trump become president, and some members of Mr. Trump’s circle of advisers were open to the help from an American adversary…
…the report showed extensive evidence of contacts between Trump campaign advisers and people tied to the Kremlin — including a longstanding associate of the onetime Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, whom the report identifies as a “Russian intelligence officer.”
The Senate report for the first time identified Mr. Kilimnik as an intelligence officer. Mr. Mueller’s report had labeled him as someone with ties to Russian intelligence.
This report from the Senate Intelligence Committee — which is CONTROLLED BY REPUBLICANS — pretty well blows up President Trump’s claims of a “witch hunt.” Mike Littwin of The Colorado Sun calls the report “maybe the most shocking moment from the U.S. Senate since John McCain’s thumbs-down vote on ending Obamacare.” The Huffington Post zeroes in on the finding that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was deemed a “grave” security threat.
► Postmaster Louis DeJoy is scheduled to testify at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Friday about funding requirements for the postal service to handle mail ballots this fall. As POLITICO reports, DeJoy is already bending to widespread criticism:
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced Tuesday that he was suspending “longstanding operational initiatives” at the United States Postal Service, amid fears that the changes could delay election mail this fall in the middle of the pandemic.
“To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded,” DeJoy said in a statement.
Meanwhile, as The Washington Post reports, state governments aren’t waiting for the feds to take action:
At least 20 states plan to file lawsuits this week against the U.S. Postal Service and its new postmaster, Louis DeJoy, seeking to reverse service changes that have prompted widespread reports of delays and accusations of an intentional effort to thwart voters from mailing their ballots this fall.
The suits, expected to be filed in federal court imminently, will argue that the Postal Service broke the law by making operational changes without first seeking approval from the Postal Regulatory Commission. They will also argue that the changes will impede states’ ability to run free and fair elections, officials from several state attorney general offices told The Washington Post. The Constitution gives states and Congress, not the executive branch, the power to regulate elections.
“We’re trying to stop Trump’s attacks on the Postal Service, which we believe to be an attack on the integrity of election. It’s a straight-up attack on democracy,” Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) said in an interview. “This conduct is illegal. It’s unconstitutional. It’s harmful to the country. It’s harmful to individuals.”
“We’re asking a court to make him stop,” he said.
Colorado is among the states filing lawsuits.
► Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper is going after Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) for his silence on efforts by President Trump to defund the U.S. Postal Service as a means of suppressing votes in the 2020 election. As The New York Times reports:
But Democrats running for the Senate in states that rely heavily on the mail made clear they would continue to press the issue. John Hickenlooper, the former Democratic governor of Colorado, took to Twitter in a campaign video to upbraid the impact of the delays and laid the blame squarely on Mr. Trump and his Republican opponent, the incumbent Cory Gardner.
“It just makes me want to pull my hair out, and Cory Gardner hasn’t said a word,” Mr. Hickenlooper said. [Pols emphasis]
Gardner has said some words about the postal service — quite a few of them, actually — but he has yet to offer a coherent public comment about the issue.
► Day One of the Democratic National Convention is in the books. POLITICO is tracking all of the DNC news, including Monday’s big speech from Michelle Obama. As The Washington Post notes, this speech from the former First Lady is not one that Melania Trump is going to want to borrow. Check out CNN for more analysis on the highlights and lowlights from Monday.
National Public Radioreports on an admission so jaw-dropping it could only be…an average Thursday in Donald Trump’s train wreck presidency:
While President Trump has long railed against mail-in voting, falsely claiming it leads to rampant fraud, he appeared to confirm Thursday morning that he opposes Democrats’ proposed boost in funding for the U.S. Postal Service because he wants to make it harder to expand voting by mail…
“They [the Democrats] want three and a half billion dollars for something that’ll turn out to be fraudulent — that’s election money basically,” Trump said.
Continued the president: “They want $25 billion for the post office. Now, they need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots. Now, in the meantime, they aren’t getting there. But if they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it.” [Pols emphasis]
First of all, there is no proposal for “universal mail-in voting” at the federal level. For all the discussion about migrating to a mail ballot system during the COVID-19 pandemic, only two additional states have switched to primarily mail ballots in addition to the six states including Colorado that already conduct mail ballot elections.
Trump’s characteristically frank admission that he opposes more money for the U.S. Postal Service because he doesn’t want USPS to be able to handle mail ballots is fully consistent with the reports of new policies within the Postal Service that are slowing down the delivery of mail across the country–policies put in place by Trump’s newly appointed postmaster general Louis DeJoy, a campaign donor and supporter. Taken together, these clearly point to an agenda by the Trump administration to deliberately harm the USPS–and blame any resultant election chaos on the mail ballots Trump is determined without evidence to vilify in advance for his expected defeat at the polls in November.
As you can imagine, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold is pretty upset…
Colorado Public Radioreports on what could be considered an admission of defeat by the Trump administration, the announcement this weekend that interim Bureau of Land Management director William Perry Pendley will not be formally nominated for the position–but news that Pendley will continue to run the BLM in the interim capacity he has controversially held for a year now is making this announcement harder to celebrate:
The White House is expected to withdraw William Perry Pendley’s nomination to be director of the Bureau of Land Management, a White House official confirms. The move comes as a chorus of voices have raised objections or concerns about the nomination in recent weeks.
Pendley will remain the agency’s number two. The Deputy Director for Policy and Programs will still continue to “exercise the authority of the director” and lead the public lands agency.
“The President makes staffing decisions. Mr. Pendley will continue to lead the Bureau of Land Management as Deputy Director for Programs and Policy,” a spokesperson for the Department of the Interior said Saturday…
Back in June, despite a lawsuit from the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility demanding that Pendley either be put up for confirmation by the U.S. Senate or replaced, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt indefinitely extended Pendley’s interim directorship via a questionable unwritten order. The Grand Junction Sentinel’sDennis Webbreported then:
Pendley has been serving as BLM acting director since last July, based on orders by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt delegating the authority to run the agency to Pendley, and then repeatedly issuing orders extending that delegation. Pendley’s latest, monthlong extension ran through Friday…
As acting director, Pendley has overseen the BLM’s relocation of most of its jobs in Washington, D.C., to various locations out West, including its new headquarters in Grand Junction.
Bernhardt notably didn’t issue a new delegation order this week further extending Pendley’s time running the BLM. Pendley remains at the helm based on updated Interior Department succession orders, Swanson said.
Unlike in the case of the past orders from Bernhardt, no expiration date applies to the succession order for Pendley, and Bernhardt issued no written order on the matter.
The announcement by President Donald Trump that Pendley would be formally nominated, the first BLM nominee submitted by the Trump administration after over three years in office, was met by a hailstorm of pent-up criticism–and nervous admissions even from Republican allies like Sen. Cory Gardner that Pendley would face “tough questions” in his confirmation hearing about Pendley’s career-long advocacy for the mass liquidation of public lands.
The good news, obviously, is that Pendley will not be nominated to formally lead the BLM. The bad news is Pendley apparently isn’t going anywhere, and the oversight the Senate is supposed to exercise over this important executive branch appointment remains thwarted. You’d think Cory Gardner would be upset about not being able to ask his “tough questions” of Pendley. After all, haven’t they been valid questions for as long as Pendley has been in his job as “interim” director of the BLM? Shouldn’t Gardner join with Democrats in demanding that Pendley be ousted if he’s not going to be confirmed?
When that doesn’t happen, you’ll know all you need to know.
UPDATE: It’s been more than 10 days. Still no bill text:
You actually thought I couldn’t go lower?
Politicians can do craven, gutless, despicable things when they are worried about their own re-election. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is on another level entirely.
Today marks the one-week anniversary of the introduction of legislation that Gardner has not talked about other than issuing a brief press release late on Friday. In fact, we didn’t even realize that this had happened until we accidentally stumbled upon a press release from Gardner’s Senate office.
At some point last Thursday, Gardner introduced a bill title — we say “title” because there is no actual bill language to accompany the headline — that was formally read aloud in the U.S. Senate that he calls the “Pre-Existing Conditions Protection Act.”
Really. Let that sink in for a moment.
Gardner has based his entire political career in Congress on his unapologetic opposition to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which as you probably know, ALREADY PROHIBITS INSURANCE COMPANIES FROM DENYING SOMEONE COVERAGE BECAUSE OF A PRE-EXISTING MEDICAL CONDITION.
As a candidate for the House of Representatives in 2010, Gardner unequivocally stated his opposition to any sort of legislation that would protect people with pre-existing medical conditions (video below). Gardner has spent his entire career in Congress trying to dismantle the ACA. He has voted dozens of times to destroy former President Barack Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment, and he acknowledged just a few months ago that he still supports a lawsuit pending with the U.S. Supreme Court that would effectively eliminate pre-existing medical coverage protections for 2.4 million Coloradans. Eliminating the ACA will also end the very protection that Gardner is now claiming to champion.
So, what changed? Two things: 1) Voters overwhelmingly support policies that protect people with pre-existing medical conditions, and 2) Cory Gardner is in serious trouble of losing his Senate seat in 2020. So Gardner decided to pretend to champion an issue that he has opposed for a decade…but he did it in such a half-assed manner that he couldn’t even be bothered to write a damn bill.
Here’s Gardner’s quote from last week’s press release:
“My bill is simple – it guarantees coverage for people who have pre-existing medical conditions and ensures that people cannot be charged more because of a pre-existing condition. I will continue to fight for pre-existing condition protections as well as measures to lower health care costs, strengthen innovation, and expand access for all Coloradans, including those with pre-existing medical conditions.”
Gardner’s bill is so damn simple, in fact, that it doesn’t even exist. Here’s the current summary available at Congress.gov:
Gardner isn’t just completely lying about some longstanding commitment to protecting pre-existing medical conditions — he’s even pretending to have drafted legislation to deal with the issue despite the fact that somebody else beat him to it: North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis introduced the “Protect Act” back in April 2019, though unlike Gardner he actually took the time to write a damn bill and collect co-sponsors. It is telling that Gardner is not among the 27 co-sponsors — ALL of whom are Senate Republicans — on the Tillis bill. Apparently, Gardner was not as worried about his re-election chances 18 months ago.
The Washington Post awarded Gardner “Four Pinocchios” for pretending to support protections for pre-existing medical conditions.
Gardner has recently tried to convince Coloradans that he has always been a huge supporter of protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions, despite his many votes to kill Obamacare (and its associated protections for pre-existing conditions). Last month, The Washington Post featured Gardner in a Fact-Checker analysis about his claims to have long supported coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions. The Post determined, as any functioning human being would conclude, that Gardner is completely full of crap:
Voters deserve straight answers when their health care is on the line, especially in the middle of a deadly pandemic.
Daines, Gardner and McSally have voted to end the Affordable Care Act. People with preexisting conditions would have been left exposed because of those votes; insurers could have denied coverage or jacked up prices for sick patients.
The three senators’ comments about the GOP lawsuit are woefully vague, but they can all be interpreted as tacit support. Asked about the case, a Daines spokesperson said “whatever mechanism” to get rid of the ACA would do. McSally’s campaign “didn’t specifically answer, but pointed to her general disapproval of the ACA.” Gardner avoided the question six times in one interview, but in another, he said: “That’s the court’s decision. If the Democrats want to stand for an unconstitutional law, I guess that’s their choice.”
If this all sounds familiar, it should. President Trump made headlines this week for suggesting that he will sign some sort of executive order to super-duper preserve protections for pre-existing medical conditions. Or as this headline from Axios summed up:
President Donald Trump on Monday acknowledged a prospective executive order he’s considering to make insurers cover pre-existing conditions amounted to political messaging — and that Obamacare already offered such protections.
“It’s a signal to people … it’s a second platform,” Trump said at a White House briefing. “Pre-existing conditions will be taken care of 100 percent by Republicans and the Republican party. I actually think it’s a very important statement.”…
…Trump’s tacit acknowledgment the prospective executive order was little more than messaging could intensify Democratic efforts to portray the president and GOP as not being serious about having a fallback to the 2010 health law.
In this case, the difference between President Trump and Senator Gardner is that Trump is actually willing to acknowledge that his pre-existing conditions proposal is a nonsense political stunt.
That Gardner is attempting to sell such a ridiculous lie is not a surprise in itself. During his 2014 U.S. Senate campaign, Gardner was widely lampooned for his insistence that “there is no federal personhood bill,” despite the fact that he was a co-sponsor of the legislation. Gardner was trying to convince Colorado voters that he was not an anti-abortion extremist, but the only way to do so was to flat-out lie every time he was asked about it.
Gardner has been repeatedly been asked on the campaign trail about his sponsorship of the federal Life Begins at Conception Act, which, as Clark pointed out, nearly everyone but Gardner agrees would outlaw abortion.
“We are not going to debate that here tonight because it’s fact,” Clark said. “It would seem that a charitable interpretation would be that you have a difficult time admitting when you’re wrong and a less charitable interpretation is that you’re not telling us the truth.
“Which is it?” [Pols emphasis]
Gardner said the bill is “simply a statement that I support life.”
“The personhood bill, congressman, is a bill. It’s not a statement,” Senator Mark Udall countered. “If it became law, it would ban all abortions and it would ban most common forms of contraceptives. Coloradans deserve the truth from you. You have to really give a straight answer.”
“Straight answer” is not in Cory Gardner’s vocabulary.
Gardner has voted dozens of times on proposals to weaken the ACA, including at least 13 individual votes to repeal or defund the program (click here for the complete list), but he’s hoping that Colorado voters will forget about this because he had someone read the title of a nonexistent bill on the floor of the U.S. Senate last week.
What Gardner is trying to do here is disgusting. Full stop.
Gardner lied to Coloradans in 2014 on the issue of abortion, and he’s lying to Coloradans today — about health insurance, in the middle of a global pandemic.
This man wants your vote for another term in the U.S. Senate. In less than two months, you’ll get a ballot in the mail, and you can tell him exactly what you think.
As readers know, Sen. Cory Gardner is generally reported by the press as being “in support” of Colorado’s mail ballot system. It would be weird if he wasn’t, since he was elected to the U.S. Senate in a mail ballot election in 2014, and Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams has become a leading advocate for mail ballots after presiding over the system through two general election cycles.
But like we discovered when we were sent a clip from Gardner on a local right-wing podcast disparaging the very same expanded unemployment benefits he claims in defiance of his party he supports, Cory Gardner says something very different about mail ballots in the private company of fellow Republicans. Westword’sMichael Robertsyesterday:
During recent interviews, Gardner has said positive things about the way Colorado has conducted mail-in voting, and he did so again, more or less, during a forum not meant for public consumption: an August 5 telephone fundraiser. But in a transcript from the event obtained by Westword, he also sought to cast doubts on a nationwide application of the process amid the COVID-19 pandemic in ways that should keep The Donald happy, since his references to heavy-handedness coming out of “Washington, D.C.” are explicitly aimed at Congress…
“Look, protecting the integrity of our elections is job number one when it comes to carrying out free, transparent, secure elections, which we have to have. We know what’s happened in California, where they have voter harvesting laws that allow people weeks and weeks and weeks after the election to change the result of the election. We saw what happened in Florida while the Supreme Court of Florida actually found that state officials had acted unconstitutionally in the way that they were carrying out that election. I’m proud of the work that we’ve done in Colorado. I’m proud of the way that we have carried out our election, but we have to make sure that Washington, D.C., it doesn’t impose some kind of California or Florida style voting regime that impedes the protections of our elections across the country.”
Gardner added: “When Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were arguing about what we should do to make sure we have a strong constitution, the last thing on their minds was if they could tell Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming how they were supposed to vote and the way they were going to carry out their elections. That’s not what this country was founded on. Washington, D.C., needs to stay away from running our elections…”
Folks, this answer is sufficiently ridiculous that it really needs more public scrutiny than we or even Westword can afford it. Gardner’s absurd claim that “vote harvesting” allows people to “change the result weeks and weeks after the election” is a nonsensical retcon of the simple fact that in the 2018 elections in California, a lot of returned ballots took a long time for some areas of the state to count. In Colorado, any voter can drop off up to ten ballots. In California there’s no limit–but since the ballots are all individually signed and sealed by the voters, it doesn’t matter who drops them off.
We’re not sure what specifically Gardner is referring to in Florida, be it the battle over felony disenfranchisement (we hope not) or litigation over absentee ballots expected to be widely requested there for the November elections. But it doesn’t change the bottom line: no one is seeking to “impose” mail ballots on any state that doesn’t want them,and mail ballots are nothing to be afraid of. This entire business about instilling fear in voters about mail ballots has no factual basis whatsoever, and Cory Gardner knows that based on his own state’s experience. But Gardner can’t tell the GOP base the truth about mail ballots while Donald Trump is busy declaring mail ballots to be the greatest extant threat to American democracy.
As a result, the stuff coming out of Gardner’s mouth to pacify his base is getting more and more ridiculous.
For the fourth consecutive week, we are discussing on a Friday the failure of Senate Republicans to make any movement whatsoever on another coronavirus stimulus bill.
As CNBC reports, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has adjourned the Senate for a month-long recess while the rest of America stares back dumbfounded:
The Senate is officially adjourned through Labor Day despite not coming to an agreement on its next coronavirus stimulus package.
Congress and the White House have spent the past few weeks debating what to include in the package, but have been unable to come to an agreement. One of the biggest sticking points: Jobless benefits. Democrats want a continuation of the enhanced unemployment payment of $600 per week, while Republicans say that amount is too high. Democrats are also pushing for more than $900 billion for state and municipal aid, and $60 billion in food assistance, far higher than what Republicans have proposed.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the two sides would not strike a deal until Republicans added $1 trillion in aid to their bill.
That means a deal could be weeks away. Meanwhile, around 28 million Americans remain unemployed and many of the relief provisions from the first stimulus package have dried up. President Donald Trump has issued four executive orders to address some of the issues, but experts remain unconvinced that they will be efficient in helping vulnerable households.
McConnell says that he will call the Senate back into session “if” a stimulus deal is reached — though he continues to take virtually no role in the discussions himself. As we’ve noted repeatedly in this space (HERE, HERE, and HERE, for starters), this is not a complicated discussion; the Senate has failed to move on another coronavirus stimulus bill — the House passed the “HEROES Act” in May — and Republicans have majority control of the upper chamber of Congress. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can’t move a bill in the Senate, no matter how much McConnell blames her for his failures.
Remember, Senate Republicans haven’t just failed to advance a much-needed stimulus bill…going on recess at this point is McConnell admitting that they aren’t even trying to get something done.
You’ve probably noticed that the air quality along the Front Range is less than optimal. But on the plus side, it will be a lot harder for anyone to notice that you haven’t showered since Monday. Let’s 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 an audio learner, check out The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.
► You have more than one reason to wear a mask in Colorado this weekend. As 9News reports:
Governor Jared Polis (D-Colorado) visited the Incident Command Center for the Grizzly Creek Fire Friday morning where he said getting it under control was the top priority in the nation.
He was at the fairgrounds in Eagle at 8 a.m. That is the command center for the fire which has now burned more than 14,000 acres near Glenwood Springs since it was first reported Monday afternoon…
…As of Thursday night, it had burned 69,135 acres and was 7% contained.
► If you’re wondering about the latest on another coronavirus stimulus bill, we have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that you can stop speculating on a potential deal, because the bad news is that the U.S. Senate has adjourned UNTIL MID-SEPTEMBER. As The Hill newspaper reports:
The Senate left Washington, D.C., on Thursday until September — the latest sign that a deal on a fifth coronavirus relief package is, at least, weeks away.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had kept the chamber in session this week, which was technically the first in its August recess, as a last-ditch attempt to create space for the administration and congressional Democrats to get an agreement.
But with talks stalemated, senators argue there is little reason for them to keep holding daily, roughly 1 1/2-hour sessions.
McConnell continues to blame Democrats for a lack of progress on coronavirus relief, nevermind that the United States Senate is controlled by Republicans.
► Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) appears to be panicking about his re-election chances. Gardner is running fundraising ads around the country touting his “achievements” alongside President Trump — but you can’t find those ads here because Gardner is still trying to convince Colorado voters that he’s not a Trump toadie.
Oh, and don’t be surprised to see a Gardner ad in Colorado soon that touts his “work” on protecting people with pre-existing medical conditions. Gardner has repeatedly sought to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which already DOES protect people with pre-existing conditions, but he is now the sole sponsor of a bill title (sans the actual bill text) he calls the “Pre-Existing Conditions Protection Act.” No, really.
►Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold is pushing back against President Trump’s baseless claims that mail balloting is rife with fraud. As Colorado Public Radio reports:
“He’s trying to affect turnout in November by undermining a system that we know works, and works well for Democrats and Republicans and, of course, independents,” Griswold said…
…Colorado is one of several all-mail ballot states to receive letters from the Postal Service indicating that ballots, usually sent by clerks via “marketing mail” but treated like first class, will no longer get that treatment and could be slower to make it to people’s mailboxes.
Griswold said the Colorado election model is “safeguarded” from a possible delivery slow down. Ballots are sent out weeks ahead of time and voters are asked to mail in them back at least eight days before Election Day.
Colorado also has a new law in place this year that requires replacement ballots to be sent via first-class mail.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) is running a new Facebook ad, touting his close relationship with President Donald Trump.
“We’re asking patriots nationwide to show that they support the pro-growth, conservative agenda that President Trump and I are fighting for ― will you join them? Sign your name now to say ‘thanks’ to President Trump for delivering REAL results on behalf of ALL Americans!” reads the text of the Facebook ad, which also has a little video featuring pictures of Gardner and Trump side-by-side.
But if you’re a voter in Colorado, you probably haven’t seen it…
The reason? Gardner’s own state of Colorado doesn’t appear to be in the targeted audience:
Now, we are obligated to point out at HuffPo does today that there’s a possibility this ad for some innocent reason hasn’t appeared in Colorado, thus accounting for our state appearing as a bright blank spot on a map showing the ad is running in every other state. That seems very unlikely, but it’s theoretically possible. And rither way, there’s nothing unusual about high profile Senate candidates fundraising in other states.
But the fact remains–President Donald Trump is deeply unpopular in Colorado, and Cory Gardner’s campaign is well aware of this reality. Trump is unpopular in California too, but the benefit of Sen. Cory Gardner using the “Trump and Gardner have delivered for America” message on California Trump supporters is avoiding the negatives from this gushing pro-Trump propaganda being seen by swing voters in Colorado.
For anyone who understands the dynamics of the 2020 U.S. Senate race in Colorado, with Gardner considered the most vulnerable Republican Senate up in 2020 largely due to Colorado’s politics tracking leftward both before and after Gardner’s narrow 2014 election, it’s painfully obvious why Gardner is running this red-meat ad everywhere but Colorado. Support from the pro-Trump Republican base is crucial, but also toxic to Gardner to the extent it defines him here in his home state.
Hiding this ad from Colorado voters is a metaphor for Gardner’s larger dilemma.
Americans are still struggling from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, which has surpassed 5 million cases in the U.S. alone and claimed the lives of 162,000 Americans. The economic impact from the pandemic continues to grow amid Senate Republican inaction; President Trump signs executive orders that are probably illegal and definitely inadequate…but apparently no one is listening to Donald Trump anyway;, our 2nd favorite U.S. Senator from Colorado tells people to Take a Hike; and self-proclaimed pro-police demonstrators physically assault Black Lives Matter counter-protesters and film it all themselves!
► Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden announced on Tuesday that he has selected California Sen. Kamala Harris to be his running mate. As The Washington Post reports, Republicans are a bit confused about how to attack Harris:
At 4:45 p.m., Trump campaign aide Brad Parscale tweeted that the pick meant that the “Bernie Bros get burned,” pointing to a story about liberal resistance to her candidacy.
Around exactly the same time, though, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said something quite different. “Kamala Harris’ extreme positions … show that the left-wing mob is controlling Biden’s candidacy, just like they would control him as president,” McDaniel said in a statement.
But by late that evening, the RNC was back to making a very different case. “Liberals revolt against Biden, Harris ticket,” an RNC news release said. It pointed to Bernie Sanders supporters and others who attacked Harris as insufficiently progressive. “Even if Joe Biden’s campaign handlers gave their base the same notes they gave Biden for his video chat with Kamala D. Harris, it’s highly unlikely the left’s reception of Kamala would have gone any better,” it said. “Talk about embarrassing.”
Trump backers’ response to Harris’s selection has been somewhat dizzying. They have mostly painted her as the kind of radical that McDaniel did, even labeling her a socialist. But as with the man whose ticket Harris is joining, they have offered mixed messages by also suggesting she is a disappointment to Sanders supporters and even a tool of Wall Street.
As Annie Linskey and Vanessa Williams write in a separate story for The Washington Post, the selection of Harris was an emotional moment for many Black women in America. POLITICO takes a look at the history of selecting female running mates and why 2020 might turn out different than in the past:
Female vice presidential candidates appeared on major party tickets in 1984 and 2008, and in 2016, a woman headed the ticket. Each time, headlines heralded the historic choice; each time, for any number of reasons, the ticket lost. Those races also gave us a window into how women running for executive office are treated in the U.S.: The candidates were more likely than men to be questioned about their spouses; their attire and looks often became a part of the story; they had to make extra effort to show they were “tough” enough to serve.
Now that Senator Kamala Harris has become the third female VP candidate on a major-party ticket in history, POLITICO Magazine asked some smart female political observers to tell us: How will things be different for this VP choice, for this woman, and for this race? Or has nothing changed at all?
► There were several interesting Primary outcomes in a couple of states on Tuesday, but the biggest story is in Georgia. As POLITICO explains:
Marjorie Taylor Greene has won the GOP nomination for a deep red congressional seat in Georgia despite widespread condemnation from party leaders over her videos where she expressed racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic views.
Greene, who is also a believer in the QAnon conspiracy theory, defeated neurosurgeon John Cowan in a primary runoff election on Tuesday for the deep-red Northwest Georgia district, where the GOP nomination is tantamount to a seat in the House.
A businesswoman who self-funded much of her campaign, Greene won the first round of the primary by a 19-point margin. But a week after, GOP leaders including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), who chairs the House Republican campaign arm, took the rare step of disavowing her candidacy after POLITICO uncovered hours of videos where she demeans blacks, Muslims and Jews.
Greene, who has said that Black people are slaves to the Democratic Party, has been likened to longtime Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa, who lost his own GOP Primary race this year in part because of his racist past (President Trump naturally Tweeted a congratulatory message, calling Greene “a future star.”) Greene also embraces QAnon conspiracies, which will bring more attention to Colorado’s own conspiracist Congressional candidate, Lauren “Q*Bert” Boebert. This whole mess should be a concern for all Republicans, writes Chris Cillizza of CNN.
► The New York Times looks at a school re-opening in Georgia, where the early COVID-19 results are not good:
Altogether, more than 900 students and staff members in the district have already been ordered to quarantine. On Tuesday, one high school closed its doors until at least Aug. 31.
While many of the nation’s largest school systems have opted in recent weeks to start the academic year online, other districts have forged ahead with reopening. In Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Indiana and elsewhere, some schools, mainly in suburban and rural areas, have been open for almost two weeks.
Their experience reveals the perils of returning to classrooms in places where the coronavirus has hardly been tamed. Students and teachers have immediately tested positive, sending others into two-week quarantines and creating whiplash for schools that were eager to open, only to consider closing again right away.
CNN has more on the problems in Georgia following its effort to reopen schools.
►There’s still no news on progress regarding a potential stimulus bill. The House of Representatives passed a $3 trillion measure in May, but Senate Republicans haven’t been able to even come up with a plausible bill of their own. As CNN reports:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol Wednesday that she doesn’t want stalled negotiations for another round of coronavirus relief to drag until the end of September, when government funds are set to expire.
“I hope not. People will die,” she said…
…Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, blamed Democrats for the stalled talks.
This is the part where we remind you, again, that McConnell ISN’T EVEN IN THE ROOM FOR NEGOTIATIONS ANYMORE. The Senate is the only Congressional chamber that has not moved forward on another relief bill; the Senate is controlled by Republicans.
As Colorado Public Radio reports, the loss of extended unemployment benefits is about to hit Colorado HARD:
An emergency federal program had been paying $600 a week to unemployed people, but it expired late last month. With the change, state economists expect that Coloradans will reduce their purchases by 6 percent — which could knock $20 million a month from the state’s tax revenues, state budget director Lauren Larson told top state lawmakers at a meeting on Tuesday.
“We’re very concerned that we need Congress to act and act quickly,” Larson said.
More political (and coronavirus) news is available right after the jump…
U.S. Senator Michael Bennet on Monday called for an investigation into the federal government’s response to the spread of the novel coronavirus in meatpacking plants across the country.
In a Monday letter to the inspector generals at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Labor, Bennet asks the agencies to investigate whether the outbreaks — like one at the JBS USA Greeley beef plant where nearly 300 people were sickened and six died — were made worse by federal actions…
Nationwide, at least 16,200 workers in meat and poultry processing plants in 23 states contracted the novel coronavirus by the end of May, and 86 died, according to a July report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Colorado, at least seven meat processing plants have reported outbreaks infecting about 450 workers. The outbreak at the JBS Greeley beef plant is one of the largest in the state.
The COVID-19 outbreak at the JBS beef packing plant in Greeley that killed 6 and sickened hundreds of workers in April was a major failed test of the Trump administration’s pandemic crisis management, as it became obvious that the virus would not simply “go away” as President Donald Trump had predicted. While plant workers in unsafe conditions feared becoming infected, Trump was worried that the supply of meat could be interrupted. Trump eventually invoked the Defense Production Act to declare meat plants essential infrastructure that could not close–but before that, Sen. Cory Gardner and Vice President Mike Pencemade promises to rigorously test JBS plant workers in Greeley and keep the meat flowing.
In a blistering press release yesterday, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 7 asks the question they’ve been asking since April: “Cory, where are the tests?”
Since April, Colorado Senator Cory Gardner has continued to brag to the media that he secured 5,000 COVID-19 tests for meat-processing plant workers at JBS Greeley in Greeley, Colorado. The problem? The tests were never made available to workers. The JBS Greeley plant became one of the first outbreak sites in Colorado and continues to lead the nation in meatprocessing plant worker deaths. Now, JBS USA has notified the Union it will increase JBS workers health care premiums by more than 30 percent—as much as $800 more a year per family member.
UFCW Local 7 is calling on Sen. Cory Gardner to explain where the 5,000 tests have gone after specifically claiming he leveraged his relationship with Vice President Mike Pence to acquire them in order to keep the plant running.
At this point it’s more a question of accountability, since eventually the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environmentstepped in to test JBS workers. With that said, with COVID-19 testing (not to mention timely results) still in short supply, we suspect the promise Gardner made to JBS workers for 5,000 tests would nonetheless be gladly accepted, and useful since testing negative once doesn’t mean anyone is safe.
The unfortunate reality is that among a veritable ocean of broken promises from Trump and Republicans during the nation’s historic failure to effectively confront the COVID-19 emergency, a few dead meatpacking workers in Greeley are easy to forget about. Far more Americans, either consciously or not, cared about the free flow of meat at market prices than the frequently immigrant and otherwise disadvantaged populations who find work in American meatpacking plants.
But the fact remains: these workers got screwed, and Cory Gardner played a central role in screwing them. The promises made to Greeley JBS meatpacking workers weren’t about helping those workers at all, but rather assuring the American consumer. And as soon as Trump declared the meatpacking industry “essential infrastructure,” forcing the plants to stay open, Cory Gardner stopped caring about the workers.
And that should trouble meat-eaters’ conscience at least as much as an extra portion.
It’s been almost two weeks since the campaign for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper made it clear that it would not be participating in the annual “Club 20” debate on the Western Slope of Colorado. Club 20 is apparently having trouble moving on.
On Monday, Club 20 did the political equivalent of posting a sad breakup video to its Instagram page. Six whole people — all of whom are Republicans — from the Western Slope political/business/civic group stood on the steps of a courthouse building in Grand Junction to lament that Hickenlooper was no longer returning any of their calls or text messages.
Western Slope business and community leaders reminded former Gov. John Hickenlooper of his work to bridge the rural-urban divide Monday as they urged him to reconsider his decision to snub the Club 20 debate in Grand Junction next month.
The executive director of the business and civic coalition, Christian Reece, said organizers were “astonished” that he would bypass the Western Slope event that traditionally signals the homestretch of campaign season. Moreover, the event is online this year, Sept. 18-19.
Club 20 officials noted they have gone to “great lengths” to accommodate health concerns around the COVID-19 outbreak by moving the political debates online and offering them free through streaming produced by Colorado Mesa University.
Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush (left) and Republican Rep. Scott Tipton debate issues at the 2018 Club 20 forum underneath a gigantic Chevron banner.
That’s very nice that Club 20 has gone to “great lengths” to accommodate COVID-19 health concerns, but this is sort of like responding to your spouse’s complaints about your behavior by getting a haircut. As we wrote last month, Club 20 marginalized itself by always using a stick and never a carrot in its political dealings with Democrats, and over the years its annual election year gathering became more of a gripe session for oil and gas interests than anything else. In 2018, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis became the first major statewide candidate to skip the Club 20 debate; despite predictions of electoral doom from Club 20 supporters, Polis went on to win the race for Governor by 11 points. Polis even did pretty well in Western Colorado.
As Eric Washburn, a fifth-generation Coloradan who lives in Steamboat Springs, told Joey Bunch in an interview:
“I don’t think this reflects an animosity toward Club 20,” he said. “It’s a sense that Democratic politicians have that they certainly want to plug in to the West Slope and attract West Slope voters.
“I don’t think they’re convinced Club 20 is the way to do that.” [Pols emphasis]
Club 20 is trying hard to convince folks that dissing its membership is the same thing as ignoring the Western Slope, but it’s not working. Club 20 doesn’t represent the Western Slope any more than your dog represents all canines in Colorado, so perhaps they should look inward instead. Alas, self-reflection is not a strength for this group. Club 20 is still in that post-breakup stage of blaming all of its problems on the other person (or party, in this case).
…state Sen. Kerry Donovan, a Vail Democrat whose district includes Delta County, said it’s because Club 20 isn’t what it used to be.
The group that touts itself as the “Voice of the Western Slope” has increasingly become less of a general voice for people on this side of the Continental Divide, and more concerned about conservative ideals, including not addressing such things as climate change, she said…
…Rick Ridder, a Denver-based political consultant who solely works for Democrats but isn’t on anyone’s payroll at the moment, said not only has the group’s debates become one-sided to favor Republicans, but the group itself no longer seems to speak for the Western Slope.
“Democrats have increasingly shied away because it’s become a gotcha forum, and the issues that are directed are not the ones that they’re hearing on the streets of the growing areas of the Western Slope,” said Ridder, who has attended Club 20 events for more than 30 years. “It’s a very different environment now. There are very different agendas from a political standpoint from the old Club 20. It’s become a little bit of a hostile environment when those who seek questions on their issues are not necessarily reflective of the issues that candidates are hearing in other situations.” [Pols emphasis]
Hickenlooper’s 2020 opponent, incumbent Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, is trying to make it look like he is the true debate warrior and that Hickenlooper is ducking him…which conveniently ignores the fact that Gardner has thus far only agreed to attend one debate at the same time and location as Hickenlooper (in Pueblo in October).
As for Club 20, they can make an effort to be more inclusive and see where that leads them in the future…or they can just keep writing mean things in all capital letters in their diary. The latter may make them feel better, but it’s not going to change anything.
UPDATE #2: Gov. Jared Polis says there’s no way Colorado can sustain the additional burden imposed by Trump’s unemployment executive order, which results in a one-third cut to the benefit even if we do:
On the president’s unemployment executive order, Gov. Jared Polis says, “The State would not be able to (provide the $100 match) for more than two or three weeks.”
“Our state is not allowed to deficit-spend,” Polis adds later. #copolitics
Colorado Newslinereports on the executive order issued by President Donald Trump over the weekend after negotiations stalled out Friday between Republicans insisting on a smaller economic relief package and Democrats holding (mostly) firm behind the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act passed by the U.S. House:
He signed three presidential memoranda and an executive order, at his private golf club in Bedminster, N.J. Trump would provide $300 per week in federal unemployment assistance with another $100 a week kicked in by states, consider temporarily stopping residential evictions, pause federal student loan payments and defer payroll taxes.
Trump said the actions would “take care of pretty much this entire situation, as we know it.” But Democrats in Congress are likely to continue pushing for a broader legislative package similar to the $3 trillion relief bill the House passed in May…
“Trump is trying to put a bandaid on the economic crisis with unconstitutional, illegal, logistically unworkable executive orders that contain bad policy,” Democratic Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia tweeted. “This isn’t a solution, it is a con.”
As Politicoreports, a look at the actual effect of Trump’s actions makes it painfully clear Trump has not “taken care of” much of anything–and in fact left states, renters, and the American people who desperately need another stimulus check in the lurch:
Pelosi called the actions “illusions,” arguing that the eviction moratorium only asks leaders in charge to study whether a moratorium on evictions is feasible and that the payroll tax cut would undermine Social Security and Medicare.
“When you look at those executive orders, either the kindest thing I could say is he doesn’t know what he’s talking about or something’s wrong there — something’s very, very wrong there,” Pelosi said. “So to characterize them as even accomplishing what they set out to do, as something that would take the place of an agreement, is just not so.”
Schumer said the actions were “put together in a crazy way” that would take weeks or months to go into effect in most places and insisted that the $400 unemployment benefit is unworkable because states don’t have the money to pay $100 of it. Plus, he added, it depletes the hurricane trust fund at the height of hurricane season.
We’re watching for a response from Colorado officials to what amounts to a 50% cut in the extended unemployment benefit hundreds of thousands of Coloradans received before they expired on July 31st, unless the states kick in an additional $100 a week to cushion the reduction to one-third. Speaking for Colorado, we can say pretty confidently that we don’t have the money, at least not without inflicting significant hardship in some other respect. And even the best-case one-third cut to the benefit is going to put thousands of Coloradans currently on the edge of economic catastrophe over the edge.
For Sen. Cory Gardner, this means he is in no way off the hook politically for the failure to reach a legislative agreement. Gardner claimed last week that he supports renewal of the full $600 a week extended unemployment benefit, after he disparaged the idea in a friendly conservative podcast interview–but Gardner’s party and now Trump have exposed Gardner’s political impotence once again in the clutch. Nobody’s listening to him.
Whatever happens next, the economic pain Americans face in their immediate future because Republicans think we’re getting “too much” help is not going away with a stroke of Trump’s pen. Gardner’s lip service to supporting the unemployed and supporting cash-starved local governments, of which Colorado is a nationally prominent example, is completely undone by the unwillingness of Republican leadership to back up Gardner’s promises in their negotiations.
The worse it gets economically for Coloradans, the worse it gets for Gardner politically.
But no one should welcome the very real hardship coming because of Gardner’s failure.
The U.S. Senate has left town — again — despite not coming anywhere close to figuring out a plausible path forward on a new coronavirus relief/stimulus bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellsaid on Thursday that the Senate would recess for the time being — though not for its previously-scheduled August recess — and told CNBC that he believed that there would be a deal “at some point in the near future.” McConnell said this despite the fact that he’s not even involved in the discussions anymore; he continues to blame Democrats for the fact that a Republican-controlled Senate can’t come up with a relief package, even though the House of Representatives passed one in May.
At a news conference Friday, Pelosi and Schumer said that Democrats offered to reduce their ask by $1 trillion if the White House went up $1 trillion, only to have the administration reject it. They added that any deal below $2 trillion would not get Democratic support.
“We are trying to compromise,” Schumer said. “Basically what’s happening is Mr. Meadows is from the Tea Party, you have 20 Republicans in the Senate greatly influenced by them and they don’t want to spend the necessary dollars to help get America out of this mess.”
In a series of closed-door meetings over the last two weeks, Mnuchin, Meadows, Schumer and Pelosi have made progress on narrowing their differences on unemployment insurance but remain far apart on state and local aid, election security funding and help for renters, among a host of other issues.
“The situation has also left Senate Republicans up for re-election…with the unappealing prospect of facing voters in less than three months without having acted to address their most pressing economic and public health needs.”
Earlier this week, Carl Hulse of The New York Times tried to explain how it is that McConnell and Senate Republicans have punted on the only issue that really matters to most Americans right now:
Mr. McConnell has only himself to thank for his predicament.
While Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed through a sweeping, $3 trillion recovery measure in May and Democrats demanded for months that Republicans join them in mapping out a next phase of federal pandemic relief, Mr. McConnell instead hit the pause button, which he and his fellow Republicans said was necessary to assess how the nearly $3 trillion in aid already approved was working…
…But the delay meant that Republicans did not even present their aid proposals until days before expanded unemployment benefits that were cushioning millions of Americans from the worst of the recession were to expire. They lapsed last week with no ready replacement, and a small-business program considered crucial to preventing a total economic collapse is set to expire on Friday, leading Democrats to accuse Mr. McConnell of acting irresponsibly.
“He’s not even sitting in the room,” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, said on Tuesday, suggesting that Mr. McConnell was unaware of the substance of the talks. [Pols emphasis]
This is bad news for all Americans. Politically-speaking, it’s also terrible for Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma). According to a new Public Policy Poll released this week, the majority of Coloradans surveyed believe that Congress should either renew or increase the $600 extended unemployment (UI) benefit; additionally, 36% of respondents said they would look at Gardner “much less favorably” if he voted against a proposal to extend the extended benefits. Gardner is surely aware of this predicament, which is why he doesn’t say much of anything publicly but makes sure that his Senate office continues to convey the idea that he is all things to all people.
Will we be writing this same story again one week from today? We sure hope not…but we can’t pretend to have any confidence otherwise.
Last week, we took note of Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado’s comments on a local conservative podcast, in defense of the HEALS Act proposal from Senate Republicans which would have slashed the extended unemployment benefits 330,000 Coloradans are currently receiving by two thirds, from $600 to $200 per week. Recapping what Gardner told local Republican waterboy Jimmy Sengenberger so there’s no confusion:
GARDNER: Yeah, I think both Republicans and Democrats alike want to make sure that we’re helping people in need, uh, but not creating an unfair competition between the government and the private sector… [Pols emphasis] [t]he people who don’t have a job right now, they want to work but let’s not make sure, let’s make sure we don’t put the government in the place of the private sector in terms of unfair competition.
This is the answer that Sengenberger was looking for, having prefaced Gardner’s response with his own flat-out assertion that the extended benefit is “a bit of a disincentive to work.” When Gardner says the government shouldn’t create “unfair competition” with private business, he’s talking about paychecks–and validating the reasoning behind the GOP’s proposal to slash the benefit.
But today, with Republicans in Washington is disarray and Democrats holding firm to their objectives as expressed in the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act which passed the U.S. House weeks ago, and even President Donald Trump on the nominal bandwagon for extending the full benefit, the Denver Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)–yup–Tweets video of Gardner’s office staff committing to support for the full $600 a week extension:
Although the irony of the Democratic Socialists of America leaving Gardner’s office happy is delicious to consider (Gardner’s Republican allies may disagree), nobody should be under any delusion that this statement represents a bonafide commitment by Gardner to stand up to his party leadership. Gardner is obviously sending different messages to different siloed communities as he pleases–and as long as the listeners of Jimmy Sengenberger’s podcast don’t overlap much with the followers of the DSA’s Twitter feed, nobody is the wiser. Once you are aware of what he’s saying to these different audiences, however, Gardner has a serious credibility problem.
All that will matter in the end is what Mitch McConnell and Trump tell Cory Gardner to do.
Happy Independence Day to our friends in Bolivia and Jamaica, respectively. Please celebrate responsibly.Let’s 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 an audio learner, check out The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.
► The New York Attorney General has filed a lawsuit seeking to dissolve the National Rifle Association (NRA) because of widespread fraud. As The Washington Post reports:
The chief executive of the National Rifle Association and several top lieutenants engaged in a decades-long pattern of fraud to raid the coffers of the powerful gun rights group for personal gain, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by the New York attorney general, draining $64 million from the nonprofit in just three years.
In her lawsuit, Attorney General Letitia James called for the dissolution of the NRA and the removal of CEO Wayne LaPierre from the leadership post he has held for the past 39 years, saying he and others used the group’s funds to finance a luxury lifestyle.
She also asked a New York court to force LaPierre and three key deputies to repay NRA members for the ill-gotten funds and inflated salaries that her investigation found they took.
James accused the NRA leaders of flouting state and federal laws and signing off on reports and statements they knew were fraudulent, while diverting millions of dollars away from the NRA’s charitable mission to benefit themselves and their allies.
But wait…there’s more!
Meanwhile, D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine announced Thursday that his office filed a separate lawsuit against the NRA Foundation, which is based in Washington. Racine accused the organization of being a puppet of the NRA, despite legal requirements that it independently pursue charitable purposes. Instead, Racine found, the foundation repeatedly loaned the NRA money to address its rising deficits.
The NRA will no doubt fight this lawsuit…with whatever money they have left:
► For the third week in a row, Senate Republicans will likely be headed home — this time for a longer break — without making any progress on another coronavirus relief bill. As POLITICO reports:
The Senate will technically stay in session next week but will not hold any votes unless there is a breakthrough in coronavirus negotiations. That means senators — like their House counterparts — will be back home, waiting for word from the leadership whether a deal has been reached…
…The senators’ departure from Washington despite a tentative Friday deadline signals just how far apart Democrats and the White House remain on reaching an agreement. The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 157,000 Americans, while tens of millions more are unemployed. The Labor Department reported Thursday that 1.19 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week in state programs, a decline from previous weeks but still a sign that the economy is showing little sign of improving.
The report was the first since a federal $600 weekly unemployment benefit allocated in March’s $2 trillion CARES Act officially expired.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is still blaming Democrats for his chamber’s failure to come up with any sort of a relief plan…even though McConnell himself somehow isn’t even involved in the negotiations anymore.
► Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley), who moonlights as the State Republican Party Chairman (or vice-versa) is using the Colorado GOP mailing lists to sell copies of his new book. Drain the swamp, indeed.
Senate Republicans keep shouting “O’Doyle Rules!” as their car flies off the coronavirus cliff; we find our second favorite U.S. Senator boning up on his mandarin in preparation for his next job; QAnon makes it to the White House; we weigh the relative merits of a little spray paint against all of the horrible things visited upon this nation since 2016; and we interview yet another Jason Bane for our ongoing series, “The Jason Bane Focus Group,” marking the first time the podcast has gone INTERNATIONAL!
As POLITICO reports, Senate Republicans are making a big spending commitment in five states in hopes of preserving their Senate Majority in 2020:
Republicans’ chief Senate super PAC is launching a new $21 million TV and radio ad buy in August across five races as the party continues to fight to protect its majority against massive Democratic spending.
Senate Leadership Fund, the outside group with ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will launch ads starting next week in Montana, Georgia, Iowa and North Carolina, and will alsogoup in Arizona later this month, according to details shared first with POLITICO. The August wave represents an earlier-than-expected launch for the super PAC, which had previously booked $90 million in ads set to run across the Senate map starting after Labor Day.
Eagle-eyed readers will note that Colorado is NOT included on that list of states getting big money support in order to save the Senate Majority — and they’re not even waiting for Labor Day to say goodbye.
Senate Republican spokespeople will no doubt insist that Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner is definitely not being left behind as they focus on trying to hold GOP seats in Georgia and Montana, but the writing is on the wall now. Gardner’s poll numbers have been awful in Colorado, and we’re not a state that is going to be competitive in the Presidential race (unlike, for example, Arizona), so there’s no secondary rationale for spending money to prop up Gardner.
Outside groups are still spending money in Colorado on Gardner’s behalf, but we would expect those ad buys to be quietly altered as Labor Day approaches. We’ve said for awhile in this space that Republicans can only throw good money after bad in Colorado for so long before strategic realities force some tough decisions.