Congress Approves Memorial Day VA Hospital Band-Aid, Wound Still Festering

Rep. Mike Coffman.

Rep. Mike Coffman.

9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman reporting now on a last-minute deal to keep construction going at the troubled VA medical center project on the Anschutz medical campus in Aurora…for now, anyway:

On the same day Congress is preparing to leave for a Memorial Day break, House Republicans introduced a last-minute temporary patch that would prevent another work stoppage at Colorado’s new VA hospital project.

The bill introduced mid-day by VA committee chair Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Florida) would increase the current $800 million cap on the project to $900 million, which would buy another few weeks of construction work on the site until congress can come back and consider options for a longer-term fix…

Kiewit-Turner…announced in a memo Wednesday that a shutdown on Colorado’s mismanaged VA hospital project would add between $125-200 million to the overall cost of the project and delay opening until as late as 2018.

Rep. Mike Coffman and fellow Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter were reportedly prime movers for this bill, speaking on the House floor this morning in favor of speedy passage to allow construction on the project to keep going through and beyond Memorial Day weekend. While that would prevent highly unfavorable news headlines during the holiday when we honor our fallen veterans, as the AP’s Nick Riccardi alludes to in a Tweet today, it’s not really what you’d call a solution to the larger problem:

Aurora VA medical center site. (credit: VA)

Aurora VA medical center site. (credit: VA)

The fact is, this short-term deal doesn’t help that much, because there will still be tremendous uncertainty for the contractors doing the work. Construction firms need the lead time that comes with planning certainty to properly allocate limited work crews on construction projects–at this project and others elsewhere. One of the reasons this project has gone so woefully over budget is that the problems with budgets and timetables have made it harder to find subcontractors to perform so many of the tasks required. Denver’s hot construction market means that if subcontractors don’t want to deal with the headaches and political uncertainty on this project, they don’t have to.

Coffman can claim he persuaded his own Republican House leadership to allow this short-term deal to keep construction going, but we’re likely to be right back in the same position just a couple of weeks from now, so this is more of a punt than anything. Can Coffman keep the project going with the threat of a politically unsightly Memorial Day shutdown removed? What pound of flesh will Coffman’s Republican leadership demand next time to keep this hospital alive? How many times can Coffman try to be the savior before the press starts asking why the chairman of the VA Oversight Committee has done so little to solve this problem despite knowing about it for years?

Bottom line: especially after the actions of Coffman’s Republican leadership this week risking another shutdown of the project, the line between being a hero and being part of the problem here is precarious at best. This deeply troubled but necessary new hospital for our vets isn’t out of the woods yet–and neither is Mike Coffman.

9 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. BlueCat says:

    See? Politically, it's all good for Coffman. Coffman saves the day! Why you guys keep insisting that this is a problem for him is beyond me. If it all goes south it'll just be… Coffman goes down fighting to save the day! Coffman bloodied but unbowed fighting for Colorado vets! Coffman, Coffman, Coffman.  Win/win no matter what happens. This is a Coffman gold mine.

    • JeffcoBlue says:

      Yeah, everybody loves Rep. Mike Coffman (D).

    • Wong21fr says:

      Yep, Coffman is coming across as the guy that gets stuff done.  No one is going to care that Coffman had responsibility for oversight of the VA- he's solving the problem.

      Senator Coffman and Gardner?  It's coming.

      • mamajama55 says:

        So what are you personally going to do about it? Write a letter to the editor? Talk with your neighbors? 

        Coffman and Gardner get away with this crap because people like us (I could be writing LTEs and other outreach, too), let him get away with it. Our press also functions as stenographers, for the most part, just reprinting whatever press releases Coffman gives them. 

        If we truly don't want Senators Gardner and Coffman voting Supreme Court nominees, we'd all better grow a pair (tits, balls, or both) and start speaking and writing the truth at every opportunity. It's just too goddamn easy to laze into cynical acceptance. 

        • Wong21fr says:

          A strongly worded 150-word or less letter to the editor sounds about right.  Maybe challenge Coffman to a push-up contest and call him out for being a mealy-mouthed bitch while he lays gasping on the ground for air.

        • Progressicat says:

          I think we'd be better off trying to get a viable candidate to primary Mike Bennet.  He'd have to stand for something(s) and he'd be doing it in an oppositional forum that the papers would be interested in paying attention to.

        • BlueCat says:

          All perfectly good suggestions and worth doing. I get letters to the editor published quite often, as it happens, and if two or three friends notice that's a lot. But that's all small stuff with tiny if any significant influence in big elections where most voters don't read any news, much less letters to the editor, much less long articles on politics, and don't have a liberal neighbor dropping by to talk politics.  

          Only Dem pols and their ops attacking Coffman and putting out a positive message of their own in big noisy public ways on TV, radio etc. and, coming into the election, through ad campaigns, can hammer a message sufficiently to make a dent. If they don't have the guts or smarts to do it, it won't get done. No number of Little Engines That Could is going to get it done for them. Sorry. Get on their case, not mine. They're the ones who have to do it.

          How much good did all of us agreeing on what a phony Gardner is do? Coffman v Romanoff? Not enough to combat lousy Udall and Romanoff TV ad campaigns. Pretty sure my contribution of published letters, dozens over the years, has had little effect except to make my friends and me feel good about seeing my name in the letters section. Still do it, though. It feels good to get it off my chest. But we can't make up for the decisions made by Dem pols and their campaign teams.

          And I'm sure as hell not lazy having volunteered in numerous campaigns and GOTV efforts, canvassed my ass off in the hot sun, phone banked and organized get acquainted parties and fund raising events in my day. I just don't rely on wishful thinking or irrational emotion. That's not cynicism. It's recognition of objective reality. 

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