UPDATE: It’s been more than 10 days. Still no bill text:
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.
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:
As POLITICO reported:
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.