Hey Sen. Bennet, These Nice People Found Your Backbone

Since President Donald Trump’s inauguration, there have been weekly protests against Sen. Cory Gardner over the range of issues making headlines from Washington, D.C. outside Gardner’s downtown Denver offices near 17th and Arapahoe.

This week, following the announcement Monday that Colorado’s Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet will not join the Democratic filibuster of Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, the protests moved south–to Bennet’s Denver office at 11th and Sherman:

The hardy group, unfazed by heavy snow that had fallen just hours before in Denver, marched south along Lincoln St. from the Civic Center area to Bennet’s offices:

And delivered a petition calling on Bennet to oppose Neil Gorsuch. A friendly Bennet staffer (below right) accepted the petitions–and something else, too:

You’ll find out on Friday, the day the Senate is set to vote, if Sen. Bennet received the, um, delivery! We’ll update this post with statements and coverage of today’s event as we see them.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (April 4)

Dreaming of a “White Easter?” It’s time to Get More Smarter–if you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Congress is scheduled to embark on a two-week recess at the end of this week, but there’s still the matter of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch to consider. Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) announced on Monday that he would not support a filibuster of Gorsuch, though he still won’t say whether or not he will vote in favor of Gorsuch’s nomination.

With or without Bennet, Senate Democrats say that they have enough votes to reject Gorsuch and force a filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is thus likely to invoke the “nuclear option” to limit debate and reduce the number of required votes for confirmation from 60 to 51. The editorial board of the Denver Post is encouraging Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) to reject the “nuclear option”:

Better to have the seat unfilled until senators can grow up and do right by the American people.

Trashing the filibuster over a single nominee would be doing a judge of Gorsuch’s caliber — and the nation — a terrible disservice.

 

► There is a growing school of thought among Congressional Democrats that Republicans would only be hurting themselves by invoking the “nuclear option” on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

 

► Congressional Republicans are mulling their next steps as they attempt to undo Obamacare after the House failed to even bring a bill to the floor for a vote in late March. But as the Washington Post reports, there’s little reason to think House Republicans and President Trump could get a new plan past the Senate:

The new proposal would further relax some of the Affordable Care Act’s regulations, to placate conservatives who thought the previous GOP bill didn’t deregulate enough of it. States could seek waivers to opt out of the ACA’s requirement that insurers cover “Essential Health Benefits,” such as visits to the doctor, prescription drugs and maternity care. They could also opt out of the prohibition against insurers charging more from the sick than from the healthy. House conservatives are now saying this might get them on board.

But the problem is that, since this is a deregulatory change, a bill with this feature in it might not be able to pass the Senate by a simple majority under the “reconciliation” process, which is reserved for provisions with a budgetary dimension, according to Sarah Binder, a congressional scholar at George Washington University. This would trigger a so-called “Byrd Rule” challenge from Democrats, and to get around it, Republicans would have to appeal to the Senate parliamentarian.

Republicans may want to make sure that any potential change protects coverage for “pre-existing conditions” created from repeatedly banging your head against a wall.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

CALL SEN. BENNET and other things you can do to fight back this week (April 3)

Saturday morning in Denver’s Civic Center Park, hundreds of Coloradans braved rain and snow to send a message to Colorado’s Senators objecting to Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A message you could see from space.

Learn more about this amazing event at the Denver Post and CBS4.

Many thanks to our hard-working friends in local grassroots groups Indivisible Denver, Indivisible Front Range Resistance, and Together We Will Colorado for helping make this visual demonstration a huge success. Week after week, I am awed by the energy and creativity of Coloradans who have stepped up to fight back against Donald Trump and the right wing’s dangerous agenda for our country.

This morning, Colorado’s Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet announced that he will not join the filibuster against Gorsuch’s nomination. It’s very disappointing that Sen. Bennet has chosen not to stand with the Democratic caucus in the United States Senate and take every action possible to oppose Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. And it’s critical that we redouble our efforts to demand that he vote no on Trump’s illegitimate nominee.

The first thing you need to do to fight back this week is call Sen. Bennet’s office and demand he vote no on Gorsuch’s confirmation. To reach Bennet’s Denver office, call 303-455-7600. For Bennet’s Washington, D.C. office, call 202-224-5852. Let Sen. Bennet respectfully know that you are disappointed he will not filibuster Gorsuch, and that a vote to confirm Gorsuch will seriously damage his relationship with his progressive base of support.

Once you’ve taken action to stop Gorsuch, here are lots of other great ways to fight back for the week of April 3:


Resist Trump Tuesday: Tell Bennet #StopGorsuch

MoveOn Front Range has spent the last ten Tuesdays Resisting Trump in Denver’s Skyline Park outside of Senator Gardner’s office. This week, we turn our attention to Senator Bennet, who has yet to say if he will vote to advance the nomination of Judge Gorsuch, whose extreme views will take us back decades. We know that a Donald Trump Supreme Court will legitimize his hateful policies, undo decades of civil rights progress and destroy the foundations of our democracy for generations, and now we need to make sure that our Democratic Senator stands with us. We intend to form a moving picket line all around the block that includes Bennet’s office. Bring signs!

Where: Sen. Michael Bennet’s office, 1127 Sherman St., Denver
When: Tuesday, April 4 ay 12:00pm

Click here to RSVP.


The Gorsuch Nomination and Issues at Stake for the Future of the Court

Join us for a panel discussion on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court rules on the most pressing issues of our time and impacts nearly every aspect of our lives. Our speakers will discuss how this nomination will affect communities already at risk under the current administration. Representing women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, workers’ rights, and more, they will provide particular insight on how Gorsuch’s judicial approach threatens progress on the issues at stake and the future of the court. As the impending vote on his nomination nears, join us for a discussion on how it affects you and the issues you care about.

Where: Ross Cherry Creek Public Library, 305 Milwaukee St., Denver
When: Tuesday, April 4 ay 5:00pm

Click here to RSVP.


National Popular Vote Town Hall with State Senator Andy Kerr

Please join me for a special town hall to continue the discussion on my National Popular Vote bill which was killed by Senate Republicans earlier this legislative session. I will be joined by Melissa Hart, Professor of Law at the University of Colorado Boulder, and Elena Nunez from Colorado Common Cause. More speakers to be announced.

Where: Alameda High School, 1255 S Wadsworth Blvd, Lakewood
When: Tuesday, April 4 at 6:30pm

Click here to RSVP.


Denver Urban Camping Ban is Finally On Trial!

The DHOL homeless activists who had their sleeping bags confiscated in the cold of November 28, 2016, will HAVE THEIR DAY IN COURT! Denver’s inhumane Urban Camping Ban is finally on trial! Defendants Randy Russel, Therese Howard and Jerry Burton face multiple counts of 38-36.2 “Unauthorized camping on public or private property” as they advocated for homeless rights on the steps of Denver City Hall. The three are represented by gonzo defense attorney Jason Flores-Williams. They come before Judge Lombardi in Division 3H.

Where: Lindsey-Flanagan Courthouse, 520 W Colfax Ave, Denver
When: Tuesday, April 4 at 9:00am to Friday, April 7 at 5:00pm

Click here to RSVP.


Resistance Happy Hour

Denver Resistance Happy Hour, April 6, 5:30pm, Lowdown Brewery at Lincoln and 8th. This is the first of what will be a monthly event, every first Thursday. People will come to hang out with like minded folks, to share ideas, to recruit for their own projects, to motivate and get motivated, to find a place in the movement, to commiserate at times and to celebrate.

Where: Lowdown Brewery, 8th and Lincoln, Denver
When: Thursday, April 6 at 5:30pm

Click here to RSVP.


We all know that elections matter, and that we’re not going to win every battle we are obliged to fight now that the far right is in control of Washington, D.C. But every time we fight back, it is making a difference. It makes a difference right now, like when massive protests across the nation helped scuttle the first attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And it makes a difference for the future—organizing and energizing our friends and neighbors to ensure what happened on Election Day 2016 is never repeated.

We’re here to make it right, no matter how long it takes. Thanks once again for standing with us all the way.

Bennet Won’t Filibuster Gorsuch And It’s Not Time To Panic (Yet)

Sen. Michael Bennet (D).

UPDATE: Senate Democrats apparently have enough votes to sustain a filibuster against Gorsuch, even without Bennet.

—–

The story this morning from the Denver Post’s Mark Matthews is not going to make Sen. Michael Bennet’s Democratic base here in Colorado very happy:

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet won’t support a filibuster of Judge Neil Gorsuch, describing Democratic efforts to block the Colorado native as taking the Senate in the “wrong direction.”

But the Colorado Democrat still won’t say whether he’ll actually vote to put the 10th Circuit of Appeals judge on the U.S. Supreme Court — even though a full Senate vote is expected Friday.

“Using the filibuster and nuclear option at this moment takes us in the wrong direction,” Bennet said in a statement.

The Colorado Independent’s Mike Littwin was first to report the news:

“I don’t think it’s wise for our party to filibuster this nominee or for Republicans to invoke the nuclear option,” Bennet says.

That makes him the fourth Democratic senator to break from the ranks, and the only one from a state that voted against Donald Trump. Republicans still need four more Democrats to defect to block a filibuster, and, at this point, it seems unlikely they’ll get them.

This vote was always going to be a lose-lose proposition for Bennet. He would either have to enrage the Democratic base with a decision that looks like heresy — which is what he’s done — or vote against a fellow Coloradan who is strongly supported by the downtown legal and business establishment, which, not coincidentally, generally supports Bennet. Gov. John Hickenlooper laid out the case when he said he wouldn’t blame Democrats for trying to delay or block Gorsuch after the Merrick Garland fiasco, but that he was “honored” a Coloradan as talented as Gorsuch was nominated.

There’s no question that the left in Colorado, who has put tremendous pressure on Bennet to set aside the geographic and other ties to Neil Gorsuch and oppose his nomination, will be irate over his decision not to join the filibuster. But as Littwin points out, it appears that Democrats will have the forty-one votes they need to proceed without him, and if that count is secure it’s entirely possible that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer gave Bennet a pass–to appease locals who don’t want him to block Gorsuch outright.

With all of that in mind, the real question for Bennet becomes how he will vote in the likely event Republicans crush the Democratic filibuster by invoking the so-called “nuclear option,” which will bypass the 60-vote requirement to proceed to the Senate floor for the confirmation vote. Gorsuch’s judicial record and well-documented right-wing political views put him so far at odds with Bennet and Democrats that a vote to confirm him would be a very serious breach of faith with his base, and would leave Bennet vulnerable to attack from his left every time Gorsuch makes an adverse ruling.

It’s not our intention to shield Bennet from criticism over what most Democrats will consider to be the wrong decision–some egregiously. It’s just important to keep all the moving parts in this battle in their proper perspective. This was an important moment for Bennet to stand up for his stated values, and he didn’t.

But it’s not his last chance to do so. So stay tuned until the end.

#WeObject: Colorado spells out resistance to Neil Gorsuch

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This morning, community groups including Indivisible Denver, Indivisible Front Range Resistance, and Together We Will Colorado hosted The People’s Filibuster at Denver’s Civic Center Park: an event for Coloradans to stand up and be visually counted in opposition to Neil Gorsuch’s opposition to the U.S. Supreme Court. Hundreds attended this event despite the rain and snow in the Denver area:

During today’s rally, participants spelled out the words “We Object” in the Greek Amphitheater of Civic Center Park, which was captured by aerial video:

It is absolutely critical that Coloradans speak out at this moment to oppose Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Neil Gorsuch is just the latest in a series of horrible choices by Donald Trump. Gorsuch’s fringe views on health care and contraception make him an enemy of Colorado women. On the Supreme Court, Gorsuch would be a vote to roll back women’s rights, environmental protections, and hard-won protections against discrimination in the workplace. Gorsuch has even been endorsed by the founder of the National Organization for Marriage, an anti-LGBT extremist group. Gorsuch may hail from Colorado, but his record stands in opposition to Colorado values.

The simple fact is that this Supreme Court appointment was stolen from President Obama last year in a shameful act of political treachery. No Democrat should in any way cooperate with or otherwise enable Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination, including Colorado Democrats. To do so would only hand Trump another undeserved victory.

We will not stand by and allow Donald Trump to steal this Supreme Court seat, and install a Justice who would skew our law toward injustice for generations. We will not be silent while a judge who has a proven disregard for the rights of women, working people, and even the terminally ill–who Colorado voters overwhelmingly voted last year to give compassionate options to ease their suffering at the end of life.

We urge Colorado’s U.S. Senators to reject Gorsuch’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Many thanks to our hard-working friends in local grassroots groups Indivisible Denver, Indivisible Front Range Resistance, and Together We Will Colorado for continuing to lead and organize resistance in our community.

Bennet Bites Back Over “Auto IRA” Plans

Sens. Cory Gardner (left) and Michael Bennet.

A behind-the-scenes battles in Washington that could have impacts on upcoming legislative debates in Colorado–not to mention existing policy in several other states–flared up today. The U.S. Senate voted to overturn an Obama-era easing of regulations to allow local governments to set up retirement savings plans for workers that don’t otherwise have coverage. Politico wrote about this under-reported fight this week:

As soon as this week, the Senate is poised to overturn two Department of Labor rules that concern retirement savings. But instead of tying firms in red tape, the rules actually reduce the burden of regulations on states and businesses trying to help people save for retirement. So repealing them would put the obstructive regulations right back in place.

The disagreement stems from laws passed in five states—California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland and Oregon—that require employers without 401(k)-style retirement plans to automatically enroll their workers in state-run retirement accounts. The idea is to create a new, automatic retirement-saving option for themillions of workers who don’t have access to any kind of retirement plan that deducts from their paycheck. (Though auto-enrolled, workers could opt out.)

Those laws might not seem like they’d involve the federal government at all, except that a 1974 law, the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), ties employers up in a number of rules if they establish or maintain a worker’s retirement account. ERISA is intended to protect workers, but it also makes retirement plans more costly to run, and is a big part of why many smaller employers don’t offer 401(k) plans. When the five states passed the new savings law, firms started to worry they’d be held liable to ERISA standards, making the new laws just as expensive as running their own 401(k)s, even though they only function as middlemen.

So last fall, the Department of Labor issued two rules—one for states and one for municipalities—providing a “safe harbor” so that auto-IRA plans will not fall under burdensome ERISA requirements. These “safe harbor” rules are the ones the GOP wants to roll back.

Today, the Senate voted to re-impose the old rules on local governments who operate these kinds of savings plans–and Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado took to social media to condemn the move:

Colorado’s other U.S. Senator Cory Gardner voted the other way–but there’s reportedly some hope he might be brought around to support state-based retirement plans on a separate but related measure the Senate hasn’t yet voted on. This could all become first-person relevant to Colorado with legislation introduced in the state legislature, House Bill 17-1290, which would create a Colorado Secure Savings Plan. It’s our understanding that the bill does have a provision for dealing with changes from Washington, but obviously it wouldn’t be desirable.

These locally-administered “auto IRA” programs have support from progressive economics and fiscal policy groups, since they give workers without other long-term retirement savings options a low-overhead way to participate–which pays major dividends later in life both for workers and governments who would otherwise pay to support them in retirement. Bennet is on the right side with his Democratic base here, and we’ll be watching to see if he can peel Sen. Gardner off before the next vote.

Wouldn’t that be a refreshing change?

Democrats Will Filibuster Gorsuch–All Eyes on Michael Bennet

UPDATE: 9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman:

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) hasn’t responded to the growing calls within his party to try to block President Donald Trump’s first pick for the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Thursday morning, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer promised a filibuster of Judge Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation vote, which sets the stage for Republicans to use the so-called “nuclear option” to confirm Gorsuch with a simple majority…

“Michael has not decided on how he will vote on the nomination or a potential filibuster,” Bennet spokeswoman Laurie Cipriano told 9NEWS. “He is closely watching this week’s hearings and carefully reviewing Gorsuch’s record before he makes a decision.”

—–

Sen. Michael Bennet (D).

Washington Post via Denver Post:

As the Senate Judiciary Committee was hearing from witnesses for and against Judge Neil Gorsuch, his Supreme Court nomination was delivered a critical blow: Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., announced he would oppose Gorsuch and join other Democrats in filibustering the nomination, making it likely that the judge will struggle to find the support needed to clear a 60-vote procedural hurdle.

Gorsuch “was unable to sufficiently convince me that he’d be an independent check” on President Donald Trump, Schumer said in a Senate floor speech.

Gorsuch is “not a neutral legal mind but someone with a deep-seated conservative ideology,” Schumer added. “He was groomed by the Federalist Society and has shown not one inch of difference between his views and theirs.”

The resolve by Senate Democrats to proceed with a filibuster of Neil Gorsuch’s nomination sets off a battle that may end in the long-feared “nuclear option,” short-circuiting Senate rules to eliminate the 60-vote requirement to end debate on a Supreme Court nomination. Or, it’s possible that Republicans could blink–the “nuclear option” is already a fact of life for Senate-approved nominations other than the Supreme Court, but to take this step for the nation’s singularly important lifetime appointment would be a radical step with portentous consequences.

And the one question that Colorado needs answered, right now: will Sen. Michael Bennet join his fellow Democrats? This is the question that will drive the news in our state today (well, aside from that healthcare thing).

And depending on what Bennet does next, maybe across the nation. Stay tuned…

Colorado Christian U: Gorsuch Our Kind of Hater

Neil Gorsuch.

A fundraising email from Jeff Hunt, vice president of Colorado Christian University, extolls Judge Neil Gorsuch’s “conservative values”–and makes predictions about Gorsuch’s values on the U.S. Supreme Court that Gorsuch probably won’t want to validate during confirmation hearings:

Judge Gorsuch has proven he’s pro-life, pro-family, and pro-religious liberty, which is exactly why the radical Left is rallying against him.

His rulings are very promising from a conservative perspective, which is why it’s critical we rush to his aid immediately and ensure he’s confirmed…

As a native of Colorado and a devoted follower of Christ, we couldn’t be more excited about what Judge Gorsuch will do to help overturn Roe v. Wade, uphold traditional marriage, and protect our religious freedom. [Pols emphasis]

When our past president, Bill Armstrong, was serving in the U.S. Senate, a young Neil Gorsuch even interned for him.

The late Senator Bill Armstrong helped mentor this brilliant conservative legal mind, and now he has the chance to ascend to the nation’s highest court where he will defend our values for decades to come.

We wouldn’t say that any of this is a surprise, although traditionally Supreme Court nominees don’t give specific answers on how they might rule on specific cases. What this message does do, however, is give some perspective on the origins of Gorsuch’s political views.

And if CCU is to be believed, that would be Gorsuch’s anti-choice, anti-gay, pro-bigotry political views (no word on how Gorsuch feels about the new Beauty and the Beast movie).

Bennet Introduces Gorsuch With Praise For Merrick Garland

TUESDAY UPDATE: Sen. Michael Bennet’s introduction of Neil Gorsuch appears to impressed somebody notable:

—–

Word spread late last week that Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet would join GOP Sen. Cory Gardner in introducing U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch of Colorado to the Senate Judiciary Committee today. This afternoon that took place–with Gardner giving his widely-expected glowing endorsement of Gorsuch, and as for Bennet…well?

 

In short, Bennet warmly praises Gorsuch, saying he “exemplifies some of the finest qualities of Colorado.” That and several other statements by Bennet praising Gorsuch in terms that seem to gloss over very serious policy differences between these two men will be enough to make Colorado Democrats quite nervous.

Niceties aside, Bennet did speak out strongly against the treatment of Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee who was denied a hearing by Republicans for almost a year. Bennet makes it clear that he considers “Judge Gorsuch a nominee to fill the Garland seat on the Supreme Court.” With that said, Bennet says that “two wrongs don’t make a right,” and that Gorsuch should receive a fair hearing.

Sen. Bennet didn’t give any definitive indication on how he intends to vote on Gorsuch, and it’s a longstanding tradition for a nominee’s home-state Senators to introduce them. But the first blush of reactions we’ve heard from Democrats are lukewarm at best. Bennet’s vote for or against Gorsuch represents what may be the greatest test of his values since his appointment in 2009, and it will be remembered.

Stay tuned, this drama is just warming up.

Bipartisan Resolve To Defend Marijuana Proves Sessions’ Folly

Molon labe.

As Brian Heuberger reported for the Colorado Statesman this week, there may be Republicans in Colorado willing to publicly support parts of the new administration’s agenda–but on the subject of Colorado’s legal marijuana industry, which is under direct threat from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, there is no daylight between Colorado Republicans and Democrats:

With U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions hinting that the Trump administration might intensify the enforcement of federal marijuana laws, Colorado leaders from both sides of the aisle have come to the defense of the state’s legal marijuana industry in an uncommon show of solidarity in what many consider to be divisive political times of unmatched proportion.

High-level Colorado politicians like Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper have both publicly defended what has become a lucrative recreational marijuana industry for the state. And many other state officials have joined them in contending that Colorado has a constitutional right to legalize marijuana and that the regulations established by the state have been statistically proven to have been effective so far.

Supporters are quick to emphasize the positive economic impact the industry has had in Colorado and the likely downward economic spiral that would occur should that now-bustling industry be tampered with by the federal government.

Likewise, both Rep. Mike Coffman and Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman are promising to fight any move by Sessions to clamp down on marijuana in Colorado:

Rep. Mike Coffman is suggesting he might use the power of the purse to protect Colorado’s legal marijuana industry…

If Sessions does take action Coffman said he’d “have to fight the Attorney General on this.” He suggested he’d do so through congress’ power to appropriate money for the administration’s budget.

Colorado’s Republican attorney general, Cynthia Coffman—a legalization opponent who says she would defend state law against Sessions—speculated, “It sounds like there is room for states to have legalization … But what it seems to portend is the federal government will be at the borders to stop marijuana from crossing state lines.”

The reason why you have all of these public officials in both parties standing shoulder-to-shoulder on marijuana, despite the fact that most of them opposed legalization to begin with, is that the experience of legalized marijuana in Colorado has rendered the issue moot here. Public support has grown, not declined, since Colorado led the way into a legalization trend that has now grown to numerous states–including all-important California, the most populous state in the nation.

In short, on this issue, our local Republicans and Democrats are responding to the clear wishes of their constituents. They know that to join Sessions on a crusade against legal pot would be politically disastrous for Colorado Republicans at this point. And the fact is, if Sessions does decide to shut down Colorado’s billion-dollar legal marijuana industry and in the other legalized states, Republicans could pay dearly at the polls in the next election all over the country including Colorado–regardless of what local Republicans do to oppose it.

So be at least a bit reassured, stoners. For the moment, both parties have got your back.

Gorsuch/Anschutz Exposé Puts Bennet on Hot Seat

Phil Anschutz.

The New York Times put out a story late yesterday that’s driving a lot of discussion in Colorado–detailing very close ties between U.S Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch and Colorado billionaire Phil Anschutz that raise a number of previously unasked questions:

Mr. Anschutz’s influence is especially felt in his home state of Colorado, where years ago Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, a Denver native, the son of a well-known Colorado Republican and now President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, was drawn into his orbit.

As a lawyer at a Washington law firm in the early 2000s, Judge Gorsuch represented Mr. Anschutz, his companies and lower-ranking business executives as an outside counsel. In 2006, Mr. Anschutz successfully lobbied Colorado’s lone Republican senator and the Bush administration to nominate Judge Gorsuch to the federal appeals court. And since joining the court, Judge Gorsuch has been a semiregular speaker at the mogul’s annual dove-hunting retreats for the wealthy and politically prominent at his 60-square-mile Eagles Nest Ranch.

“They say a country’s prosperity depends on three things: sound money, private property and the rule of law,” Judge Gorsuch said at the 2010 retreat, according to his speaker notes from that year. “This crowd hardly needs to hear from me about the first two of the problems we face on those scores.”

As an outside counsel for Anschutz’s business empire, Gorsuch reportedly worked on a number of high-profile cases. But the big news in this story, something we and we’re pretty sure most Coloradans were not aware of, was Anschutz’s apparent heavy lobbying for Gorsuch’s appointment as a federal judge in 2006. Since his appointment, Gorsuch has apparently recused himself from some–but not all–cases that came before his court with a relationship to Phil Anschutz.

A surprising omission from this New York Times story is the fact that Gorsuch’s service as counsel to Anschutz overlaps with Sen. Michael Bennet’s tenure as Managing Director of the Anschutz Investment Company. Bennet’s employment by Anschutz is of course a matter of record, but obviously disclosure of these ties between Neil Gorsuch and Phil Anschutz invite new questions about how that association might affect Bennet’s vote to confirm Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. Sen. Bennet has been very reserved about Gorsuch’s nomination, and is publicly undecided on whether to support him.

With Democrats generally hardening in opposition to Gorsuch as confirmation hearings prepare to begin, this could be a big moment for Sen. Bennet to refute some of the persistent criticism he gets on his left. A vote against Gorsuch–and especially against cloture to proceed to the simple majority confirmation vote itself–is an opportunity for Bennet to prove he’s his own man, at a moment it would really count.

Whether he likes it or not, Bennet is now front-and-center in the Gorsuch confirmation battle. Stay tuned.

Tell Colorado’s U.S. Senators to reject Neil Gorsuch

The time has come for Coloradans to speak out against Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. Because Gorsuch is from Colorado, the spotlight is on our state, and it is absolutely critical that Coloradans make our voices heard at this moment.

Tell Colorado’s U.S. Senators to oppose Neil Gorsuch’s nomination.

Neil Gorsuch is just the latest in a series of horrible choices by Donald Trump. Gorsuch’s fringe views on health care and contraception make him an enemy of Colorado women. On the Supreme Court, Gorsuch would be a vote to roll back women’s rights, environmental protections, and hard-won protections against discrimination in the workplace. Gorsuch has even been endorsed by the founder of the National Organization for Marriage, an anti-LGBT extremist group. Gorsuch may hail from Colorado, but his record stands in opposition to Colorado values.

The simple fact is that this Supreme Court appointment was stolen from President Obama last year in a shameful act of political treachery. No Democrat should in any way cooperate with or otherwise enable Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination, including Colorado Democrats. To do so would only hand Donald Trump another undeserved victory.

We will not stand by and allow Donald Trump to steal this Supreme Court seat, and install a Justice who would skew our law toward injustice for generations. We will not be silent while a judge who has a proven disregard for the rights of women, working people, and even the terminally ill–who Colorado voters overwhelmingly voted last year to give compassionate options to ease their suffering at the end of life.

Sign our petition calling on both of Colorado’s U.S. Senators to reject Gorsuch. We will deliver this petition to both Sen. Cory Gardner and Sen. Michael Bennet before they vote.

Thank you. We’ll update with more ways to take action as Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings get underway.

Get More Smarter on Friday (March 3)

Oh, we thought you were asking if we spoke Russian… Let’s go ahead and see if we can Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Russia, Russia, Russia! Questions about Russian ties to the Trump administration look like they will be dogging the President for months — if not years — despite President Trump’s repeated claims that this is nothing more than a partisan “witch hunt.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday recused himself from any investigations about Russia and the Trump administration in a weird press conference late Thursday  that included a difficult-to-swallow explanation of why Sessions lied during his Senate confirmation hearings about his past dealings with Russia. Also on Thursday came news of another unreported meeting with Russian officials and the Trump administration, including Trump’s on-in-law Jared Kushner.

As for Colorado’s elected officials, the Denver Post reports that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is taking a much softer position on Sessions than his colleagues. Gardner declined to call on Sessions to recuse himself on investigations about Russia — just hours before Sessions recused himself:

The issue is even splitting Republicans in Colorado’s delegation. U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, said Sessions “made a grave omission” by not disclosing his meetings during his confirmation hearings.

He said it “would be more than prudent for him to recuse himself from any Russian inquiry, and I would encourage him to fully disclose any and all foreign contacts he had during the course of the campaign.”

Colorado’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet issued a statement shortly after Gardner’s interview aired that called on Sessions to recuse himself and appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate Russia’s actions.

The next big debate on this issue involves whether or not a special prosecutor should take over an investigation of Russian ties to the Trump administration. The New York Times has compiled a handy timeline of Sessions and his talks with Russian officials if you need a quick refresher course.

 

► Embattled Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee is out of a job after agreeing to any early departure from the school district as it became clear his contract would not be renewed.

 

► Congressional Republicans are all over the map on the issue of a potential repeal and/or replacement of Obamacare. As the Washington Post explains, we may not know what is in a Republican healthcare plan unless it gets approved first. On Thursday, several Congressional Republicans — including Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky — made a show of running around the Capitol trying to get a glimpse of a secret draft healthcare proposal. Hypocrisy on line one!

Senator Cory Gardner, meanwhile, is talking up cuts to Medicaid as a major piece of any healthcare legislation.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (February 15)

Welcome, comrades! It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► National Security Advisor Michael Flynn may be gone, but the Russian cloud enveloping the White House isn’t dissipating one bit. As the New York Times reports today in its lead story:

Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.

American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election…

…The call logs and intercepted communications are part of a larger trove of information that the F.B.I. is sifting through as it investigates the links between Mr. Trump’s associates and the Russian government, as well as the hacking of the D.N.C., according to federal law enforcement officials. As part of its inquiry, the F.B.I. has obtained banking and travel records and conducted interviews, the officials said.

Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

As the Washington Post writes this morning:

The credibility gap – maybe chasm is a better word at this point – keeps widening for Donald Trump and his White House.

And what does President Trump have to say about all of this? As Chris Cillizza writes for “The Fix”:

Trump’s response to these serious allegations, which have already cost him his national security adviser and now threaten the foundations of his presidency, has been decidedly flippant.  In a tweetstorm Wednesday morning, Trump blamed the “fake news” media and Hillary Clinton for the stories and sought to pivot the conversation to how the information regarding the contacts between his campaign and the Russians leaked out…

…Given the seriousness of those allegations, tweets about the Clinton campaign or the “fake news” aren’t going to cut it.  Congressional Republicans are getting more and more worried that this situation is spinning out of control and has the possibility to do serious damage to the entire party less than a month into the Trump presidency.

Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

 

► Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) — a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — has been rather quiet about the White House Russia scandal. In an interview with Denver7 on Tuesday, Gardner said…well, nothing, really. Gardner seems to be falling apart in general under the strain of his 100% voting record with Trump.

Meanwhile, Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County) is pushing for a full investigation into the Trump administration’s ties with Russia. Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) is also pushing for an official inquiry.

 

► Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is suing Boulder County for its unwillingness to open up its lands for oil and gas drilling.

 

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (February 14)

Happy Valentine’s Day! (unless you are in PakistanIt’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The word of the day week month year is “Russia.” Washington D.C. and the rest of the country are in a tizzy after last night’s resignation from Michael Flynn, who had served as Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor for about three whole weeks. Flynn resigned amid growing concern over his conversation(s) with Russia back in December — which would appear to be a violation of the “Logan Act” that prohibits Americans from working to undermine foreign policy goals.

President Trump’s sort-of-official response is that Trump himself asked for Flynn’s resignation (though this has been contradicted by White House sources, including Kellyanne Conway). This story is now so far out of the bag that calls for a full investigation into the Trump administration’s ties with Russia will grow louder with each passing hour. From the Washington Post:

A top Senate Republican said Tuesday that Congress should probe the circumstances leading up to the resignation of President Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn.

“I think in all likelihood it should be part of the intel committee’s review of what’s happened with Russia, yes,” said Senate GOP Conference Vice Chair Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Here in Colorado, Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) is also calling for a full Congressional investigation (as House Republicans dawdle). Meanwhile, all eyes and ears are on Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), who has thus far remained silent on Flynn and the Russian controversy. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Gardner should have direct access to information about this growing scandal.

 

► Check out the latest episode of the “Get More Smarter Show” to learn more about the nomination of Colorado judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

 

► Former one-term Republican lawmaker Victor “Dracula” Mitchell has officially entered his name in the 2018 governor’s race. Mitchell tells the Colorado Springs Gazette that he plans to roll out his campaign with a $3 million contribution from his own wallet. The registered agent on Mitchell’s campaign finance report is former Secretary of State Scott Gessler.

 

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Sen. Bennet Calls on Michael Flynn to Resign

Shit, meet fan.

The rumor mill has been churning heavily about the potential fate of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who is accused of potentially violating the “Logan Act” in holding discussions with Russia about potential U.S. sanctions back in December. Bennet’s statement notes that there may be transcripts of Flynn’s conversations, which would certainly change the dynamic of any attempts by the Trump administration to defend the high-ranking advisor.

As the Associated Press reported earlier today:

It’s illegal for private citizens to conduct U.S. diplomacy. Flynn’s conversations also raise questions about Trump’s friendly posture toward Russia after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Moscow hacked Democratic emails during the election.

Stephen Miller, Trump’s top policy adviser, skirted the issue on several Sunday news shows, saying it was not his place to weigh in on the “sensitive matter” or to say whether the president retains confidence in Flynn.

Several other White House officials did not respond Sunday to questions about whether Trump had confidence in his national security adviser. Their silence appeared to reflect some uncertainty about the views of the president, who is known to quickly change his mind.

 

Get More Smarter on Thursday (February 2)

You dirty son of a groundhog! Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter after emerging from his palace this morning and seeing his shadow. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► There are growing concerns about President Trump’s mental and emotional fitness, and it’s becoming a problem in international relations. On Wednesday, President Trump hung up the phone during a conversation with the Australian Prime Minister. From the Washington Post:

It should have been one of the most congenial calls for the new commander in chief — a conversation with the leader of Australia, one of America’s staunchest allies, at the end of a triumphant week.

Instead, President Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refu­gee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it.

At one point, Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day — including Russian President Vladi­mir Putin — and that “this was the worst call by far.”

Also on Wednesday, Trump may or may not have threatened to send U.S. troops into Mexico.

Trump has a position on a topic, and everything else is wrong. If you are concerned about any of this, President Trump says, “Just don’t worry about it.

 

► President Trump’s over-the-top rhetoric may be fun for campaigns and television shows, but it may actually backfire in International diplomacy. From the Washington Post:

President Trump and Iran traded sharp statements Thursday, with Trump amplifying warnings over Tehran’s missile tests and a top adviser to Iran’s leader saying it was not the first time an “inexperienced person has threatened” his country.

The exchanges reflect the Trump administration’s toughening stance on Iran, but also point to wider changes in the White House as it advances a combative and iconoclastic ­foreign policy. The shifts appear to ­sideline traditional diplomacy and concentrate decision-making among a small group of aides who are quickly projecting their new “America first” approach to the world.

Just before the Senate confirmed Trump’s new secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, on Wednesday, national security adviser ­Michael Flynn made a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room to deliver a stern warning to Iran over its most recent ballistic missile test.

Trump bangs his fists, and Iran shrugs.

 

► It’s an icy day in Metro Denver, which is something Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos is growing quite accustomed to feeling. After a series of shaky performances during the confirmation process, DeVos may need a tie-breaking Senate vote from Vice President Mike Pence to make it into the Department of Education. As we noted in this space yesterday, DeVos has lost the support of two Republican Senators after demonstrating during the last few weeks that she has very little understanding of what her proposed job entails.

As the Colorado Statesman reports, a growing number of state lawmakers are also voicing their opposition to DeVos.

 

The fight is on over the Supreme Court now that Donald Trump’s nominee has been announced. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) wasted no time in sitting down for a meeting with Judge Neil Gorsuchwhich is more than Gardner would even consider for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee in 2016.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

DeVos Confirmation Hangs By a Thread

Betsy DeVos.

The Hill reporting–bad news for charterizers, voucherfyers, and Amway:

GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski in back-to-back speeches on the Senate floor announced Wednesday that they would oppose Betsy DeVos’s nomination to be Education secretary.

They are the first two Republicans to break with Trump on any of his Cabinet picks, and the votes could make it difficult for DeVos to win confirmation.

If all of the Senate’s Democrats vote against DeVos, she would have 50 votes if the remaining Republicans backed her — with Vice President Mike Pence potentially breaking the tie. No Democrats have backed DeVos…

That includes Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, who despite his reputation as a reform-friendly education policy guy has little use for Betsy DeVos’ brand of “reform.”

“There is nothing in the conversations I’ve had with this nominee, or in her experience in Michigan or Detroit, that gives me confidence that she can lead us in the direction we need, which is to ensure that every kid in America has access to high-quality education, whether or not they are born into wealth,” Bennet said. “That is why I will vote against this nomination.”

In remarks during the Senate committee’s vote on Devos, Bennet, a former superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, discussed the inequalities in the American public education system.

“While we have these partisan squabbles in the Senate, there are millions of American kids who are attending schools that are foreclosing on their future from the start,” Bennet said. “There are millions of people teaching today in America who have a job that is much harder than anyone on this panel, who are not being adequately supported in their work.”

“I was a school superintendent of an urban school district,” he added. “The last thing I wanted was the federal government telling me what to do. But I believe we have a profound national interest to ensure that more than 9 out of 100 kids born into poverty in this country are able to obtain a college degree. We also have a profound national interest to attract the next 1.5 million teachers to teach, especially in our high poverty schools in our cities and rural communities.”

It should be noted that even former state Sen. Michael Johnston, who is well right of most Democrats on education policy, is vocally opposing DeVos as well:

Our children deserve someone who understands the complexity of the challenges we face and is committed to the transparency, accountability and high standards families deserve. Being divisive is no substitute for being diligent, and being partisan is no proxy for being prepared.

At this point, it looks as though DeVos might become Trump’s first Cabinet confirmation casualty–which would cheer public school supporters, but also leave uncertainty as to who might be nominated next for this important job. There’s an argument that if you have to put an unqualified candidate in an important position, maybe they should be so unqualified that the amount of damage they can do is self-limiting.

You’re right, that’s no way to run the government. Stay tuned.

NO JUSTICE, NO SEAT: rally tomorrow to stop Trump and Neil Gorsuch

Last night, Donald Trump made another horrible mistake in nominating far-right Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve on the United States Supreme Court.

Join us tomorrow at noon at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in downtown Denver as we stand together as Coloradans to reject Neil Gorsuch. Click here to RSVP via Facebook.

Gorsuch’s fringe views on health care and contraception make him an enemy of Colorado women. On the Supreme Court, Gorsuch would be a vote to roll back abortion rights, environmental protections, and hard-won protections against discrimination in the workplace. Gorsuch has even been endorsed by the founder of the National Organization for Marriage, an anti-LGBT extremist group.

We can’t forget that this Supreme Court seat was stolen from President Obama last year. No Democrat should in any way cooperate with or otherwise enable Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination, including Colorado Democrats. To do so would only hand Trump another undeserved victory.

Gorsuch may hail from Colorado, but his record stands in opposition to Colorado values. Now the eyes of the whole nation are on Colorado to see if we have the courage to stand up for what’s right. We can’t let them down.

Join us at noon tomorrow to say NO to Donald Trump and Neil Gorsuch. And forward this alert to everyone you know who can make it. We have to speak out right now before the Trump administration can ram this nomination through.

Ken Buck Only Member of Colo. Delegation to Back Travel Ban

Rep. Ken Buck presses whatever button President Trump prefers.

Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley) has generally refused to answer reporter questions about his position on Donald Trump’s travel ban for immigrants, leaving local news outlets such as Denver7 and the Denver Post to guess about his position on one of the more pressing issues in the country. But Ernest Luning of the Colorado Statesman will not be denied; as Luning reports, Rep. Buck on Monday offered his unqualified support for the Muslim travel ban:

“Our country has always offered hope for the oppressed and homeless, but hope also requires safety and security,” Buck said. We should not let people into this country unless we can thoroughly vet them. America welcomes Muslims from 190 countries and temporarily bans all individuals from 7 countries. The President’s executive order is a temporary effort that addresses a serious issue with terrorist hot spots.”

Congressman Buck is the only member of Colorado’s Congressional delegation to offer his full support for Trump’s travel ban. Even Colorado Springs Rep. Doug Lamborn made it clear that he opposes Trump’s Executive Order creating the travel ban.

Get More Smarter on Monday (January 30)

Forget travel bans; if Donald Trump continues on this same path in the White House, soon nobody will want to come to America anyway. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► President Donald Trump says he will unveil his choice to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court at 6:00 pm on Tuesday in the season premiere of “The Apprentice: White House.” Senate Democrats, meanwhile, are uniting in opposition to Trump’s potential nominee. From Politico:

Senate Democrats are going to try to bring down Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick no matter who the president chooses to fill the current vacancy.

With Trump prepared to announce his nominee on Tuesday evening, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said in an interview on Monday morning that he will filibuster any pick that is not Merrick Garland and that the vast majority of his caucus will oppose Trump’s nomination. That means Trump’s nominee will need 60 votes to be confirmed by the Senate.

“This is a stolen seat. This is the first time a Senate majority has stolen a seat,” Merkley said in an interview. “We will use every lever in our power to stop this.”

It’s a move that will prompt a massive partisan battle over Trump’s nominee and could lead to an unraveling of the Senate rules if Merkley is able to get 41 Democrats to join him in a filibuster. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) also reminded her Twitter followers on Sunday night that Supreme Court nominees can still be blocked by the Senate minority, unlike all other executive and judicial nominees.

Any senator can object to swift approval of a nominee and require a supermajority. Asked directly whether he would do that, Merkley replied: “I will definitely object to a simple majority” vote.

Senate Republicans are already crying foul here, but it’s hard for the GOP to generate much sympathy after the Senate refused to even hold a hearing on President Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court in 2016.

It is still unclear just who might be Trump’s choice for the Supreme Court, though a handful of names seem to be emerging as finalists. Depending on who you ask, Trump could be leaning toward Thomas HardimanWilliam H. Pryor, or Colorado Judge Neil Gorsuch.

 

► Backlash continues to grow around President Trump’s weekend Executive Order banning immigrants to the U.S. from several largely-Muslim countries. Donald Trump’s  Twitter Account, which may or may not be making autonomous decisions about the fate of the free world, has been busy trying to defend his poorly-received travel ban.

Meanwhile, Republicans are breaking ranks and openly criticizing Trump’s travel ban, as Politico reports. The list of outspoken GOP lawmakers includes Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), who said that “a blanket travel ban goes too far.” Colorado Reps. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) and Ken Buck (R-Greeley) are still not commenting on Trump’s travel ban.

And as the New York Times reports, the Trump administration left several key officials in the dark in its weekend rush to enforce the “don’t-call-it-a-travel-ban” travel ban.

 

► Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) says he is adamantly opposed to the nomination of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. Said Bennet on Friday:

“The U.S. Attorney General must ensure equal justice under the law, regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Jeff Sessions has repeatedly opposed efforts to protect the rights and liberties of all Americans. I cannot support his nomination.”

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

Bennet Says “Hell No” To Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL).

A press release from Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet’s office earlier today, not unexpected but strongly worded in its announcement that he Colorado’s senior U.S. Senator will not support fellow Sen. Jeff Sessions’ nomination to serve as President Donald Trump’s Attorney General:

“The U.S. Attorney General must ensure equal justice under the law, regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Jeff Sessions has repeatedly opposed efforts to protect the rights and liberties of all Americans. I cannot support his nomination. [Pols emphasis]

“On a variety of issues, Senator Sessions falls short. He has blocked bipartisan efforts to expand voting rights, protect women from harassment and violence, and reform our criminal justice system. In 2013, when a bipartisan group of senators crafted principled and compassionate comprehensive immigration reform legislation, Senator Sessions was its most outspoken opponent. During that debate, he used fear and falsehoods to derail our best chance in years to fix a broken system.

“This week’s executive orders on immigration make clear that Senator Sessions’ views will shape the Trump administration’s policies. We need a chief law enforcement officer who protects the civil rights of every American, not one who perpetuates fear and undermines our obligation to ensure equal justice under the law.”

As a member of the so-called Gang of Eight attempt at bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform in 2013, Bennet certainly should harbor some resentment toward anti-immigration Senators who gave the House cover to let the bill die after Senate passage–not to mention some particular ire for backsliders like Sen. Marco Rubio who were pressured out of supporting the effort.

But as you can see, Sen. Bennet’s criticism of Sessions goes much deeper than just immigration reform. Bennet’s inference that Sessions “perpetuates fear and undermines our obligation to ensure equal justice under the law” is one of the more scathing indictments as we’ve heard from anyone against Sessions–and considering what happened to Sessions last time he face Senate confirmation, that’s saying quite a bit.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (January 19)

It’s your last night in the White House, so you know what that means…who is picking up the keg? It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Congressional Republicans continue to push ahead in trying to repeal (and possibly replace, maybe) Obamacare despite the fact that public opinion polls regularly show rising support for the Affordable Care Act. As the Washington Post reports, this has led to a political strategy whereby GOP elected officials go out of their way to avoid talking about the issue to other people:

After Sen. Thom Tillis said he would be talking to constituents live on Facebook Wednesday, more than 200 people submitted questions — many of them pointed queries about his views on health care.

While Tillis’s office had advertised a 30-minute event, the senator ultimately appeared on camera for 11 minutes, answering eight questions read to him by a staff member…

…Tillis did not acknowledge any of the follow-up questions that popped up in the comments alongside his video, including requests for more details on the GOP replacement plan. But he did avoid the sort of viral spectacle that many of his fellow lawmakers have encountered over the past week as the debate over repealing the Affordable Care Act got underway in Washington…

…Seven years after unruly Democratic town halls helped stoke public outrage over the Affordable Care Act, Republicans now appear keen to avoid the kind of dust-ups capable of racking up millions of views on YouTube and ending up in a 2018 campaign commercial. Only a handful of GOP lawmakers have held or are planning to host in-person town hall meetings open to all comers — the sort of large-scale events that helped feed the original Obamacare backlash in the summer of 2009.

There is definitely a very good plan somewhere, so don’t you worry about that. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) wouldn’t lie to you, now would he? Jason Salzman calls on Colorado media outlets to be specific in their questions for Republicans about actual replacement specifics.

 

► Congressman Tom PriceDonald Trump’s choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services, took a heavy grilling on Capitol Hill on Wednesday in his first batch of Senate confirmation hearings — with a good deal of discussion focused on Obamacare and the mythical Republican “replacement plan.” Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) sounded fed up with this vacant talk of a replacement plan and absolutely went off on Price.

 

► If you are planning on attending the “Women’s March” in Denver on Saturday, the Denver Post has some suggestions for navigating the event. More than 40,000 people are expected to descend on Civic Center Park on Saturday morning.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

Sen. Michael Bennet Shreds Price on Price of Obamacare Repeal

Jezebel’s Julianne Shepherd reports on a fiery exchange today between Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Tom Price, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Heath and Human Services. The subject was the large budget deficit forecast to be incurred from the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, which you would think good conservatives like Rep. Price would have qualms with:

[W]hen Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) opened up his line of questioning with the kind of genial chit-chat we’ve gotten from the Republicans, you could be forgiven for your surprise, especially from a Democrat who’s held nominees’ feet to the fire for the past few weeks.

Well, it was a ruse. Turns out, his friendliness was a lead-in to an impassioned delivery about the hypocrisy of Republicans in their efforts to repeal ACA last week, and in doing so he contextualized the knotty relationship between the ACA and the budget better than anyone I’ve seen. His vehemence and anger really hammered home how alarming the Republicans’ proposal was—and it also seemed to shake Rep. Price to a tangible degree.

Jezebel has the full seven-minute exchange posted with their story, and we recommend watching the whole thing. The transition from congenial small talk to demanding an answer to this question is remarkable, showing a flash of resolve from the often-reserved senior senator from Colorado that we expect did indeed catch Rep. Price off-guard. That Republicans are suddenly willing to accept huge new deficits from the repeal of Obamacare, when the law was reducing deficits before, is just one of many thorny contradictions they have yet to explain–relying on invective and diversion avoid having to answer the question.

Thanks to Sen. Bennet we now know that on the high cost of repealing Obamacare, Republicans don’t have an answer.

Top Ten Stories of 2016 #3: One Sorry Slate of Senate Candidates

Sen. Michael Bennet and GOP nominee Darryl Glenn in the most anti-climactic race of 2016.

El Paso County Commissioner and 2016 Republican Senate nominee Darryl Glenn may very well have been the worst statewide candidate in Colorado history. Amazingly, there were 12 other GOP candidates who might have been worse. In a year in which Republicans had huge electoral gains across the country, a ridiculously bad group of candidates helped the Colorado GOP to completely botch one of its best pickup opportunities in years.

At one point last spring, there were 13 different Republican candidates seeking the nomination for U.S. Senate. Before you read any further, let’s play a little game: How many Senate candidates can you name?

Robert Blaha, Ryan Frazier, Darryl Glenn, Jack Graham, Jon Keyser, Peg Littleton, Jerry Natividad, Tim Neville, Michael Kinlaw, Tom Janice, Charlie Ehler, Jerry Eller, and Don Rosier. All of these people, to one degree or another, made an effort to capture the GOP Senate nomination in 2016. Incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet was considered to be the top pickup opportunity for Republicans in the entire country, which caused virtually every member of the Colorado GOP to start dreaming about becoming a U.S. Senator. The only thing Republicans couldn’t find was a top-tier candidate who could actually give Bennet a run for his seat.

It was clear from the first debate of the cycle — held at the University of Denver — that this was going to be a long nomination process for Republicans. Go back and read our “Debate Diary” from February if you forgot just how completely insane this field had become.

The Republican field of candidates for U.S. Senate was such a mess that people like Jerry Natividad were jumping into the race just one month before the state GOP convention. Republican strategists were scrambling trying to find a candidate — any candidate — who could pose a serious challenge to Bennet in November. Eventually, they just ran out of rocks to look underneath.

Jon Keyser, moments before flushing his political future down the toilet in a media interview.

By April, national pundits were already changing their tune on Bennet and moving the race into the “Likely Democratic” range of outcomes. Weeks later, the little-known Glenn inexplicably took control of the GOP Senate race by virtue of being the only candidate to emerge from the State Convention with enough votes to get his name on the primary ballot. State Senator Tim Neville, who once seemed likely to carry the right-wing banner in 2016, never even came close to just earning ballot access.

By May, the GOP field had narrowed to five names: Robert Blaha, Ryan Frazier, Jon Keyser, Jack Graham, and Darryl Glenn. Graham limped onto the June ballot through the petition process, followed by Keyser, Blaha, and Frazier, though the last three had to deal with lingering questions about petition signatures. National Republicans were crossing their fingers that Keyser could put together a decent-enough campaign to get him through the GOP Primary, but his campaign soon imploded in spectacular fashion amid questions about forged petition signatures and the candidate’s absolutely-epic meltdown in front of Denver7 reporter Marshall Zelinger.

The five Senate campaigns muddled along toward June — at one point Blaha’s campaign manager abruptly resigned with just a few weeks remaining, and Keyser’s campaign essentially just stopped functioning altogether. Glenn ended up winning the five-way Primary with 37.5% of the vote, thanks in part to a late surge of support from well-known conservative names such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

National Republicans basically threw in the towel on Colorado’s Senate race soon after Glenn’s surprising Primary victory; it was clear just a few weeks later that nobody was going to make any real effort to assist Glenn, who consistently trailed by as much as 18 points in head-to-head polls with Bennet.

Bennet ended up defeating Glenn by six points in November, a margin much closer than polls predicted in large part because Bennet’s campaign never even really tried to go after the GOP challenger (it’s silly to argue that Glenn could have won this race with more help from Republicans, because any such movement would only have prompted Democrats to push harder). On the plus side, Glenn’s campaign did provide us with one of the most ridiculous political advertisements in recent memory.

Michael Bennet ran a solid re-election campaign in a difficult year for Democrats, but Colorado Republicans will be kicking themselves for years at missing this opportunity to at least run a competitive challenge to an incumbent Democrat.