So Many Captions For One Awkward Photo

Committed to the public domain by Rep. Lauren Boebert’s official Twitter account, from yesterday’s visit by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland (center) to Grand Junction accompanied by (from left) Sen. Michael Bennet, Rep. Joe Neguse, Gov. Jared Polis, and Sen. John Hickenlooper:

There’s a lot going on here, and 90% of it doesn’t need to be said.

Take care of the other 10%, gentle readers.

“Bennet Bucks”–Slashing Child Poverty, Locking In Re-Election

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-livers).

As the Pueblo Chieftain’s Sara Wilson reports, this morning millions of American families are waking up to a fresh round of economic relief in their bank accounts–with billions more on the way, marking one of the biggest direct transfers of wealth into the cash flows of families with children in American history:

Eligible families will begin to receive monthly payments on Thursday for the expanded federal child tax credit, a milestone in social public policy that was passed as part of the American Rescue Plan Act earlier this year.

It’s a longtime legislative goal of Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat who represents Colorado.

“In my view, the expanded child tax credit is the biggest investment Washington has made in kids and families in more than a generation,” Bennet told constituents during a telephone town hall on July 12.

“It’s the most progressive change to the tax code in my lifetime.”

Couples making less than $150,000 and single heads of household making less than $112,500 will get half of their $3,000-$3,600 per child tax credit in monthly installments–or if taxpayers prefer, they can forego the payments and get all the money in a lump sum when filing their taxes next year. Either way it’s a dramatic increase in the child tax credit delivered sooner and providing sustained help to millions of American families. As FOX 31 reports, the battle now turns to making this historic relief for working families permanent:

“Even if we extend the child tax credit payment for a few years, that would still be a tremendous achievement for our kids and for our families. But if we can make it permanent, that would be a historic victory for America, no less important than what we did with social security or Medicare,” Bennet said. [Pols emphasis]

In terms of legislation that will have a direct and tangible impact on the lives of a very large percentage of the population, Sen. Bennet’s child tax credit expansion ranks among the most substantial achievements ever realized by a U.S. Senator from Colorado. Making this credit and the monthly relief payment plan permanent will create a stream of income directly to families with children, and is projected to result in the biggest reduction in child poverty since the Great Society reforms of the 1960s.

Superlatives get thrown around in politics until they’re meaningless. But what Sen. Michael Bennet and Democrats have achieved with the child tax credit expansion objectively is historic. Ever since Bennet’s appointment to the U.S. Senate in 2009 and through his two election wins in 2010 and 2016, he’s been frequently maligned from the left still sore that Andrew Romanoff didn’t win the 2010 primary. But especially in the last couple of years, Bennet has become an influential voice for progressive policy goals–as well as an advocate for breaking the filibuster logjam in the U.S. Senate to allow many more Democratic priorities to become law.

Bennet’s name won’t be on “Bennet Bucks” checks, of course, but with this accomplishment alone he’s given himself a formidable edge for his re-election campaign in 2022. A primary from the left has less than ever to offer in contrast, and the general election message for Bennet just got compellingly reinforced. It’s not “buying support,” and it’s not “socialism.” This is targeted economic relief where it helps the most.

And it’s the stuff great legacies are made of.

Coming Soon: Official GOP Campaign Announcements

Cowabunga!

We’ve noted on more than one occasion in this space that the Republican field of potential candidates for 2022 is remarkably sparse. That may be about to change.

Two things are different this week that might lead to some long-awaited announcements from 2022 hopefuls: 1) The Q2 fundraising period has concluded, and 2) We’ve made it past the extended holiday weekend(s) tacked onto Fourth of July festivities.

Candidates historically tend to wait until the beginning of a new fundraising quarter to officially launch their bids for elected office. A candidate’s first fundraising quarter is often a good barometer of the potential strength of that campaign, so it’s smart practice to time announcements to take full advantage of every available day in a particular fundraising period (in this case, after June 30). It’s also a wise idea to avoid making a big announcement when people aren’t paying attention to the news; thus this is the first conceivable week in which it would make sense to kick off a big campaign.

Overall, the field of potential candidates for statewide office in Colorado remains about as muddled as it was when we examined the subject in mid-June. We’ve updated The Big Line: 2022 with the latest chatter, but here are the Republican announcements we’re expecting within the next several weeks:

 

Secretary of State: Rose Pugliese
Pugliese’s interest in challenging Democratic incumbent Jena Griswold has been an open secret for months; at the same time, chatter about other potential SOS challengers has gone quiet. If you were going to bet money on the most likely GOP announcement for statewide office, this would be a fairly safe choice.

U.S. Senate: Eli Bremer
The former El Paso County GOP Chairman has been positioning himself to be the Republican nominee for Senate since well before 2021. We hear that Bremer has already had fairly extensive discussions with the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and is beginning to pick up support from key Republican names in Colorado. Bremer is also believed to be further along than any other potential candidate in terms of forming a campaign staff. With so much uncertainty in the GOP field, there’s strategic value in being the first “plausible” Republican to announce a 2022 Senate campaign against incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet. It makes sense for Bremer to make his move here within the next few weeks.

Governor: Heidi Ganahl
Ganahl is the lone Republican statewide elected official in Colorado (she’s a CU Regent) and has been working hard to raise her profile in anticipation of a run for something bigger. After vacillating between running for Governor or State Treasurer, it looks like Ganahl is getting close to making her gubernatorial ambitions official (even though recent polling shows Ganahl losing to incumbent Democrat Jared Polis by 20 points). Ganahl might wait a little longer to make the jump than Pugliese and Bremer, but we expect this announcement fairly soon.

 

We’re still waiting to hear more about potential GOP candidates for State Treasurer or Attorney General. The former seems to be attracting more interest among Republicans, which means there might be more behind-the-scenes maneuvering that needs to take place before any official announcement.

New Poll: Colorado Dems In Great Shape, Polis Beats Ganahl By 20

Jesse Paul at the Colorado Sun reports on new polling by Global Strategy Group for our friends at ProgressNow Colorado that invalidates more or less every Republican talking point coming out of the 2021 session of the state legislature:

Democratic Gov. Jared Polis and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet lead a generic Republican candidate, the survey shows, and generic Democratic statehouse candidates would beat their GOP counterparts. No big-name Republicans have announced a bid to unseat either Polis or Bennet, which is why the poll tested how they would fare against a generic — or, in other words, any — GOP candidate.

“This electorate has been pretty consistent over the past few years with Democrats having an advantage of somewhere between 8 and 11 points,” said Andrew Baumann of the Democratic firm Global Strategy Group, which conducted the quarterly Rocky Mountaineer poll with the liberal political advocacy group ProgressNow Colorado. “And that’s where things remain.”

Global Strategy Group polled 800 registered voters between June 17 and 23, weighting the survey to reflect Colorado’s mix of registered voters. The poll, which was conducted through a mix of phone calls and the internet, had a confidence interval of 95%.

Here’s the full memo and toplines for the poll. Notable findings include enduring strong approval of Gov. Jared Polis’ job performance (+22%) and high approval of Polis’ handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in particular (+35%)–as well as high marks for legislative Democrats after passing the most ambitious agenda in nearly a decade. From the memo:

Democrats are more trusted than Republicans on nearly every issue tested, with their largest margins on climate issues, improving wages, and education. Republicans only earn near-draws on certain economic issues. The Democratic margin has expanded significantly since last year on responding to the pandemic (+22 now, up from +11 in September and +14 last May) and on improving the state’s transportation infrastructure (+16 now, up from +6 last May).

Although this poll led with a measure of Democratic strength against a “generic” candidate, the poll includes a few head-to-head matchups to set the tone. Gov. Polis beats possible Republican opponent CU Regent Heidi Ganahl by a humiliating 54-34%, while Sen. Michael Bennet would hold off Rep. Lauren “Q*Bert” Boebert 51-38% in an unlikely face-off between the two. In Ganahl’s case, it’s evident that voters in large part simply don’t know who she is, and those who do have in many cases already heard something negative.

All told, the results of this poll indicate that three years of intense Republican opposition to Gov. Polis and the historic Democratic majority in the Colorado General Assembly have failed to meaningfully reduce voter support for Colorado Democrats and the agenda they were elected to carry out. After Democrats reduced Republican political power in Colorado to its weakest point since FDR in 2018, Colorado Republicans responded furiously but ineffectually with failed recalls, failed obstruction tactics in the legislature, and ultimately failure at the polls in 2020 to roll back 2018’s Democratic victories.

If there’s a reason 2022 will be different, we have yet to see it.

Weak, Uncertain Heidi Ganahl Running Out Of Time

Republican candidate for something Heidi Ganahl wants to have a totally spontaneous not staged at all conversation with you.

For the past couple of months now, as our readers know and is slowly making its way into political news coverage, Republican CU Regent Heidi Ganahl has been waging a low-intensity public relations campaign centered around a “traveling podcast” to raise her name ID ahead of a run for higher statewide office in 2022. Ganahl, the only remaining Republican holding even a minor statewide elected office in Colorado after Cory Gardner’s ouster last November, is not so much what you’d call a “rising star” as the GOP’s last potential hope for a turnaround after years of defeat.

Unfortunately for Regent Ganahl and beleaguered Republicans hoping she could be their ticket out of the electoral abyss, the recent political tumult at CU–over the conservative Benson Center and professor John Eastman’s role in the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and more recently the departure of divisive CU President Mark Kennedy who Ganahl helped install just two years ago–has created serious obstacles to running on her record there.

Nonetheless, over the past few month it’s become very clear that Ganahl intends to run for something, especially since her statewide at-large seat on the CU Board of Regents may not even exist in 2022. The most common assumption is that she wants to run against Gov. Jared Polis, but as we noted earlier this week in our Big Line 2022 update, Ganahl may be considering a run for Treasurer instead in consideration of Gov. Polis high approval ratings.

And that’s where Ernest Luning of the Colorado Springs Gazette’s political blog picks up the story:

Until recently, pretty much every Republican operative and insider in the state has been describing Ganahl as the candidate most likely to challenge Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, the wealthy tech entrepreneur who served five terms in Congress before being elected governor in 2018 by 10 points.

After a brief scare last year when, as she put it in a recent speech, Ganahl “had to fight through a brain tumor”— which wasn’t cancerous but required surgery — she’s sounding again like she has her eye on higher office, though Republican sources say she’s told them in the last month that she’s considering a run for state treasurer or U.S. Senate instead of governor.

Ganahl wouldn’t be the first Republican to walk and talk like a candidate for office without actually filing to run for office, which obliges the candidate to then comply with campaign finance and reporting laws. In 2017, soon-to-be gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton was criticized for hosting fundraisers for the Colorado GOP’s independent expenditure committee and a SuperPAC to support Stapleton’s campaign as a candidate in all but formality. In Ganahl’s case, however, there appears to be a more basic problem: Heidi Ganahl doesn’t know if she can beat Jared Polis.

There’s little question, as Luning’s story continues, that at least up until recently Ganahl has been fully focused on running for governor:

[D]elivering the keynote at a recent meeting of Jefferson County’s Foothills Republicans in a talk titled “What’s the future for the Republican Party and Colorado?” she took aim at Polis throughout, not even mentioning any other state politicians…

After ticking off some of the restrictions imposed by Polis and local officials during the pandemic, Ganahl unveiled a rhetorical device meant to puncture Polis’ generally high approval ratings.

“Was he paranoid? No, it was worse than that. Paranoid people only limit themselves, but Polis limited all of us. That’s not paranoid, that’s Karen-oid,” she said. “Polis is the king of Karens.” [Pols emphasis]

So first of all, if Ganahl thinks anybody is going to miss her loudly blowing a homophobic dog whistle by emasculating Gov. Polis as “king of the Karens,” she’s mistaken. It’s completely contrary to the tolerant image Ganahl wants to project to swingable voters repelled by Republican culture war red meat. And with the public still solidly in support of Gov. Polis’ handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is just not a message that helps Ganahl outside the “deplorable” Republican base. There’s a lot more we could say about Ganahl’s “Karen” slur against Gov. Polis if we weren’t taking the high road, but we are.

What we will say is this: letting speculation grow about stepping down to a lesser race, as George Brauchler can tell you, is a terrible way to kick off a campaign. If Ganahl can’t beat Polis, she can’t beat Michael Bennet either–and choosing instead to run for a lesser office throws Ganahl’s motivations for that job into question.

What office you want to run for (and why) is definitely something you’re supposed to figure out before you launch your campaign, but for all the aforementioned reasons Ganahl doesn’t appear to have that luxury and the clock is ticking.

So like the gender reveal party you hope doesn’t start a wildfire, we’ll all find out together.

Updating “The Big Line: 2022” and Statewide Colorado Races

The Republican bench in Colorado can fit inside a phone booth, which is a big reason why 2022 has been such a difficult election cycle to predict for the GOP. That doesn’t mean we won’t give it a try.

Last week, Ernest Luning of the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman updated the rumor mill on potential statewide Republican candidates in 2022. That gives us as good of a news peg as any to update “The Big Line: 2022.” Here’s how things look for the five statewide races that will be on the ballot in Colorado…

 

U.S. SENATE

Sen. Michael Bennet

Incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet is the first U.S. Senator from Colorado to even seek a third term in office since Gordon Allott in 1966 (remember to credit Colorado Pols when you get this question right while playing “Obscure Colorado Trivia Pursuit”). Bennet dispatched then-District Attorney Ken Buck in 2010 before lucking out with Darryl Glenn as his Republican opponent in 2016, and the trend toward terrible GOP opponents seems likely to continue. 

A few Republicans have officially filed paperwork to run in 2022, including people named Juli Henry, Peter Yu, and Erik Aadland. Since Donald Trump will be “re-appointed” as President before any of these names are likely to end up in the U.S. Senate, let’s just move along…

Former El Paso County GOP Chairman Eli Bremer indicated his interest in a Senate run back in February (as first reported by Luning); that trial balloon was met with a collective shrug from Republicans, but Bremer hasn’t given up on this dream just yet. Aside from Bremer, two names seem to be popping up more than others for Republicans: Clarice Navarro and Dan Caplis (no, seriously). 

Navarro is a former State Representative from Pueblo who resigned her seat in 2017 to take a job in the Trump administration as the Colorado Farm Service Agency’s state executive director. Navarro currently works as Rep. Lauren “Q*Bert” Boebert’s District Director, which appears to be a fairly irrelevant position. Boebert political advisers like Laura Carno are advising Navarro on making a bid for Senate, and Navarro is taking a close look at running from what we hear.

Caplis is a silly right-wing radio host and ambulance-chasing defense lawyer who has been threatening to run for one office or another for more than a decade. Last fall, Caplis was talking about challenging Gov. Jared Polis in 2022, but he seems to have since changed his focus to the U.S. Senate. Normally we’d just ignore Caplis, but from what we hear, he is actively trying to put together a staff and is willing to front the money for salaries, which is more than can be said for any other potential Republican candidate at this point.

Bottom Line: After Democrat John Hickenlooper’s convincing 2020 Senate win, national Republicans aren’t going to target Bennet in 2022. Whoever emerges as the Republican nominee will have to do most of the work themselves. Bennet is safe here.

 

 

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This Guy for U.S. Senate in 2022

We did not Photoshop this image. This is really what it says on his website.

As Ernest Luning reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman, Republicans at last have a candidate for U.S. Senate to challenge incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) in 2022.

Although (or should we say, Aaaand…) they might want to keep looking for other options.

As Luning explains, some dude named Erik Aadland, who literally just became a registered Republican voter in Colorado a few weeks ago (March 1, 2021, to be exact), is ready to take on Bennet after being trained in the ways of politics by — wait for it — Casper Stockham:

Aadland said he decided to launch a campaign after going through candidate training with America First Republicans, a nonprofit started late last year by perennial GOP congressional nominee Casper Stockham.

“I found America First because I was following Casper on Twitter leading up the 2020 elections and then was somewhat devastated by what transpired in the elections,” Aadland said Monday in an appearance with Stockham on the conservative PJNET Live video podcast.

“I just felt divinely inspired to show up there. Very quickly, he planted a seed that I should run for office,” Aadland said, referring to Stockham, who ran unsuccessfully against U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter last year and lost a bid for state Republican Party chairman in April…

…”I think I’m called by God and it’s been a series of synchronicities and meeting the right people and not making this decision on my own,” he said. [Pols emphasis]

Righto!

[Side Note: Stockham also tried unsuccessfully to run for Congress in CO-01 and CO-06 in recent years, so maybe he’s not the best political mentor.]

Aadland is a West Point graduate who served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and currently lives in Pine, Colorado. According to a bio on his website, Aadland worked in the oil and gas industry until recently. In 2020, he apparently earned a Master’s degree from Pacifica Graduate Institute in Depth Psychology…whatever that means.

And why, you may ask, does Aadland want to run for U.S. Senate? (aside from the fact that there might not be a robust job market in the field of “Depth Psychology”) As Luning reports, Aadland had this to say to the Jefferson County Republican Men’s Club in Wheat Ridge:

“This country is on the brink of being taken over by a communist government and perpetuating their communist agenda. We need to open up our eyes and be very aware of that. That’s what’s happening,” he said.

“The 2020 election, it was rigged. Absolutely rigged.”

Um…alright.

In a normal timeline, this might be disqualifying. But as we wrote earlier this week, Republican candidates for federal office — across the country — believe that speaking up about “The Big Lie” is essentially a requirement if you want to win a Republican Primary in 2022. Heck, 3 in 10 Republicans still believe that Donald Trump is going to magically be reinstated as President in a couple of months.

It’s still hard to imagine that this guy could actually win the Republican Senate nomination in 2022, but stranger things have happened to Sen. Bennet. Like Darryl Glenn, for example.

Time To Admit Moving BLM To Grand Junction Was Wrong?

Ex-Sen. Cory Gardner passionately arguing for the relocation of BLM HQ to Grand Junction in 2019.

Colorado Newsline’s Chase Woodruff follows up on a messy story we’ve been watching in the aftermath of the Trump administration’s four years of plundering management of the federal government–the controversial relocation of the Bureau of Land Management headquarters from Washington, D.C. to Grand Junction, Colorado, sharing an office building with Chevron and other fossil fuel businesses.

That is to say the BLM would be sharing office space with Chevron, if the relocation to Grand Junction had actually happened. After all these years and consternation, the professionals who make up the Bureau have voted resoundingly with their feet:

Ex-BLM employees and public-lands advocates paint a dire picture of what happened to the agency following the relocation, which was announced by Gardner and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a Colorado native and longtime oil lobbyist, in July 2019. It’s a picture that was backed up by figures released by the Interior Department following President Joe Biden’s inauguration in January; out of hundreds of positions affected by the move, Interior officials said, 287 employees chose to resign or retire from the agency, while 41 accepted relocation. The latter number, however, includes employees who relocated to BLM field offices scattered throughout the West as part of a broader reorganization.

The number of employees who relocated to Grand Junction, BLM officials confirmed this week, is three…

“It is a joke,” [former BLM director Bob] Abbey said. “It would be humorous if there weren’t a lot of people whose livelihoods are dependent upon the Bureau of Land Management doing their job. And when that job’s not being performed, at any level of the organization, then it’s a disservice to the public that BLM employees are supposed to be serving.”

Today, the nominee to serve as the first permanent head of the BLM in over four years, Tracy Stone-Manning, is getting her first confirmation hearing in the U.S. Senate. Stone-Manning, like her boss Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, have both criticized the relocation of BLM headquarters to Grand Junction. And as Woodruff reports, the results of the move speak for themselves. Rather than “moving the agency closer to communities they serve,” forcing this unwanted relocation on the Bureau has resulted in the experts being effectively disconnected from political decision making in Washington–which was perfect for the destructive purposes of the Trump administration, but a disaster for the Bureau’s mission to protect public lands.

Up against this emerging consensus, we have local Democrats who are still pushing for the BLM to come to Grand Junction while acknowledging, as Gov. Jared Polis does, that the Trump administration’s policies affecting public lands were “misguided.”

“While the Trump administration’s lack of knowledge of the West framed this initiative for him as one of energy dominance, the opportunity for [President Biden] is to see this initiative as an opportunity for locally driven conservation,” Polis wrote. “Where he seemed to think it would favor extractive industries, I know that Coloradans across our state realize the need to conserve the places we love.”

It’s important to note that the push to relocate the BLM’s headquarters to the West generally and Colorado in particular predated the Trump administration, and that’s where the support for the move among Colorado Democrats originated. Ex-Sen. Cory Gardner’s interest in moving the BLM was much more straightforwardly in line with the Trump administration’s desire to expand fossil fuel production. And at this point, it may be impossible to separate moving the BLM to Grand Junction from the Trump administration’s destructive motives for doing so.

Which means our local boosters might lose this one. In the larger scheme of things, they might need to.

We’ll just say Mt. Garfield isn’t a hill worth dying on.

Joe Manchin Torpedoes For The People Act, Filibuster Reform

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-ish).

CNN reports, and if there’s anything anybody can legally do about it, now’s the time to show us your plan:

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin on Sunday defended his decision to vote against a sweeping voting rights bill and reiterated his opposition to gutting the filibuster, declaring in the strongest terms yet that he is not willing to change Senate rules to help his party push through much of President Joe Biden’s agenda.

“I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act. Furthermore, I will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster,” Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia, wrote in an op-ed published in the Charleston Gazette.

Manchin’s opposition to changing filibuster rules stands as a major roadblock to Biden’s legislative priorities, as current rules allow Republicans to hold up many of the progressive bills the administration supports, including infrastructure spending, federal voting legislation and climate change legislation.

Sen. John Hickenlooper plays the banjo in support of the For The People Act.

From Sen. Joe Manchin’s column in the Charleston Gazette, which Democrats coast to coast are either seething over or in denial of this Sunday morning:

Democrats in Congress have proposed a sweeping election reform bill called the For the People Act. This more than 800-page bill has garnered zero Republican support. Why? Are the very Republican senators who voted to impeach Trump because of actions that led to an attack on our democracy unwilling to support actions to strengthen our democracy? Are these same senators, whom many in my party applauded for their courage, now threats to the very democracy we seek to protect?

The truth, I would argue, is that voting and election reform that is done in a partisan manner will all but ensure partisan divisions continue to deepen.

With that in mind, some Democrats have again proposed eliminating the Senate filibuster rule in order to pass the For the People Act with only Democratic support. They’ve attempted to demonize the filibuster and conveniently ignore how it has been critical to protecting the rights of Democrats in the past.

With no margin to overcome Sen. Manchin’s dissent, the Democratic agenda in the U.S. Senate could now be effectively stalled. Manchin says the alternative to doing away with the filibuster will be “frustrating and slow,” and “will force compromises that are not always ideal.” The problem here is that Manchin assumes there will be any compromise from Republicans who now thanks to Joe Manchin have no incentive to do so. Their obstruction of Biden’s agenda, which is the sole political objective of Republicans between now and the 2022 midterms, has just been fully enabled.

As for coming out against the For The People Act beyond merely opposing ending the filibuster in order to pass it, Manchin says “voting and election reform that is done in a partisan manner will all but ensure partisan divisions continue to deepen.” But that’s exactly what Republicans are doing with their wave of vote suppression legislation being run by Republicans in state houses across the country. The For The People Act would put a stop to vote suppression in the name of Donald Trump’s “Big Lie,” which is the far greater offense than anything in the For The People Act to protect voting rights. Manchin is not just wrong, he’s wrong at the worst possible moment for American democracy.

In the meantime, the one thing we don’t want to see is misguided attacks on Colorado’s Democratic U.S. Senators over Joe Manchin’s intransigence. Sen. Michael Bennet has been very strong in 2021 about not letting the arcane rules of the U.S. Senate forestall necessary legislation. Sen. John Hickenlooper is a major, if not perfect-pitched proponent of the For The People Act. There’s always a temptation to rage indiscriminately at our own when frustrating political news hits, but there’s just nothing to indicate today that either of Colorado’s Senators are part of the problem.

The best hope now is that when that fabled Republican “compromise” fails to manifest, perhaps Manchin will see reason. If Democrats want to achieve anything beyond throwing money at problems via the budget reconciliation process before the midterms, he’ll need to.

Republican Claims of Gerrymandering Ring Hollow in Colorado

If you can’t beat ‘em, cheat ‘em! This is the Republican motto for the 2022 election, born out of “The Big Lie” that all good little Republican boys and girls are expected to endorse in order to avoid the wrath of Donald Trump and get around having to admit that the GOP lost both the White House and the U.S. Senate in 2020. 

Confronting your failures and assessing your shortcomings is an uncomfortable undertaking. Expanding your outreach to appeal to a broader swath of voters is difficult work. Adjusting policy positions to appeal to said voters requires engaging in arduous conversations. Preventing far-right candidates from winning Republican Primary Elections, and becoming liabilities in a General Election, demands a lot of organizing and planning. 

Republicans could reject Trumpism and try to understand what Americans actually want, but they seem to have come to the conclusion that it is easier and more comfortable to change the rules than to alter the way they play the game. 

“There is a very real probability that 2018 will be known as the election when it became apparent that the Republican Party no longer has the voter registration numbers to be competitive in Colorado.”

 — Post-2018 election memo from Republican polling firm Magellan Strategies

This is why Republicans are instead focused on trying to make it harder for people to vote in 2022. It’s working in states like Georgia and Texas, but not in Colorado. So the next step in our state is for the GOP to construct a different boogeyman: Gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering is a very real and very legitimate issue in American politics. As The New York Times examined in 2019, gerrymandering is particularly egregious in some pockets of the United States:

Currently, rigged maps tend to be most prevalent, and most tilted, in states under Republican control. That is in part because Republicans did exceptionally well in the 2010 elections, giving the party far wider control of state legislatures, which oversaw redistricting after the 2010 census. The national Republican Party had poured money and expertise into state legislative races with the specific aim of gaining control over redistricting; the Democratic Party had not.

Many political scientists consider the House maps in Republican-controlled states like North Carolina, Michigan, Ohio and Texas to have the most pronounced partisan slants. (Pennsylvania was also on the list until its map was redrawn last year.) Among Democratic-held states, Maryland, Illinois and — to some observers — California are regarded as the most tilted. Illinois is especially notable for its “pizza slice” division of metropolitan Chicago, using generous helpings of urban Democrats to offset the heavily Republican suburbs in district after district.

In Colorado, gerrymandering has not been nearly as big of a problem…unless you listen to a small but loud cadre of Republicans who are desperately trying to build a false narrative to convince members of Colorado’s Independent Redistricting Commissions that new district lines must be particularly helpful for the GOP in order to make up for the fact that they can no longer figure out how to win elections.

 

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Get More Smarter on Not Tax Day (April 15)

For most people, tax day this year is on May 17th. Let’s Get More Smarter; if you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of an audio learner, check out The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

CORONAVIRUS INFO…

*Colorado Coronavirus info:
CDPHE Coronavirus website 

*Daily Coronavirus numbers in Colorado:
http://covid19.colorado.gov

*How you can help in Colorado:
COVRN.com

*Locate a COVID-19 testing site in Colorado:
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment 

 

The defense rested its case in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is accused of murder in the May 2020 killing of George Floyd. As The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:

Derek Chauvin said in court Thursday that he will not testify in his murder trial shortly before the defense said it has completed its case.

“I will invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege” to not risk making any self-incriminating statements in Hennepin County District Court, where the fired Minneapolis police officer is charged with killing George Floyd late last spring in Minneapolis…

…Chauvin’s declaration came during a series of questions from his attorney, Eric Nelson, and outside the presence of the jury.

Nelson and Chauvin were seated at the defense table as the defendant held a cordless microphone and had his voice heard for the first time on the record during the trial.

Closing arguments in the Chauvin trial could begin as soon as Monday.

 

► You don’t need us to tell you that red states and blue states are very different. But as The Associated Press reports, one significant difference is bad for your health:

With coronavirus shots now in the arms of nearly half of American adults, the parts of the U.S. that are excelling and those that are struggling with vaccinations are starting to look like the nation’s political map: deeply divided between red and blue states.

Out in front is New Hampshire, where 65% of the population age 18 and older has received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Following close behind are New Mexico, Connecticut, Maine and Massachusetts at 55% or greater. All have a history of voting Democratic and supported President Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

Meanwhile, at the bottom are five states where fewer than 40% have rolled up their sleeves for a shot. Four of them — Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Tennessee — lean Republican and voted for Donald Trump last fall. The fifth is Georgia, which has a Republican governor and supported GOP presidential candidates for nearly three decades before narrowly backing Biden.

 

The Douglas County Board of Commissioners are not doctors, but they are pretending to know more about the COVID-19 pandemic than the so-called “experts.” That’s not good news for the rest of us, which is why others are speaking out.

 

Let’s check in on state legislative news:

The State House of Representatives gave preliminary approval to the new state budget proposal.

Fox 31 News reports on opposition to proposed legislation seeking to reduce Colorado’s jail population.

Colorado lawmakers are freezing tuition rates at community colleges.

The Associated Press reports on legislative efforts to improve maternal care for minority women.

Lawmakers are considering legislation to improve health benefits for legislative aides.

The State Senate approved legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to receive professional licenses in Colorado.

 

More political (and coronavirus) news is available right after the jump…

 

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (March 24)

With any luck, you will not be traded to Cleveland today. Let’s Get More Smarter; if you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of an audio learner, check out The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

CORONAVIRUS INFO…

*Colorado Coronavirus info:
CDPHE Coronavirus website 

*Daily Coronavirus numbers in Colorado:
http://covid19.colorado.gov

*How you can help in Colorado:
COVRN.com

*Locate a COVID-19 testing site in Colorado:
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment 

 

► President Biden called on Congress to re-enact an Assault Weapons Ban after mass shootings in Georgia and Boulder, Colorado. But as The Associated Press reports, Republicans are already digging in:

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed Tuesday morning to bring to the Senate floor legislation passed by the House that would require background checks for most gun sales and transfers. He said the Senate “must confront a devastating truth” after a lack of congressional action on the issue for almost three decades.

“This Senate will be different,” said Schumer, D-N.Y., a day after a shooting at a crowded Boulder, Colorado, supermarket, killed 10 people, including a police officer. “The Senate is going to debate and address the epidemic of gun violence in this country.”…

…Many in the GOP base are still strongly opposed to gun control of any kind. In Tuesday’s hearing, which was scheduled before the Colorado shooting, Republicans showed no signs of wavering. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said that every time there is a shooting, the Senate engages in “ridiculous theater,” with Democrats proposing laws that he said could take guns away from law-abiding citizens. Republicans have argued that background checks would not stop most mass shootings and would prevent some lawful gun owners from purchasing firearms.

“We already know this pattern is predictable, over and over and over again,” Cruz said.

That might not be the argument you think it is, Sen. Cruz. It’s also worth noting that some right-wing media outlets are voicing agreement on banning “weapons of war.”

Elsewhere, Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Boulder) has been making appearances on a lot of national television shows, including CBS This Morning. “It does not have to be this way,” said Neguse.

Governor Jared Polis has ordered flags in Colorado to be flown at half-staff for 10 days to honor the victims of the Boulder shooting.

 

► While it may seem that 2020 had fewer gun deaths owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, as The Washington Post reports, 2020 was actually a record year for gun violence. Westword looks at how the National Rifle Association (NRA) helped pave the way for mass shootings.

 

► State lawmakers are discussing potential gun safety measures in response to Monday’s shooting in Boulder. As Alex Burness reports for The Denver Post:

The state senator who represents the district where the tragedy occurred said he’s drafting a bill to restore cities’ ability to enact gun restrictions above and beyond the state’s laws.

The shooting came just days after a district court judge in Boulder ruled that the city does not have the legal authority to enforce its 2018 citywide ban on assault-style weapons and magazines with a capacity to accept 10 or more rounds. The judge cited a 2003 state law that preempts local gun restrictions.

Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, of Boulder, said that lawmakers in the Democrat-controlled Statehouse had lightly discussed repealing that 2003 law over the past week, but the talks accelerated among legislative leaders “only in the last 18 hours.”

Colorado Public Radio has more on the push from legislators to move quickly on gun safety discussions.

 

► Let’s catch up on more news from the Colorado legislature:

Lawmakers are trying to figure out if they can legally do more to increase property tax revenues for public education.

Governor Jared Polis and state lawmakers will soon embark on a “Build Back Stronger” tour.

The House Judiciary Committee advanced legislation that seeks to give victims of sexual abuse more time to consider legal action against perpetrators.

Senate President Leroy Garcia’s bill to create a veteran suicide prevention pilot program made it through a committee hearing.

 

► Don’t miss this bonus episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast, featuring an interview with Senator John Hickenlooper (D-Denver) in which he refers to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as a “schlub”:

 

 

More political (and coronavirus) news is available right after the jump…

 

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Get More Smarter on Monday (March 22)

RIP to your March Madness bracket. Let’s Get More Smarter; if you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of an audio learner, check out The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

CORONAVIRUS INFO…

*Colorado Coronavirus info:
CDPHE Coronavirus website 

*Daily Coronavirus numbers in Colorado:
http://covid19.colorado.gov

*How you can help in Colorado:
COVRN.com

*Locate a COVID-19 testing site in Colorado:
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment 

 

Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) takes center stage in a Washington Post story detailing a significant anti-child poverty program included in the American Rescue Plan:

Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) tapped out the longest text messages he’d ever written one night in January, urging Susan Rice, a top Biden aide and a friend, to include a full-scale anti-child poverty measure in the coronavirus rescue plan to be unveiled within days…

…An unlikely coalition of Democrats across the ideological spectrum mounted an 11th-hour push in the final weekend before the American Rescue Plan for President Biden to go big on tackling child poverty. They prevailed over what one person involved in the process called the “cost police” in Biden’s inner circle, those anxiously warning about the ballooning cost of the stimulus package.

This under-the-radar success created what could be the most consequential piece of the $1.9 trillion package — one that, if made permanent, could approach the impact of the programs established under President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty…

…The program’s impact probably will be profound. It expands the federal child-rearing subsidy by 50 percent — and parents of toddlers will get even more. A family with two young children and no income will now get $600 a month. The parents of 90 percent of the country’s children will benefit, and 27 million children will be lifted from poverty, according to analysts.

 

► Governor Jared Polis plans to lift the statewide mask mandate on April 4. From The Denver Post:

Colorado will further relax the COVID-19 restrictions managed through the state’s color-coded dial next week, with plans to ease the statewide mask order in two weeks, then turn over control of most public health orders to local governments in mid-April.

The proposed changes to the dial include reopening bars in most parts of the state for the first time since last summer and lifting all statewide limits on the size of personal gatherings.

While this is all good news regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, as The Washington Post reports, COVID-19 infections are trending in the wrong direction nationally:

New coronavirus infections are rising in several U.S. states, despite record vaccinations — an increase experts attribute to the growing reach of new variants and widespread pandemic fatigue after a year of public health restrictions. The seven-day average of newly reported cases climbed 2.6 percent on Sunday, even as overall hospitalizations and deaths remain down.

In Florida, a state where coronavirus measures are lax, authorities in Miami Beach declared a state of emergency and imposed a nighttime curfew this weekend as large crowds of rowdy spring break revelers turned violent and disruptive.

 

► Now, let’s catch up on more news from the Colorado legislature:

Alex Burness of The Denver Post reports on what lawmakers are considering for new law enforcement reforms. The legislature is also looking at changing sentencing guidelines in Colorado so that people who did not commit murder can’t end up serving life in prison for something they didn’t do.

Denver7 breaks down the proposals laid out for efforts to fix Colorado’s crumbling transportation infrastructure.

Colorado Newsline reports on an affordable housing measure that has been years in the making.

Colorado Public Radio elaborates on how and why Colorado’s budget looks better than expected.

Governor Jared Polis signed a bill into law that directs more resources toward state parks and wildlife preservation efforts. Polis also approved legislation directing $30 million in grants to help improve “main streets” in Colorado.

The Associated Press considers whether Colorado may be able to do more on waiting periods for gun purchases. Westword has more on the good and bad news about ongoing efforts to promote gun safety.

Marshall Zelinger of 9News looks at the behind-the-scenes work done at the State Capitol in a story that includes the lede of the week: “Conjunction junction is their function.”

 

John Aguilar of The Denver Post looks at how local governments plan on using their share of billions of stimulus dollars on the way as a result of the American Rescue Plan:

Lakewood Mayor Adam Paul said the city will likely put the $22.6 million allocated to Lakewood toward a budget that lost $18 million last year.

“This is triage,” Paul said. “There is no pork in this for us. I see it as backfill to what we lost.”

Since the city eliminated the sales tax on groceries more than a decade ago, Paul said Lakewood didn’t have the revenue cushion others had when people flooded grocery stores to stock pantries. He said 70 positions remain vacant on Lakewood’s payroll, a result of pandemic-pinched spending by the city.

“We have to use (the Rescue Act money) for the right here, right now,” Paul said.

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel considers a similar story from a Western slope perspective.

 

More political (and coronavirus) news is available right after the jump…

 

(more…)

Sen. Bennet Sounds Ready To Ditch The Filibuster

Sen. Michael Bennet (D).

CBS News reports today on building urgency in the narrowly Democratic United States Senate to do something to break the logjam of 60 votes required to push through crucial Democratic agenda items before the 2022 midterm elections:

“It will be Armageddon,” Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley told CBS News when asked whether Democrats will suffer in the midterms if they don’t enact filibuster reforms. “Our base will be so dispirited, so angry, so disaffected. They will stay home. And I understand why they will stay home if we failed them.”

Merkley has long been pushing for filibuster changes, and introduced the “talking filibuster” which would require senators to actually hold the floor to hold up legislation rather than the current practice of phoning it in. In an interview with ABC News, Mr. Biden said he supported that kind of reform, which reminded him of how the upper chamber operated in his early days as a senator. Now, he said, “It’s getting to the point where, you know, democracy is having a hard time functioning.”

…[A]dvocates note that Republicans haven’t yet filibustered legislation, such as the COVID relief bill, which was passed on party lines through a reconciliation process that only requires majority support. Once the opposition begins in earnest to agenda items like voting rights, climate, immigration and other Democratic priorities, the calls from the base of the party to change the upper chamber’s rules will only grow louder.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-ish).

As CNN reports and everyone following this developing situation knows, “Pretendocrat” Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia holds all the cards as the deciding vote on any changes to the filibuster, and is as of now drawing a hard line against the most ambitious reforms in the spirit of his predecessor Sen. Robert Byrd:

Manchin says he’s protecting the rights of the minority, something he says Democrats will need whenever Republicans regain control of the chamber.

Manchin is open to some changes — such as requiring senators to stand on the floor and actually argue, a position Biden just adopted. Such a change to require a “talking filibuster” would amount to a departure from the silent filibuster permitted under current rules, which allow a simple threat to force the Senate into time-consuming procedural steps and a 60-vote threshold they must clear to advance bills.

But Manchin again made clear he is drawing a firm line: The 60-vote threshold will stay, and no exceptions will be allowed.

It remains to be seen whether this will remain a tenable position for Manchin and others considered reluctant to embrace the full “nuclear option” of eliminating the legislative filibuster as pressure to pass legislation send over from the U.S. House builds–an as-yet untested coalition that includes other moderates like Sens. Krysten Sinema of Arizona, Jon Tester of Montana, and (yes) Sen. John Hickenlooper of Colorado. But in today’s Unaffiliated newsletter from the Colorado Sun, Colorado’s senior Sen. Michael Bennet is signaling a willingness to do what it takes:

“I hope we get to a place where at a minimum we can figure out how to bring back the talking filibuster,” said Bennet, referencing a proposal rule to make senators speak on the chamber floor while they are trying to block a bill.

But if Republicans dig in their heels? “We may end up with obstruction that is too intense. We may end up having to reform it in some other way,” said Bennet, who spoke at a Colorado Sun event on Thursday. [Pols emphasis]

What happens next in part depends on how Senate Republicans choose to deal with the increasing backlog of important legislation coming over from the House. The more Mitch McConnell accedes to the majority’s will voluntarily, the less likely it becomes that the “nuclear option” will be necessary. At the same time, Democrats are rightly wary of false concessions from Republicans that weaken their legislative agenda and may not result in GOP support even if adopted (see: Affordable Care Act, American Rescue Plan).

What we can say, and it’s a good thing for those of you who want real progress made in these two vanishing years of full Democratic control in Washington, is that Michael Bennet is tired of playing by rules that only benefit one side–like he was in 2013, when he voted to end the filibuster of most presidential nominees to forestall obstruction of Barack Obama’s second term. And as the pressure builds to get the legislation passed by the House to Joe Biden’s desk, Bennet is today where the base will expect all Democrats to be soon.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (March 18)

Happy Oil Expropriation Day! Please celebrate responsibly. Let’s Get More Smarter; if you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of an audio learner, check out The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

CORONAVIRUS INFO…

*Colorado Coronavirus info:
CDPHE Coronavirus website 

*Daily Coronavirus numbers in Colorado:
http://covid19.colorado.gov

*How you can help in Colorado:
COVRN.com

*Locate a COVID-19 testing site in Colorado:
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment 

 

As CNN reports, the United States could be facing a new surge of COVID-19 infections:

Health officials have repeatedly warned about a potential fourth surge as state leaders eased restrictions and several lifted mask mandates. The first warning sign came when case numbers, after weeks of steep declines, appeared to level off — with the country still averaging tens of thousands of new cases daily. That kind of plateau previously predicted surges, some experts have said.

Cases of the worrying variants — notably the highly contagious B.1.1.7 variant — have also climbed and are set to become the dominant strain by the end of March or early April…

…Now, as the country inches closer to 30 million reported infections, cases are rising by more than 10% in 14 states this week compared to last week, according to Johns Hopkins University data — with half of those states seeing a rise of more than 20%.

Wear your masks and get your shots, people!

 

► All three Republican members of Colorado’s Congressional delegation — Reps. Lauren Boebert, Ken Buck, and Doug Lambornvoted AGAINST reauthorization of the “Violence Against Women Act.” Arizona Republican Rep. Andy Biggs has some nutty thoughts on his opposition to the bill.

 

POLITICO magazine tackles a question that we have been openly pondering in this space for weeks:

Via POLITICO magazine (3/18/21)

 

Democrats are relentlessly hyping President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, while Republicans are trying to change the subject to Dr. Seuss, Mr. Potato Head and the Mexican border. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, arguably the shrewdest Republican strategist in Washington, has started floating a half-hearted anti-stimulus message that the coming recovery would have happened anyway…

…It may be an overstated political cliché that if you’re explaining, you’re losing. But you’re almost certainly losing if you’re explaining, ahead of time, why the economic boom you’re expecting on your opponent’s watch shouldn’t be attributed to your opponent. One lesson of the volatility of the past dozen years is that fairly or not, the president’s party tends to get the credit or blame for the economy—or at least for the way people perceive the economy. Biden is visiting swing states this week to sell American Rescue Plan’s focus on giving Americans vaccines and money, but with economists across the ideological spectrum forecasting explosive growth, many veterans of the 2009 stimulus wars believe the economy will be all the sales pitch the bill needs.

Elsewhere, Vox.com examines efforts by Republican Attorneys General to sue the federal government for giving money to local and state governments.

 

► Let’s get you caught up on the Colorado legislature…

Lawmakers are working on a couple of bills intended to help protect immigrants from being arrested over civil immigration violations.

The Associated Press reports on the status of legislation that would grant a minimum wage and overtime rights to thousands of farm workers in Colorado. 9News also reports on Senate Bill 87.

As the Fort Collins Coloradoan reports, it is now up to the U.S. Department of Education to determine how many restrictions can be granted this year on standardized tests in Colorado.

CBS4 Denver reports on efforts to reduce the cost of prescription drugs in Colorado.

Colorado Newsline reports on legislative efforts to balance the scales between landlords and tenants. The Colorado Sun has more on a proposal to make it easier for municipalities to require the construction of more affordable housing.

9News reports on an idiotic piece of legislation sponsored by House Minority Leader Hugh McKean that carried a $2.7 BILLION price tag.

Efforts to build a fence around parts of the State Capitol have not been well-received.

 

More political (and coronavirus) news is available right after the jump…

 

(more…)

Bennet, Hickenlooper Co-Sponsor “For the People Act”

Sens. Michael Bennet, John Hickenlooper.

Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper have signed on to co-sponsor the “For the People Act,” the election reform bill introduced today that is a companion to H.R. 1, which passed the House of Representatives on March 3.

As CNBC reports:

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said “everything is on the table” to pass a comprehensive voting reform bill, the For the People Act, during a press conference introducing the legislation Wednesday.

“We will see if our Republican friends join us. If they don’t join us, our caucus will come together and decide the appropriate action to take,” Schumer said. “Failure is not an option.”

The legislation, also known as S.1, includes provisions that aim to make it easier to register and vote, prevent gerrymandering, improve election cybersecurity and reform campaign finance, among other initiatives.

The bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate, where it would require a minimum of 10 Republican votes to defeat a filibuster and move to a final vote on passage.

Click here for a section-by-section breakdown of S.1, the “For the People Act.”

Whither Grand Junction, BLM?

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Dennis Webb reports, Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate to be the next Secretary of the Interior, elevating a 35th generation Pueblo Native American to the highest authority over the nation’s land use policies short of the President himself. It’s an historic moment.

A big backlog of thorny issues awaits Haaland as she settles into this crucially important leadership role over the American West, not least the fate of the highly controversial move of the Bureau of Land Management (known since 2020 as the “other BLM”) from its former headquarters in Washington, D.C. to Grand Junction, Colorado during the previous administration:

Haaland…previously has criticized the Trump administration’s relocation of the BLM’s headquarters from Washington to Grand Junction. The agency moved 41 largely top-level jobs to the city, and many more from Washington to other locations in the West. Hickenlooper and Bennet support having what they call a fully functioning headquarters in Grand Junction but say the Trump administration didn’t follow through on its commitment to the city by moving only 41 jobs there.

Haaland said during her confirmation hearing that she would keep an open dialogue with western senators on the issue and accepted Hickenlooper’s invitation to visit the new headquarters if confirmed. She said it will be important to look at the headquarters issue while first considering the well-being of the career staff there.

Outside the new BLM HQ building in Grand Junction, shared with various oil companies.

It’s necessary to be honest about this: the issue of the BLM headquarters’ move to Grand Junction has split Colorado’s top Democratic elected officials from many of their colleagues, as well as the bulk of the environmental advocacy community. Environmental groups including local advocacy organizations like the Center for Western Priorities have been clear from the beginning that this move was a terrible idea taking place for all the wrong reasons:

Aaron Weiss, deputy director of the Center for Western Priorities, described the move in blunt terms.

“This headquarters move has just been a total failure,” Weiss said.

Some people would argue that trimming government is not necessarily a bad thing, and supporters of the move have argued that BLM employees unwilling to relocate closer to the lands they manage weren’t a good fit for the agency anyway. But for Weiss, the numbers confirmed his worst fears about the Trump administration’s real motivation.

“The headquarters move was not a move. It was simply an evisceration of the agency,” Weiss said. [Pols emphasis]

In a January statement, Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper reiterated their support for the agency’s move to Grand Junction under President Joe Biden, while making the case that the Trump administration had executed it poorly:

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The GMS Podcast: Saying No to Boebert’s No to Our Noes

This week on The Get More Smarter Podcast, hosts Jason Bane and Ian Silverii review the wacky CPAC weekend — including Rep. Lauren “Q*Bert” Boebert’s incomprehensible rhetoric — and break down the opening week(s) of the 2021 Colorado legislative session.

Catch up on previous episodes of The Get More Smarter Podcast at GetMoreSmarter.com.

Questions? Comments? Complaints? Hit us up at AngryRants@getmoresmarter.com.

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn

What History Will Record In The End (Hopefully)

Sens. Michael Bennet, John Hickenlooper.

It didn’t get much press–and that’s a thing we need to talk about–but last week, Colorado’s Democratic U.S. Senators John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet announced they are signing on as sponsors of the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021: the first legitimate attempt at a comprehensive immigration reform package since 2013’s Gang of Eight negotiations (which also included Sen. Bennet) led to the passage out of the Senate before dying in the GOP-controlled House:

U.S. Senators John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet today joined over twenty of their Senate colleagues and dozens of members of the House of Representatives to introduce the bicameral U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021. The comprehensive immigration reform bill is modeled after President Biden’s bold, inclusive, and humane framework for the future of the United States immigration system.

The legislation would provide millions of hardworking, undocumented immigrants with a pathway to citizenship, including Dreamers, Temporary Protective Status (TPS) recipients, and essential workers who have made enormous sacrifices during the pandemic; prioritize family reunification and keeping families together; and bolster the country’s long-term economic growth. The bill would also equip the country to responsibly and effectively manage the border with smart and effective investments, address root causes of migration that force people to leave Central America, and restore the United States’ commitment to human rights.

“For decades our broken immigration system has stifled our economy, undermined our security, and violated our country’s proud heritage as a nation of immigrants. We’ve seen this failed system play out in particularly horrific fashion over the last four years as families were ripped apart and children were housed in cages,” said Hickenlooper. “Today’s bill represents a comprehensive approach to tackling this challenge once and for all, including a much-needed, fair path to citizenship along with smart investments to effectively and responsibly manage our borders. It signals a new day in aligning our national values with our immigration policy.”

If passed into law, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 would go considerably beyond the failed 2013 immigration reform bill by providing a three-year path to citizenship for green card holders, immediate green cards for “DREAMers,” and temporary legal status for undocumented immigrants already in the country with good records. It keeps families together in the U.S. during immigration proceedings, and clears visa backlogs for students and needed workers. It funds citizenship and English language instruction. And yes, it has money for border security as well–the smart kind, not the dumb wall-based variety.

But as we said at the beginning, buzz about this new ambitious proposal has been surprisingly lacking here in Colorado despite the active participation of both of the state’s U.S. Senators. One reason for this may be that finding the Republican Senators necessary to go along with any comprehensive immigration reform package is going to be difficult–likely more so than in 2013. In 2013, 14 Republicans joined with unanimous Senate Democrats to pass the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act by a lopsided 68-32 margin. If the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 gets to President Joe Biden’s desk, it’s almost certain to do so with less Republican crossover support simply due to the rightward drift of that party in the meantime.

Another reason we unfortunately suspect Sens. Bennet and Hickenlooper are not getting the credit they deserve for being part of this campaign, however, is local intra-Democratic politics. After Hickenlooper’s easy primary victory in 2020 and perhaps in anticipation of an underdog primary challenge against Bennet in 2022, there seems to be some reluctance to acknowledge politically positive developments involving our two Senators when they occur–and a great deal of focus on miscues that, while deserving of criticism, are just not of the same magnitude as the good they’re trying to do.

That’s a mistake. And in the event Bennet and Hickenlooper do get comprehensive immigration reform passed after all these years of trying, they’ll have both thanks and a few apologies coming.

Senate Republicans Acquit Trump for Second Time

UPDATE: Statement from impeachment manager Rep. Diana DeGette on today’s decision:

“Our case was strong, the facts were clear and the evidence we presented was overwhelming. This was the largest bipartisan vote to impeach a president ever, and even Mitch McConnell agreed that we proved our case. It’s shameful that so many Senate Republicans chose to hide behind a faulty technicality instead of considering the facts as we had laid them out.

“President Trump incited a violent insurrection against our government. He used his platform as the president of the United States to launch a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol building to try to stop Congress from certifying the election for his opponent. It was the highest of high crimes. It was the greatest betrayal of office. And it was the most brazen attack on our own government by a sitting U.S. president that our nation has ever seen.

“Our goal in pursuing a conviction against Donald Trump for his conduct was not to punish him, but to prevent the type of violence that took place that day from ever happening again. While we didn’t get the conviction we ultimately sought, I believe we made our case to the American people. And that’s just as important because, at the end of the day, they are now the ones who will ultimately decide whether Donald Trump is ever allowed to hold public office again.”

—–

Twice impeached, twice acquitted by Senate Republicans

As The Washington Post reports:

Senate Republicans voted against convicting Donald Trump Saturday for inciting his supporters to storm the Capitol Jan. 6, bringing a swift end to the former president’s second impeachment trial after Democrats abandoned plans to call witnesses in the face of GOP opposition.

Seven Republicans joined Democrats in a 57-43 vote in favor of conviction, falling short of the two-thirds majority needed to convict Trump in the Senate. Sens. Richard Burr (N.C.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Mitt Romney (Utah), Ben Sasse (Neb.) and Patrick Toomey (Pa.) were the Republicans who voted with Democrats.

There was never much of a question about whether Senate Republicans would vote to acquit former President Trump on impeachment charges for inciting an insurrection. There were enough Trump lackeys in the Senate who had made up their minds on impeachment well before the trial even began; that includes Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who advised Trump’s legal team on strategy and said on his podcast Friday that he told Trump’s team that they had “already won.”

As the Post reports, the vote to acquit Trump came after the Senate voted to allow witness testimony to take place in the impeachment trial:

The drama earlier Saturday began when lead House impeachment manager Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) opened the day’s proceedings with an unexpected request to call Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) as a witness following reports of her account that Trump had refused the entreaties of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to call off the rioters.

Herrera Beutler described an expletive-laden phone call in which Trump falsely claimed that the rioters were members of antifa, the loose-knit movement of sometimes violent liberal activists. He also accused McCarthy of caring less about Trump’s efforts to overturn Biden’s victory than the rioters did.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) had told Democrats earlier Saturday that the decision about witnesses would be left to the House managers. So after Raskin’s request, the chamber voted 55-45 to allow witnesses, with five Republicans joining Democrats and with the chamber sliding into uncertainty as groups of senators huddled for hours to figure out what would come next.

Despite the vote, Senate Democrats remained cool to the idea of calling witnesses and extending the impeachment trial, believing that no amount of evidence was going to dissuade Trump backers from sticking with the former President. House impeachment managers ultimately agreed and allowed the proceedings to come to a close with a final vote.

McConnell can talk himself blue in the face, but that won’t excuse another acquittal.

Senate Republicans will now try to explain their decision to let Trump skate while many also acknowledge the damage caused by The Big Orange Guy. As The Washington Post reports in a separate story, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell rushed to the microphone to make an ass out of himself soon after casting a vote to acquit Trump:

McConnell said Saturday that the former president is “practically and morally responsible” for provoking the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol — but that the Senate was upholding the Constitution by acquitting him.

“The Senate’s decision today does not condone anything that happened on or before that terrible day,” McConnell said. “It simply shows that senators did what the former president failed to do: We put our constitutional duty first.”…

…McConnell spent much of his remarks condemning Trump’s actions and directly linking them to the Jan. 6 insurrection. The former president’s supporters, he argued, launched their violent attack “because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth, because he was angry he lost an election.”

That’s some pretty remarkable cowardice right there.

On a more positive note, Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Boulderish) put an exclamation point on a week that saw his national profile increase considerably. Neguse’s final speech urging the Senate to convict Trump on inciting an insurrection featured a number of powerful lines that will be repeated for a long time:

LIVE: Colorado Election Night 2020

UPDATE: Colorado called for Joe Biden and John Hickenlooper by national outlets at 7:01pm.

Welcome to blue statehood.

—–

Wondering where to watch tonight’s election returns? Well, wonder no more!

Your friends from “The Get More Smarter Podcast” will be LIVE tonight for an Election Night Extravaganza. Special guests will be dropping by throughout the evening to discuss 2020 election results in real time. We’ll kick things off at 6:30 pm on Facebook and Periscope. Check us out on YouTube or CLICK HERE FOR THE FACEBOOK LINK.

Bennet Taps Brakes On Cabinet Speculation

Sen. Michael Bennet (D).

As the Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter reports:

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet said Monday that he doesn’t want to be education secretary — a job he was considered for under the last Democratic president — if Joe Biden is elected president this week.

In an interview, the Denver Democrat and former superintendent of Denver Public Schools said “no” when asked if he was interested in the job, which former President Barack Obama considered nominating him for after the 2008 election…

“My plan is to run for reelection to the Senate, and that’s what I’m going to do,” Bennet said.

We took note in October that Sen. Bernie Sanders was floating interest in serving as Labor Secretary in a Joe Biden White House, which naturally provoked a round of speculation about the suitability of Colorado lawmakers like Sen. Michael Bennet to be called up for administration jobs. There’s a bench full of qualified Democrats ready to take over in the event Bennet or other local officials do get the call, but we can also understand Bennet wanting to remain in the U.S. Senate for a longer period than he would likely serve in the Cabinet by seeking what should be comfortable re-election in 2022.

With that said, like soon-to-be Sen. John Hickenlooper can tell you, people change their minds. After a decade in the Senate, Education Secretary isn’t the only job Bennet would be qualified to fill.

Labor Secretary Bernie Sanders, Anyone?

Courtesy Bernie Sanders’ Dank Meme Stash.

Politico reports, the jockeying for position in a Joe Biden administration’s Cabinet is already underway, with a big name showing interest in a big job:

Sen. Bernie Sanders is hoping to be a part of Joe Biden’s potential administration and has expressed a particular interest in becoming Labor secretary, two people familiar with the conversations tell POLITICO.

“I can confirm he’s trying to figure out how to land that role or something like it,” said one person close to the Vermont senator. “He, personally, does have an interest in it.”

…Former Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir said Sanders has not talked directly with anyone on the Biden campaign about a future role, but plans to push Biden, his former Senate colleague, to “include progressive voices” in both the transition and in a potential new administration.

Labor Secretary seems like a good capstone for Bernie Sanders’ career after two well-fought presidential bids and a lifetime of fighting for the working class. Sanders’ reported interest in a Cabinet position is the first of what will become its own wave of interest and speculation over who will be tapped to serve in the likely event of Biden winning the presidency. In 2009 Barack Obama called up Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado to serve as Secretary of the Interior, creating the vacancy filled by Sen. Michael Bennet–now another sitting U.S. Senator with short-list Cabinet potential.

Don’t jinx Election Day by speculating too much, but the next generation of political turnover/advancement is just over the horizon. Colorado has plenty of talent to contribute to a Biden administration, and Colorado Democrats have a deep bench ready to move up.

Cory Gardner Can’t Hide Behind Michael Bennet, Either

A new ad from Sen. Cory Gardner’s sputtering re-election campaign has no need for its full thirty second run time, since the first two seconds convey the whole message:

Using a photo of your counterpart from the opposing party is a bold gambit, like Gardner does with Sen. Michael Bennet above, and Gardner goes even farther–citing a quote from his opponent John Hickenlooper at some point in the past saying something favorable about. Presumably there’s return service of their mutual affection somewhere in the record of them both serving in office over the past decade, but that’s not what this ad is about.

In a state which has shed most of its remaining “purplish” image over the past two elections, evolving into something much closer to a Democratic-dominant blue state, Gardner trying to appeal to voters by noting the past approval of Democrats including his own opponent makes a kind of contrived sense. It’s a little…incongruous to have the same John Hickenlooper Gardner has been vilifying relentlessly suddenly held up as a character witness, but that’s what you do when you’re down by double digits in the polls.

The other risk inherent to invoking the enemy as a character reference is, they don’t have to play along:

Ouch–but it’s hard to have much sympathy for Gardner, having left the proverbial door open.

All told, this latest ad is an interesting if transparently desperate play by Gardner, for which points for effort though not actual votes should be awarded. If the polls prove right on Election Day, consistent with the steady progression to the left this state has undergone since Gardner’s narrow 2014 victory, Colorado has moved past the phase of needing to pretend what it wants politically–and that’s the role Gardner is trying to fill.

Colorado is now the wrong state for it, and 2020 is in every way the wrong year.

Cory Gardner’s JBS Testing Fiasco Isn’t Going Away

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

As the Denver Post’s Shelly Bradbury reports:

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet on Monday called for an investigation into the federal government’s response to the spread of the novel coronavirus in meatpacking plants across the country.

In a Monday letter to the inspector generals at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Labor, Bennet asks the agencies to investigate whether the outbreaks — like one at the JBS USA Greeley beef plant where nearly 300 people were sickened and six died — were made worse by federal actions…

Nationwide, at least 16,200 workers in meat and poultry processing plants in 23 states contracted the novel coronavirus by the end of May, and 86 died, according to a July report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Colorado, at least seven meat processing plants have reported outbreaks infecting about 450 workers. The outbreak at the JBS Greeley beef plant is one of the largest in the state.

The COVID-19 outbreak at the JBS beef packing plant in Greeley that killed 6 and sickened hundreds of workers in April was a major failed test of the Trump administration’s pandemic crisis management, as it became obvious that the virus would not simply “go away” as President Donald Trump had predicted. While plant workers in unsafe conditions feared becoming infected, Trump was worried that the supply of meat could be interrupted. Trump eventually invoked the Defense Production Act to declare meat plants essential infrastructure that could not close–but before that, Sen. Cory Gardner and Vice President Mike Pence made promises to rigorously test JBS plant workers in Greeley and keep the meat flowing.

In a blistering press release yesterday, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 7 asks the question they’ve been asking since April: “Cory, where are the tests?”

Since April, Colorado Senator Cory Gardner has continued to brag to the media that he secured 5,000 COVID-19 tests for meat-processing plant workers at JBS Greeley in Greeley, Colorado. The problem? The tests were never made available to workers. The JBS Greeley plant became one of the first outbreak sites in Colorado and continues to lead the nation in meatprocessing plant worker deaths. Now, JBS USA has notified the Union it will increase JBS workers health care premiums by more than 30 percent—as much as $800 more a year per family member.

UFCW Local 7 is calling on Sen. Cory Gardner to explain where the 5,000 tests have gone after specifically claiming he leveraged his relationship with Vice President Mike Pence to acquire them in order to keep the plant running.

At this point it’s more a question of accountability, since eventually the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment stepped in to test JBS workers. With that said, with COVID-19 testing (not to mention timely results) still in short supply, we suspect the promise Gardner made to JBS workers for 5,000 tests would nonetheless be gladly accepted, and useful since testing negative once doesn’t mean anyone is safe.

The unfortunate reality is that among a veritable ocean of broken promises from Trump and Republicans during the nation’s historic failure to effectively confront the COVID-19 emergency, a few dead meatpacking workers in Greeley are easy to forget about. Far more Americans, either consciously or not, cared about the free flow of meat at market prices than the frequently immigrant and otherwise disadvantaged populations who find work in American meatpacking plants.

But the fact remains: these workers got screwed, and Cory Gardner played a central role in screwing them. The promises made to Greeley JBS meatpacking workers weren’t about helping those workers at all, but rather assuring the American consumer. And as soon as Trump declared the meatpacking industry “essential infrastructure,” forcing the plants to stay open, Cory Gardner stopped caring about the workers.

And that should trouble meat-eaters’ conscience at least as much as an extra portion.