As the Denver Post’s Alex Burness reports, the big story coming out of the weekend is the record-setting debate in the Colorado House over the Reproductive Health Equity Act, legislation to codify abortion rights in statute ahead of the widely-feared overturning of the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision later this year:
Colorado Republicans cannot stop the Democrats from passing a bill codifying the right to abortion in state law.
But they can sure stretch it out.
A debate in the House of Representatives on HB22-1279, the Reproductive Health Equity Act, began at 10:53 a.m. Friday and concluded with a preliminary voice vote at 10:18 a.m. Saturday. After that vote the House Democrats moved to kill some final, unsuccessful GOP amendment proposals, before lawmakers and Capitol staff could leave the building at last.
Roughly one full day in length, this is thought to have been the longest debate in this Capitol in at least 25 years.
It was a grandstand voluntarily waged by minority House Republicans, who kept up their objections and dead-on-arrival amendments practically to the moment of a scheduled anti-abortion rally that took place on the West Steps of the Capitol Saturday morning. We’ve heard a rumor that some number of Republicans might have taken a break in the evening to visit the Grizzly Rose, and might have returned from that foray…a little worse for wear. If true that might explain some of the excitement that came in the wee hours of Saturday (see below).
In the end, though, Democrats who had the power to shut down debate after some reasonable number of hours chose not to, allowing every single House Republican to lodge their strident objection to abortion into the permanent record over and over until they were too tired to keep going. In a state that has historically punished anti-abortion Republicans at the polls and looks based on polling set to do so again, it was the parliamentary equivalent of paying out the rope. There’s no clearer way to demonstrate to Colorado’s pro-choice majority electorate who the enemy is than what Republicans are proudly doing themselves this year in anticipation of Roe’s repeal. The masks are truly off.
Around 5 a.m., Rep. Lindsey Daugherty, an Arvada Democrat, was presiding over the chamber as chair. When Sandridge began speaking at the well about “the history of abortion associated with certain vulnerable populations,” Daugherty interrupted him and asked him to explain how that was connected to the bill. “Can you do something?” Sandridge asked McKean in frustration. After that, a confrontation occurred out of view of The Colorado Channel camera…
[Sandridge] and McKean walked toward each other. “He comes up and bumps me with his stomach,” Sandridge said. Sandridge recalls saying, “What the f— are you doing, get off me.” [Pols emphasis]
The exchange was brief, and Sandridge did not consider the interaction an “offense” or assault, he said. Republican Rep. Ron Hanks remarked to Sandridge that last year McKean had also bumped him with his stomach. McKean and Hanks in May 2021 were reported to have engaged in a confrontation in which Hanks threatened violence against McKean.
Sandridge suggested that the episode Saturday was indicative of underlying dysfunction among House Republicans and ineffectiveness on the part of leadership. [Pols emphasis]
While we’re sorry to report that the “belly-bumping” took place out of view of the publicly accessible cameras on the House floor, through the magic of the internets we were able to bring you this fairly accurate reconstruction of events, minus the cussing:
And we’re forced to agree–if this is how Hugh McKean keeps his caucus in line, and here we have the second such instance after last year’s altercation with Rep. Ron Hanks, there’s some “underlying dysfunction” going on. As for effectiveness?
Well, some people are into this kind of thing. But consider not doing it on the House floor.