Last Wednesday, as the Republican coronavirus relief legislation faced overwhelming condemnation for being totally inadequate even as a starting point for negotiations with Democrats, GOP Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado appeared in the cozy confines of local conservative talking head Jimmy Sengenberger’s podcast to defend the GOP’s proposal to slash the expanded unemployment benefit 330,000 Coloradans are currently relying on to pay their bills:
SENGENBERGER: Senator Cory Garner, one of the questions that people have been discussing is the unemployment provision. The previous CARES Act had $600 a week that was given additional to the basic unemployment amount to people. Now the Republican proposal the HEALS Act is $200, Democrats are saying that’s not nearly enough. What’s your take on that? Because we have seen this show to be a bit of a disincentive to work. Some people saying that ah, I’m making more money on unemployment than going back to work.
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] So, let’s continue to help those people in need it, let’s create jobs and help people get into the workforce without a disincentive–the people of Colorado want to work. The 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.
In a moment of classic Cory Gardner doublespeak, Gardner explains that although “Coloradans want to work,” the expanded unemployment benefit could create “unfair competition between the government and the private sector.” This statement is inherently self-contradicting–and that’s by design, as Gardner doesn’t want to answer the question so much as cushion the answer everybody knows in language that isn’t as toxic to swing state voters. This answer on an obscure conservative podcast is also a brazen contradiction of what Gardner told Colorado Public Radio in a story that ran literally the next day:
Gardner said he supports extending the unemployment benefits that were part of the CARES Act.
“COVID-19 has affected our entire state and we must continue working to ensure relief is reaching those in need, including through extending unemployment benefits,” Gardner said in a statement.
That’s right, folks! In less than 24 hours, Cory Gardner was on record taking both sides of the biggest issue in domestic American politics. And then, as AP reports, it got worse: Gardner and the Senate GOP got sideswiped by President Donald Trump.
The White House and its GOP allies appear to be retreating from their opposition to a $600-per-week supplemental unemployment benefit that has propped up the economy and family budgets but is expiring Friday.
President Donald Trump is eager to extend the benefit, undercutting his GOP allies on Capitol Hill who have spent considerable effort devising an alternative that could unite Republicans…
Republicans in the Senate had been fighting to trim back the $600 jobless benefit in the next coronavirus package, but their resolve weakened as the expiration of the popular benefit neared — and as Trump undercut their position by signaling he wants to keep the full $600 benefit for now.
In the friendliest of venues, Gardner was asked to take a firm position on a crucially important question. Gardner came about as close as he ever does to doing so, bracketed by platitudes though it may have been. And it’s not what he told the mainstream media at all.
Two days later, Trump blew up the debate. In the process, Trump left Cory Gardner and the rest of the GOP Senate majority looking like the villains. If you’ve ever wondered why Cory Gardner is almost always the last public official to comment on the news of the day–when reporters can catch him, that is–here’s one of the better examples. This time Gardner got caught lying to somebody, either his base or the mainstream media, and then Trump salted the wound by undercutting the more conservative of Gardner’s contradictory positions.
No matter what happens next, Cory Gardner loses.