Bill Coming Due for Gardner on Healthcare #FAIL

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Cory Gardner (July 28, 2017)

Poll after poll has shown that healthcare was the most dominant political issue of the 2018 election cycle, in which Democrats took majority control of the U.S. House of Representatives and earned sweeping victories across the country — including here in Colorado. Republicans were well aware of this problem ahead of Election Day; they tried unsuccessfully to mitigate the impact last fall with a silly measure intended to show that the GOP really did care about pre-existing conditions.

The Republican healthcare problem is back in the news today with a report from the Washington Post about a recent conversation between House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and top GOP donors:

Speaking privately to his donors, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy squarely blamed Republican losses in last year’s midterm elections on the GOP push to roll back health insurance protections for people with preexisting conditions — and in turn blamed his party’s right flank.

McCarthy’s comments, made in a Feb. 6 conference call from which The Washington Post obtained partial recordings, represent a vindication of Democratic efforts to elevate health care as an issue in last year’s campaign. And in singling out the House Freedom Caucus, the remarks threaten to rekindle internal resentments inside the House Republican Conference…

…Elsewhere on the call, McCarthy offered a selective account of the 2017 health-care battles on Capitol Hill, where Republicans in the House toiled for months to craft an alternative to the Affordable Care Act, narrowly passing a bill in May before watching the Senate abandon the effort three months later.

“When we couldn’t pass the repeal of Obamacare the first way through, an amendment came because the Freedom Caucus wouldn’t vote for” the original House bill, McCarthy said. “That amendment put [the] preexisting condition campaign against us, and so even people who are running for the very first time got attacked on that. And that was the defining issue and the most important issue in the race.”

McCarthy’s frank assessment of how Republicans bungled attempts at changing healthcare policy will be particularly relevant for Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) as he approaches his re-election campaign. Gardner makes a lot of vacuous statements about healthcare policy as he tries to dance around the fact that he was a reliable vote for every Republican attempt at gutting the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2017. He won’t be able to shimmy around these tough questions with his name on the ballot in 2020.

July 27, 2017

Mark Matthews (then of the Denver Post) foresaw this very scenario for Gardner after Sen. John McCain dramatically sank Republican efforts to dismantle healthcare protections for Americans in July 2017:

…[Gardner] wouldn’t take a concrete position on any of the GOP plans to undo the 2010 health care law — only to back every major Republican proposal last week to come up for a vote, from repeal-and-replace to repeal-and-delay.

On one level, it’s not surprising: Gardner ran for Senate in 2014 on a pledge to dismantle the ACA and, as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, he’s close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that his GOP colleagues — most of whom want to unwind the ACA — get re-elected in 2018.

“I am committed to reforming our nation’s broken health care system, and I’ll continue to work to bring relief to Coloradans being hurt by the negative impacts of Obamacare,” Gardner said after the repeal effort collapsed early Friday.

But the way the fight played out — from his own wavering to the Senate’s rushed, overnight vote — leaves Gardner exposed back in Colorado, a swing state with an active conservative base but one where surveys have shown a greater desire to fix the ACA rather than repeal it.

It is, of course, deeply ironic that a politician who rose to prominence because of his opposition to the ACA will struggle to win another term in office…for the exact same reason.

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Gardner Supports EPA Decision Not To Regulate Toxic Chemicals In Colorado Drinking Water

(Drink up! – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The Trump administration is refusing to regulate two toxic chemicals known to contaminate the drinking water of many Americans, including tens of thousands of families near Colorado Springs.

The decision by Andrew Wheeler, acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has angered many Republicans in Congress, but not Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner.

This is despite the fact that studies have shown that nearly 80,000 people living near Peterson Air Force Base, just southeast of Colorado Springs, are exposed to dangerously high levels of contamination and have been for years.

[Gardner] told POLITICO he expected there would be a federal role in regulating the chemicals, but he wanted to see the results of a health study included in the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.

“I think it’s very important that we get as much information as we can and then act appropriately,” he said.

The study Sen. Gardner is referring to won’t begin until August of this year and will take five to seven years to complete. Funded by the Department of Defense and conducted by the Health & Human Services’ Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the national study of eight sites near U. S. military bases may or may not include the Peterson AFB site.

The chemicals known collectively as PFAS have been largely phased out of industrial use in the United States, but are still found in the fire retardant foam used to fight petroleum-based fires.

Numerous studies linked these chemicals to kidney cancer, liver damage, increased risk of thyroid disease, decreased fertility and other health threats.

Last summer the Trump administration attempted to block its own Department of Health and Human Services from releasing an 852-page “toxicological profile” summarizing the “adverse health effects information for these toxic substances.”

In December 2018 the Colorado School of Mines released a study of people living near of Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. Research showed levels of a particular PFAS toxic compound, PFHxS, at ten times the national average.

This followed a 2017 health assessment by the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE) that found higher rates of cancer among the Peterson AFB communities of Fountain and Security-Widefield.

(more…)

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GOP Tries To Swap FAMLI With “SCAMLI”

Sen. Faith Winter (D).

As the Colorado Sun’s Jesse Paul reported late last week, one of the top Democratic policy priorities in the Colorado legislature for 2019 is the passage of a paid family medical leave system, known as the Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) Act:

A paid family- and medical-leave bill is among the Democrats’ priorities this year. They’ve focused discussion on how to ensure that all Coloradans have the ability to get paid time off work when they have a newborn or become sick.

[Sen. Faith] Winter, who is leading the charge, called the measure “a social insurance program.” It’s not clear yet who will pay and how much, although preliminary estimates show employees and employers each paying about $1 to $2 a week into a fund. Initial costs would be covered by bonding.

Similar legislation has been introduced by Democrats for several years running now, only to meet its end in the single-seat majority GOP-controlled Colorado Senate. In 2018, Democrats including now-Sen. Faith Winter campaigned heavily on the passage of paid family medical leave and Republican obstruction of this popular idea.

With Democrats now in firm control of both chambers of the Colorado legislature, there’s little Republicans can do at this point to stop the FAMLI Act from becoming law. With that in mind, Republicans have switched tactics from a frontal assault on popular family leave, which is politically a train wreck, to more of a bait-and-switch approach:

Republican Rep. Lois Landgraf of Fountain plans to introduce her own paid-leave legislation, which would reimburse workers through tax credits.

The Republican counterproposal to FAMLI in 2019 is House Bill 19-1058, which just became available to read on the state legislative website over the weekend. Although this legislation purports to create a paid family medical leave system, that’s not the reality–this is a bill to let workers create their own savings accounts subject to a state income tax deduction, combined with a voluntary employer match that would qualify for a nonrefundable tax credit. The revenue reduction from these credits would presumably come from other programs.

In practice, this bill would do almost nothing to solve a serious problem faced by a large percentage of Colorado households. The incentives to save money for medical leave in this bill are simply not enough to motivate widespread participation, and the reality is that working people already have major challenges to establishing savings of any kind, let alone savings for such a specific purpose. The whole point of family medical leave is to provide relief to workers unexpectedly unable to work, but the GOP’s plan would only help those who already have the resources to prepare in advance.

As debate proceeds over the FAMLI Democratic plan for a family leave insurance system, look for Republicans and their mouthpieces to push hard on their “SCAMLI” alternative legislation as evidence that they are responding to the problem. Under the hood, however, these two plans could not be more different, and only one will actually accomplish the stated goal. Much like Ivanka Trump’s ill-fated idea to let workers drain their Social Security benefits to cover parental leave, it’s a naive solution–proposed without an understanding of the real problem.

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Dems Push Quick Health Care Relief For Mountain Towns

Rep. Dylan Roberts (D).

The Denver Post reports on an ambitious agenda item proposed by Democrats representing mountain communities beset with some of the highest health coverage costs in the state, bringing long-sought and potentially speedy relief to consumers paying insurance premiums that can rival and even exceed mortgage payments:

State Rep. Dylan Roberts and Sen. Kerry Donovan, who represent mountain communities along Interstate 70, plan to introduce a pair of bills on the first day of the 2019 legislative session that would direct the state to create a public health insurance option.

Roberts’ bill would instruct state agencies to create the infrastructure needed to establish a state insurance program and request federal approval. His goal is to provide the new option by 2020.

Donovan’s companion bill would instruct the state to immediately create a pilot program to offer a public option to counties that have limited insurance choices and face extraordinarily high premiums. If the bill wins approval, the smaller program would begin in 2019.

Although the generous subsidies in the Affordable Care Act have offset some of the expense for health coverage on the individual market on the Western Slope and other rural areas of the state, for those with too much income to qualify for those subsidies–not to mention folks caught between enrollment periods or facing other inevitable circumstances–health coverage has become an unworkable burden. These were trends in motion long before the passage of the Affordable Care Act, but partisan gridlock has made any remediation of the problem since then impossible–at the federal level since the 2010 elections, and in Colorado since the Colorado Senate was taken by Republicans in 2014.

If Colorado Democrats succeed in tangibly reducing the burden of exorbitant health coverage costs in Colorado’s resort towns and elsewhere outside the Front Range next year, they’ll be rewarded in some of the last places in the state they don’t already own politically. From there, the long-term vision is very exciting–but we wanted to focus on this immediate move to bring relief to people who need it, well, immediately. This has been a vexing problem for years, and while solutions were not unimaginable they were not politically viable.

At the state level anyway, the blockage has been removed.

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Gardner Indicates Support For Court Ruling Killing Obamacare And Calls for Creation of Unspecified Better Healthcare “System”

(Gardner’s favorite programs are the “unspecified” ones — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado Senator Cory Gardner apparently supports a decision last week by a federal judge striking down the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Asked yesterday by a KOA radio host if he agrees with Texas judge, Gardner indicated he supports the ruling, but he wants Congress to pass a law guaranteeing protections for pre-existing conditions “as we have said we will do and we’ll continue to work to do.”

GARDNER: Well, this is going to take some time to work through the system. The status quo remains in place. Nothing changes as this decision will be appealed, most likely all the way to the Supreme Court.

What has to happen: Congress needs to guarantee protections for pre-existing conditions, as we have said we will do and we’ll continue to work to do. But we also have to find a[n] approach that fixes what’s wrong with Obamacare, because it has led to hundreds of thousands of people who had their health insurance plans canceled, and higher costs.

So, let’s create a system that allows people to buy the insurance they want at a price they can afford.

Gardner voted for three senate bills that would have killed Obamacare, but they failed to pass, the last one going down with the thumb of former U.S. Senator John McCain of Arizona. All would have raised health-insurance premiums and made people lose their health insurance.

Gardner has not come forward with a specific plan that, as he puts it, “allows people to buy the insurance they want at a price they can afford.”

Gardner also supported the Trump tax bill, which became law, and eliminated the requirement that Americans buy health insurance or pay a fine.

For years, Gardner has repeatedly said that people had their insurance plans cancelled under Obamacare, including himself.

In truth, the old plans, like his, did not meet the requirements of Obamacare, such as free preventative care and coverage of pre-existing conditions and children, so folks with substandard plans were directed to sign up for compliant coverage. Everyone was offered a new plan; they were not thrown off the rolls.

Like the senate bills supported by Gardner, a court decision to end Obamacare would have wide consequences, including Medicare coverage.

The death of Obamacare would throw millions of people of the country’s health insurance rolls, according to multiple analysis.

(more…)

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BS Comes Home: Obamacare Ruling Jams Cory Gardner

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

Politico reports on the political implications of a ruling Friday by a federal judge in Texas, striking down the 2010 Affordable Care Act in its entirety–and setting up a final showdown in the U.S. Supreme Court that could end in millions of Americans losing their health coverage:

Congress was ready to move on from Obamacare.

The midterm elections took repeal off the table, and Democrats were gearing up for a party-defining fight over “Medicare for all.” But Friday night’s ruling by a federal judge in Texas that the Affordable Care Act must be scrapped once again puts the law front and center as Democrats prepare to take back the House just weeks from now.

The ruling is sure to be appealed, and the Trump administration says it’s business as usual in the meantime. But the decision spells bad news for Republicans, by allowing Democrats to replay a potent health care message that helped them flip 40 House seats: that the GOP remains hellbent on gutting Obamacare and rolling back protections for pre-existing conditions…

Colorado Public Radio attempts to put a number on the threat to Coloradans:

The federal judge struck down the entire law, also known as Obamacare. The law will remain in place while the ruling is on appeal, but if it stands, the decision applies to all of the ACA’s protections and regulations, and could strip health insurance coverage from 20 million Americans.

The nonpartisan Colorado Consumer Health Initiative says that includes more than 600,000 Coloradans, because the ruling would scrap both the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid and federal financial assistance for coverage in the individual marketplace.

The political consequences of this decision are for the moment more important, but the rightward hardening of the U.S. Supreme Court make the threat of this new adverse ruling much greater in terms of actually repealing en masse the landmark 2010 law responsible for reducing the rate of uninsured across the nation and in Colorado to historic lows. However the case resolves, Republican failure to replace the Affordable Care Act during their two-year period of total control in Washington leaves that party politically responsible for negative outcomes on the issue over the next two years–and at the same time, any solution now must include House Democrats, who have no reason to either make concessions that would be harmful to those covered today or assume the blame for a poorly-crafted GOP fix.

Sitting in the middle of this increasingly perilous situation is Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, one of the most vulnerable 2020 GOP Senators who campaigned for office on a sloganized promise to “repeal and replace Obamacare.” Gardner was the figurehead of a wide-ranging campaign of misinformation in Colorado about the Affordable Care Act, falsely claiming that hundreds of thousands of Coloradans “had their coverage cancelled” even as the law drove the rate of uninsured down. This misinformation was uncritically reprinted by local media, deepening public confusion over the law and driving down its popularity.

We’ve said for years that a day of reckoning could very well come for Cory Gardner, when he would be forced to reconcile his bogus claims that “hundreds of thousands of Coloradans lost coverage” with the prospect of hundreds of thousands of Coloradans actually losing coverage via Gardner’s own stated goal of repealing the Affordable Care Act. Obviously for the sake of those 600,000+ Coloradans, we were not eager to see this as vengefully satisfying as it may be.

Now, just in time for Gardner’s re-election campaign, it looks like that day could be at hand.

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Candidates Humenik And Jensen Submit Near-Identical Answers To Hometown Newspapers

(Oops – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Beth Humenik (R, center right).

Candidates Christine Jensen of Arvada and Rep. Beth Martinez-Humenik (R-Thornton) have a lot in common. Both are Republican women running for Colorado state senate seats in highly competitive suburban swing districts. Both answered the same five questions from their local community newspapers and both gave nearly identical answers to those questions. The answers aren’t just substantially similar; they are structurally the same and often word-for-word identical.

Colorado Community Media (CCM) published the Q&A style interviews two weeks ago. CCM owns eighteen weekly local papers around the Denver metro area,  Five questions were posed to every statehouse candidate running in a district covered by a CCM paper. The first and last question were open-ended, make-your-case questions, while the other three addressed specific policies and priorities.

Compare Humenik’s answer and Jensen’s answer to the question, “What can the Legislature do to ease the strain of rising housing prices on Colorado residents?” The bolded language is identical in each answer.

(more…)

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Cory Gardner Does Another Cory Gardner Thing on Healthcare

FRIDAY UPDATE: As the Washington Post reports, Congressional Republicans are very aware of the political problem they have in not protecting pre-existing conditions:

With less than a month before the midterm elections, endangered Republican lawmakers are mounting a defense against attacks they’re trying to dismantle a core element of the health-care law they fought to eliminate.

Democratic candidates on the campaign trail now regularly accuse Republicans of wanting to take away health-care protections for people with preexisting conditions. They’ve pointed to a lawsuit brought by 20 attorneys general in Republican-led states aiming to overturn the Affordable Care Act as proof the GOP wants to let such protections go down with the health-care law. That’s after Republicans whiffed in their effort to repeal and replace the ACA  last summer.

Vulnerable Republican contenders are responding to the slams by airing campaign ads saying they embrace this portion of the ACA. They’re also introducing a wave of bills in Congress they say would protect those with prior illnesses from losing access to affordable health care. But experts question the efficacy of those measures, saying they seem more designed as protection against Democratic attacks than significant policy solutions, as I helped report in a story with Colby Itkowitz this week. [Pols emphasis]

—–

President Trump (left) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

Healthcare has consistently emerged as the single most important issue for American voters in 2018. When you dig deeper into the numbers, you find that protections for pre-existing conditions — a key component of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — are extremely popular across all political spectrums. As the Kaiser Family Foundation reported last month:

Large majorities of Americans say it is “very important” to retain the ACA provisions that prevent insurance companies from denying coverage based on a person’s medical history (75%) and from charging sick people more (72%). This includes majorities of Democrats, independents and Republicans, as well as majorities of those with and without people with pre-existing conditions in their households.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate took a vote on a measure that sought to get rid of Trump administration efforts to expand short-term health insurance plans (which are often called “junk insurance”) that are intended to kill the ACA, and thus, protections for pre-existing conditions. Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) voted “YES,” and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) was a big fat “NO.” Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine voted along with Democrats, but that wasn’t enough to change a 50-50 tie in the Senate. In political terms, this means that you can call Gardner a deciding vote.

As The Journal Times in Wisconsin reports (yeah, that’s right, The Journal Times):

In August, Treasury Sec. Steve Mnuchin, Labor Sec. Alexander Acosta and Health and Human Services Sec. Eric Hagan issued a rule expanding the duration of these insurance plans that do not comply with Affordable Care Act requirements.

The 2010 ACA law allowed the sale of short-term insurance plans to serve as a stop-gap between long-term plans. The Trump Administration’s rule allows those plans to be extended as long as three years.

The plans are cheaper than long-term plans but do not offer the same level of coverage as plans that comply with the ACA; prescription drugs, pre-existing conditions, pregnancy and mental health coverage are not required to be covered in these short-term plans.

You didn’t seriously believe me, did you?

Anyhoo, let’s get back to Gardner. Colorado’s Republican Senator talks a good amount of gibberish when it comes to healthcare policy (we’ll never forget you, “glide path“), but he generally speaks favorably when it comes to protections for pre-existing conditions. Here’s Gardner in May 2017, via The Denver Post:

“We need to make sure the people with pre-existing conditions continue to have coverage and continue to have access to affordable coverage,” Gardner said.

Here’s Gardner a few months earlier, via Fox 31 Denver:

Gardner was also asked about what he would do about those people who are worried about losing health care coverage with pre-existing conditions if the Affordable Care Act is repealed and replaced.

“Over the past couple of years, my mom survived breast cancer,” Gardner said. “Over the past several weeks, my father has been in and out of the hospital. I haven’t heard anyone say we’re going to get rid of pre-existing conditions coverage.” [Pols emphasis]

Gardner said he is pushing for affordability to make sure insurance is accessible to people with pre-existing conditions.

It was just last April, in fact, when Gardner declared that the Senate “can’t just walk away on healthcare.” Yesterday, Gardner voted along with most Republicans to go ahead and walk away on healthcare.

Cory Gardner is up for re-election in 2020.

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FACT CHECK: Coffman Says He Differs With Trump On Healthcare But He Actually Favors “Straight Repeal” of Obamacare

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora told a reporter Monday that Coffman broke away from Trump on healthcare.

That should sound familiar, if you’ve been following Coffman, because he’s been saying it early and often since last year.

In fact, it’s only partially true. Coffman supports what’s essentially a Trump proposal to repeal Obamacare now–but implement the repeal at an unspecified later date.  In other words, Congress would pass legislation now with a deadline/date for repealing the law sometime in the future.

After the U.S. Senate’s dramatic failure to kill Obamacare, Coffman told a Denver TV station he’d have backed a bill to do away with the national health care law–a move that would likely have pushed millions off the health insurance rolls.

Asked by 9News’ Marshall Zelinger last year (at 1:30 here) if he’d support a “straight repeal” of Obamacare, Coffman said yes.

Zelinger: “What about a straight repeal?”

Coffman: “If you said, ‘Well, okay, we’re going to repeal,’ and the date certain for the repeal was long enough out, where it wouldn’t disrupt the markets, and it gave Congress adequate time, I think that would be appropriate.”

(more…)

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Is Measles Outbreak a Preview for Colorado?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Measles.

The BBC reports that more than 41,000 people in Europe have been infected with measles in the first six months of 2018. There have been 37 deaths caused by this outbreak.

Of the 57 states, districts, territories, and commonwealths in the most recent CDC report on kindergartners who had received the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine Colorado ranked last. Just 87.3% of kindergartners had received the two doses needed to protect them.

In the Ukraine, where 23,000 of the cases in 2018 have occurred, there have been years of problems getting the population vaccinated. Wars, lack of vaccines, and a medical system that makes the US look like a model of competence and efficiency caused the rate to dip as low as 31% of 6 year olds in 2016 from a high of 95% in 2008. The WHO estimates there were 621,000 under- or unvaccinated people in Ukraine in 2017. The good news is that about 80% of them have been given at least a first dose of the MMR vaccine. The bad news is that the outbreak will undoubtedly be used by anti-vaccine lobbyists to “prove” that vaccines are the problem. Ignoring the inconvenient fact that the countries with the lowest vaccination rates are the places with the most infected or dying people.

In 2017 Italy has a similar vaccination rate to Colorado at 85% of school aged children being vaccinated (The Guardian). The 2018 August ECDC report on measles and rubella found 3,341 cases in that country since last year with a rate of 55.1 per million. Five people have died in Italy in the last year. A similar outbreak in Colorado would cause 300 cases of measles.

Colorado is one of 16 states that allow parents to opt out of vaccines for “personal reasons” instead of religious or medical reasons.

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Dems Bust Stapleton On Health Care BS

A press release from Colorado Democrats today highlights some tellingly bad answers from Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton on health care in a new Colorado Springs Gazette story, helpfully pulling them out from behind Phil Anschutz’s paywall for public consumption:

“Stapleton has been a yes-man for Donald Trump’s crusade to rob Coloradans of their health care, and voters aren’t going to be fooled by this sloppy attempt to hide his terrible policies that would result in hundreds of thousands of Coloradans losing their coverage and higher costs for the rest of us.” said Eric Walker, Colorado Democratic Party spokesperson.

Colorado Politics on Stapleton’s lack of a health care plan

“Stapleton has been short on specifics when it comes to his own prescriptions for health care — a page devoted to health care issues appeared on his campaign website only in the last week…”

“Stapleton’s health care plan is built from a blueprint of if’s…”

Colorado Politics on Stapleton lying about Medicaid expansion:

“Stapleton said when he became treasurer in 2011, the state budget was about $18 billion. This year it topped $29 billion, and he blames much of that spending on the Medicaid expansion.

“That’s misleading, however. Most of that money came from the federal government, not directly from Colorado taxpayers at the expense of other budget needs, such as transportation or education.” [Pols emphasis]

Blaming the expansion of Medicaid for the state’s inability to pay for other priorities is common practice for Colorado Republicans, since it gives them both large scary numbers to throw around as well as the added bonus of pitting the so-called “makers” against the so-called “takers.” It doesn’t actually work if you understand that the Medicaid expansion was a federally-funded expansion, and didn’t come out of any other state budgetary buckets.

Along with the fictional portrayal of single-payer health care as a new expense of trillions of dollars when it would in fact save trillions in existing health care expenses, these are part of a long history of scare tactics from Republicans on health care that do not hold up to even rudimentary scrutiny. In the end they are arguments that rely on an ignorant voter in order to achieve their goal, and that should be the lede for every story about health care in the governor’s race unless Stapleton changes course.

Which we don’t really expect.

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Progressive Activist With Degenerative Disease Can’t Find Congressman Tipton at Pueblo Town Hall Meeting

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

If you had a horrible disease and didn’t know how long you were going to live, would you spend your days driving around the country chasing down politicians who cast votes to repeal Obamacare?

That’s what Ady Barkan is doing. The progressive activist, who has nerve-degenerating Lou Gehrig’s disease, is spending 42 days in an RV on a mission that led him to Pueblo last Sunday in search of U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO).

Tipton, according to a video Tweeted by Barkan, was invited to a Pueblo town-hall meeting on health care issues, but didn’t show up, leading Barkan to pull out a cardboard cutout of the Congressman, who’s represented southwestern Colorado since 2010, when he defeated Democrat John Salazar.

Barkan’s video shows the Tipton-less meeting, with folks directing questions about health care at the cutout and Barkan saying the Congressman “seems reticent” to answer the queries, drawing laughs from the group.

Barkan, who gained viral fame when he pleaded with Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake in 2017 to save lives by voting against the Trump tax bill, speaks slowly in his video, claiming Tipton hasn’t held a town hall meeting in Pueblo since 2016.

Tipton’s office did return a call seeking to know why he’s avoided Pueblo–or if he could dispute the no-show allegation.

“The point is to highlight for the American people just how irresponsible and unresponsive their congress members are,” Barkan told the Reno Gazette Journal, explaining his tour. “They refuse to prioritize our best interests.”

Health care issues are a top concern of voters in southwestern Colorado, according to one recent poll from a Democratic pollster.

Tipton represents what’s been considered a solidly Republican district, but national political analysts at the Cook Political Report recently determined that Democrats have a greater chance to win Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District this year than they have in recent elections, though Tipton is still favored.

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Christine Jensen Wants to Repeal/Replace Obamacare Because…Um…

(Asked to clarify, Jensen…could not — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Christine Jensen

At a campaign stop last month in Wheat Ridge, Colorado State Senate candidate Christine Jensen said “abuses abound” in Colorado’s health insurance program for the poor, which, she said, is a significant cause of Colorado’s budget woes.

“There are some that would much rather drive a nicer car than pay for the health care for their own family,” said Jensen, a Republican, in a Facebook video of the event.

Asked yesterday to clarify how many such people are in the Medicaid program, Jensen said she didn’t know the specifics but it “needs to be investigated.”

The Colorado Times Recorder was unable to identify records that illuminate how many Medicaid recipients are doing this, and how much money could be saved from taking away their health insurance.

Jensen also said that the state has a “moral obligation” to provide health insurance for poor people who “truly need it,” but she said in the video that there are “not nearly enough” efforts to crack down on Medicaid abuses.

 

(more…)

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Republican Attacks on Health Care Blamed for Increase in Rates

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado health insurers have asked state regulators to approve rate increases for health insurance plans averaging about six percent in the individual and seven percent for small groups, according to data released today by the Colorado Division of Insurance.

That’s less of a price increase than last year’s uptick but still bad news for consumers, say progressive watchdogs, who blame Republicans for driving up health insurance rates by attacking the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also called Obamacare, and by blocking state laws that could have stabilized prices.

“For a change, most Coloradans aren’t facing massive hikes in their health insurance premiums for next year,” said Adam Fox, director of strategic engagement for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative (CCHI) in a news release. “This really shows the strength of the Affordable Care Act, that despite ongoing GOP sabotage, Colorado’s insurance premiums are more stable this year. However, Coloradans are still struggling to afford their insurance after big rate hikes last year. Coloradans will still see a range of proposed premium changes ranging from -2.64 percent to 21.6 percent in the individual insurance market depending on their insurer and plan.”

In recent years, rural regions of Colorado saw the biggest increase in health insurance premiums. But the rate of such increases appears to have slowed.

“Consumers in the Western and Mountain regions of the state won’t be hit by double-digit increases this year. In fact, they’ll see Anthem asking for a small decrease in their rates,” said Fox. “Even so, considering last year Anthem requested a rate increase of over 30 percent, affordability is still a big concern for Coloradans in these areas. We could have seen more and larger rate decreases this year if it weren’t for the ongoing GOP sabotage creating uncertainty.”

Next year, seven companies in Colorado will be offering insurance plans through Connect for Health for individuals. They are: Anthem (as HMO Colorado), Bright Health, Cigna Health and Life, Denver Health Medical Plans, Friday Health Plans, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Colorado and Rocky Mountain HMO.

These are the same same companies that sold insurance to on the individual market last year in Colorado, and as in the past, all counties in Colorado will have at least one on-exchange company selling individual health plans.

In total, sixteen companies will offer insurance in Colorado, including those firms that offer group plans.

Kaiser, with the bulk of the individual market enrollments through Connect for Health Colorado, has requested a 7.49 percent increase, Bright Health a 9.7 percent increase, Friday Health Plans 7.5 percent. Rocky Mountain HMO has requested 5.69 percent, and Cigna is asking for a 8.76 percent increase for their plans.

“I’m very pleased to see that we kept the same seven companies selling on-exchange plans,” said Interim Colorado Division of Insurance Commissioner Michael Conway in a news release. “Last year we worked hard to keep them in Colorado and I think that work is reflected in their decisions for 2019.”

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Yes, Reporters Still Think You’re Stupid on Health Care

Rep. Jared Polis (D).

One of the biggest factors undermining the popularity of the Affordable Care Act ever since its passage in 2010 was the broad prevalence of misinformation about the law’s provisions and effects. This misinformation ranged from the wildly inaccurate–“death panels” and similar baseless nonsense–to much more subtle inaccuracies like bogus 2014 story in the Denver Post about “$10,000 individual deductibles” and Sen. Cory Gardner’s wantonly deceptive claims of “hundreds of thousands of policy cancellations.” For every news story that accurately explains the law’s benefits and problems, there have been a dozen just plain wrong stories that served to needlessly mislead and scare the public.

Health care is one of those issues where it’s very easy for anyone lacking the specialized knowledge of both the existing system and proposals to reform it to get the story wrong. Because Democrats have been on the defensive over health care for nearly eight years in defense of the Affordable Care Act, such misinformation–intentional and unintended–has generally resulted in political liability for Democrats. As a result, Republicans have been very…tolerant of health care misinformation, to put it mildly.

Case in point: a new extremely uninformed attack on Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis from the Phil-Anschutz-owned Walker Stapleton-loving Colorado Springs Gazette:

Jared Polis has a new ad touting his strong support for universal health care. The 2016 election might suggest it’s a lost cause as far as the Colorado electorate goes.

The Democratic gubernatorial candidate and sitting congressman touts Medicare-for-All, a load-bearing pillar of universal health care. A similarly purposed Amendment 69, the so-called ColoradoCare single-payer plan, took a 4-to-1 thumping, just two years ago.

Full stop. Amendment 69, the state-level universal health care proposal that was shellacked at the polls in 2016, is a totally different animal from the Medicare For All proposal being proposed at the federal level. The biggest and most essential difference is that Medicare For All would be implemented nationwide, eliminating one of the biggest problems with Amendment 69’s plan to implement single-payer health care all by Colorado’s drop-in-the-bucket self. Other small states like Vermont attempting to implement single-payer health coverage on their own quickly discovered the numbers don’t work. A nationwide solution is the only solution.

Almost 79% of Colorado voters voted against Amendment 69, including (this is very important) thousands of progressive Democrats who support “universal health care.” The prior example of Vermont combined with specific problems with the way Amendment 69 would roll out single-payer coverage, like the conflict with Colorado’s constitution that would have eliminated coverage for abortion, are what doomed it to such a lopsided fate–not opposition to the concept of universal health care.

The difference between the state-level Amendment 69 and nationwide proposals for universal health care like the Medicare For All plan being embraced by Democratic candidates at all levels this year is great enough that to simply equate the two like this story does is nothing short of journalistic malpractice. Either the author is too ignorant to know the difference, or he does know and is willingly misleading his readers.

In the end, the effect is the same.

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Health Care Sticker Shock: Can’t Blame Obama Anymore

President Barack Obama, with close ally Satan (right).

The Summit Daily News reports on the death of legislation at the hands of the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate that would have helped residents in mountain towns and other remote parts of the state offset the outlandishly high cost of health coverage–thus perpetuating by Republican action a problem Republicans have laid at the feet of Democrats for years:

Two bills meant to help give Coloradans relief on health insurance premiums, especially residents of mountain counties like Summit, were both shot down Friday.

HB 1384, which sought to explore more affordable health care coverage options, and HB 1392, meant to significantly reduce premiums by buffering insurers against high-cost insurance claims, were both buried in 3-2 votes by Republican state senators Hill, Marble and Sonnenberg.

The bills would have tried to address skyrocketing premiums in the state. According to an analysis from the Colorado Health Institute, health insurance premiums in Colorado have risen by 76 percent since 2014, with a 32 percent jump since last year. The increase is driven primarily by an exodus of insurance carriers from the state, as well as uncertainty about the future of the Affordable Care Act under the Trump administration. HB 1384 would have studied more options for a health care system to avoid such pitfalls, including public-private partnerships and local insurance pools.

The failure to pass HB 1392, despite support in the state House, is particularly disappointing for many advocates for lower premiums in Summit and the western slope. The bill would have created a “reinsurance” program that would help health insurers pay for particularly expensive insurance claims, lowering their costs and passing on the savings to consumers. Reinsurance would have also stabilized prices for an individual health market that has been in constant flux for years.

For years after the passage of the federal Affordable Care Act in 2010, Republicans in control of Congress (and their allies in state legislatures) resisted even the most basic, common-sense fixes to problems that were identified as the law began to operate. The stated intention was political, with Republicans claiming that to attempt to fix “Obamacare” would saddle them with responsibility for a law they insisted was inherently flawed and could only be repealed once Republicans took back the White House. As a result, among many other consequences, the Western Slope of Colorado endured huge premium increases and dwindling choices for coverage that weren’t felt in other areas of the state.

But that was then. Today, Republicans have had total control of the federal government for over a year–and in that one year they inflicted so much political damage trying and repeatedly failing to repeal the Affordable Care Act that they’ve simply given up. Trump’s thoughtless executive orders have damaged the system, and Republicans zeroed out the penalty for not obtaining coverage, but millions of Americans who very much need and want the coverage they’ve obtained through the law still depend on it.

What does this mean? It means the failure to take action to solve problems with the ACA’s implementation is now a political liability for Republicans in an election year. It’s too late to point the finger at Obamacare. The sole reason there will be no relief for hard-pressed health coverage buyers in rural Colorado is that Republicans in the Colorado Senate said no.

And that is not going to play well in Paonia.

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Health Care Issues Portend Big Democratic Gains in 2018

Colorado is among 17 states with rising uninsured rates for the first time since the Affordable Care Act was fully implemented (Gallup).

As soon as Donald Trump was elected President in November 2016, political pundits across the country began speculating that Democrats could have a big year in 2018 by running against the Big Orange Guy. Trump will certainly be a big motivator for a significant percentage of voters, but for many Democratic candidates, winning in November may come down to a familiar issue: Health care.

As Ronald Brownstein writes for CNN:

But in the district-by-district battle to retake the House, many Democrats are focusing less on condemning Trump’s character than on discrediting the Republican agenda. Central to that mission is arguing that the GOP has benefited the wealthy, and burdened the middle class, with its twin legislative priorities of the past 17 months: passing a large tax cut and attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act…

…Democrats see reason for optimism in polls from the Kaiser Family Foundation showing that more Americans now view the ACA favorably than unfavorably and significantly more trust Democrats than Republicans to handle health care issues. A wide array of other surveys have found rising health care costs spiking to the top of the public’s list of priorities for Washington.

“This is the first real election that the defense of the ACA has turned into an asset,” says Chris Jennings, a veteran Democratic health care expert. [Pols emphasis]

President Trump has a message for uninsured Americans, and Democrats are pouncing.

If Democrats are able to unseat Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez), recent polling indicates that it could be Tipton’s support for the Republican Tax Plan and rolling back health care that will tip the scales. President Trump’s latest proposal to cut $7 billion from the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) — whether Congress agrees or not — feeds right into this narrative for Democrats. From New York magazine:

Regardless of the fine details, Trump’s proposal offers Democrats a perfect headline: After digging a $1.5 trillion hole in the deficit with tax cuts for the rich, the president and his party are now demanding reductions in federal spending on health care for poor children. [Pols emphasis]

As a political matter, the plan is indefensible; and yet, Trump is ostensibly putting it forward purely for politics’ sake. The federal deficit is expected to grow from $665 billion last year to $804 billion in 2018; cutting $15 billion off the latter sum isn’t going to make any significant difference in the nation’s fiscal health. And anyhow, the package appears to be dead on arrival in the Senate, where John McCain remains sidelined by terminal brain cancer, and Susan Collins has already signaled opposition to CHIP cuts.

Thus, Trump’s proposal is a symbolic gesture that doesn’t actually advance the conservative movement’s substantive goals — but does undermine its electoral prospects. It’s a move driven by a desire to appease the Republican Party’s far-right flank, a contingent so tightly ensconced in its epistemic bubble it cannot recognize the strategic incoherence of its demands. Sometimes Trump’s fealty to that faction and its worldview leads to diplomatic blunders of historic proportions; other times, it merely results in what is, essentially, an in-kind contribution to the Democratic Party.

It also looks like Democrats will have plenty of tangible figures to frame the GOP’s impact on health care as a net-negative for Americans. According to a new report today from Gallup, the uninsured rate is going in the wrong direction:

The uninsured rate rose by statistically significant margins in 17 states in 2017, the first time since the full implementation of the major mechanisms of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2014 that any state had a rate increase. Also, for the first time since 2013, no states had a lower uninsured rate than the previous year. [Pols emphasis]…

…President Donald Trump’s decision in October 2017 to end cost-sharing reduction payments could also potentially result in the uninsured rate rising further. The cost-sharing payments have been made to insurers in the marketplace exchanges to offset some of their costs for offering lower-cost plans to lower-income Americans.

The Republican tax plan remains about as popular as a poke in the eye, and evidence is mounting that giant tax breaks for rich people did nothing to goose the economy. If Democrats can use the unpopular tax plan as an anchor for messaging on rising health care costs and uninsured rates, they’ll have a powerful pitch for voters above and beyond the general discontent with Trump.

And there’s not much Republicans will be able to do about it.

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Frustrated Exchange Between Republicans Sparks Outrage

UPDATE: In the interest of full disclosure, we do think it’s important to note that Sen. Don Coram was the Senate sponsor of the bill in question to reduce youth suicides, House Bill 18-1177. Coram’s statement was apparently meant as a sarcastic response to Sen. Vicki Marble after Marble explained why she would be voting against the bill.

Like we said below, we never thought that Coram actually believed this. It’s just horrible, horrible timing for gallows humor–even if you could argue that Sen. Marble had it coming. We should all be able to agree that youth suicide is not a subject for which jokes are ever appropriate.

—–

We’re trying to get our heads around a positively shocking clip of audio we were forwarded from Tuesday’s hearing of the Colorado Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee. At the end of debate on House Bill 18-1177, “Concerning multiple approaches to help prevent youth suicide,” GOP Sen. Don Coram of Montrose made a…we’re not sure what you call this.  A quip? A wisecrack?

Whatever you want to call it, on its face it’s one of the most horrible things we’ve ever heard uttered by a sitting Colorado lawmaker, and that says quite a lot. Obligatory trigger warning:

MARBLE: Senator Coram?

CORAM: I was just going to say I guess the positive side is, is uh, if we have enough suicides we can save [on the] cost of education. [Pols emphasis]

(silence)

MARBLE: That was a pretty low blow. Ms. Shipley would you please take the roll…

And that’s it. A roll call vote of the committee was then taken, and the Republican majority on the Senate State Affairs Committee voted to kill the bill. Chair Vicki Marble then adjourned the committee while those in the committee reportedly sat silently with their jaws open.

Folks, what the hell are we supposed to make of this? We understand, based on some kind of basic level of human decency that we have to believe we all share, that Sen. Coram was not seriously suggesting that youth suicides are a good thing because the state could “save [on the] cost of education.”

Except that is exactly what he said.

At the end of the day, you can’t excuse this as a joke falling flat. Teenage suicide is an incredibly difficult subject to reckon with under the very best of circumstances, and for families who have been affected these words are utterly poisonous whether intended in jest or not. To call this an irresponsible statement from a sitting lawmaker, especially right before his fellow Republicans voted to kill legislation to prevent youth suicide, is an understatement in the extreme.

In a legislative session maybe unprecedented for its many outrages, here is one that truly stands out.

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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.

 

 

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Don’t Forget About Irish Women While Your Appropriating Their Culture This St. Patrick’s Day

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Photo: Amnesty International Ireland

It’s that special time each year where we get to partake in shenanigans that subtly appropriate Irish culture while drinking large quantities of green beer, and dressing like a leprechaun —yes, St. Patricks Day is finally upon us. While you’re enjoying your weekend of “green” celebrations and paying homage to our friends “across the pond,” this is a friendly reminder that women in Ireland have been fighting a grueling battle for reproductive freedom for half a century.

Ireland has some of the strictest abortion laws in the world. It is estimated that roughly 12 women per day will travel out of the country to seek abortion care. Though their reasons for needing to terminate a pregnancy may differ, their reasons for traveling elswhere, do not. The penalty for inducing an abortion in the Republic of Ireland can be up to 14 years in prison. In Northern Ireland, penalties are much more severe, and can result in a life sentence. Abortion is permitted only in the most extreme circumstances to save a woman’s life. This provision was only introduced in 2012 after the death of Savita Halappanavar, who was denied a life-saving abortion while suffering a septic miscarriage.

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Gardner Doesn’t Play “Shutdown Politics?” Is That a Joke?

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

USA TODAY’s Herb Jackson points out something really, really obvious that we haven’t seen noted anywhere else as Sen. Cory Gardner presents himself as a peacemaker in the high-stakes battle over a short-term continuing resolution to prevent a shutdown of the federal government as early as tonight:

Sen. Cory Gardner could not have been clearer when asked during a sit-down with reporters Thursday which party would be to blame if there’s a government shutdown.

“I don’t want to play shutdown politics,” Gardner, R-Colo, said during a discussion of immigration reform with fellow Coloradan, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.

“I think it’s a bad idea, a pox on both parties,” Gardner continued. “And the American people, I think, will blame Washington. I don’t think they’re going to be able to say, ‘Hey, this is a Republican or a Democrat,’ I think they’re going to look at it and say, ‘You bozos can’t do your work.’”

As has become a familiar refrain, Sen. Gardner has received lots of love from the local news media this week as his partnership with Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet on both children’s health care and undocumented residents not responsible for their childhood immigration stood in stark contrast to President Donald Trump’s vulgar and racist headline-making. That’s good politics for Sen. Gardner, who has seen his public approval in Colorado badly erode under Trump’s first year.

But as Jackson continues, Cory Gardner is who he is–chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC):

But that message must not have reached the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the party’s political operation that Gardner chairs.

And a quick look at the NRSC’s Twitter feed reveals a whole lot of “shutdown politics” going on.

This is one of the clearer-cut cases we’ve seen of Sen. Gardner saying one thing in a bipartisan press conference, then doing the exact opposite once the cameras are elsewhere. The NRSC attacking Democrats is not even something we would bother to criticize but for the fact that Gardner so brazenly contradicted himself–condemning the exact same behavior he’s engaging in. After all, everybody expects the leader of the GOP’s U.S. Senate campaign operation to “play politics.”

But this is trying to have it both ways to an extent that simply can’t be excused. It’s totally ridiculous.

And we’re glad somebody with a large readership called BS.

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Weed over kids: Cory Gardner’s priorities?

You probably saw it on TV last week. After Trump’s attorney general made another threat to shut down Colorado’s legal marijuana industry, Sen. Cory Gardner spoke out on the floor of the U.S. Senate and threatened to stall Justice Department nominees.

Marijuana is a billion-dollar business in Colorado, and money talks. But here’s the problem: while Cory Gardner says he’s willing to go to extremes to protect the marijuana industry (which is debatable considering his parade of broken promises), 90,000 Colorado kids are in danger of losing their Children’s Health Insurance Program coverage. Uncertainty in Washington has forced Colorado to spend money we don’t have to temporarily cover kids who qualify for CHIP in our state, but that won’t last forever.

Send a message to Cory Gardner now: tell him to stand up for Colorado’s kids.

If 2017 taught us anything, it’s that Gardner’s priorities are hopelessly out of whack. Gardner spent all of last year trying repeatedly to destroy the Affordable Care Act and slash taxes for the wealthiest Americans, despite the fact that poll after poll showed that’s not what Coloradans wanted. Gardner claimed to support health insurance for children, but Republicans in Washington have refused to take action to fund CHIP for the long-term.

If Cory Gardner can shut down Justice Department nominations over marijuana, why can’t he do as much for 90,000 Colorado kids who need health coverage? Tell Gardner to do the right thing—even when there aren’t campaign donations and a billion-dollar industry at stake.

Thanks for helping us hold Gardner accountable to his promises. We’ll make sure he gets your message.

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Protesters Greet Senator Gardner on New Year’s Eve in Yuma

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Hey folks we are having a house party at Cory Gardner's house in Yuma, Colorado! #ADAPTandResist #FreeOurPeople #DIAToday #SaveMedicaid

Posted by Carrie Ann Lucas on Sunday, December 31, 2017

Video from  New Years Eve visit to Senator Gardner’s home in Yuma

On New Year’s Eve 2017, Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado had some unexpected visitors outside his home in Yuma, Colorado. Twelve protesters and supporters from Atlantis ADAPT  braved the bitter cold to hold a “house party” on the sidewalk outside Gardner’s home, asking for him to come out and talk with them about how the tax legislation he supported would affect their lives. (about 23:00 minutes in to the video) They chanted:

“Cory Gardner, come on out! We’ve got something to talk about!” and “New Year’s Resolution – Uphold the Constitution!”

However, Senator Gardner declined to party with the protesters, and never spoke with them, although, according to a police officer in the video, he was at home at the time.

Carrie Ann Lucas, a member of the Atlantis ADAPT board, and a candidate for the town board of Windsor, posted live video of the protest. I asked Ms. Lucas to comment on the events.

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Top Ten Stories of 2017 #9: The Obamacare Repeal That Wasn’t

One year ago, Republicans were preparing a legislative agenda to go along with majorities in both chambers of Congress and their newly-awarded control of the White House. Republican leaders were licking their collective chops in anticipation of passing one conservative measure after another, blissfully unaware that they would have to wait nearly an entire year before celebrating their first major legislative accomplishment.

There were so many big political headlines this year that it’s easy to forget how much one single issue dominated the discussion in the first 9-10 months. Repealing (and maybe replacing) the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was priority #1, 2, and 3 for Congressional Republicans and President Trump in 2017. The White House was guaranteeing repeal as early as March.

As weeks dragged into months, it became increasingly clear that Republicans had massively over-promised on repeal. But it wasn’t until Arizona Sen. John McCain announced his opposition to the “Graham-Cassidy” proposal in late September that Republicans finally threw in the towel on a grand repeal. Indeed, Republicans failed so miserably at crafting repeal legislation that McCain had to publicly denounce the effort on two separate occasions. Here in Colorado, Republican legislators came to this conclusion much sooner than their counterparts in Washington D.C.; by early February they had essentially abandoned efforts to cripple the state health exchange.

Ultimately, the GOP could never figure out how to write a coherent repeal-and-replace bill that didn’t make the healthcare market exponentially worse for tens of millions of Americans. And it wasn’t just political insiders who were getting fed up; angry Americans were lining up to voice their displeasure with one Republican proposal after another. President Trump did direct several steps geared toward slowly strangling Obamacare, and Republicans included a repeal of the so-called “Individual Mandate” as part of their giant mess of a tax plan, but a major legislative statement rejecting Obamacare never materialized (we’re not counting the meaningless House vote to approve an early version of repeal).

Republican ineptitude on repealing Obamacare was symbolized well by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which scored a half-dozen iterations of legislation that failed more often than Sean Spicer (for more examples, click here, here, here, here, here, and here). The debate shifted so completely that Republicans like Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) spent much of the second half of 2017 doing damage control on their failed efforts at repeal.

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Republicans began the year insisting that repealing Obamacare was a mandate from the American voters after seven years of endless opposition to the ACA. They ended 2017 by admitting that it was a political negative to even talk about repealing the health care law. As Dana Milbank wrote for the Washington Post on December 20:

“I shouldn’t say this,” Trump said, “but we essentially repealed Obamacare.”

Republicans, in rushing the tax bill to passage, kept fairly quiet about the fact that they were killing the “individual mandate” and thereby removing the engine that made the Affordable Care Act work. In doing so, they threw the health-care system into chaos without offering any remedy. And Trump just claimed paternity of the destruction. [Pols emphasis]

Trump, in a Cabinet meeting earlier Wednesday, let his fleeting encounter with honesty get the better of him when he read aloud the stage directions that called for Republicans not to advertise that they were killing Obamacare. “Obamacare has been repealed in this bill. We didn’t want to bring it up,” he said. “I told people specifically, ‘Be quiet with the fake-news media because I don’t want them talking too much about it.’ Because I didn’t know how people would —.” Trump didn’t finish that thought, but he said he could admit what had been done “now that it’s approved.”

As the year comes to a close, it is telling that President Trump is trying hard to convince you that he and his fellow Republicans did in fact repeal Obamacare (they did not). Congressional Republicans are tired of being stuck in an endless loop of non-repeal, so perhaps they will just play along and let Trump believe that this is all over now.

They can only hope that American voters will be just as confused in November 2018.

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How Irrelevant Is Jon Caldara, You Ask?

Jon Caldara.

As reporter Marianne Goodland writes for the former Colorado Statesman:

The Independence Institute has named Colorado Senate President Pro tem Jerry Sonnenberg, a Sterling Republican, as its inaugural winner of “Californian of the Year.”

The somewhat tongue-in-cheek award was given to Sonnenberg in recognition of his efforts “to turn Colorado into East California,” according to an Institute announcement Wednesday…

Institute President Jon Caldara said nothing exemplifies the California value of making decisions for others than the “massive tax increase” put forward by Sonnenberg and three other lawmakers during the 2017 session, in Senate Bill 17-267, also known as “Sustainability of Rural Colorado.”

To briefly recap, Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, one of the state’s more conservative lawmakers, struck a bargain with House Democrats via GOP Rep. Jon Becker on legislation early this year to reclassify funds raised via the state’s Hospital Provider Fee into an “enterprise” accomplishing the goals of the raised funds–thus exempting them from revenue caps in the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, and averting the possible closure of rural hospitals in Sonnenberg’s and Becker’s districts.

This bipartisan agreement was hailed by newspaper editorial boards across the state as a practical step to avert serious unintended consequences. That some of the worst of these consequences would play out in rural parts of the state represented by conservative Republican lawmakers like Jerry Sonnenberg was the key factor that brought them to the table. We can argue about the ethics of caring about health care funding only when your own constituents are threatened as opposed to everybody else, but at least in the face of major and fully avoidable harm to his neighbors Sonnenberg was able to act.

It’s important to remember that even right-wing advocacy groups like Americans for Prosperity were internally divided on this legislation, with AFP originally scoring the bill positively in their legislative scorecards before “revising” their scorecard–just ahead of the special session of the legislature called by Gov. John Hickenlooper to fix a drafting error in this bill costing special tax districts across the state millions in lost revenue. Between the passage of SB-267 and special session in October, the Independence Institute’s attacks on Sonnenberg were enough to force Sonnenberg into a truly farcical position: even though Sonnenberg has filed legislation for the 2018 session to fix this glitch, he was forced to argue against both the special session and even his own bill so as not to give political traction to Democrats.

And after all his humiliating contortions, Sonnenberg was still awarded Jon Caldara’s booby prize.

There are three principal takeaways from this. First, when diehard ideologues like Caldara are bypassed to solve problems that need solving, they get really upset about it–enough to dive headfirst into the unproductive process of attacking their own allies.

The second is that the ideologues don’t care who they hurt. They didn’t care about Jerry Sonnenberg’s constituents last April, and they don’t care about the special tax districts losing millions of dollars due to what everyone agrees is a minor drafting error.

Which brings us to the big one: Caldara and his ilk are so far from the political mainstream that both sides should just ignore them. Much like the fringe fanatics at the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and the tax-cheat felon who authored TABOR to begin with, giving Caldara’s ongoing nonsense the time of day debases us all.

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