Throughout the 120 days of the recently-concluded Colorado legislative session, House Republicans generally stuck to a strategy of trying to waste as much time as possible in order to prevent a Democratic supermajority from accomplishing some of its goals. Relegated to a leaderless micro-minority, the House GOP caucus had no realistic policy plans of their own. Its members spoke at length about virtually any legislative proposal – even those that they otherwise supported – pausing only long enough to trot out absurd accusations that Democrats were actually the ones slowing down the legislative process.
There’s no debate about any of this; Republicans talked openly about their obstruction efforts before, during, and after the session. They were proud of not governing…
…So proud, in fact, that they can’t stop talking about the thing that they shouldn’t be talking about. In fact, freshman State Rep. Scott “There is No” Bottoms (R-Colorado Springs) couldn’t wait two days before blowing up the entire GOP narrative about accusing Democrats of ignoring their concerns.
We’ll get to that in a moment, but first a little background…
House Republicans were particularly pleased with themselves on the final day of the session, when they stormed off the House Floor as part of a pre-planned stunt intended to cement an end-of-session narrative that Democrats were steamrolling over them and refusing to work in partnership. Multiple members of the House GOP caucus claimed credit for the walkout – most notably Rep. Matt Soper (R-Delta), whose thirsty “look at me” tweet was among the saddest of the entire session.
In the days that followed, Republican pundits have worked hard to support the narrative of “Democrats Gone Wild!” Writing for the Colorado Springs Gazette this week, former State Republican Chair Dick Wadhams did his best to continue the spin:
Despite being woefully outnumbered, the Colorado Republican legislative leadership offered strong, substantive opposition to the Democratic agenda throughout the session.
They did? You mean, like this? Or maybe this? Surely not this. Definitely not this.
They were so effective that Democrats decided to censor Republican legislators from speaking by cutting off debate. Democrats claim Republicans were filibustering for no reason other than to delay the process, but the real truth is that big majorities breed arrogance and intolerance of any opposition. [Pols emphasis]
Sorry, Dick, but the cat’s out of the bag on this one.
Democrats cut off Republicans not because they made “effective” arguments, but because they clearly had no intention of having a serious discussion about legislation. This includes the issue that prompted Republicans to walk out of the House in the last hours of the final day: Senate Bill 23-303, which placed a measure on the 2023 ballot to allow voters to decide on a proposal for reducing property taxes. Republicans claimed that Democrats were refusing to allow them to argue for amendments to the bill; in reality, the House GOP was just trying to run out the clock on the 2023 legislative session in order to kill the bill outright.
And how do we know that House Republicans weren’t operating in good faith?
Because Scott Bottoms told us all about it.
Started (and Finished) at DeBottoms
Bottoms was barely a month into his first legislative session when was interviewed by Sherronna Bishop on her “America’s Mom” Facebook/FrankSpeech online show…thing (click on the link if you like Netscape-inspired website design). Bishop was Congressperson Lauren Boebert’s first campaign manager in 2020 and later a close adviser of disgraced Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters, so you know what you’re going to hear if you accept an interview invitation.
During a conversation about lawmakers preparing to hear committee testimony from Bishop’s archenemy (Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold), Bottoms spoke haughtily about the amazing legislation’ skills of he and fellow Colorado Springs Republican Rep. Ken “Skin” DeGraaf (“The Unambiguously Lame Duo”):
BISHOP: I can’t wait. Who needs Netflix? We’re going to go watch the Colorado legislative session and watch Rep. Bottoms beat up on Secretary of State Jena Griswold. I can’t wait.
BOTTOMS: Well, I can tell you…Ken and I are really good at this. [Pols emphasis]
Bottoms is a pastor in his other life, though his Bible knowledge apparently does not include Proverbs 26:12:
“Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.”
To this point in the 2023 legislative session, Bottoms had already shown his “talents” by breaking decorum with a dumb challenge of House Speaker Julie McCluskie (D-Dillon) and the introduction of a personhood-style abortion bill that was quickly dismissed in a committee hearing. A few days later, Bottoms wasted time on the House Floor by making biblical references related to his opposition to any proposed effort to regulate the use of gas stoves (a popular right-wing grievance of the moment). His buddy DeGraaf was equally worthless, though both men certainly monopolized the microphone unlike any of their colleagues.
Bottoms now fancies himself to be the “real” leader of the House GOP caucus (it’s true – just ask him), which is not great news for Republicans. Two days after the end of the 2023 legislative session, Bottoms spoke to his congregation at the Church at Briargate in Colorado Springs AND COMPLETELY DESTROYED THE REPUBLICAN NARRATIVE THAT DEMOCRATS WERE REFUSING TO HEAR THEM OUT.
Bottoms acknowledges that House Republicans were only interested in killing SB23-303 (which is exactly why House Democrats stopped them from discussing amendments), but he also implicates Senate Republicans in the same scheme – including efforts to kill a “land use” bill pushed by Governor Jared Polis. Bottoms also makes sure to crap on “three or four” unnamed House GOP colleagues for not doing enough to obstruct legislation.
You can watch the video yourself, or read our transcription that follows…
We start with Bottoms narrating the story of how the brave and honorable House Republican caucus refused to do their jobs:
Now it comes to this horrible bill that the Governor has been trying to get through that tries to cover up the fact that you’re going to have the highest tax increase in the history of the State of Colorado. [We] can’t stop it. All we can do is slow it down.
Now, they did bring it out three days before the end of the session, so now we actually have a way to maybe, maybe possibly stop it. And that’s by using the clock against them. Time — time. Push it, push it, push it until it falls off the end of time, and the calendar is what stops it. So we started working on that…
…[We] kept doing this, kept doing this. Finally, it’s like 6:00 on Monday evening. We debated Saturday, and Sunday while I was here [at Briargate] – they were still working on it…
Here Bottoms implicates Republicans in the State Senate for joining in their obstruction efforts before going into great detail about how much time House Republicans think they can waste:
…And the Senate was calling us. Some of the guys on the Senate were calling us and saying, ‘If you guys can get to about 9:00 or 10:00’ – because it has to go back to the Senate – ‘we can knock it off the calendar.’ But we can’t do it unless you really, really delay.
So we started delaying. They [Democrats] were actually delaying themselves, because they’re not that bright. And they were adding these amendments and things. We only get 10 minutes apiece, but there’s 19 of us – three or four won’t go to the well hardly at all – and so there were about 15 of us who were going to go take out 15 minutes apiece. That’s about 150 minutes, per amendment, per motion. Because then we can get up and make motions. Right? I motion that we all…dance around, you know? That’s not a motion, but you understand what I’m saying.
Then we can all debate [for] 10 minutes on the motion. Then we can all debate [for] 10 minutes on the amendment. And we’re watching that clock, and we’re pushing, and pushing, and pushing. Finally the Majority Leader [Rep. Monica Duran (D-Wheat Ridge)] figured it out. But, they’re trying to get all of their amendments through. So they can’t just call it and vote – they’ve got two more amendments that they want to get through. That’s 300 minutes that we can take, right? And if we can get all 19 – which, every now and then, all 19 will do it – that’s an extra 40 minutes, right?
So, we’re doing that. We’re doing that. It’s about 6:30, something like that. Or 7:00, I don’t remember. But, they figure it out, and she [Duran] gets up and calls Rule 16 on us again. This is the biggest bill that the Governor is trying to push to – smoke and mirrors – to cover up his biggest tax increase in the history of the State of Colorado, and they call Rule 16 on us in the last three hours, or four hours, of our General Assembly.
I’m standing in the well with my hand up trying to talk. The reason I raised both hands is because when I was standing there and she didn’t acknowledge me, I turned around to my caucus, and they’re all standing down there in the well trying to speak, and one of the guys says, ‘You should have used jazz hands.’ That’s why I went like that [raises both hands and wiggles fingers]…
…So she [Duran] calls Rule 16 on us. And I turn around to our caucus and I say, ‘This is stupid. Let’s not vote.’
We need to pause and point out something important that Bottoms may or may not understand: Because Democrats have such a large majority in the House of Representatives (46-19), they don’t NEED Republicans to be present in order to have a quorum for an official vote. As Democrats did throughout the session, they allowed Republicans to talk at length for a long time before finally forcing the discussion forward with two tools (Rules 14 and 16) that allow the House majority to end debate on a particular topic. When the House GOP staged their silly last-minute walkout, Democrats just called a vote and kept working.
…Our Whip [Rep. Richard Holtorf (R-Akron)], standing at the back…he heard me say that and he said, ‘Yeah, let’s just not vote.’ So we all went to our seats and sat down and we didn’t vote…This is for a motion on an amendment. She did Rule 16 on a MOTION. You may not know, [but] that’s a big deal. That is NOT okay.
Anyway, so we just didn’t vote. She got mad. She’s starting to, through the microphone, get mad at us. Like when she gets to me, ‘Representative Bottoms, do you want to be excused?’ We just ignored her. Didn’t say a word.
And all 19 of us – guys, a month ago this wouldn’t have happened. All 19 of us – nobody voted. Nobody voted. Finally she said, ‘Okay, then I’m going to excuse you with protest.’ She went down the whole line, excused every one of us with protest, and then the vote went through…
…So one of our people got up, and then said, ‘Okay, I’d like to have a motion for permission to have an amendment.’ She said, ‘It’s a proper motion.’ They voted it down immediately. We can’t have an amendment, but they can push two of them through in the last four hours of session?
Well, when you’re clearly not serious about the legislative process…yeah, basically.
Note how Bottoms says Democrats “can’t stand to hear truth” IMMEDIATELY after he finishes talking about how Republicans are trying to kill legislation with delay tactics instead of actual arguments.
…And so then we said, ‘We’re not going to vote again.’ So we didn’t vote. She’s mad. She’s going down through the list. Then they get up to do a motion for ANOTHER amendment. We go up there to speak and she does Rule 16.
We had already been talking about it for a couple of hours, so the entire Republican caucus [in the House], we just kind of looked at each other. We’d all been talking about it, but this is kind of the moment of truth. Because you’ve got three or four chickens on that caucus. You’ve got three or four that just aren’t REALLY Republicans. The entire caucus – we got up and walked out. And that freaked everybody out.
That’s also never happened before in the Colorado State Assembly. But, we just got up and walked out.
This has definitely happened before, but whatever. Proceed…
And the media, of course, they’re following us with their cameras and taking pictures and sticking microphones in our mouth. I held the door for them. I’m a nice guy. I held the door for all of the media. But I told them that when I walk down the steps, do not walk with me because you’re not my friends. They think I’m funny, but just a little.
Scott Bottoms is a YUGE fan of Scott Bottoms. This much is clear.
And so we get down there and we have a big press conference, and basically we said, ‘Why are we here? They’re using rules improperly. They’re not Constitutional. They’ve been shutting us down. We don’t have a vote. We can’t even SPEAK anymore. We’re sitting here to speak – we can’t even SPEAK anymore. Why are we here?’
So we walked out, and some of our leadership was saying, ‘Well, I guess we should go back inside now for awhile.’ And I was like, ‘I am going home.’ And that’s the last they heard of me.
If only this were true, then Republicans might have been able to keep talking about how Democrats unjustly silenced them. Instead, Bottoms and his boundless arrogance gave up the game once and for all. Republicans can no longer even pretend that they were trying to engage in good faith discussions during the 2023 legislative session.
But, sure, Scott Bottoms is “really good at this.”
i fail to understand why republicans have to play along with democrats
They don't. But then they shouldn't be surprised when the Dems don't play with them either. Perhaps being grossly outnumbered might call for a different strategic approach though. Unfortunately, the current GOP clown car has nothing
If by "play along" you mean any something other than actually doing constructive work for Coloradans, well you could have just as well ended that sentence at, "I fail to understand."
BTW, just be glad that Colorado Dems are more magnanimous towards Repugs who don't "play along" with them than Repugs are with Democrats that don't "play along" with them in states like Tennessee and Montana.
I love bipartisanship and political moderation as much as the next guy but for real… sometimes I wondered why the Dems didn't stop Republicans from wasting time more often. People here keep commenting what if the roles were reversed? It's hard to imagine Republicans playing as fairly as the Democrats did here. It's also hard to believe that Democrats will just sit down and take it if the roles were reversed. Don't dish out what you personally can't take. It's all very speculative of course considering that Republicans are regulated to and will stay as a minority party for the foreseeable future so imagining that is just an exercise in imagination.