Get More Smarter on Wednesday (February 13)

Joe Flacco, eh? Try to contain your excitement. It’s time to “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Congressional leaders are putting the final touches on legislation that will prevent another government shutdown. From the Washington Post:

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill scrambled Wednesday to finalize a sweeping spending bill that includes a compromise on border security two days ahead of a deadline for government funding to expire, as last-minute disputes arose on an array of issues.

While President Trump appeared open to signing the legislation — which includes far less funding than he has sought for construction of barriers along the southern border — White House officials said he was waiting to see the final package before making a decision.

Still pending were issues, including whether to use the bill to provide back pay to federal contractors who were caught in the middle of the recent government shutdown and to extend the federal Violence Against Women Act.

President Trump is likely to sign the legislation — despite not getting what he wants — and will try his damndest to make it look like this is some sort of victory for his administration and all wall-loving people. In reality, this is nothing short of a big, fat loss for the White House.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, the rebranding of the wall debate is already underway.

 

► Denver teachers are still on strike, but negotiations have restarted between Denver Public Schools and the teacher’s union.

 

► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) was one of the first high-profile Republicans to endorse President Trump for re-election. Gardner is trying very hard to convince everyone else to agree with him.

 

► The U.S. Senate passed a massive public lands bill on Tuesday that includes reauthorization for the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). It may be up to the House of Representatives to make sure LWCF is properly funded, however. At the very least, it’s nice to know that Congress isn’t completely broken. Just “mostly” broken.

 

 

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Get More Smarter on Monday (February 11)

Valentine’s Day is on Thursday; those flowers aren’t going to order themselves. ” It’s time to “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Today is the day that Congressional leaders were supposed to announce a deal on keeping the federal government open, but there is no indication as of yet that a proposal is in the works. President Trump and the GOP are trying (again) to blame Democrats for inaction, but as James Downie writes for the Washington Post, Republicans are going through the exact same motions that drove us into the last shutdown:

The truth is, three weeks after the last shutdown ended, the White House and the GOP still have no idea how to get out of the corner they’ve worked themselves into. They promised the base a “border wall,” but they have even less leverage now than they did when the first shutdown started. So they’ve returned to the first page of the playbook: scaremongering about violent immigrants.

Of course, we all saw how well fanning fears over immigration worked for the president and his party during the last shutdown, not to mention during last fall’s midterms. If anything, one wonders whether spinning the bed issue will make any deal harder for the GOP base to swallow. What was once a nonissue becomes, in the base’s mind, another cave.

As CNN reports, you’ll need to look elsewhere for silver linings:

Bottom line: There is no agreement on the path forward on the conference committee. There is no agreement on what, if any, alternatives could pass both chambers and be signed by the President if the conference committee fails. Monday is a crucial day as lawmakers try and figure a way out of another mess, all as the clock ticks away. At this point, each day leading into the February 15 deadline is enormously consequential.

Shutdown 2: Electric Boogaloo.

 

► Denver teachers are off the job today as part of the first DPS strike in 25 years; many students are joining the picket lines in solidarity. The Denver Classroom Teachers Association will hold a rally on the West Steps of the State Capitol this afternoon.

For more information on all things strike-related, check out this FAQ from the Denver Post or this primer from Colorado Public Radio and the Associated Press.

 

► A growing number of Americans are expressing frustration that the great Republican tax cut of 2017 isn’t doing jack squat for them. From the Washington Post:

Millions of Americans filling out their 2018 taxes will probably be surprised to learn that their refunds will be less than expected or that they owe money to the Internal Revenue Service after years of receiving refunds.

People have already taken to social media, using the hashtag #GOPTaxScam, to vent their anger. Many blame President Trump and the Republicans for shrinking refunds. Some on Twitter even said they wouldn’t vote for Trump again after seeing their refunds slashed.

The uproar follows the passage of a major overhaul to the tax code in December 2017, which was enacted with only Republican votes and is considered the biggest legislative achievement of Trump’s first year. While the vast majority of Americans received a tax cut in 2018, refunds are a different matter. Some refunds have decreased because of changes in the law, such as a new limit on property and local income tax deductions, and some have decreased because of how the IRS has altered withholding in paychecks…

…The average tax refund check is down 8 percent ($170) this year compared to last, the IRS reported Friday, and the number of people receiving a refund so far has dropped by almost a quarter.

Lower tax refunds mean bad news for the American economy.

 

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You Say You Want Another Shutdown, Well, You Know…

CNN reports as the roller coaster that is national American politics under President Donald Trump gets ready for another dive into chaos:

It’s now days before another government shutdown — and this is the day bipartisan negotiators were supposed to announce a deal to avert just that.

Instead, there are no clear answers as to how, or if, another can be avoided.

Bottom line: There is no agreement on the path forward on the conference committee. There is no agreement on what, if any, alternatives could pass both chambers and be signed by the President if the conference committee fails. Monday is a crucial day as lawmakers try and figure a way out of another mess, all as the clock ticks away. At this point, each day leading into the February 15 deadline is enormously consequential.

As negotiations on a spending bill to avert another shutdown by Friday’s deadline continue today, the pressure is on to get a bill together today or tomorrow in order to respect the House’s 72-hour rule for considering legislation once the bill text is posted. The parties remain far apart on both funding for the wall/barrier/slats/whatever, but also related issues like the number of beds for detaining immigrants awaiting hearings. Looming over all of those disagreements is the current state of Trump’s thinking, which may become more apparent at a MAGA rally scheduled for this evening in El Paso, Texas.

You would think that after the havoc wrought by the recently-ended shutdown, and the consensus of public opinion that Trump and the GOP are to blame, Republicans would be willing to take whatever House Democrats offer to save face and move on with their lives. There’s still the possibility of that happening, but it’s not a bet we would make with, you know, the rent money.

For hundreds of thousands of federal workers, though, that’s exactly what the next few days is about.

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SOTU: Are You Even Going To Bother?

Coming at the nation fast in the wake of the most boring Super Bowl of our lifetimes, President Donald Trump is set to deliver the State of the Union address tonight, long delayed by the lengthiest federal government shutdown in history.

Generally speaking, the SOTU is a must-watch for every American with an interest in national politics, with supporters tuning in to be energized and opponents to lampoon. Today, though, there is a significant movement afoot on social media to boycott tonight’s speech, with the goal of making it the least-watched State of the Union address in modern history. The thinking is that this would make a choice dent in Trump’s prodigious ego.

A poll follows: what’s your evening looking like?

Do you plan to watch the 2019 State of the Union address?
Yes
No
If calamity strikes between now and then
Literally would rather pop my eyes out with a spoon
View Result
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The Damage: Trump’s Ego Costs America $3 Billion

With a ‘B,’ as The Hill reports:

The economy lost $11 billion during the course of the shutdown, which began Dec. 22, but some $8 billion of that will be recovered as the government reopens and workers receive back pay.

“Although most of the real [gross domestic product] lost during the fourth quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019 will eventually be recovered, CBO estimates that about $3 billion will not be,” CBO Director Keith Hall said Monday in a prepared statement.

All in all, that amounts to a 0.2 percentage point drop in economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2018, followed by a 0.4 percentage point decline in growth during the first quarter of 2019.

Locally the harm done can be quantified all kinds of ways, from almost half a million in unemployment compensation paid out by the state that now needs to be accounted for some way now that all those workers are back on the job and about to receive back pay to recovery from five weeks of free-for-all conditions in the state’s national parks. Federal workers who took out loans to bridge the gap are out the interest expense at least, and the ripple effects from all these unplanned and adverse financial decisions from the micro to macro level will be felt for months and even years.

For Trump, putting the nation through the pain of this historic government shutdown without achieving his stated goal in initiating the shutdown–or even a compromise he could defend–is a Waterloo moment. Whether Trump is able to maneuver his way to the wall funds through an alternative like declaring a legally dubious national emergency is irrelevant. Congressional Republicans are extremely unlikely to stand with Trump for another prolonged impasse, and Democrats now know that Trump, at long last, can be compelled to blink.

History may well record that the 2018-19 shutdown marked “Peak Trump.”

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BREAKING: Trump Caves, Government To Re-Open

UPDATE #2: Sen. Michael Bennet turns to the next order of business, getting all these federal workers paid:

Along with this statement:

“For 35 days, more than 800,000 public servants bared the brunt of this reckless government shutdown. The next three weeks provide an opportunity for bipartisan and constructive conversations on how to secure our border in a way that reflects our values as Americans.

“Now that President Trump has come to his senses, we must ensure his administration immediately restores back pay to federal workers and gives these families a chance to get back on their feet.”

Rep. Jason Crow:

Over 20,000 Colorado workers and their families have spent the past four weeks dealing with pain and chaos. Our top priority as a country now must be getting our federal workers paid and back to work as quickly as possible. As this senseless shutdown ends, we must restore servant leadership to Washington and make sure we never use people and their paychecks as political pawns in policy discussions again.

—–

UPDATE: Statement from Rep. Diana DeGette:

“This government shutdown should never have happened, and we need to make sure it never happens again. I met with a group of federal workers at home today who have been forced to bear the brunt of the president’s misguided actions, and the harm that it has caused them will be felt for a very long time. The president’s announcement today was a total capitulation to the House and I hope we can take him at his word that he will continue to negotiate in good faith on a border security bill. In the meantime, it’s important that we work quickly to get the government reopened as soon as possible, and ensure that every federal worker is paid the money they are due.”

—–

Big Macs for everybody!

That’s the word from CNN with President Donald Trump speaking moments ago–the federal government will re-open later today, and Trump does not get the wall money he just dragged the nation through over a month of uncertainty and financial peril for hundreds of thousands of federal employees in order to win:

President Donald Trump said Friday he’s reached a deal to reopen the federal government after a month-long shutdown.

“I am very proud to announce today that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government,” Trump said in remarks from the Rose Garden…

The path included signing a stopgap funding measure that would fund the government through February 15. But sources said it would not include any new funding for Trump’s promised border wall, once an ironclad demand that led to the shuttering of government agencies over the past month.

Instead, lawmakers would return to negotiations over the money while federal workers return to their jobs.

Needless to say this is a huge defeat for the President, one that cuts to the bone of his demagogic agenda and is costing him support across the country. We’ll update with local reactions–likely to range from elation for the majority of Coloradans who wanted nothing to do with Trump’s wall crusade, to the bitter weeping and gnashing of teeth of Trump’s diehard faithful whose hopes after a make-or-break gamble have been dashed.

It’s all part of history now, like the debacle of the shutdown will be shortly.

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Get More Smarter on Friday (January 25)

Roger Stone channels Richard Nixon. Let’s “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Longtime Trump advisor Roger Stone has been arrested by the FBI after being indicted as part of Robert Mueller’s investigation into collusion and obstruction of justice. As CNN’s Chris Cillizza explains, this is a YUGE deal:

The indictment and arrest of longtime Donald Trump associate Roger Stone Friday morning in Florida fills in a big missing piece of the emerging picture that special counsel Robert Mueller is painting: The Trump campaign actively sought to communicate and coordinate with WikiLeaks in regard to stolen emails aimed at damaging Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Here’s more from the Washington Post, including Stone’s reference to the “Godfather” movies:

The most politically explosive allegation in special counsel Bob Mueller’s seven-count indictment of Roger Stone — who was arrested early Friday morning during an FBI raid of his home in Florida — is that he lied to Congress when he denied discussing his advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ email dumps with anyone involved in Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign…

…Prosecutors say Stone made repeated references to “The Godfather: Part II” in December 2017 as he pushed an unnamed “Person 2” to not tell the truth to the House Intelligence Committee so he could cover up his role. “People close to the case said Person 2 is New York comedian Randy Credico,” per Rosalind Helderman, Devlin Barrett and John Wagner.

 

On Day 35 of the federal government shutdown, the airports began to buckle. As the New York Times reports:

Significant flight delays were rippling across the Northeast on Friday because of a shortage of air traffic controllers as a result of the government shutdown, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The delays were cascading along the Eastern Seaboard, reaching as far north as Boston. But La Guardia was the only airport that had been closed off to departing flights from other cities because it was so crowded with planes taking off and landing on a weekday morning. Delays on flights into La Guardia were averaging almost an hour and a half, the F.A.A. said.

 

► The Senate held votes on two bills Thursday aimed at (theoretically) ending the government shutdown, but both pieces of legislation were DOA. From the Washington Post:

Senate leaders scrambled Friday in search of a deal that would satisfy President Trump on border security and end the partial government shutdown as major delays at airports around the country produced a heightened sense of urgency.

“We’re still working on it,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in an interview outside his office when asked if an agreement might emerge Friday with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) did a very Gardner-esque thing by voting YES on both failed bills. As Westword notes:

Gardner issued a statement praising President Trump’s weekend proposal to end the government shutdown, which asks for Democrats to give him $5.7 billion for his Mexico border wall/collection of steel slats in exchange for a three-year reprieve involving participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Gardner voted for it and the rival Democratic measure that would have ended the ongoing partial federal shutdown without funding the wall.

Talk about trying to have it both ways. [Pols emphasis]

Some 800,000 federal workers will miss another paycheck today.

 

► Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) is making national headlines after going OFF on the Senate floor Thursday in response to a nonsense speech from Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. As The Denver Post explains:

“I seldom, as you know, rise on this floor to contradict somebody on the other side,” Bennet said during a floor speech. “I have worked very hard over the years to work in a bipartisan way with the presiding officer, with my Republican colleagues, but these crocodile tears that the senator from Texas is crying for first responders are too hard for me to take.”

Cruz took the floor ahead of Thursday’s failed votes on two different bills to reopen the government and urged Democrats to vote for a bill to appropriate the money needed to pay federal workers during the shutdown.

That bothered Bennet because the Texas Republican led a charge to shut down the federal government in 2013 over funding for the Affordable Care Act. That 16-day shutdown coincided with the aftermath of a deadly flood that killed eight people in Colorado, and Bennet said the government’s closure delayed relief efforts.

 
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Trump Stumped on Shutdown

The Negotiator

As Politico reports, President Trump is looking for a ripcord to pull in the shutdown fight:

Now that the Senate has shot down President Donald Trump’s compromise offer to end the month-long government shutdown, White House officials aren’t sure of their next move.

But they do know one thing: they’re losing, and they want to cut a deal. [Pols emphasis]…

…Trump’s next move remained a mystery to many West Wing aides even as the White House considered Graham’s proposal Thursday. But with Trump’s approval rating dropping to its lowest point in a year and advisers warning of a rising economic toll from the enduring stalemate, the president and his team are more eager than ever to strike a deal, according to a half dozen sources familiar with the situation.

While the president has previously dangled the threat of a national emergency declaration, he now considers the move a “last resort,” according to a source familiar with his thinking.

As CNN reports, somebody is clearly floating the idea of an emergency declaration:

The White House is preparing a draft proclamation for President Donald Trump to declare a national emergency along the southern border and has identified more than $7 billion in potential funds for his signature border wall should he go that route, according to internal documents reviewed by CNN…

…According to options being considered, the administration could pull: $681 million from Treasury forfeiture funds, $3.6 billion in military construction, $3 billion in Pentagon civil works funds, and $200 million in Department of Homeland Security funds, the official said.

As lawmakers discussed a short-term measure to fund the government Thursday, Trump again raised the prospect of other ways to fund a border wall without congressional approval.

“I have other alternatives if I have to and I’ll use those alternatives if I have to,” he told reporters.

“A lot of people who wants this to happen. The military wants this to happen. This is a virtual invasion of our country,” Trump said. [Pols emphasis]

“A virtual invasion of our country.”

Think, for a moment, about the sheer absurdity of that quote and the desperation it represents. President Trump and the GOP misplayed their hand so terribly in the last six weeks that they may soon pretend that the United States is being invaded in order to re-open the federal government.

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Bennet Barbeques Cruz


The Hill reports–Colorado’s senior U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, who has a reputation for being polite and soft-spoken, rained uncharacteristic fire today after a floor speech by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz overtopped Bennet’s BS threshold:

Bennet, a typically subdued and moderate senator, unloaded on Cruz after the Texas Republican joined other GOP lawmakers to introduce a bill to pay members of the Coast Guard during the partial shutdown but not reopen the government.

“I seldom rise on this floor to contradict somebody on the other side,” Bennet said during his speech. “I have worked very hard over the years to work in a bipartisan way with the presiding officer with my Republican colleagues, but these crocodile tears that the senator from Texas is crying for first responders are too hard for me to take.”

“When the senator from Texas shut this government down in 2013, my state was flooded. It was under water. People were killed. People’s houses were destroyed. Their small businesses were ruined forever. And because of the senator from Texas, this government was shut down for politics,” Bennet shouted, referring to a series of floods that hit killed eight Coloradans.

The historic flooding that impacted Colorado in September of 2013 has been a flashpoint involving Colorado politicians several times since the event, including a round of absolutely toxic press that only New York-area news outlets could deliver directed at Colorado Republicans who voted against disaster relief for Hurricane Sandy victims after the nation rallied to our aid. But it’s also true that immediate relief for Colorado’s flood victims in 2013 was hampered by a government shutdown forced by Republicans including Sen. Ted Cruz over funding for the Affordable Care Act.

Although more Americans oppose the GOP on the shutdown than support them, the opposition is not yet lopsided enough to compel Republicans to back down on poll numbers alone–at least not yet. Cruz’s attempt to carve out a safe haven for a favored interest, in this case the Coast Guard, is just one among innumerable little hypocrisies that have kept the present historically long shutdown grinding on without a total collapse in public support for Republicans.

But it was enough to get Michael Bennet to flash some genuine anger, which itself is no small thing.

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Another Gold Star for Cory Gardner!

Cory Gardner is the best at attendance.

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is the politician equivalent of a toddler in potty training. Sure, he still craps in his pants, but as long as he tries to make it to a toilet first, then confetti falls from the sky in celebration.

Can we raise the bar a little here?

Earlier this month, the editorial board of The Denver Post gave Gardner a great big huzzah because…wait for it…he publicly called on his colleagues to end the federal government shutdown. Of course, this accomplished absolutely nothing, and Gardner spent the next week telling right-wing audiences that he was actually firmly behind President Trump’s border wall shakedown.

On Wednesday, Gardner revealed that he was ready to cast his vote to re-open the government without funding for Trump’s great big border wall. From The Denver Post:

Gardner’s spokesman told us Wednesday he intends to vote for a clean funding bill that would open the government with no increased border-security funding attached.

It’s the right thing to do…

Yes, it is the right thing to do. But Gardner’s declaration is also meaningless because it was announced only after it became clear that Senate legislation to end the shutdown had no chance of passage anyway.

Gardner’s spokesman said Wednesday night that the senator has long opposed shutdowns, including the 2013 shutdown. He said Gardner will also vote for the second measure to open the government.

Neat.

Gardner likes to say that he is opposed to government shutdowns, as though this is somehow meaningful in preventing or ending legislative stalemates. Saying that you are opposed to a shutdown is like an anti-vaxxer saying that they are opposed to the measles. Nobody is “pro-measles,” but not everybody is going to vaccinate their children to prevent the spread of measles. The important question isn’t, “Do you support measles?,” but, “What are you going to do to prevent the spread of measles?”

If you asked every U.S. Senator if they thought that Congress should pass a continuing resolution to get the government back open, every single one of them would agree. Every. Single. One. Everybody thinks we should end the government shutdown, but Republicans still aren’t willing to put pressure on their President to make it stop.

Cory Gardner is not just some rogue Senator

This is the same basic strategy Gardner employed in 2013 when he regularly claimed that he never voted to support a shutdown. Of course, nobody voted in favor of a shutdown — nobody voted against it, either — because that’s not how a shutdown works. Gardner’s words then were as pointless as saying, I never agreed to be allergic to peanuts! 

How does Gardner keep getting away with this? Let’s go back to today’s Post editorial once more:

This shutdown has gone on far too long, and there’s no one to blame but Trump. We hope he comes to his senses and agrees to open the government and then consider an immigration reform package that includes money for border security.

President Trump owns this shutdown — as he said he would — and Americans overwhelmingly agree that Trump and Republicans deserve most of the blame here. But TRUMP IS NOT THE ONLY ONE TO BLAME. As Politico reports:

The Senate will take its first votes in more than a month on reopening government. [Pols emphasis] But both a clean spending bill and President Donald Trump’s proposal appear on course to fail.

Though a short-term spending bill giving the president no new border funding bill passed the Senate with no dissent in December, it’s poised to fail on the Senate floor on Thursday. Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the Nos. 3 and 4 GOP leaders, both said Wednesday that the “continuing resolution” cannot pass the Senate.

The House of Representatives has voted numerous times this month in favor of legislation to end the shutdown and re-open various branches of government. Today the Senate is holding its first vote in more than a month on the shutdown, and Republicans don’t have enough support from their own caucus to get anything passed that would end the shutdown. Gardner was recently named a Deputy Whip for Senate Republicans — it’s part of his job to get other Republican Senators to fall in line, and he’s failing at it. So why are we talking about how Gardner plans to vote on a bill that is already dead?

When Gardner says stuff like, “I think we should pass a continuing resolution,” he’s really talking about an imaginary bill that already has the approval of President Trump. He might as well just say, “I think we should fix all of America’s problems.”

What we actually need to know from Gardner and other Senate Republicans is simple: Can you get your colleagues to support overriding a veto of a continuing resolution with no border wall funding? Everything else is irrelevant.

If Cory Gardner can “whip” his Republican colleagues into supporting legislation to end the shutdown and hold firm against President Trump’s veto threats, then we’ll be the first ones in line to pat him on the back. But you don’t get a gold star just for showing up.

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Pelosi to Trump: No House Chambers for You!

As the Washington Post reports, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has responded to President Trump’s insistence that he be allowed to deliver his State of the Union speech in the traditional setting of the House Chambers.:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday rescinded her invitation to President Trump to deliver the State of the Union address in the House next week, in an escalating standoff between two of the most powerful people in the nation.

Weeks into the longest government shutdown in history, Trump ignored Pelosi’s suggestion that he reschedule the speech due to security concerns and vowed to show up Tuesday night.

But within hours, Pelosi effectively canceled the prime-time speech, saying it wouldn’t happen until Trump reopened the government. Trump, faced with that reality, said he would be doing “something in the alternative.”

“We’re supposed to be doing it, and now Nancy Pelosi — or ‘Nancy,’ as I call her — she doesn’t want to hear the truth. And she doesn’t want, more importantly, the American people to hear the truth,” Trump said at a meeting with conservative leaders at the White House.

Trump’s new “nickname” for Nancy Pelosi is “Nancy”? Really?

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (January 23)

Happy “Bounty Day,” everyone; be sure to celebrate responsibly. Now, let’s “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Here’s the latest news on the government shutdown, now in its 33rd day. From the Washington Post:

House Democrats are prepared to support new levels of border security funding, but not a wall, if President Trump agrees to reopen the government first, lawmakers and aides said Wednesday.

The proposal, which Democrats plan to put into a formal letter to Trump, will include border security improvements such as retrofitting ports of entry, new sensors and drones, more immigration judges and border patrol agents, and additional technology, among other measures.

The letter was not final and the exact figure Democrats will suggest was not yet determined, but aides said it would be higher than the levels Democrats have supported in the past, which have ranged from $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion.

Some Democrats suggested they would even be willing to meet Trump’s request for $5.7 billion — as long as it goes for technology and other improvements, not the physical wall the president is seeking.

Democrats remain opposed to offering any funding for Trump’s great big wall, and new polling data shows that they are on the right side of the American public. As Politico reports:

President Donald Trump’s disapproval rating is at an all-time high amid a historically long partial government shutdown and concerns about the president’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.

Nearly 6-in-10 voters — 57 percent — disapprove of Trump’s job performance, compared to the 40 percent that approve. In addition, 54 percent of voters blame Trump and Republicans on Capitol Hill for the government shutdown. Only 35 percent blame congressional Democrats…

…While 43 percent support the construction of a border wall — compared to 49 percent who oppose construction — only 7 percent of voters said that they support dedicating funding to a border wall if it was the only way to end the government shutdown. [Pols emphasis]

That’s compared to 72 percent who oppose dedicating funding to a border wall if it was the only way.

In local shutdown news, CBS4 Denver reports on local “Dreamers” who see President Trump’s offer of temporary protections for immigrants as a “bargaining chip for our lives.”

 

President Trump is insisting that he be allowed to deliver his State of the Union Speech in the House chambers. As CNN reports:

President Donald Trump insisted in a letter Wednesday he would deliver his annual State of the Union address from the chamber of the US House next week as planned, telling House Speaker Nancy Pelosi her concerns about security during a partial government shutdown were unfounded…

…He said the speech would occur on January 29 from the House chamber.

“It would be so very sad for our country, if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, on schedule, and very importantly, on location!” he wrote. [Pols emphasis]

As speaker, it is Pelosi’s prerogative to invite the President to deliver the annual address. Both the House and the Senate would need to pass resolutions convening a Joint Session of Congress before the President’s appearance. And it’s not yet clear — despite Trump’s insistence he would be appearing in the Capitol next Tuesday — whether Pelosi would take the required steps.

In times like these — with a record government shutdown and an administration under investigation for federal crimes — it’s important that we focus on the things that are most important. You know, like making sure that the State of the Union speech is delivered at its traditional location.

 

► Republican State Rep. Lori Saine (R-Weld County) is still getting whacked over comments she made suggesting that white and black people were lynched in equal numbers after Reconstruction (comments first reported here at Colorado Pols).

Saine’s ridiculous antics — this is a pattern of behavior, remember — has earned her a new title from Westword: “Colorado’s Nastiest, Most Clueless Politician.”

This week, Colorado Representative Lori Saine stirred controversy (again) with a “tribute” to Martin Luther King Jr. in which she argued that blacks and whites were once lynched in “almost equal numbers.” She also struck back against naysayers by claiming that a fellow white Republican was a victim of reverse racism.

This combination of idiocy and vindictiveness is Saine’s brand, as Westword has documented over the past decade.

Even the Russians think Saine is a bit nutty. Colorado Republicans, meanwhile, remain silent about Saine.

 

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (January 22)

If you have gone the entire month without once writing “2018,” then give yourself a nice pat on the back. Now, let’s “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The federal government shutdown is now in its 32nd day, and supporters of President Trump are increasingly getting fed up with the man they helped elect to the White House. From the Washington Post:

“What the [expletive] were we thinking?”  [Pols emphasis] he asked the other night inside a Walmart here, in an area of blue-collar suburban Detroit that helped deliver the presidency to Trump.

While Trump’s relationship with much of his base remains strong, two years after his inauguration his ties are fraying with voters like Jeff Daudert, the kind who voted in droves for Trump in key pockets throughout the industrial Midwest, flipping previously Democratic states to him in 2016. The shutdown fight, as it has played out over the past month, is further eroding the president’s support among voters who like the idea of beefing up border security — but not enough to close the government.

Many here, even those who still support Trump, say they hold him most responsible. They recite his comment from the Oval Office that he would be “proud to shut down the government.” When he said it, they listened. [Pols emphasis]

“What the [expletive] were we thinking?” If there is a more perfect quote for Trump supporters, we’d love to see it.

 

► In local shutdown news, Colorado has spent more than $100,000 on unemployment benefits for federal workers who aren’t getting paychecks anymore; Gov. Jared Polis authorized an emergency rule to allow federal employees who remain on the job (without pay) to apply for unemployment benefits.

As the Denver Post reports, the shutdown is causing significant economic damage across a broad range of sectors in Colorado.

 

Senate Republicans have ceded the shutdown/border wall debate to President Trump, offering little resistance to their man in the White House. And as Politico reports, upcoming Senate legislation to end the shutdown is filled with sharp, pointy bits that won’t do much for a compromise:

A 1,300-page spending bill released by Senate Republicans Monday night contains provisions to restrict asylum and other hard-line immigration changes that make it unlikely to generate bipartisan support.

Democrats already were poised to reject President Donald Trump’s proposal to pass his $5.7 billion funding request for a border wall in exchange for temporary protections for some immigrants brought to the United States as children and others covered by a humanitarian status. But hawkish measures embedded in the Republican spending bill will give Democrats even more reason to spurn the legislation.

“This is a Stephen Miller special,” Kerri Talbot, a director with the Washington, D.C.-based Immigration Hub, told reporters Tuesday. “It’s a Trojan horse with many extreme immigration proposals included.”

The bill doesn’t appear likely to end a partial shutdown of the federal government that stretched into its 32nd day Tuesday.

Elsewhere, CNN takes a look at six potential scenarios that could possibly lead to an end of the government shutdown.

 

► Republican State Rep. Lori Saine (R-Weld County) is getting blasted in both local and national press over comments she made suggesting that white and black people were lynched in equal numbers after Reconstruction (comments first reported here at Colorado Pols). Here’s a brief rundown of the coverage.

You know you done f*cked up when even Fox News calls you out.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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New Ad Calls On Gardner To End Shutdown

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado’s morning news watchers got a dose of politics with their coffee earlier today. A new ad campaign launched today is calling Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) to account for his role in the now month-long government shutdown.

Noting the unprecedented length of the shutdown, the ad lists several serious consequences, including 800,000 workers going with paychecks, food safety inspection stoppages, and increasing risks to air travel.

The ad also accuses Gardner of “siding with party leaders who refuse to even allow a vote to reopen the government.” It asks Coloradans to call Gardner and tell the senator to “demand and end to the shutdown.”

Over two weeks ago Gardner said he would vote to end the shutdown without funding for the border wall. That statement that runs contrary to the ad’s message, but since then he hasn’t repeated that position nor taken any public steps to end the shutdown. He was, however, appointed deputy whip by Senate leadership.

Majority Forward, a national nonprofit linked to the Democrats’ Senate Majority political action committee, is running the reportedly six-figure ad buy on cable and broadcast channels in the Denver media market.

“Sen. Gardner is not interested in demonstrating independence. This shutdown has impacted Colorado and Gardner refuses to demand a vote to reopen the government. He refuses real action while the repercussions of a closed government set in and have economic consequences for frustrated Coloradans across the state.”

— J.B. Poersch, President, Majority Forward

The campaign is also targeting five other states with Republican senators up for re-election in 2020 – Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Maine and North Carolina.

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Onion Blames Tipton For Shutdown, And Why The Hell Not

The bastard.

America’s leading fake news publication The Onion, which gets a pass on their fake news because they and (hopefully) everyone who reads The Onion knows it’s fake news, has finally uncovered the universal blame receptacle for the ongoing federal government shutdown–and it’s none other than Rep. Scott Tipton, Republican of Cortez, Colorado:

A new Pew Research poll published Thursday revealed that 100 percent of Americans blame the United States federal government shutdown entirely on Scott Tipton (R-CO). “From the Rust Belt to the Sun Belt, across all income brackets and racial demographics, every single respondent surveyed came to the same conclusion that Colorado congressman Scott Tipton was solely at fault for this shutdown,” said lead researcher Michelle Sanger, who explained that the 24-hour news coverage broadcasting Tipton’s failure to negotiate and compromise likely contributed to the U.S. populace’s negative perceptions of the representative from Colorado’s third district.

Makes perfect sense to us, really! As much as any of them, and no doubt that’s what The Onion thought when they picked Tipton presumably at random. As a stand-in for feckless Republicans in the era of Trump, Tipton is both everybody and, well, nobody.

Sometimes fake news still makes you think! We promise to never say that again.

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Unshutdown: State Department Finds Pot of Gold

President Trump reportedly “remains resolute” in his determination to keep the federal government closed for as long as it takes to build his big ol’ border wall. So…explain this one, would you? As the Associated Press reports, the U.S. State Department somehow has money to pay people to return to work:

The State Department on Thursday instructed all U.S. diplomats in Washington and elsewhere to return to work next week with pay, saying it had found money for their salaries at least temporarily despite the ongoing government shutdown…[Pols emphasis]

…It was not immediately clear where the money was found, but the department said it would use “existing funds as well as other available fiscal authorities to shift existing balances to restart payroll funding.”

Salaries cannot be guaranteed beyond the next pay period, which ends on Feb. 14, if the shutdown does not end by then, the department said. However, it said it would “review its balances and available legal authorities to see if other flexibilities may be available.”

The department said it was taking the step because it had become clear that the lapse in funding is harming essential diplomatic and national security objectives.

Well, yeah, of course the shutdown is “harming essential diplomatic and national security objectives,” but where in the hell did all of this money come from?

Perhaps, as TIME magazine noted on Wednesday, Trump’s resoluteness might not be as firm as he would have you believe:

In recent days, the Trump Administration has taken several moves to soften the effects of the shutdown. Some measures have been targeted broadly, allowing taxpayers to receive refunds, banks to process mortgages and airports to be inspected. Others are aimed at key Trump constituencies, ensuring that hunters can access federal lands and farmers can receive loans. And some seem designed to hit particularly close to home: the Administration went out of its way to keep park rangers staffing a historic clock tower at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

It’s not entirely surprising Trump is looking for ways to limit the costs of what is now the longest-running shutdown in U.S. history. No doubt the president has seen the polls showing the majority of the public blames him and disapproves of the shutdown. And with the effects of a shuttered federal government only growing — airport lines, agricultural woes and costs to the economy are getting worse by the day — the political price of his face-off with Democrats is rising, too.

Perhaps this is how the shutdown really comes to an end. We might be only a few weeks away from Trump answering questions about the shutdown with, “What shutdown? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

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Trump, Republicans Still Own the Shutdown

UPDATE: As the New York Times reports, Trump is feeling the pressure:

President Trump has insisted that he is not going to compromise with Democrats to end the government shutdown, and that he is comfortable in his unbendable position. But privately, it’s sometimes a different story.

“We are getting crushed!” Mr. Trump told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, after watching some recent coverage of the shutdown, according to one person familiar with the conversation. “Why can’t we get a deal?”…

The president is confronted by a divided and partially shuttered government with an untested staff that has undergone yet another shake-up. Polls show that most Americans blame him for the government shutdown, and his advisers are warning him of its negative effects on the economy. And as the shutdown enters its 27th day on Thursday with no end in sight, most of his top aides would like him to find a way out.

Mr. Trump has told them he believes over time the country will not remember the shutdown, but it will remember that he staged a fight over his insistence that the southern border be protected. He wants Democrats to come back to the table agreeing with his position on a wall, and he does not understand why they have not.

—–

Watch out for falling approval ratings.

There are no “winners” in a government shutdown. We are all losers when the government ceases to function, but Americans still have their own opinions on who should receive most of the blame. Despite efforts to shift responsibility for the shutdown to Democrats, Americans are consistently pinning this one on President Trump and Republicans.

As CNBC explains, Trump’s approval ratings are plummeting — even among his base:

President Donald Trump is hemorrhaging support amid a political standoff over his proposed border wall that has resulted in the longest government shutdown on record, according to polls.

As the shutdown of about a quarter of the federal government lumbers toward its fifth week, the president even appears to be losing favor with his core constituents, whose support for Trump until this point has been rock-solid since the 2016 campaign.

An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll published Thursday found that Trump’s approval rating has slipped 3 percent from last month to 39 percent, while his disapproval has climbed 4 percentage points to 53 percent. [Pols emphasis]

And unlike in past political fights, the poll and other recent surveys indicate that some of the groups thought to comprise key parts of Trump’s base are not immune from the broader downward trend.

Trump’s approval rating among suburban men, long one of his strongest blocs of support, dropped from 51 to 42 percent, according to the NPR/PBS/Marist poll*. It’s probably no coincidence that a good chunk of suburban men have federal government jobs for which they are not receiving a paycheck. Trump is also underwater with Cardi B (presumably).

President Trump is still holding onto the idea that he could declare a national emergency to secure funding for his great big wall, but voters don’t like that idea, either. From Politico:

Only 36 percent of voters say they support Trump’s re-allocating money to pay for the border wall through a national emergency, while 51 percent oppose such a declaration.  [Pols emphasis] Twice as many voters strongly oppose a national emergency, 41 percent, as strongly support it, 20 percent. And, as with much of the fight that has resulted in a government shutdown lasting more than three weeks, Trump has the support of the vast majority of Republican voters, 72 percent, but very few voters outside his political base.

Trump took his case for a border wall to the American people last week, delivering his first prime-time, Oval Office address in his two-year-old presidency. But the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll suggests that the president’s speech didn’t move the needle.

If President Trump wants to see better polling numbers, he’s going to have to pay for them. As Stephen Collinson writes for CNN, Trump is soon going to have to choose between preventing economic disaster and building his big wall.

*Pols note: All polling data should be considered (+/-) Laura Woods

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Nancy Pelosi Shuts Down State of the Union

Don’t mess with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D).

AP reporting–House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who if you weren’t aware is third in line of succession to the Presidency after Donald Trump and Mike Pence, just slammed home a presidential-grade power play that reminded all of Washington how Congress is a separate and (key word here) equal branch of government:

The partial government shutdown threw a prime Washington ritual into question Wednesday as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked President Donald Trump to forgo his Jan. 29 State of the Union speech, expressing doubts that the hobbled government can provide adequate security. Republicans saw her move as a ploy to deny Trump the stage.

In a letter to Trump, Pelosi said that with both the Secret Service and the Homeland Security Department entangled in the shutdown, the president should speak to Congress another time or he should deliver the address in writing. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen denied anyone’s safety is compromised, saying both agencies “are fully prepared to support and secure the State of the Union.”

Inviting the president to give the speech is usually pro forma, and Pelosi issued the invitation in routine fashion, in consultation with the White House, several weeks ago. But with the shutdown in its fourth week, the White House and Democrats in a stalemate and the impasse draining the finances of hundreds of thousands of federal employees, little routine is left in the capital.

With nationwide polling showing clearly that Trump and Republicans are losing the battle for public opinion during the longest government shutdown in American history, there’s little incentive for Pelosi to allow business as usual to proceed–including the State of the Union address, which would only give Trump a platform to whinge from. Even setting aside the security concerns while hundreds of thousands of federal employees are furloughed, going ahead with the pomp and circumstance of the SOTU while federal workers borrow money from their parents and raid their retirement accounts to pay the mortgage seems like a toxic enough visual that Republicans shouldn’t want to do it either.

There’s still time for business to return to usual, but that will require Trump to do something he doesn’t like.

Lose. To a woman.

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Why Mitch McConnell Isn’t Sweating Cory Gardner

As the longest shutdown of the federal government in American history grinds on toward a full month of dysfunction, Politico’s Burgess Everett reports on the central problem in the story of alleged dissent by a few Republican Senators, including Cory Gardner of Colorado, now paying lip service to ending the shutdown without victory for President Donald Trump on his obsessive quest to build a wall along the border with Mexico.

The problem? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has steadfastly blown Gardner off:

The Senate majority leader is standing firm in his resolve to not move a muscle on any government funding bill that would not have the president’s approval. That’s earned him scorn among Democrats given that he endorsed a funding bill that didn’t include the president’s much-sought additional border wall funding of more than $5 billion in December.

But aside from some rank-and-file Republicans like Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Cory Gardner of Colorado who say Congress should again pass spending bills that don’t provide additional wall funding, McConnell’s allies say he’s facing little pressure to change his stance as the longest shutdown in history continues.

“They’re going to do what they need to do and advocate for what they believe their constituents want,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, [Pols emphasis] who served as McConnell’s deputy for six years. “But I don’t think that should be confused with what Sen. McConnell’s calculus is, which is: not to go through this effort of passing something the president won’t sign and then going through a potential veto override and all the conflict that would cause.”

That’s a frank admission from Sen. John Cornyn that Gardner and other Republican Senators who claim to support an immediate end to the shutdown are doing so for their own political purposes–in Gardner’s case, political survival, being arguably the most vulnerable Republican Senator up for re-election in 2020.

But it doesn’t matter, because Gardner appears to have backtracked almost entirely between then and now:

Yet even the senators who have proposed reopening the government without additional border wall funding don’t fault McConnell. Gardner is up for reelection in 2020 in blue Colorado and has been talking to senators in both parties about ending the shutdown, but he said that McConnell is “trying to find a way forward, just like the rest of us are.” [Pols emphasis]

“Why isn’t there a rebellion on the Democrats’ side?” Gardner said, [Pols emphasis] highlighting the party’s lockstep opposition to giving Trump more than $1.3 billion for fencing.

This is the same Cory Gardner who just after the New Year said he would support the Democratic House’s bills to reopen the government, capitulating to the “lockstep opposition” he’s complaining about today! In truth Gardner started to back away from his new position almost as fast as he staked it out, stockpiling media praise he didn’t deserve–and now instead of placing the blame where it obviously belongs, with his own GOP Senate leadership who refuses to allow a vote on the bills Gardner claims to support, Gardner has reverted to blaming the same Democrats he allied himself with less than two weeks ago.

All told, it’s a classic example of Cory Gardner’s trademark two-faced politics. Of course, knowing this means understanding that Gardner is not going to end the shutdown, in fact if anything his insincere “dissent” is more likely to prolong it. But this long game does give Cory Gardner a chance, paraphrasing Jethro Tull, to skate away on the thin ice of a new day.

And for America’s most vulnerable Senator, that’s all anything is really about now.

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (January 15)

We’re halfway through the NBA season, and the Denver Nuggets are still the best team in the Western Conference. Get on the bandwagon, people! Now, let’s “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

President Trump’s nominee to be the next Attorney General is sitting before the Senate Judiciary Committee today. Confirmation hearings for William Barr are largely focused on how the former George H.W. Bush AG would handle the ongoing Robert Mueller investigation into potential collusion between Trump and Russia. The New York Times is following Barr’s confirmation hearings with live updates.

 

► President Trump may own the ongoing federal government shutdown, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans are more-than-willing partners. McConnell and pals — like Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner — are getting more attention as enablers of Trump’s disastrous policies.

As Colorado Public Radio reports, Colorado Democrats are pushing hard for an end to the shutdown:

As the country entered the fourth week of the partial government shutdown, Colorado’s Democratic delegation to Congress had a unified message for Republican leadership: End the shutdown now. Discuss border security later.

U.S. Reps. Ed Perlmutter, Diana DeGette, Jason Crow, Joe Neguse and Sen. Michael Bennet held a news conference Monday at Denver International Airport that overlooked airport security, where Transportation Security Administration workers served travelers without pay.

There are more than 15,000 federal employees that are furloughed or working without pay in Colorado.

The legislators emphasized that if the Democratic House majority and the Republican Senate majority work together, they can end the partial government shutdown without President Trump’s approval.

Meanwhile, stories about the local impact of the shutdown continue to dominate headlines here in Colorado. The City of Denver is offering grants for federal workers to help them make mortgage payments.

 

► As the New York Times reports, a federal judge has blocked the Trump administration’s attempts to put a citizenship query on the next U.S. Census questionnaire:

The ruling marks the opening round in a legal battle with potentially profound ramifications for federal policy and for politics at all levels, one that seems certain to reach the Supreme Court before the printing of census forms begins this summer.

In a lengthy and stinging ruling, Judge Jesse M. Furman of the United States District Court in Manhattan said that Wilbur L. Ross Jr., the commerce secretary, committed “a veritable smorgasbord” of violations of federal procedural law when he ordered the citizenship question added.

Mr. Ross “failed to consider several important aspects of the problem; alternately ignored, cherry-picked, or badly misconstrued the evidence in the record before him; acted irrationally both in light of that evidence and his own stated decisional criteria; and failed to justify significant departures from past policies and practices,” Judge Furman wrote.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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Disable the Enablers

Sen. Cory Gardner is always right behind President Trump

The federal government shutdown is now the longest in U.S. history. New reports over the weekend indicate an increasing (yes, ever-increasing) level of concern about the possibility that President Trump is or has been actively working to advance the interests of Russia to the detriment of the United States. At the very least, it is inarguable that Trump has taken unusual unprecedented steps to hide the details of all of his discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin from even his most senior staff. As even a child understands, if you have nothing to hide, you don’t go to extreme lengths to, you know, hide things.

There is no hiding from the fact that Trump is causing great harm to this country and our political system. But as Greg Sargent of the Washington Post writes today in a column that is being widely shared, it’s time that Americans take a deeper look at the enablers that make Trump’s actions possible:

Two new blockbuster scoops about President Trump’s relations with Russia — combined with fresh signs that Trump will drag out the government shutdown indefinitely — should renew our focus on the quiet but critical role that Mitch McConnell has played in enabling the damage that Trump is doing to the country on so many fronts…

…In much discussion of all these matters, there is a terrible rhetorical habit of treating GOP conduct toward Trump as mere passive acquiescence. In fact, this is better seen as an active enabling, on one front after another. And we are likely to learn much more about just how damaging this has been soon enough. [Pols emphasis]

Republican leadership in Congress doesn’t appear to know how to deal with any of this, so they have ended up doing nothing. You might as well just change the Republican Party logo from an elephant to a “¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ” emoji.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wasn’t in Washington D.C. on Friday, the first day that federal employees missed a regular paycheck. Neither was Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner he was at the stock show in Denver instead.

Republicans have lost the messaging battle over the government shutdown — which is no surprise given that President Trump has repeatedly said that he would own the shutdown himself. Even Trump’s once-loyal base of white, working-class voters is starting to slip away. Yet Senate Republican leadership, which includes both McConnell and Gardner, won’t act.

Sure, Gardner will say that he wants the shutdown to end, but he won’t do anything about it. Officials from Colorado’s Congressional delegation, including Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver), were at Denver International Airport today to talk about the shutdown and proposals to get the government up and running — proposals that Republican leadership won’t even consider because Trump demands a big wall. If Gardner was at DIA on Monday, it was because he was flying somewhere else.

Responding to someone like President Trump with inaction is absolutely the same as enabling him. If and when Trump falls, his enablers will go right along with him.

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Shutdown Update: Records Will Fall

UPDATE #2: On Friday, President Trump backed away from his threat to use “emergency powers” for his big border wall. As CNN explains:

President Donald Trump said Friday he is still open to declaring a national emergency over immigration at the southern border, but made clear he would “rather not,” calling it an “easy way out.”

One of the reasons Trump is reluctant to declare a national emergency: He believes his administration will be sued and that his actions will be blocked by the 9th Circuit.

As CNBC reports, the total cost of the shutdown to the U.S. economy will soon exceed the price of Trump’s proposed wall. That’s some great negotiating, Mr. President.

—–

UPDATE: Gov. Jared Polis catches Sen. Cory Gardner at the National Western Stock Show, where some very appropriate shade is thrown:

—–

The ongoing federal government shutdown is about to become the longest in U.S. history. As the Washington Post reports:

The House broke for the weekend Friday, all but ensuring that the partial government shutdown would become the longest in U.S. history, while President Trump continued his efforts to sway public opinion on the need for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

The Democratic-led House held its final votes of the week Friday, including on a measure to ensure that federal workers who are furloughed receive back pay once the government reopens. The bill, which passed the Senate on Thursday, now goes to Trump for his signature.

The House also passed another bill that would reopen more shuttered government departments — but it was already declared dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled Senate because of a veto threat from Trump. [Pols emphasis]

About 800,000 workers missed a paycheck Friday as the impasse between Trump and Democrats stretched into its 21st day. Without a dramatic turn of events, the shutdown would become one for the record books at midnight.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) will no doubt continue to try to blame Democrats for the shutdown, but Democrats are actually trying to pass legislation to reopen the government. It’s Senate Republicans who are backing Trump and refusing to budge. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wasn’t even in Washington D.C. on Friday.

Meanwhile, President Trump appears to be moving closer to using “emergency powers” to force construction of the wall. From the New York Times:

President Trump traveled to the border on Thursday to warn of crime and chaos on the frontier, as White House officials considered diverting emergency aid from storm- and fire-ravaged Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas and California to build a border barrier, perhaps under an emergency declaration.

In a sign of growing unease about the partial government shutdown, some Senate Republicans came off the sidelines to hash out a deal that would reopen the government as Congress worked toward a broader agreement tying wall funds to protection for some undocumented immigrants and other migrants.

But before those negotiations could gain momentum, they collapsed. Vice President Mike Pence and other members of Mr. Trump’s team let it be known privately that the president would not back such a deal.

“It kind of fell apart,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who was among those Republicans seeking a deal.

You read that correctly. The Trump administration is considering diverting DISASTER RELIEF FUNDS to an “emergency” wall-building project.

What is “Plan C” — robbing old ladies?

With the government shutdown expected to continue for the foreseeable future, the nation’s airports may soon run into serious problems as TSA security agents increasingly stop showing up for work. Air traffic controllers are also now suing the federal government over being forced to work without pay.

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Seven Republicans Vote No on Back Pay for Federal Employees

UPDATE: Rep. Ken Buck was apparently misidentified as one of the 7 Republicans voting against back pay for federal employees.


—–

As The Hill reports, Congress is trying to do the right thing for federal workers who will miss their first paycheck today as a result of the government shutdown:

The House on Friday cleared a bill that would ensure back pay for federal workers missing paychecks as a result of the partial government shutdown, as well as guarantee payment for employees affected by any future closures.

The measure passed with broad bipartisan support, 411-7. All seven votes against the bill came from Republicans.

The Senate approved the back pay measure — unanimously — on Thursday, and President Trump says he will sign the legislation. That makes the overall vote total 511-7 in favor of paying federal employees the salary they are currently not receiving through no fault of their own.

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#TrumpShutdown Standoff Reaches Critical Stage


Collage by Mathew Helman

As the Colorado Independent’s Lena Novins Montague reports, federal workers protested yesterday outside Sen. Cory Gardner’s downtown Denver offices as the partial shutdown of the federal government approached its three-week mark today:

Nathan Wiser, who monitors water quality for the Environmental Protection Agency in Denver, has been unable to go to work for 20 days due to the partial government shutdown. So on Thursday afternoon, he joined roughly 150 other federal workers in a rally outside of the U.S. Custom House in Denver.

Their message to the government: “Do your job so that we can do ours.”

Organized by the American Federation of Government Employees, the rally was part of a nationwide protest over the shutdown, which entered its 20th day Thursday. The shutdown impacts or could impact some 800,000 federal workers, including 53,200 in Colorado.

“I’m here because I am a furloughed federal employee,” Wiser said. “I am not being paid. I am being shut out of the office. I am not allowed to go to work.” Wiser said his frustration with the shutdown is twofold: one, he said his work is important for public safety, and two, on a more personal level, he hates burning through his savings.

This morning, the standoff affected thousands more federal workers who did not receive their regular paychecks, throwing personal finances into chaos and potentially affecting security clearances if resulting credit problems leave federal workers financially vulnerable. For workers who have the personal savings to cope with the loss of a paycheck, it’s an inconvenience, but for thousands who live paycheck to paycheck like most Americans it’s a full-blown crisis. The Democratic contingent of Colorado’s congressional delegation put out a statement this morning decrying the situation and demanding that Senate Republicans take firmer action:

More than 15,000 Coloradans were not paid today because President Trump and Senate Republicans are using those federal employees as political pawns. This shutdown puts our country’s national security at risk and the livelihoods of hardworking men and women in jeopardy. Enough is enough. We call on Senate Republicans to immediately act and join Democrats to fully reopen the government and end this senseless shutdown. It’s past time for President Trump and Senate Republicans to come to their senses and act in the best interest of the country and hardworking folks everywhere. [Pols emphasis]

As the shutdown drags on past this critical point of thousands of federal workers not being paid, and with the effects of the shutdown starting to appear everywhere despite legislation passed after previous shutdowns to limit their impact, the failure of Senate Republicans to take up the House’s legislation to immediately reopen the government increasingly stands out as the center of the problem. If Senate Republicans wanted to, they could be much more aggressive in defying Trump–passing the House’s legislation, and if necessary overriding a veto.

But for all the face time Cory Gardner gets with Senate GOP leaders (see collage at top), Mitch McConnell isn’t willing to put his money where Gardner’s mouth is! McConnell’s blocking of a vote yesterday effectively slammed the door on Gardner’s lip service to ending the shutdown immediately. With all of that in mind, the question to ask is this: is Gardner merely ineffective at persuading his leadership to do the right thing, or complicit in a shell game Republicans are all playing?

Once you cut through the rhetoric, folks, it’s one or the other.

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The Gardner Shuffle

UPDATE: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocks a move by Senate Democrats to hold a vote on reopening the federal government.

—–

Come on everybody, gather ’round! Grab your partner and head on over to the dance floor for “The Gardner Shuffle.”

Just follow these simple instructions…

STEP 1:

Make national headlines by saying that you want to end the government shutdown to show the rubes that you are a bipartisan moderate superhero:

As The Hill reported on January 3, 2019:

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who faces a potentially tough re-election in 2020, says Congress should re-open the federal government, even without a deal on funding President Trump’s border wall.

Gardner is the first Senate Republican to call for ending the partial shutdown even without a deal on President Trump’s demand for $5 billion to fund a border wall.

“I think we should pass a continuing resolution to get the government back open. The Senate has done it last Congress, we should do it again today,” he said…

 

STEP 2:

Minimize the daylight between you and President Trump when your right-wing base gets angry that you suggested ending the shutdown without resolution on a border wall.

From the Colorado Springs Gazette (January 5, 2019):

Despite the firestorm that erupted when he became the first Republican senator to call for reopening the federal government, Colorado’s Cory Gardner said Friday that he hasn’t changed his position on shutdowns…

…“This is the same position I have had,” Gardner said. “I don’t think shutdowns are the right way to govern.”

Gardner said he supports Trump’s demand for $5.6 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. [Pols emphasis] But, he said, the GOP should reopen the government, then resume the fight over border security, putting Democrats on the defensive.

NOTE: You may need to pretend that you didn’t hear the question when you get asked about previous statements in opposition to building a border wall

 

STEP 3:

Tell conservative audiences that President Trump has your full support and blame the government shutdown on Democrats (nevermind that Trump has repeatedly taken ownership of the shutdown).

Here’s Gardner on the “Steffan Tubbs Show” on KNUS on Wednesday (January 9, 2019):

“The President is right to be fighting for more border security dollars. I don’t understand the opposition today, other than it’s just opposition to the President…

…I made a comment several weeks ago where I said that it seems like what we’re seeing out of the House of Representatives is a ‘revenge majority,’ A majority that is simply going to oppose everything because it comes from President Trump.”

STEP 4:

Do-si-do, or whatever.

 

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