Report: BLM HQ Will Move West

As Erin Prater writes for the Colorado Springs Gazette:

U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is prepared to move ahead on moving the Bureau of Land Management headquarters to the West, according to reports.

Grand Junction is expected to be a prime possibility for the new national headquarters, partly because of the work of Colorado’s two U.S. senators, Republican Cory Gardner of Yuma and Michael Bennet of Denver…

…Rep. Scott Tipton’s office said Thursday that the department will conduct an analysis to help choose a location in the next six to eight months, Interior Department senior adviser Susan Combs told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, according to the release Thursday. “Ninety-nine percent of the land that the BLM manages is located in the West, and the decisions made by the Bureau have daily impacts on those who live there, so it only makes sense to move the headquarters to a Western state. This would ensure that decisions would be made by those who understand the land best, resulting in more effective land management programs and policies.

Moving the headquarters of the BLM to the American West has been a long-running project that has the support of Colorado’s entire Congressional delegation, as well as the backing of local officials and Gov. John Hickenlooper. Colorado isn’t guaranteed to be the new home of the BLM, but Grand Junction is at least among the frontrunners.

It’s too soon to tell if this pending move will have a significant effect on BLM policies in the West or is more of a publicity stunt, though a new HQ would almost certainly create some new jobs in Colorado.

No Recess for You, Senate!

Sen. Cory Gardner (left) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (Associated Press)

As Politico reports, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is doing Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) — who heads up the NRSC — a big favor by cancelling much of the August recess.

Mitch McConnell is canceling all but a week of the Senate’s traditional August recess, hoping to keep vulnerable Democrats off the campaign trail and confirm as many of President Donald Trump’s judicial and executive branch nominees as possible.

The Senate majority leader said Tuesday that the Senate will only take a break for the first week of August because of “historic obstruction” by Senate Democrats and will stay in session the rest of the month. McConnell was under enormous pressure from his own caucus as well as the president to cancel as much of the recess as possible, but the majority leader also saw an opportunity to unite Republicans and annoy incumbent Democrats…

…By keeping the Senate in session, McConnell will significantly cut down on the time that Democratic senators have to campaign back home, particularly for senators like Jon Tester (D-Mont.) who have lengthy commutes back to their states. In 2016, when McConnell’s own caucus was facing a number of difficult reelection campaigns, the Senate was not in session in August.

There are 26 Democratic Senators up for re-election in 2018, compared to just 9 Republicans.

Colorado Democratic Assembly Results

Colorado Democrats assembled at the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield from Friday, April 13, to Saturday, April 14, 2018. The crowd of almost 4,000 Democrats were enthusiastic, engaged, yet civil (in contrast to the stunning back-stabbing and skullduggery at the Republican assembly) . The CDP Assembly was superbly well-organized, with balloting completed in about a half hour, and counted in less than two hours.  Kudos to Chair Morgan Carroll and all of the CDP staff and volunteers.

All of the  congressional districts held their own assemblies; many candidates had primary challengers or Democratic challengers to Republican incumbents. In this “blue wave” year, no office held by the GOP can be considered to be off-limits. Democrats in Colorado put forward a slate of phenomenal candidates.

The official results from the Colorado Democratic Party (CDP) for statewide offices are:

CU Regent-at-Large
Lesley Smith: 3,229 votes (100.00%)

Based on these results, Lesley Smith has qualified for the Democratic primary ballot for CU Regent-at-Large.

Treasurer
Bernard Douthit: 1,074 votes (31.50%)
Charles Scheibe: 557 votes (16.34%)
Dave Young: 1,778 votes (52.16%)

Based on these results, Bernard Douthit and Dave Young have qualified for the Democratic primary ballot for Treasurer.

Secretary of State
Jena Griswold: 3,352 votes (98.44%)
Phillip Villard: 53 votes (1.56%)

Based on these results, Jena Griswold has qualified for the Democratic primary ballot for Secretary of State.

Attorney General
Amy Padden: 360 votes (10.54%)
Joe Salazar: 1,249 votes (36.58%)
Phil Weiser: 1,805 votes (52.87%)

Based on these results, Joe Salazar and Phil Weiser have qualified for the Democratic primary ballot for Attorney General. Amy Padden can qualify for the ballot if the Secretary of State determines that she has collected the requisite number of valid signatures.

Governor
Cary Kennedy: 2,101 votes (61.65%)
Jared Polis: 1,120 votes (32.86%)
Erik Underwood: 187 votes (5.49%)

Based on these results, Cary Kennedy and Jared Polis have qualified for the Democratic primary ballot for Governor.

NOTE: These are not all of the candidates that are running for these particular offices. Some candidates have chosen to qualify for the ballot by submitting petition signatures instead of going through the caucus-assembly process.

Here are the CD results in order: ( rounded to nearest 1%). I’ll update this list with numbers as I find them.

I’ve included my notes on the assemblies I attended and on the speakers I heard.

CD1: (Denver metro)Diana Degette – 61% . Her primary opponent, Saira Rao , got 37%, and  will be on the ballot. Rep. Degette has been a reliable Democratic vote for many years in a safe district – I think Rao’s candidacy will be a needed wake-up call to be more progressive and to offer better constituent services. Rao is sharp, a great speaker, and has energized the progressive base. Degette attended her CD1 assembly on April 13 , did not attend nor speak at the state assembly April 14.

CD2: (Boulder area – Jared Polis vacated the seat to run for Governor) Joe Negeuse – 91% Joe gave a helluva speech, as he always does. His personal story touches many people. Boulder will be well represented by him, as he’ll certainly win the primary, and almost certainly the general election. His primary opponent, Mark Williams, did not make the ballot.  The GOP has put up a couple of “Nicks” against Neguse: Nick Thomas and Nicholas Morse. I don’t know who won the GOP assembly vote, but they won’t beat “the Goose”.

CD3: (most of the western slope and SW CO – currently held by Scott Tipton) Diane Mitsch Bush had the highest delegate vote with 56%; Karl Harlon also cleared the 30% threshold with 41%, and will be on the ballot.

CD4: (Mostly NE CO – current incumbent Ken Buck) The Doctors were in the house! Veterinary doctors Karen McCormick and Chase Kohne each had throngs of energetic supporters on stage for their nominations. Each gave a rousing speech:

Kohne’s best line, in my opinion: “If you want to shoot an AR15, go down to the recruiting office and join the military.”

McCormick’s nominators are emphasizing Dr McCormick’s support for Dreamers and immigrants. Karen McCormick emphasized Cannabis, immigrant rights, healthcare, union support, bipartisan cooperation to get laws passed. Full disclosure: I live in CD4. I’m voting for McCormick, will be fine with Kohne as well.

CD5 (El Paso area, currently held by Doug Lamborn) Stephany Rose Spaulding won the delegate count and will be on the ballot. I don’t know about the other CD5 candidates, whom you can read about at the EPCO Young Dems site.  It’s great to see so many young Democrats running from what has6been the Tea Party GOP’s bastion in Colorado.

CD6 Aurora / Arapahoe County area, currently held by Mike Coffman. Jason Crow won top ballot with 64% , while Levi Tilleman will also be on the ballot with 35%. I saw Crow speak to the assembly, and found his persona to be authentic and appealing. PPP surveyed 761 voters, and found that Crow polled 44-39 against Coffman in Febrary 2018.

CD7 Ed Perlmutter, the Democratic incumbent, did not attend the Assembly as far as I know. Ed, a very popular Congressman in his district,  is not  being primaried in this election.

 

Author’s note – this diary started as an open thread based on my  live blogging at the Colorado State Assembly. I’ve updated it with ballot results.

 

 

The Big Budget Deal, Guns, and Gardner

Trump sign bill, but Trump still mad!

After briefly threatening a veto — and randomly asking Congress to give him line item veto powers (and eliminating the filibuster) — President Trump today signed a massive $1.3 trillion spending deal that includes changes to background checks for gun purchases that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) opposed to the very end. If that sentence seems complicated…well, it is. There’s no easy way to unpack the giant omnibus spending bill rammed through by Congress early this morning.

Let’s start things off with the Washington Post reporting from the White House:

Just hours after threatening a veto, President Trump said Friday afternoon that he had signed a “ridiculous” $1.3 trillion spending bill passed by Congress early Friday and averted a government shutdown…

…But speaking to reporters at the White House about four hours later, Trump said he had decided to sign the bill despite his reservations, arguing that it provides much-needed funding for the military, including a pay increase for troops and new equipment.

In his remarks to the media today, Trump was in full angry old man mode. From the New York Times:

In a rambling and disjointed 20-minute statement from the Diplomatic Reception Room, Mr. Trump denigrated the bill, which was rushed through the House and the Senate by members of his own Republican Party, as “crazy” and vowed to never “sign another bill like this again.”

“Nobody read it,” Mr. Trump said of the sweeping funding measure drawn up by Republican leaders in the House and the Senate. Echoing criticism from those who voted against the measure, Mr. Trump added, “It’s only hours old.”

Trump specifically addressed his anger about the 2,322-page spending bill that lawmakers could not have possibly even begun to have read before voting on the measure. The House version of the bill made it to the floor on Thursday after just 16 hours of debate; all four Colorado Republican members of Congress voted to end discussion, moving things along with a narrow 211-207 result. Colorado Reps. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) and Ken Buck (R-Greeley) were ultimately able to vote “YES” and “NO” on the proposal (Coffman and Buck voted YES on the procedural move before pressing the “NO” button on the final vote).

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

Over in the Senate, the spending bill passed with 62 votes; Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) voted “YES” and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) was a “NO.” Gardner’s vote is particularly interesting because the bill included the “Fix NICS” background check provision that Gardner had been blocking for weeks. The next time Gardner pretends to be concerned about gun violence, remember that he prevented the popular background fix measure from being debated in the Senate and ultimately voted against its final approval.

What else do we know about the giant omnibus spending bill? As CNN’s Gregory Krieg explains, it’s important to consider everything that was NOT bundled into the legislation, such as: 1) DACA and immigration reform, 2) Billions of dollars for Trump’s border wall, and 3) Serious attempts at preventing gun violence, including no new limits on gun purchases.

How did this all happen so quickly? As Sarah Binder writes for the Washington Post, this was Republican strategerie at work:

One of the reasons GOP leaders were keen to rush the bill to a vote is that they didn’t want their partisan base to notice that it both funds innumerable Democratic priorities and blocks the Trump administration from doing such things as expanding detention of immigrants, defunding sanctuary cities, and ending federal funding for the arts, to name a few. [Pols emphasis] The Trump White House and many conservatives wanted deep cuts to domestic programs. Party leaders ignored that. The more quickly the two chambers vote, the less time potential opponents have to unearth details that could outrage the GOP base, who might pressure their representatives to vote against the deal.

To summarize, Congressional Republicans rammed through a humongous spending bill that they didn’t read and didn’t really like that does very little to address their political vulnerabilities on gun violence and immigration reform…and will also likely anger their base of supporters.

Bennet Deservedly Takes Heat Over Banking Bill

Sen. Michael Bennet (D).

As the Denver Post’s Mark Matthews reports, sometimes you’ve just got to shake your head and wonder:

A bill that would weaken oversight of the banking industry is up for debate this week in the U.S. Senate, where Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet’s support of the measure is drawing heat from its liberal opponents who warn the proposal could lead to a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis.

Bennet was one of more than a dozen Democrats who joined with the Republican majority on Tuesday to help the measure clear a procedural hurdle and set up a final vote in the coming days.

Its advance drew fire from Democrats such as U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who said the legislation was “all about helping big banks.”

The New York Times’ Mike Konczal sums up the dismay of liberal Democrats over the number of Democrats who joined with the GOP majority in the Senate to advance this legislation:

Why would some Democrats provide support for a rollback of Dodd-Frank? Proponents argue that this bill provides much needed relief for community banks and credit unions, which, these proponents claim, face enormous difficulties. They also say that it doesn’t endanger financial reforms aimed against the largest and most dangerous players.

But that view is mistaken: This bill goes far beyond the health of community banks and credit unions. It removes protections for 25 of the top 38 banks; weakens regulations on the biggest players and encourages them to manipulate regulations for their benefit; and saps consumer protections.

What do Democrats get in return? Nothing substantive that they should want. They could demand better funding for regulators or an appointment to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — or a vote on gun control…

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was particularly vocal in her criticism of Democrats who voted for the bill:

Although Sen. Michael Bennet isn’t up for re-election for a number of years, it’s a problem to see him voting with Republicans once again on an issue for which his record has demonstrated a persistent blind spot. And it’s not just problematic for Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s consumer watchdog allies. As a moderate Democratic Senator who has always tried to bring opposing sides to a compromise on issues like protections for finance-product consumers, Bennet is co-sponsoring legislation that overwhelmingly aggrieves one side. Either Bennet is unaware of the staunch opposition to the bill he’s sponsoring or he doesn’t care, and neither seems likely to ingratiate the side of this debate he should be trying to persuade.

And we’ll say it as nicely as we can: although Bennet has little to lose in the short term, collaborating with Republicans to weaken banking protections over the loud objections of a possible 2020 presidential candidate isn’t the way to rally base Democratic voters ahead of the 2018 elections. We would encourage, to the extent a course change for Colorado’s senior U.S. Senator is possible here, that it be considered.

Bennet Keeps Faith With DREAMer Activists as Dems Stumble

Sen. Michael Bennet (D).

The Denver Post’s Danika Worthington reports on the end of an occupation of Sen. Michael Bennet’s office by supporters of “DREAMer” undocumented immigrants who came to this country as children–which came despite passage last week of a budget resolution that once again failed to provide a solution for these people despite high drama and near-universal lip service paid to resolving their status:

At 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, six immigration activists entered the office for Bennet, who has been active on immigration issues in recent years. They demanded that he vote against this week’s proposed budget agreement, which bolstered military and domestic programs but left out immigration reform…

The activists left at 11 a.m. on Friday, said Emma Bliesener, one of the protesters. The group had referred to themselves as “the Denver6.”

“We’re on the same team here,” she said. “We just want to make sure everyone is doing everything in their power to support the immigrant community.”

There are several important reasons why the occupation last week of Sen. Bennet’s Denver office was resolved amicably–in marked contrast to a similar direct action last summer in Sen. Cory Gardner’s downtown Denver office by a group of protesters with disabilities from the storied ADAPT civil rights group, which ended in a public relations disaster for Gardner as Denver Police dragged ADAPT activists out of his office and arrested them in full view of national news cameras.

By all accounts Bennet’s staff was level-headed and engaging throughout the occupation of his office, and arrest never appears to have been seriously considered. Second, Bennet personally spoke with the activists in his office by phone from Washington to listen to their concerns, a conversation that reportedly went well. Third, and most importantly, Bennet voted against the DACA fix-less budget “deal” that has outraged immigrant-rights activists. Although the deal passed without Bennet’s support, there was no practical reason left to hold Bennet responsible for the actions of his Senate peers.

Although Bennet’s good faith in dealing with these protesters averted the nasty outcome Gardner had, it would be a mistake to think that Democrats are not in political danger from failing–repeatedly now–to maintain a unified front against President Donald Trump and Republicans in the fight to protect DACA beneficiaries. Activists on the issue broadly perceive Sen. Chuck Schumer’s cave-in last month, followed by last week’s budget deal, to be an abandonment of Democratic promises after being essentially bribed by Mitch McConnell to choose a laundry list of domestic spending goodies over a DACA fix. Democrats were also far too concerned with the inside-baseball procedural moves that tossed nominal “responsibility for a shutdown” back and forth between the parties–which nobody outside the political water cooler class gives two shits about.

So yes, good on Sen. Bennet for deftly managing last week’s tricky politics, and good for the activists pushing back on everybody regardless of their party affiliation to demand deeds not words. Politically and morally, more of both will be needed before the end.

Democratic Base Unhappy As Temporary Deal Reached

UPDATE: Grassroots organization Indivisible fires off a statement signaling big-time unhappiness with Democrats for approving this deal:

Its Senator Schumer’s job to keep his caucus together and fight for progressive values. He failed in that today.

Republicans have consistently negotiated in bad faith, demonstrating that they have no interest in actually protecting Dreamers. And for months, Democratic leadership has reassured Dreamers that Democrats would use all their leverage to get the Dream Act done. They caved in early September, but promised to use their leverage in early December. They caved in early December, but promised to use their leverage by the end of the year. They caved at the end of the year, but they promised to use their leverage in January. And now they caved again, but promised to use their leverage in February. Democrats clearly want to keep Dreamers as a talking point, but they need to grow a spine and actually fight for the Dream Act…

The big blue wave that Schumer hopes will make him Senate Majority Leader in 2019 will not build itself. This weekend, millions of Americans literally took to the streets. They weren’t asking their Senators to cave to Trump’s racist, xenophobic agenda. They were asking their Senators to fight. Instead, Schumer led his caucus to surrender, demoralizing his base and ensuring more Dreamers will be deported before this is resolved.

—–

Senators Cory Gardner (left) and Michael Bennet

Politico reporting as the federal government gets set to reopen after shutting down briefly over the weekend:

In a dramatic turnaround, Senate Democrats voted to reopen the government on Monday after receiving a commitment from Republicans to hold a vote on immigration legislation — paving the way to end the three-day shutdown.

The Senate voted 81-18 to move forward on a bill to fund the government through Feb. 8 after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) agreed to end the shutdown and continue to negotiate on immigration and spending matters. If a broader deal is not reached by Feb. 8, the Senate would take up legislation to protect hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants who are losing legal protections, as long as the government remains open.

“The process will be neutral and fair to all sides,” Schumer said. “We expect that a bipartisan bill on [the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program] will receive fair consideration and an up-or-down vote on the floor.”

Among Democrats holding their nose and voting in the affirmative was Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado:

Meanwhile, Sen. Cory Gardner, who claimed last week that “I don’t want to play shutdown politics,” is (surprise!) playing the hell out of shutdown politics:

This government shutdown forced by Senate Democrats was dangerous and unnecessary. The bill we passed is the same bill Republicans initially proposed — including the longest reauthorization of CHIP in history — with one simple change: we are now funding the government through February 8th rather than February 16th. I wanted a bipartisan solution…

Liberal Democratic Senators are not happy with the state of play, says CNN:

“Listen, I’m disappointed with a conversation that suggests a false choice, you either fund the government or you take care of these DACA kids,” [Sen Kamala] Harris said. “We can do both.”

As for McConnell’s so-called commitment, Harris shot it down.

“I don’t believe he made any commitment whatsoever and I think it would be foolhardy to believe he made a commitment,” Harris said. [Pols emphasis]

According to a Democratic source, progressive senators are not happy with their colleagues who are voting for this deal, a sign of a deep divide in the caucus.

It’s difficult to characterize the agreement reached today as anything other than a Republican victory, albeit perhaps temporary depending on what happens in the next three weeks. As you can read above, progressive Democrats and base activists–especially, for obvious reasons, immigration reform activists–are skeptical in the extreme that Republicans will make good on their promise to hold an up-or-down vote on protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries. And even if such a vote is allowed in the Senate, there is absolutely zero guarantee that the House will follow suit.

As of today, Republicans have won the battle–but with a big promise to keep. If in three weeks that promise isn’t kept, the GOP base will chuckle along cynically, welcoming their bad faith against undocumented immigrants–and everyone else will be outraged. Whether that bad faith becomes a liability for Republicans already staring down the barrel of a Democratic wave election in 2018 remains to be seen, but we wouldn’t want it on our conscience.

For today though, sure thing! Team Blue will be proclaimed the losers on tonight’s cable news, and DACA kids left in the lurch will have to sweat it out–which of course most rank-and-file Republicans will be just fine with. Perhaps Rep. Mike Coffman can console them with another press release.

Congratulations, we guess.

Trump Shitholes Bipartisan Immigration Deal

UPDATE: Nobody else is censoring the word “shithole,” so we stopped bothering to.

Please excuse…well, everybody. We’re all in this together apparently.

—–

Denver7’s Blair Miller reports on an agreement between a small group of U.S. Senators including both Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet of Colorado on an immigration reform package that could in theory break the logjam around this long-vexing issue–creating a good deal of excitement yesterday:

The group – which Denver7 first reported in December was working toward a bipartisan deal – has worked for months to pair the Dream Act, which would extend protections for immigrants brought to the U.S. when they were children, with border security, visa lottery and family-based migration reforms.

Sens. Cory Gardner (R) and Michael Bennet (D) of Colorado are part of the bipartisan group, along with Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).

“President Trump called on Congress to solve the DACA challenge,” said a joint press release from the senators. “We have been working for four months and have reached an agreement in principle that addresses border security, the diversity visa lottery, chain migration/family reunification, and the Dream Act—the areas outlined by the President. We are now working to build support for that deal in Congress.”

But as CBS News reports today, President Donald Trump is throwing cold water on Gardner and Bennet’s work product in a trademark Twitter barrage this morning:

President Trump on Friday expressed opposition to the “agreement in principle” struck by a bipartisan group of senators to protect so-called “Dreamers” and to enhance border security.

In a series of tweets, Mr. Trump said that it is a “big step backwards” and that his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border was “not properly funded.”

And that, dear readers, is how the President scuttles the deal.

Most of the press attention this morning is focused on a comment reportedly made by Trump yesterday about so-called “shithole countries” that the U.S. shouldn’t prioritize for immigration, and how we “need more people from Norway” as opposed to those “shithole countries” including Haiti.

Once the dust settles from Trump’s latest verbal offense, we’ll still have this more consequential development flying under the radar.

Bennet Slams GOP Tax Bill In Weekly Democratic Address

Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado pulls no punches in this week’s Democratic address, strongly calling out Republicans over controversial tax “reform” legislation currently fumbling its way toward President Donald Trump’s greedily waiting desk. Excerpt:

As early as next week the United States Senate may vote on a tax bill — an incredibly consequential piece of legislation affecting our entire economy for decades to come. Written in secret, this bill is being rushed to the floor without hearings or the chance for the American people to weigh in.

As the vote approaches, I’m reminded of a mom I met in the small town of Rifle, Colorado at an early childhood center. In the course of our conversation, she said to me, ‘I have a job so I can have health insurance, and every single dollar I earn goes to pay for this early childhood center, so I can work.’

Too many Americans face this cycle, living each day with impossible choices their parents and grandparents were never asked to make.

Yet, under the Republican tax plan, people making over $1 million a year would receive tax cuts of about $59,000 per year, while families earning $50,000 or less would see just $160 — or $7.50 more each paycheck. Tens of millions of middle class families would actually see their taxes go up.

Sen. Bennet is prevented by professional courtesy from giving you fellow Sen. Cory Gardner’s phone number, which in case you’re wondering after watching Bennet’s video is (202) 224-5941. Gardner isn’t maintaining the pretense of being “undecided” on the GOP tax bill in contrast to the many repeals of the Affordable Care Act he supported while affecting indecision, but we expect his phones will light up next week just the same.

If anything, callers might be more frank absent the need to be persuasive.

Jeff Flake Burns Donald Trump (And Coffman, And Gardner)

In the aftermath of yesterday’s apparent terrorist attack by a Uzbeki immigrant to the United States in New York City, President Donald Trump is doing what he does best in moments of national crisis–pointing the finger at his political enemies:

Trump appears to be referring to a program created by a 1990 immigration reform law signed by Republican President George H.W. Bush to increase immigration from nations that haven’t sent as many of their huddled masses yearning to breathe free. News reports as of this writing haven’t confirmed if this was the program that resulted in the alleged perpetrator of yesterday’s attack getting his green card, but that didn’t stop Trump from going off–or from blaming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s 27-year-old bill for yesterday’s attack.

But then another Republican, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, rose to Schumer’s defense:

That would be the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform legislation hammered out by the so-called “Gang of Eight” U.S. Senators, which in addition to Sens. Flake and Schumer also included Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado. Whatever the relevance of this particular visa program to yesterday’s tragedy may be, the man Trump tried to blame yesterday, half-cocked without all the evidence even known, tried to fix it. Along with a host of other well-known problems with American immigration policy that still have not been addressed, even now almost a year into total one-party control of the federal government.

It should also be noted that the 2013 immigration reform plan passed by the U.S. Senate was declared dead on arrival in the U.S. House, where Colorado Republican lawmakers including then-Rep. Cory Gardner and Rep. Mike Coffman joined GOP leadership in thumbing their noses at the work product of the upper chamber. Both Gardner and Coffman have paid lip service to passing some manner of immigration reform since then, but that’s all it has amounted to. Coffman in particular has found himself repeatedly playing catchup with the news cycle following adverse Trump administration action on immigration, with his last would-be attempt to intervene unceremoniously plowed under by Republican leadership with Coffman’s sheepish consent.

The real moral of the story is that you should wait until the facts are known before you start singling out 27-year-old votes to lay blame for a terrorist attack. This is especially true if you are the President of the United States, whose first instinct should be leading not blaming fellow Americans.

Right below that, a point about how failing to lead as legislators has consequences too.

Bennet Backs “Bump Stock” Ban While Dudley Brown Fumes

UPDATE: Via KOAA-TV Colorado Springs, Sen. Cory Gardner has a fat wad of nothing to say:

“I know there’s a tendency by some to immediately jump into the debate over gun control, but we have constitutional rights that we have to protect,” Sen. Gardner said. “I don’t believe that’s the right answer.”

Gardner said he wants to wait for more information surrounding the shooting to come out.

“Let’s get the facts, let’s find out exactly what happened, let’s have a discussion about this. But I don’t believe gun control is the solution. I don’t believe trampling on constitutional rights is the right answer.” Gardner said. “We have to make sure we’re protecting the rights of every American. Let’s have a discussion about what we can do to prevent this kind of thing from happening.”

Okie dokie then.

—–

Dudley Brown

Denver7’s Lance Hernandez:

Social media is lighting up with discussion about “bump stocks,” which are after-market accessories that make semi-automatic weapons fire faster.

There are calls to ban them, on Twitter, following revelations that the Las Vegas shooter used them in his deadly spree.

Senator Diane Feinstein, D-California, introduced a bill to do just that, saying her daughter had planned to attend the ill-fated concert in Las Vegas, but had a change in plans.

The Denver Post’s Mark Matthews reports via Twitter that Colorado senior U.S. Senator Michael Bennet was quick to sign on to the effort:

Most of the world–outside the culture of gun enthusiasts in the know about all the various ways modern guns can be modified–only learned what a “bump stock” is in the aftermath of the Las Vegas massacre. The bump stock is designed to bypass the “biomechanical limit” of how fast in individual can pull the trigger on a semiautomatic weapon by allowing the weapon’s recoil to push the trigger into the shooter’s finger at a speed closer to the action of the weapon. The result is a weapon that doesn’t quite match the rate of fire of a fully automatic assault rifle, but those on the business end would have trouble telling the difference.

For example, the dozens killed and hundreds wounded in Las Vegas on Sunday night.

With all of that in mind, you might think that defenders of the “bump stock” would be hard to find right now–or at least biding their time for a better moment to make their case than while everyone is still in a state of relative shock over the worst mass shooting in American history.

But if you think that, you obviously don’t know Dudley Brown of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners!

Dudley Brown, the head of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, said Feinstein’s proposal won’t do anything to limit crime…

Brown told Denver7 that bump stocks are relatively uncommon.

“Many people call them a poor man’s machine gun,” he said. “It’s mostly for people who just want to go to a range and try to see what automatic fire sounds like.” [Pols emphasis]

“What automatic fire sounds like?” Sorry Dudley, but after last Sunday, everybody knows “what automatic fire sounds like.” Thousands of people who were at the Route 91 Harvest concert on Sunday night in Las Vegas will never be able to forget “what automatic fire sounds like.” And for 58 of them, it could have been the last thing they ever heard.

This isn’t the first time we’ve been left jaws agape by Brown and RMGO’s shocking indifference to the suffering caused by the products they are lavishly funded to endorse. No matter how “uncommon” bump stocks may be–which you’d like would make banning them less of a problem–their use in the Las Vegas shooting to multiply the casualties, creating a situation indistinguishable from machine guns in a war zone with legally obtainable products, is enough to merit getting rid of them. Right there. Case closed.

And if Dudley Brown doesn’t understand that, for the safety of the American public he needs to be ignored.

Neil Gorsuch Under Fire For Trump Hotel Speech

Justice Neil Gorsuch.

As the Denver Post’s Mark Matthews reports, Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch is speaking today at a conservative political group’s event at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.–a speech generating the first ethics controversy of what’s expected to be many decades on the nation’s highest court for Colorado’s most polite “radical son.”

It’s not clear what Gorsuch will say at the invite-only event, though organizers with The Fund for American Studies, a conservative group, said they expect he’ll talk for about 30 minutes on topics such as the constitution and American exceptionalism.

The speech, though, isn’t what is attracting an outcry — as there’s a long tradition of Supreme Court justices accepting invitations to speak before groups across the political spectrum.

Rather, it’s the setting inside the Trump International Hotel — a hangout for hangers-on of the administration just a few blocks from the White House. Critics contend Gorsuch’s presence there sends the wrong signal… [Pols emphasis]

Here’s an excerpt from the letter asking Gorsuch not to speak at the Trump hotel:

As you may know, the Trump International Hotel is owned, through LLCs and a revocable trust, by President Trump. This creates several ethical conflicts associated with your appearance there:

Political activity. Under Canon 5 of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, a judge should refrain from “political activity.” President Trump has declared his candidacy for re-election in 2020. Consequently, your appearance at the Trump International Hotel creates the appearance of a political endorsement. However implicit, and however you may not desire to create such an impression, the appearance of such an endorsement is why you should not appear at a hotel owned by, and named after, a candidate for political office. This is not comparable to appearing at the White House, or appearing with the president at an official presidential event.

Subject of pending litigation. Because the hotel is owned by the president, it is currently the subject of several legal disputes that could come before you. These include three separate federal lawsuits involving the Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause and the Domestic Emoluments Clause…

Judicial imprimatur for profiting from the presidency. Setting aside the legal questions associated with the hotel, the fact that the president is using his office to enhance the booking and room rates at a for-profit hotel for his own personal profit presents an unprecedented corruption of the presidency. Your participation in an event that will involve payments from the organizers to the hotel, and from there to the president himself, is inconsistent with the high ethical standards for an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. More broadly, your appearing at the hotel that has become one of the foremost symbols of the for-profit presidency is inconsistent with judicial independence and integrity.

The letter goes on to cite Trump’s recent extreme statements on a variety of issues as further reason to not give the Trump International Hotel any degree of “judicial imprimatur.” The fact is that the circumstances of Gorsuch’s confirmation, coming after an unprecedented year of stalling on the nomination made by Trump’s predecessor, have already given his appointment an unwanted air of scandal. By appearing at an event at a Trump hotel already mired in controversy, Gorsuch risks tying himself even more closely to a President likely to have a lot of legal action in his near future. And not the good kind.

The only thing we can add to that for today is another word about how commendable it was for Sen. Michael Bennet to vote against Gorsuch’s confirmation–factoring Republican treachery against Merrick Garland as well as Gorsuch’s hard-right judicial record against tremendous local pressure to support a fellow Coloradan. This won’t be the last chance to favorably contrast Bennet’s difficult decision with the full-on advocacy for Gorsuch from Colorado Democrats like Gov. Bill Ritter. Since Gorsuch will still be on the court when Bennet and Ritter are old men, it will be an evergreen topic.

But every time something like scandalous happens with Gorsuch, Bennet’s conscience will be clear. Ritter’s, not so much.

“Punching Hippies?” More Like “Barbarians At The Gate”

Sen. Michael Bennet, former President Barack Obama.

The Denver Post has a story up today that is worth reading, despite a headline that some of our more aggressively liberal Democrats might find a bit incendiary–“At town hall that focused on health care, [Sen.] Michael Bennet says single-payer system isn’t best option.”

In a dialogue this week largely focused on defeating efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet dismissed another system elsewhere along the ideological spectrum: government-sponsored, or single-payer, health care.

Bennet, speaking Monday night at a town hall in Greeley, said the existing system should be the focus.

“I think we should have a discussion about how to expand Medicare, so that more people can be part of it or maybe be able to buy it and how to do the same with Medicaid.”

Bennet emphasized that his Democratic colleagues frequently debate a single-payer health care system, but that he was “in the early days of this, myself”. The senator also said he hoped the topic “won’t turn into a litmus test” for Democratic candidates.

Creating an option for individuals regardless of their income or age to buy into government-managed health insurance programs would restore one of the central objectives of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, one lost in the vain attempt to win Republican support for the bill: a “public option” that would regulate the cost of private insurance by forcing it to compete with a nonprofit model. There are good arguments for Democrats adopting a “Medicare for all” platform as part of a broader counterattack on health care leading into the 2018 elections–in addition to this being a way to build on the Affordable Care Act’s success in expanding coverage instead of trying to tear the existing law down.

At the same time, there is a significant percentage of voters on the left who have much more expansive designs for health care reform than reviving a public option, to include a single-payer model like the one proposed in Colorado last year via Amendment 69. This pressure comes despite the fact that Amendment 69 failed by nearly 80% of the vote.

There are a number of reasons why Amendment 69 failed as badly as it did, and not all of them have to do with a lack of support for single-payer health care in the abstract. Many Colorado Democrats who support going beyond the scope of Obamacare to address access to care in America still couldn’t support Amendment 69, believing that a nationwide solution was the only viable path forward–as other states who started down this road themselves discovered. There were also specific problems with the proposal as written that hadn’t been accounted for, costing it support from would-be allies. When you combine soft support on the left with the total wall of opposition from conservatives to anything that can be remotely considered “government health care,” Amendment 69’s fate was sealed. So much so, in fact, that it was more useful to Republicans as a wedge to drive within the Democratic coalition than as a rallying point for Democratic candidates in 2016.

And it has to be said: a radical change to health care like moving the entire nation to a single-payer system is politically no more viable a prospect today than it was in Colorado last year. Where the broader adoption of something Americans know and trust like Medicare could attract enough support to pass–especially after a big Democratic win in 2018–there remains a far too vast ideological chasm between the right and left to achieve more than that right now. Progressives face a years-long task of unwinding pervasive conservative messaging on this and so many other issues. They faced the same challenge in 2010, too, and the total blockade of Democratic policy priorities by Republicans since the passage of the Affordable Care Act raises legitimate questions about whether the highly compromised Affordable Care Act was worth the collateral damage. The combined objectives of policy gains and legislative majorities, in a nation that is as deeply divided as ours, makes this a far more difficult question than impatient ideologues want to admit.

The political reality of this is tough medicine for a left newly emboldened in opposition to President Trump, but it’s critical that Democrats understand the limits of their own political capital. In 2004, Colorado Democrats retook majorities in the state legislature not by proposing far-reaching “Hail Mary” progressive policy goals. They won by pledging to be more competent with the government the voters already knew.

That’s where it has to start today, too.

Get More Smarter on Monday (August 7)

You can visit Colorado State Parks for free today — just bring an umbrella. 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…

► Colorado’s top elected officials took part in a “sorta town hall” in Durango on Friday. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Denver) and Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) were on-hand to theoretically discuss the cleanup process from the Gold King Mine Spill, but the only thing that audience members wanted to discuss was Gardner’s awful votes on healthcare. As the Denver Post reports, Gardner faced “an angry crowd”:

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner was shouted at and derided during a Durango town hall Friday afternoon that was slated to center on the Gold King Mine but which focused on almost anything but, as an unruly-at-times crowd pressed the Republican on health care.

“Why on Earth did you vote for the Republican (health) care bill when the vast majority of your constituents opposed it?” one man asked Gardner to cheers…

…One man used his floor time to ask Gardner and Tipton when they would return for a longer, individual town hall with voters. “This venue is entirely too small,” the man complained. “The amount of notice we were given was under 24 hours, and it’s in the middle of the workday.”

Perhaps the most telling thing to come out of Friday’s event is that major Colorado news outlets are clearly fed up with Gardner’s penchant for lies and half-truths. Check out this brief video from 9News:

► The U.S. Senate is in the midst of its August recess, but will they continue to try to do something to repeal Obamacare when they return to session? If it is up to Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, probably not. As Politico reports:

“We’re not going back to health care. We’re in tax now. As far as I’m concerned, they shot their wad on health care and that’s the way it is. I’m sick of it,” Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said Wednesday, a day before he outlined his committee’s agenda for the fall.

That’s a…colorful explanation.

 

► Winning or waiting? What’s the difference, right? They both start with the letter ‘W.’ From the New York Times:

Donald J. Trump promised Americans that they would be exhausted from “winning” on trade under his presidency. But nearly seven months after Mr. Trump took office, the industries he vowed to protect have become tired of something else: waiting.

After beginning his presidency with a bang by withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact in January, Mr. Trump has accomplished little else of significance when it comes to reorienting deals with other countries. Instead, his administration has been struggling to work through the complicated rules that dictate international commerce. All the while, they are learning that bold campaign promises are hard to keep when many voices advocate different plans.

For many businesses that had raised their hopes, frustration is mounting by the day.

America’s steelworkers are on edge as they wait for Mr. Trump to fulfill his promise to place tariffs on steel imports. Home builders are desperate for the president to cut a deal with Canada to end a dispute over its softwood lumber exports. And cattle ranchers are longing for a bilateral pact with Japan to ease the flow of beef exports.

Elsewhere, Trump’s proposal to limit legal immigration to the United States has Colorado companies worried about where they will find the workforce needed to sustain their business.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

LIVE: Gardner/Bennet/Hickenlooper “Town Hall”

UPDATE #3: The Denver Post’s Jesse Paul reports from the scene–hoo boy:

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner was shouted at and derided during a Durango town hall Friday afternoon that was slated to center on the Gold King Mine but which focused on anything but, as an unruly-at-times crowd pressed the Republican on health care.

“Why on Earth did you voter for the Republican (health) care bill when the vast majority of your constituents opposed it?” one man asked Gardner to cheers.

“Seven years ago when I ran for Congress I said that I would vote to repeal and replace Obamacare, and I’m going to continue to live up to the promise that I made,” Gardner said, being yelled down. “… The reason is: The Affordable Care Act isn’t working.”

Gardner has been chastised for months by liberal activists for failing to hold an in-person town hall with his constituents, and his first such appearance in more than a year was full of fireworks.

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UPDATE #2: We’re waiting for news stories to be filed about today’s event, in which Sen. Cory Gardner was singled out by the capacity crowd who demanded answers on health care and loudly heckled his highly inadequate rote answers on the subject. The event is reportedly still going on, but we’ll be talking about this confrontation for days–we really thought Gardner would be better prepared for this.

Stand by for updates when coverage comes in…

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UPDATE: Denver7’s feed has extended discussion continuing after the official end of the event:

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Stand by for updates.