(For obvious reasons regarding the narrative voice, this post is being published under the name of Jason Bane instead of Colorado Pols.)
It was at about 2:00 pm on Thursday afternoon when the Republican micro-minority in the State House launched a doomed “filibluster” attempt to delay voting on HB23-1219, a bill that seeks to implement a three-day waiting period for gun purchases. Over the course of more than 12 hours, Republicans babbled about the Second Amendment; read aloud the writings of Dave Kopel and rehashed the Conquistador point of view from Justin Diamond’s classic book “Guns, Germs, and Steel.”
At roughly 10:30 pm on Thursday night – more than eight hours since their filibuster began – House Republicans rejected a deal to bring their bickering to an end.
House Republicans accepted that same deal four hours later, finally concluding their pointless stand at 2:30 am on Friday morning. House Bill 23-1219 passed on second reading and moved forward.
THIS Is Your Great Injustice?
House Republicans drew this invisible line in the sand primarily because the no-compromise gun group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) and its Executive Director, Taylor Rhodes, demanded a “circus.” And as we’ve already seen before in this legislative session, when RMGO tells Republicans to dance…they f***ing dance.
There was no circus on Thursday and Friday. House Republicans could only manage a small, broken-down carnival atmosphere instead:
♦ Representative Ken “Skin” DeGraaf regularly mentioned data he found from a publication of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), but instead of using the full name for maximum time-wasting efficiency, DeGraaf used a shorthand that he kept pronouncing as “pee-nahs.”
♦ Rep. Richard Holtorf told lawmakers that he cared more about human life than any of them and would also die for any person in the chamber because…???
♦ Republicans took turns trying to one-up another with melodramatic stories about a woman who might have been assaulted if not for her gun…or the time so-and-so heard a weird noise downstairs that they didn’t check because it was probably nothing and it turned out to be nothing but hoo boy it was a good thing I had my Barrett .50 cal rifle under the bed.
As gun safety bills go, HB23-1219 is fairly benign. Implementing a three-day waiting period for gun purchases is a common sense idea borne of lived experiences. It allows for a “cooling off period,” as State Sen. Tom Sullivan so deftly explained a few weeks ago. Marianne Goodland of the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman reported on these real-world examples from a hearing earlier in the week:
Several witnesses recounted the heartbreak they suffered from the death of a loved one, some from suicide, some from homicide, all from guns.
Kaycie Artus said her daughter, Lindsay, died an hour after buying a gun. She was a language arts teacher in Douglas County who won teaching awards but also battled with depression and anxiety. Lindsay’s children would still have their mom if there had been a waiting period, added her friend, Jenny Gunther.
Kathy Hagan of Erie talked about the death of a friend’s father, who also struggled with mental health issues. He stopped taking his medication and bought a gun. Confronted by his daughter, he locked himself in the bathroom and shot himself.
“It was a cry for help,” Hagan said. A waiting period could have saved his life, she said.
Dr. Maya Haasz, a pediatrician representing the Colorado Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, pleaded with lawmakers to support the bill: “Young people who attempt suicide by firearm do not have the chance to change their minds.” She also pointed out that nine out of 10 children who use a firearm in their suicide attempt will die even though guns are used in only one of 20 suicide attempts.
Okay, fine, said Republicans. We see your real world examples and raise you some entirely theoretical concerns! What if a raccoon needs minigun right away so that it doesn’t get gobbled up by hungry coyotes? What if I get into an argument with a neighbor about the length of their grass lawn and I can’t run to the gun store to pick up something threatening?
The GOP argument against this legislation is that people should have the right to get a gun RIGHTNOWTHISMINUTE because you never know when the Chupacabra might come through your window and the Chupacabra does NOT respect three-day waiting periods.
But if you really think you need the ability to buy a gun RIGHTNOWTHISMINUTE, then there are two other more pressing concerns that need to be addressed instead:
- When people go out and demand a gun RIGHTNOWTHISMINUTE, they have a tendency to use that gun RIGHTNOWTHISMINUTE. And that’s not good for them or the people they love.
- If you find yourself in a situation in which you think you need a new gun RIGHTNOWTHISMINUTE, then you are almost certainly in a scenario that requires some very different help. For example, maybe you should be calling the police instead of running around trying to buy a new firearm.
— Erik Maulbetsch (@emaulbetsch) March 9, 2023
A true filibuster has to have some sort of achievable goal based on opposition to a great injustice, whether that be delaying a vote or preventing one altogether on a controversial piece of legislation. Democrats hold an historically-large majority in the House (46-19), which means Republicans would have needed to flip at least a dozen Democrats in order to achieve a meaningful outcome.
This was never going to happen, and Republicans knew it. But their filibluster wasn’t about achieving anything. It was just simple angertainment from a caucus that thinks Colorado voters get excited about this sort of thing (spoiler alert: they don’t).
A true filibuster requires a cause that is just and noble. This is not that cause. Polling continually shows that Coloradans (and Americans, frankly) overwhelmingly support common sense gun safety legislation.
This bill is so nonthreatening to gun lovers that there weren’t many Republicans who showed up at the Capitol to lend their moral support. If even the gun nuts aren’t excited, then you have to ask for whom this angertainment performance is intended for in the first place.
[BTW, if the answer is Rhodes and RMGO, you might want to rethink that loyalty. Taylor Rhodes of RMGO has Republicans convinced that he’s powerful and important and will rain Primary challenges down upon anyone who dares speak ill of his Gun God. And should Democrats get in the way, RMGO will initiate recall elections, like the sad effort to oust Sullivan in 2020]
The Republican filibluster was so non-threatening that House Democrats didn’t need to sustain a physical presence in the chamber…which prompted Republicans to publicly complain about the fact that Democrats weren’t listening.
While Republicans are here debating important legislation like defending your #2A rights.
— Colorado House Republicans (@COHouseGOP) March 9, 2023
Think about this for a moment.
We want everyone to know that we are very upset that nobody is paying attention to us!” I actually felt sad when I saw this tweet. I haven’t read the Marketing 101 textbook in a long time, but I’m guessing it still does not have a chapter titled, “When is it a good time to emasculate yourself in public?”
We Get It: You’re Opposed to Everything
The House Republican filibluster on HB23-1219 began just hours after House Minority “Leader” Mike Lynch gathered his 19-member caucus for a press conference in which Republicans claimed that Democrats are moving too slow in the current legislative session. Seriously. They then proceeded to waste so much time filiblustering that the House adjourned until 10:00 am on Saturday.
You’re moving too slow, so we’re going to filibuster a largely uncontroversial bill!
These are truly ridiculous people.
Is the pace of bills being introduced at the state Capitol that much different than in previous years?
As it turns out, sort of. But numbers only tell a part of the story. (via @MGoodland)https://t.co/e9v9NKQ0og
— Colorado Politics (@colo_politics) March 9, 2023
Colorado Republicans oppose EVERYTHING, which makes them both predictable and terribly boring. When you oppose everything, it is not news when you declare that you are really opposed to this one specific thing. There’s no story here. News outlets reporting that “Republicans oppose another thing,” is like saying, “The sun came out today, and then it set.”
This isn’t just a House Republican problem – it’s a Colorado GOP problem that has created a predictable one-note response to every question.
Legislative Democrats? “They’re discussing different ideas for improving [insert name of thing].”
Legislative Republicans? “Oh, they’re against [insert name of thing].”
Republicans did the same thing in the 2022 election. Its candidates were against lots of things – virtually ALL of the things. Joe Biden and Michael Bennet and Jared Polis were doing everything wrong about everything. If you had wanted more things, it was Biden’s fault you had fewer things. If you wanted fewer things, it was Polis who forced you to have excess things. Republicans were running to give you the exact amount of whatever things you desired. But Republicans spent so much time talking about the things they opposed that voters never learned about what they supported.
Maybe it’s time to change voices and talk to Republicans directly. Smart Republicans should take it as an ominous sign that Democrats are ignoring them and that even their base has already lost interest. When you spend so much time proving that you aren’t serious about governing, people don’t take you seriously when you eventually pretend that you do want to do some governing after all.
The true point of this filibluster was so you could brag about it later, right? You’ll be all over social media for months talking about the bravery required to talk for a long time, never mentioning that those efforts achieved nothing and were largely ignored. You’ll proceed with all of this chest-bumping, and it will drop you down yet another notch in the eyes of voters who will find it ridiculous that you are bragging about doing nothing.
Some of you will still be talking about it ahead of the next election. You will tell groups of people about the day in which you talked for more than 12 hours about your opposition to a bill creating a three-day waiting period for gun purchases. Some of those people will remember to ask, “What happened next,” and you will quickly change the subject and warn your base supporters in the crowd that Jared Polis is sleeping in their attic RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE!
Do you see where this is headed? Down. In the shape of a spiral. You are less relevant now than you were two days ago.
This story also speaks to why House Republicans in Congress are trending in the wrong direction. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told every House committee that it needed to be investigating SOMETHING. He created the LOL-named “Government Weaponization Committee” and gave it a budget to hire staff in order to do…stuff.
This is why Congressperson Lauren Boebert sends out emails bragging about how she “fixed Congress” on account of the fact that McCarthy agreed to demands she was told to ask about that she still can’t articulate in a manner that makes any sense whatsoever. This is actual political theater because it is ACTING in the purest sense of the word. Republicans are playing the role of a politician, because they have no ideas and no solutions that would allow them to stop pretending.
I am a lifelong Democrat. From a purely strategic perspective, I’m delighted with the bizarre puppet show that is the House Republican Caucus – both in Colorado and in Congress. Sticking with the analogy, imagine trying to put on a puppet show when a third of your puppets have tangled strings; another third of the puppets are actual potatoes; and the loudest puppets are controlled by someone who isn’t even in the building. Good luck with that.
But I am also a Coloradan, and an American, and I like it when our government functions properly. I truly want to have a government that works on problems instead of looking FOR problems. A government where the currency of the realm is being able to answer this question, What did we accomplish today?
This isn’t an issue of a divided government. The division is not the problem. The problem is that there are too many Republican lawmakers who ARE NOT HERE TO ACCOMPLISH THINGS. Look at this list of bills from two of the loudest “Whoopie Cushions” in the GOP caucus, Reps. Scott “There is No” Bottoms and Ken “Skin” DeGraaf.
Bottoms or DeGraff — collectively it is easier to just call them “DeBottoms” — proposed seven bills that could have literally been tossed into a fire right out of the printer. These bills had zero chance of passing in a chamber controlled 46-19 by Democrats…but they would also be DOA in a split chamber because they are patently ridiculous.
For example, take this Bottoms bill on abortion. Colorado voters OVERWHELMINGLY support abortion rights, and they have OVERWHELMINGLY supported them for years. This type of bill is not going to pass in Colorado anytime in the near future — and maybe ever — so why would Bottoms use up one of his five allocated bill titles just to see it tabled in a committee hearing? If you’re going to insist on putting forward no-hope proposals, why not go big? Write a bill requiring 1% of all sales tax revenue to be delivered to you, personally, on a quarterly basis in the form of one of those big oversized checks. That’s not going to pass either, but at least it’s something different.
Republicans are being loud and obtuse at the State Capitol, but they are not creating actual problems for the Democratic majority. They are merely an irritant. This isn’t because Democrats have such a large majority; it’s because there aren’t enough rational, logical, smart, and courageous Republicans in elected office in Colorado in general. Those who do exist toil in relative obscurity; it is the loudest, most obnoxious, most intentionally ill-informed members who Lord over these Flies.
If House Republicans were smart, or at least marginally-competent, they would move away from opposing everything to proposing interesting pieces of legislation that appeal to their constituents and – at the very least – generate a meaningful and honest debate that would allow journalists covering the legislature to write, “Republicans presented an interesting idea on [the thing] today…”
And then, Colorado voters (and by that I mean the rest of the voters – not the brain dead MAGA crowd) might start to read these stories and think, “Golly, maybe there really are some Republicans who are actually interested in governing!”
AND THEN…Republicans could start to make an argument in an election year that includes actual, thought-out proposals that would make voters ask questions beyond, “Which is the candidate with no ideas who keeps saying that Denver burned down?”
But that’s not what Republicans are going to do. They’re going to stay the course and collect bets on the over/under for how long it takes before the House Republican membership drops to single digits. They’ll bombard voters with fantastical tales about how Joe Biden and Jared Polis built a crime-loving robot that sold fentanyl ice cream in preschools and retirement homes and uses a series of beeps and boops as its pronoun.
Today, the State Senate takes up discussion on this bill and other gun safety measures. If past is prologue, we’re in for another long and ridiculous airing of grievances that will end with the legislation moving forward anyway.
This is the Republican way.