The Get More Smarter Podcast: COVID Conspiracies

We’re a little late this week with a new episode. But then again, days of the week have lost all meaning anyway.

This week on The Get More Smarter Podcast, hosts Jason Bane and Ian Silverii talk with House Majority Leader Alec Garnett about everything the state legislature is not doing at the moment; we discuss the many ways in which local Republicans are digging coronavirus holes for themselves; we try to make rational arguments for two coronavirus conspiracy theories; and we find Sen. Cory Gardner unfamiliar with the man in the mirror.

Look out next week for some bonus content, featuring an exclusive new interview.

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

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Get More Smarter on Friday (April 3)

Hey, you made it through another week of this — that’s not nothing. Now, let’s Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

BECAUSE CORONAVIRUS…

*Colorado Coronavirus info:
CDPHE Coronavirus website 

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

*How you can help in Colorado:
COVRN.com

 

The Trump administration is struggling to actually implement many of the economic relief measures contained in last month’s $2.2 Trillion spending bill. First, here’s CNN on those stimulus checks that were supposed to be coming right away:

Americans likely won’t begin to see direct payments from the coronavirus stimulus bill until at least April 13 and it could take 20 weeks for all the checks to be mailed, Trump administration officials told lawmakers, according to a House Democratic memo obtained by CNN.

The timeline means tens of millions of Americans will have to wait to get badly needed assistance, despite repeated earlier suggestions from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that the money would go out as soon as April 6.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is also confounding the banks, as The Washington Post reports:

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin vowed from the White House podium yesterday that small businesses battered by the coronavirus epidemic could access $350 billion in taxpayer-backed cash quickly starting on Friday. But as the rescue effort debuts, banks are concerned in part about how to assess the risks of small businesses applying for assistance directly to them, even as the federal government is guaranteeing those loans.

JPMorgan Chase, for instance, posted a notice online that it won’t be accepting applications from prospective borrowers. “Financial institutions like ours are still awaiting guidance from the SBA and the U.S. Treasury,” it said.

Banks are asking questions about the length of the loans, the interest rates they can charge, and how much due diligence financial institutions are responsible for performing on borrowers

Take the politicians out of Washington D.C.! Put businesspeople in charge! This is working out great!

 

Is the White House overestimating or underestimating the potential death toll from COVID-19? Nobody knows, because it’s unclear how the White House came up with its projections. From The Washington Post:

Leading disease forecasters, whose research the White House used to conclude 100,000 to 240,000 people will die nationwide from the coronavirus, were mystified when they saw the administration’s projection this week.

The experts said they don’t challenge the numbers’ validity but that they don’t know how the White House arrived at them. [Pols emphasis]

White House officials have refused to explain how they generated the figure — a death toll bigger than the United States suffered in the Vietnam War or the 9/11 terrorist attacks. They have not provided the underlying data so others can assess its reliability or provided long-term strategies to lower that death count.

Some of President Trump’s top advisers have expressed doubts about the estimate, according to three White House officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. There have been fierce debates inside the White House about its accuracy.

There is a non-zero chance that President Trump literally picked these numbers out of a hat.

 

As CNN reports, two top Trump administration officials were publicly voicing concerns about U.S. readiness in the face of a pandemic LAST APRIL:

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Tim Morrison, then a special assistant to the President and senior director for weapons of mass destruction and biodefense on the National Security Council, made the comments at the BioDefense Summit in April 2019.

“Of course, the thing that people ask: ‘What keeps you most up at night in the biodefense world?’ Pandemic flu, of course. I think everyone in this room probably shares that concern,” Azar said, before listing off efforts to mitigate the impact of flu outbreaks.

The Trump administration is facing scrutiny over its preparations for the coronavirus pandemic and its slow response to provide states and cities assistance in testing kits and personal protective equipment. The 2019 summit, hosted by the assistant secretary for preparedness and response in the Department of Health and Human Services to “discuss and solicit input on implementing the National Biodefense Strategy,” offers insights into early awareness of the potential for a pandemic threat.

Transcripts of Azar’s and Morrison’s comments at the summit, which have not been previously reported on, are available on the HHS website.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly said no one predicted a pandemic crisis like the one caused by coronavirus. [Pols emphasis]

 

Here’s the latest fact-checking from CNN of President Trump’s coronavirus “news briefings.”

 

► Weld County has surged to the top of the list in Colorado for the largest number of coronavirus deaths. Weld County is represented in Congress by social distancing skeptic Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley). Sure, maybe it’s a coincidence.

 

If you’re looking for political news that isn’t about Coronavirus, it’s available right after the jump…

 

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COVID-19 Tragically Zeroes In On Rep. Ken Buck’s Weld County

Rep. Ken Buck, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party.

9NEWS reported last night that Weld County is being hit very hard by the expanding COVID-19 pandemic, now tied for the most number of deaths in the state so far–a tragic distinction disproportionate to the county’s population:

Weld County is tied for the highest number of deaths in the state related to COVID-19. 16 people have died in the area. The county also has one of the largest number of cases, even though the number of people who live there is far less than other counties.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says there are 329 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Weld County, roughly the same number as El Paso County. The population of Weld County is nearly 400,000 less… [Pols emphasis]

Patients with COVID-19 symptoms now crowd the emergency rooms. Steven Loecke is the Chief Medical Officer for several Banner Health hospitals in Northern Colorado. He says the hospital in Greeley is seeing the most action.

Although the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic necessarily has enormous political implications, and the response to the outbreak by government authorities from the President of the United States to the smallest municipalities is a principal factor now in every voter’s decisionmaking, even the most partisan political diehards can agree that significant components of the response to the pandemic have been carried out with overwhelming bipartisan agreement–most recently the massive $2.2 trillion stimulus bill to blunt the effects of shutting down large parts of the economy to contain the disease.

With that said, the “resistance” to public health measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic has overwhelmingly come from one political party, Republicans–including President Donald Trump himself until he was belatedly convinced to take the crisis seriously. In Colorado, Rep. Ken Buck, who also serves as chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, has enthusiastically led the opposition to the statewide stay-at-home order by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis. In Congress, Buck’s repeated votes against the successive coronavirus relief packages–in one case one of only two votes against in the entire chamber–have significantly raised Buck’s national profile, earning him cable news appearances and adulation on the far right.

As readers know, Rep. Ken Buck served as the District Attorney of Weld County before his election to Congress, and Weld County is one of the two population centers of his district along with similarly conservative but more affluent Douglas County.

Folks, we don’t want to spell this out. If we do, some in the chattering class will say it’s “too soon.”

But how can you not connect these dots? And how can the resulting outrage not transcend politics?

These are hard words to write. But to not write them would be the greater disservice to our readers.

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Colorado GOP Delegation Backs COVID Blame Projection Bill

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs).

Michael Karlik at the Colorado Springs Gazette reports:

U.S. Reps. Scott Tipton, Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn have co-sponsored a House resolution that condemns the Chinese government’s response to COVID-19 and asks the country to take responsibility for originating the novel coronavirus…

Tipton blamed the severity of the global pandemic on the Chinese government’s failure to act quickly and be “immediately forthcoming” about what it knew. “This recklessness by the Chinese government cannot be tolerated, and they should face severe consequences including sanctions and reparations to nations they have impacted,” he said.

Colorado’s three Republican members of Congress, Reps. Ken Buck, Doug Lamborn, and Scott Tipton are all on board, with Lamborn earning a name-check from leading congressional Trump apologist Rep. Elise Stefanik:

Here’s the intro to House Resolution 907:

Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the Government of the People’s Republic of China made multiple, serious mistakes in the early stages of the COVID–19 outbreak that heightened the severity and spread of the ongoing COVID–19 pandemic, which include the Chinese Government’s intentional spread of misinformation to downplay the risks of the virus, a refusal to cooperate with international health authorities, internal censorship of doctors and journalists, and malicious disregard for the health of ethnic minorities.

In psychology, the term “projection” refers to ascribing one’s own flaws and insecurities to another party in order to assuage one’s own guilt. The accusation that the People’s Republic of China made “multiple, serious mistakes in the early stages of the COVID–19 outbreak” may have basis in fact, but this allegation applies every bit as well to the early response by the United States government to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That should be the priority of the U.S. House of Representatives, not China.

President Donald Trump’s weeks of denial of the severity of the pandemic, insisting that the virus would “go away” and that the number of cases was declining, perfectly fit the accusation in this resolution of “intentional spread of misinformation to downplay the risks of the virus.” Trump called the World Health Organization coronavirus test used to good effect in other countries “a bad test,” which could fairly be called “a refusal to cooperate with international health authorities.” While we wouldn’t say that scientists in the United States have been “censored,” watching Dr. Anthony Fauci facepalm while Trump fictionalizes the latest pandemic updates seems close enough. Finally, there’s the “malicious disregard for the health of ethnic minorities.” Check.

We all accuse the other side of being crazy, but in this case we think a clinical explanation might honestly be right. We’ll leave it to qualified psychologists to make the diagnosis, but we will say that rarely does the projection so perfectly characterize the original sin.

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Ken Buck Goes 0-for-3 on Coronavirus Legislation

Who has a crooked forefinger and keeps voting against coronavirus relief?

Colorado Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley), who moonlights as the State Republican Party Chairman (or vice versa) had his third chance to vote for coronavirus relief legislation today.

As Justin Wingerter writes for The Denver Post:

With the apparent support of all but one Coloradan, the U.S. House passed the largest economic stimulus package in American history Friday, a more than $2 trillion agreement to boost a national economy ravaged by coronavirus.

The bill passed on a voice vote, a tactic used for uncontroversial legislation. As a result, House members were not required to record where they stood on the historic bill. But in comments before, only one Coloradan signaled opposition.

“I agree we are facing an unprecedented emergency, one tied directly to China’s nefarious actions. However, as President Trump said, we cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself,” said Rep. Ken Buck in a speech on the House floor.

Buck has been consistent in his opposition of new funding to combat coronavirus — whether to help first responders or the American economy — as well as his general opposition to, well, science. Buck has been vocal about his disagreement with the idea of closing businesses where people tend to congregate in groups, and he reiterated on Friday that he believes we’re almost done with this virus problem anyway:

“There is no attempt by Congress to reduce spending elsewhere in the budget to pay for this bill. The sad truth is that most of this money in this bill is unrelated to fighting the coronavirus. We believe that the fight against the virus will take six to eight weeks, yet this bill spends money decades into the future,” added Buck, who is the chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, during his remarks Friday.

Congressman Jason Crow (D-Aurora) had a much different take, which seems to place him well within the overwhelming majority of Members of Congress:

“Our country and the American people are in crisis and it requires our action now,” said Crow, of Aurora, in a speech on the House floor Friday. “To be clear, this is not a perfect bill, but it is the bill that America needs today.”

Rep. Ken Buck only presses the red button.

Let’s recap Rep. Buck’s record over the last few weeks:

♦ Thursday, March 5: Buck is one of only two House Members to vote “NO” on coronavirus relief legislation aimed at providing emergency resources for first responders and other healthcare professionals. The bill quickly passed through the Senate and was signed into law by President Trump.

♦ Saturday, March 14: Buck votes “NO” on the second major piece of coronavirus legislation, known as The Families First Coronavirus Response Act. This bill also quickly passed through the Senate and was signed into law by President Trump.

♦ Friday, March 27: Buck completes the trifecta and opposes a $2 trillion stimulus package that had already sailed through the U.S. Senate without a single vote of opposition and will absolutely be signed into law by President Trump as soon as it hits his desk. And get this: Buck didn’t even have to record an official vote (Congress approved the measure by a “voice vote”) but he still insisted on making it clear that he would not support legislation to provide financial relief to struggling Americans.

Congressman Ken Buck absolutely doesn’t get it, and neither does Republican Party Chairman Ken Buck. These “positions” probably won’t cost Buck his Congressional seat in 2020, because he’s firmly entrenched in a strong GOP district. His hot takes on coronavirus probably won’t cost him his State Party Chairmanship, either, in part because state GOP leaders are equally baffled about how to respond to the outbreak.

But if you think Buck’s actions this month are going to age well, both politically and in general, that’s a bet we wouldn’t hesitate to accept.

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Get More Smarter on Friday (March 27)

We’d wish you a “Happy Friday,” but today kinda feels just like Thursday. And Wednesday. And also Tuesday. Anyway, 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/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

BECAUSE CORONAVIRUS…

*Colorado Coronavirus info:
CDPHE Coronavirus website 

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

*How you can help in Colorado:
COVRN.com

 

► UPDATE: The House passes the stimulus bill. Colorado Rep. Ken Buck voted against the legislation, giving him a perfect 0-3 record on coronavirus-related legislation.

—–

Members of the House of Representatives are heading back to Washington D.C. to vote on a $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill that is in no danger of failing because one Kentucky Republican (and it’s not even Mitch McConnell) is being kind of a dick. As The Washington Post explains:

The House of Representatives prepared to vote Friday on a $2 trillion economic relief package to address fallout from the coronavirus, with scores of lawmakers begrudgingly returning to the Capitol after one GOP member threatened to raise a procedural objection.

With the economy reeling and millions of Americans seeking unemployment benefits, House leaders had hoped to pass the sweeping measure by a “voice vote” that would not require members to show up in person. Those who wanted to could come to the Capitol to speak in favor of or against the legislation that will send $1,200 payments to many Americans and free up large loans for businesses of every size.

If they used a “voice vote,” members in quarantine or who simply did not want to travel would not have to do so. There are now roughly 86,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, and 1,300 people have died just in the past few weeks.

But Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) threatened to raise procedural objections that would require a majority of the House to be present to quash, and so on Thursday evening leadership in both parties began urging members who could do so to return to Washington in order to have the numbers to overcome whatever objection Massie might raise. [Pols emphasis]

Massie may have seriously misread this situation, because President Trump is not happy:

As The Washington Post notes in a separate story, Rep. Massie’s colleagues are not at all surprised that he’s needlessly throwing wrenches:

During his seven years in Congress, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) has established a reputation as a uniquely irascible congressional gadfly — one who is frequently at odds with his own party’s leadership, rarely votes for major bills negotiated with Democrats, and, to make an ideological point, is willing to use the House rule book to inconvenience his colleagues.

In other words, he’s the Kentucky version of State Rep. Dave Williams (R-Colorado Springs).

Just in case you thought opposition to the relief bill was relegated to some looney from Kentucky…Colorado Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) are railing about their own grievances with the legislation.

 

 Eight of Colorado’s 9 Members of Congress are urging President Trump to approve a Major Disaster request for Colorado. Who was the lone dissenter? Hint: His name rhymes with “suck.”

 

► Many of Colorado’s most prominent Republican lawmakers — including Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert and House Minority Leader Patrick Neville — are growing increasingly vocal about their opposition to “stay at home” orders because…tyranny, or something. These actions are bad for their health and the health of their friends and family — and new polling info suggests that these positions will hurt them politically in November.

If you are interested in making specious and dangerous arguments yourself, here’s a cheat sheet to get you started on messaging.

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel and the Denver Post have more on the partisan pushback to coronavirus responses.

 

► Not all the coronavirus news is bad news, as The Washington Post reports from the state of Washington:

The suburban hospital that handled the first onslaught of coronavirus patients weeks ago — a crush of seriously ill and dying nursing home residents that signaled the beginning of the national health crisis — is now offering cautious optimism to people across the United States who are searching for an end to the springtime nightmare: They believe they might have flattened the curve here.

At EvergreenHealth Medical Center, two miles from the shuttered Lifecare nursing home where 35 patient deaths were linked to the virus, officials say their rate of new covid-19 cases has remained steady for two weeks, leveling off at a trickle. On some days, doctors here see just one new case and haven’t seen more than four in a single day since mid-March. Few need admission to the intensive care unit, which is now half full, two weeks after overflow necessitated transfers to nearby hospitals…

…“It is a glimmer of hope,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said. “This is suggestive that some of the things we’re doing together is having some very modest improvement. The things we did two weeks ago are now appearing in our hospitals.” [Pols emphasis] 

 

If you’re looking for political news that isn’t about Coronavirus, it’s available right after the jump…

 

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Ken Buck on Coronavirus: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

When it comes to social distancing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Congressman Ken Buck (R-CO4) appears to be taking a “do as I say, not as I do” approach. While he has said people should try to avoid publics places for the next months, and that “elderly Americans…should be concerned” about the coronavirus, he is also still attending group events and has been photographed shaking hands with senior citizens.

Congressman Ken Buck shaking hands at the Weld County Clerk’s office, March 21, 2020

Following the Weld County Republican Party Assembly on March 21, Donna Windholz posted a picture of Buck, who also serves as Chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, enthusiastically shaking hands with Lynn Miller at the Weld County Clerk’s Office. Lynn Miller is the husband of former state representative Pat Miller, who is once again a legislative candidate, 27 years after she last left office. Windholz believes Buck was improperly using his position as state party chair to support Miller over other primary candidates.

Congressman Buck’s notable disregard for social distancing reinforces his statements earlier this week, when he told the Denver Post, “it’s just craziness to shut down businesses.” He also mentioned that “elderly Americans…are rightly concerned about the virus.” Lynn Miller, the man with whom Buck is shaking hands in the image above, is 73 years old.

His position differs from other members of the Colorado delegation, who have supported Governor Polis’ decisions to close non-essential businesses and public gathering places.

Buck’s hasn’t been shy about being a contrarian on the issue of stopping the coronavirus. He was one of only two House votes against the $8.3 billion federal aid bill signed by President on March 6.

The following week, Buck held a telephone town hall. As part of a longer answer about whether or not people should stop attending church, Buck noted that he continues to shake hands with constituents and that he is “not a good example of someone who avoids social contact.”

His full answer, transcribed below included contradictory statements as to whether one should or shouldn’t attend church, but at least as of March 11, Buck said that he would still be going.

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (March 19)

Hey, look: Snow! 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

BECAUSE CORONAVIRUS…

*Colorado Coronavirus info:
CDPHE Coronavirus website 

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

*How you can help in Colorado:
COVRN.com

 

Two down, one to go?

The Senate on Wednesday approved the second major piece of legislation related to the Coronavirus outbreak, allowing lawmakers to fully focus on a massive stimulus bill. From Politico:

With Senate leaders vowing to work at “warp speed” to blunt the financial fallout from the pandemic, the Treasury Department unveiled to lawmakers a plan for $250 billion in direct payments to Americans starting April 6…

…According to the Treasury Department’s proposal, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO, the so-called “phase three” proposal would include $50 billion to aid the hard-hit airline industry, $150 billion for other distressed sectors of the economy, two rounds of direct payments of $250 billion each on April 6 and May 18, and the creation of a small business interruption loan program.

The document notably does not mention a payroll tax cut, which President Donald Trump has suggested he wanted to be included in the package. But the idea lost steam in recent days as lawmakers from both parties rejected the idea, citing the need to grant immediate, large-scale relief.

Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) voted “YES” on Wednesday; Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) did not cast a vote because he is currently in self-quarantine after being exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Bennet may have been in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus but has opted not to self-quarantine. Congress is not currently able to conduct tele-voting, but Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County) says that he would be comfortable with such an option.

We posted this here yesterday, but it’s worth repeating for a reminder of the Coronavirus legislation being discussed:

BILL ONE
The first bill, which started in the House, passed the Senate, and was quickly signed by President Trump, dealt primarily with medical and emergency response needs. This was the bill that was opposed by only two House Members, one of who was Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley). In the Senate, only Kentucky Republican Rand Paul voted “NO.”

BILL TWO (Families First CoronaVirus Response Act)
The second bill, which also started in the House, deals with issues like paid family leave and Coronavirus testing and health care regulations (Rep. Buck also voted against this bill). Since the bill passed in the House on Saturday, outside groups have been pressuring Republican Senators to add their support. The Senate approved this measure on Wednesday and President Trump signed it into law today.

BILL THREE
This is the trillion-dollar “bailout” bill that will likely include sending money directly to Americans within the next couple of weeks. As The Washington Post reports:

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday said the Trump administration is working on a plan that would send most Americans $1,000 within three weeks and an additional $500 for every child as a way to flood the country with money and try to blunt the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the U.S. economy…

…Mnuchin’s comments are part of the rapidly evolving fiscal stimulus plan that the White House and congressional leaders are scrambling to assemble amid growing signs that large parts of the economy are grinding to a halt. House Democrats, meanwhile, are working on their own set of proposals, and negotiations with the White House are expected to begin very soon.

For more on federal legislative efforts and a host of other Coronavirus-related questions, check out this interview from Tuesday with Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County) on The Get More Smarter Podcast.

 

► President Trump spoke today at another Coronavirus press briefing, which German Lopez of Vox.com called “a disastrous failure in leadership.” You won’t be shocked to learn that he made another big mistake:

11:49: *Trump starts playing with ball of yarn

11:51: *Trump threatens to use Marines to invade Coronavirus

11:52: *Trump pulls a piece of meatloaf from his breast pocket and takes a bite

 

► Two Members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Florida) and Ben McAdams (D-Utah).

The first state lawmaker in Colorado (that we know of) has tested positive for COVID-19. Two members of a municipal delegation that recently traveled to Washington D.C. have also tested positive.

 

► Governor Jared Polis ordered all Colorado schools to close until April 17 as part of continuing efforts to contain the Coronavirus outbreak. Polis also ordered a temporary ban of any gathering of more than 10 people.

Most Colorado school districts closed their schools late last week. Polis said Wednesday that it is “increasingly unlikely” that Colorado schools will open again before the end of the school year.

The Denver Post breaks down some of the other “emergency powers” that Gov. Polis could choose to activate.

 

If you’re looking for political news that isn’t about Coronavirus, it’s available right after the jump…

 

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Rep. Ken Buck’s Dangerous Irresponsibility Rolls On

Colorado GOP chairman Rep. Ken Buck (R).

As the Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter reports–after Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado became a national embarrassment as one of only two House votes against the initial coronavirus relief legislation to pass Congress, and one of a relatively small contingent of House Republicans to vote against the second, Buck is doubling down on his “what, me worry?” approach to the rapidly-widening global pandemic:

“You don’t shut restaurants down for 30 days,” Buck said in an interview Wednesday, referring to a policy enacted in Colorado and many other states.

“I have no problem with (stopping) sporting events or things that don’t impact our civil liberties and don’t impact everyday life. Those are things that I think we can suspend for a period of time. But it’s just craziness to shut down businesses or parts of the economy that are absolutely necessary,” the congressman added…

“We don’t have a leader. It was FDR who said, ‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.’ We need leaders to stand up and say we’re going to have a measured response,” said Buck, who is usually a defender of President Donald Trump.

That’s right, readers–Colorado’s far-right lightning rod congressman/state GOP chairman just invoked FDR to criticize President Donald Trump! That is of course interesting, but it’s a distraction from the larger problem here so don’t get stuck on it. There’s no question that the emergency public health measures taken by the state of Colorado along with many others are very painful economically. That’s why Congress needs to pass relief legislation for American workers affected by the pandemic considerably broader in scope than what’s currently being offered by the GOP Senate majority.

With that said, virtually every public health expert literally on the entire planet says these measures, and even more strict isolation measures than exist in most places in the United States today including Colorado, are desperately needed to contain the spread of the coronavirus–or if not contain it, at least spread out the rate of infection enough to not overwhelm the hospitals. If this all sounds old hat to you, that’s because it’s beaten into all of our heads for weeks.

But not Rep. Ken Buck, folks! Buck doesn’t want to hear any of your damn pesky “expert” warnings about any global pandemic. When you’ve already made the decision to blow off the science on a whole range of issues from guns to climate change, ignoring the coronavirus threat comes…well, frighteningly easy, apparently.

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Buck Keeps Making Colorado Look Bad (COVID Edition)

Colorado GOP chairman Rep. Ken Buck (R).

As the Denver Post’s Sam Tabachnik reports, it’s ugly deja vu all over again:

U.S. Rep. Ken Buck said the massive federal coronavirus relief package that he voted against early Saturday morning is “a 110-page, multi-billion dollar boondoggle.”

He was Colorado’s only House member — and one of only 40 in the chamber — to vote against the measure, which would deliver $50 billion toward paid sick leave, free virus testing and enhanced unemployment benefits…

Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, called the relief measure “imperfect” but said in a statement that he voted in favor because there would be “much more severe consequences should Congress have failed to unite and act with great urgency tonight.”

The Colorado Independent:

[House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi was engaged in intense negotiations over the bill with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and congressional Republicans ahead of the vote. Trump tweeted his support for the measure ahead of its passage.

“I fully support H.R. 6201: Families First CoronaVirus Response Act,” he wrote. “I encourage all Republicans and Democrats to come together and VOTE YES! … Look forward to signing the final Bill, ASAP!”

The president’s endorsement was not enough to sway Buck, who took to Twitter to call the package “a 110-page, multi-billion dollar boondoggle shoved on us at the stroke of midnight.”

A little less than two weeks ago, as readers know, Rep. Ken Buck of Greeley was one of only two votes against an initial coronavirus relief bill backed by President Donald Trump. This time, Buck was part of a small (but at least greater than two) faction of hard-right conservatives, for whom showing rock-ribbed “fiscal discipline” as their constituents grapple with a global pandemic is apparently good politics.

Given the relative safety of Buck’s strongly Republican-leaning rural and small-town district, it’s possible that these high-profile contrarian votes against bills addressing headline dominating issues aren’t career-enders for Buck even if they are totally inimical to the best interests of the people Buck represents. That’s the conventional wisdom which has allowed Buck to take progressively more extreme public stands that would seriously threaten politicians in most districts, but we have to wonder if this unprecedented situation could endanger even the most basic political presumptions.

Either way, as the chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, it’s surprising that Buck really seems to have no idea how these kinds of ideological lightning-rod grandstands affect the entire Republican brand–and can only further imperil fellow Republicans ahead of another very difficult election. If Buck can’t even think past his own antics long enough to consider the damage to the party he leads, he should not have the job.

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Ken Buck Gun Stunt Backfires Big Time

We took note last Friday of a bizarre out-of-the-blue Tweet from Rep. Ken Buck, who also serves as the chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, seemingly threatening violence against Sen. Joe Biden and former Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke with an AR-15 style rifle Buck keeps in his Washington office.

Although we’re sure Buck got plenty of favorable attention from the far right for this spontaneous bit of pro-gun bluster, the reaction from others has been considerably less favorable. Sandy Phillips, mother of an Aurora theater shooting victim, clapped back graphically (trigger warning):

Phillips is referring to the .223 Remington rifle cartridge, used by Buck’s rifle as well as the weapon responsible for most of the killing in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting. As KDVR’s Eric Ruble reports, yesterday Rep. Tom Sullivan of Centennial had his own response:

The representative posted his response to Buck on his Twitter page Tuesday afternoon. In a video, Sullivan is holding a photo of the gun used to kill his son and the cross that memorialized Alex at the site of the [Aurora theater] shooting.

In the video, Sullivan said, “Congressman Buck, hi. This is Tom Sullivan, state representative House District 37 in your home state of Colorado. This is what’s in my office. This is one of the 12 crosses that they set out by the movie theater the night after my son Alex was murdered in the Aurora theater massacre. This here is the Smith and Wesson MP-15 that murdered my son and 11 others. If you ever feel the need and want to come down and see my office, I suggest you bring Sen. Gardner along with you. This is what it looks like. Feel free to stop by any time.”

Even for a representative who has repeatedly embarrassed himself in the last year making things worse for President Donald Trump while trying his earnest best to defend him, last week was a very tough week reputation-wise for Rep. Ken Buck. Buck was one of only two votes against the bipartisan coronavirus response legislation signed into law by President Trump last week, a half-baked move that left Buck looking deplorably out of touch during an emergency.

It’s possible this unbidden bravado with the assault rifle Buck quite controversially keeps in his Capitol Hill office was meant to distract from Buck’s political self-immolating vote against coronavirus relief. Unfortunately, however, Buck appears to have simply traded one villainous countenance for another. It’s like telling a second tasteless joke because nobody laughed at the first one.

We understand that gun nuts live to wave their guns around, but the state’s highest Republican officials should know they’re not saying these things in a vacuum. Ken Buck makes himself look bad, but as chairman of the Colorado Republican Party and a high-profile GOP member of Congress the damage doesn’t stop with him.

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Buck Ends Bad Week With Dumb Tweet

SUNDAY UPDATE: The mother of Jessica Ghawi, one of the 12 victims of the 2012 Aurora theater shooting, responds with outrage we are in no position to question:

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Rep. Ken Buck (R-Dumbass)

Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley) has a second job (or vice versa) as the Chairman of the State Republican Party in Colorado. If you’re a Republican in this state, you had better hope that Buck is better at being Party Chair than he is at being a Congressman.

Earlier this week, Buck made news for being one of only two Members of the House of Representatives to vote AGAINST an $8.3 billion funding package for Coronavirus relief. That same bill quickly passed through the Senate and was signed by President Trump this morning. Needless to say, this was not a good look for Buck.

But he wasn’t done screwing up! Today, Buck is making national headlines for a tasteless Tweet he sent out taunting former Vice President Joe Biden and former Congressman Beto O’Rourke to come to his Washington D.C. office and relieve him of the ridiculous AR-15 rifle that hangs on his wall:


Fellow Congressman Eric Swalwell was quick to point out that Buck’s red, white, and blue AR-15 isn’t even a functioning weapon:

Buck was subsequently lampooned in stories by media outlets across the country, including Westword; Denver7CNBC, The Hill newspaper; Business InsiderRaw Story; and The Daily Caller.

In the same week, Buck managed to publicly oppose funding to combat the Coronavirus that is freaking people out everywhere…and then followed up by making silly threats against the man who could well end up as the Democratic Presidential nominee.

Most of Colorado is proud that Buck is not their Congressman. For those of you in CO-4, we’re very sorry.

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Get More Smarter on Friday (March 6)

Happy “National Day of Unplugging.” If you’re reading this, you’re probably doing it wrong. 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► On Thursday afternoon, Governor Jared Polis announced the first two positive tests for Coronavirus in Colorado. As The Denver Post reports:

Polis announced the second case at a Thursday afternoon news conference that had been called to discuss the first case.

The state said Thursday evening that the second patient is an older woman from Douglas County who had returned to Colorado from an international cruise. She is “isolated at her home per CDC guidelines,” the state health department said…

…“At the end of the day we have a very robust health care system in this state,” Polis said. “We’ve been preparing for this moment, we are now in execution mode of this plan.”

Polis was calm and reassuring in Thursday’s press conference, a marked difference from the chaotic federal government response driven by the Trump administration (which continues to demonstrate that nobody is talking to anybody else about how to deal with the Coronavirus outbreak).

On Friday, Trump signed an $8.3 billion spending package for Coronavirus response. Colorado Rep. Ken Buck was one of only three people IN THE ENTIRE CONGRESS who voted to oppose the bill.

The White House is also considering options for helping the tourism industry, which has been getting pummeled because of COVID-19.

 

The Colorado Option has landed!

 

Democrats and Republicans in Colorado will hold their caucuses on Saturday to determine ballot access for races from U.S. Senate down to county coroner. The Denver Post has more on what will be a critical day for Senate candidates not named John Hickenlooper.

On the Republican side, expect some right-wing challenges to candidates who are considered more “moderate,” because the far right in Colorado is still convinced that they need the craziest candidates in every district.

Also, a guy named “Critter” will be seeking the U.S. Senate nomination from the Unity Party.

 

► Presidential campaigns (those of Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, mostly) will be making the rounds this weekend ahead of six more elections on Tuesday. Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, and Washington will hold Primary Elections on March 10, while voters in North Dakota will do the caucus thing. As Chris Cillizza writes for CNN, Michigan will be the big prize on Tuesday:

On Thursday morning, with much fanfare (and tweeting), former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign announced that Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had endorsed his presidential bid.

Within hours, Bernie Sanders’ campaign announced that the Vermont senator would cancel a planned trip to Mississippi on Friday and instead head directly to Michigan.
These things are not a coincidence.

Michigan, which will hold its primary on March 10, is not only the biggest delegate prize of that day (125 delegates) but also hugely important, symbolically speaking, given that it was one of three critical Midwestern states President Donald Trump flipped to his side in the 2016 presidential race.

In the 2016 Democratic Presidential Primary, Bernie Sanders pulled out a surprise victory over Hillary Clinton in Michigan.

 

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

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (March 5)

Yeah, that’s right: You get an afternoon version of Get More Smarter today. 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/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

The U.S. Senate voted 96-1 to approve an $8.3 billion package for Coronavirus response. Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul was the sole “NO” vote in the Senate.

On Wednesday, Colorado Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley) was one of just TWO House Members to vote “NO” on Coronavirus funding. President Trump is expected to sign the legislation into law as soon as it reaches his desk.

 

As Philip Bump writes for The Washington Post, President Trump’s penchant for making up numbers is a particularly bad habit during a global pandemic:

On Tuesday, a World Health Organization official stated that the mortality rate for covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, is at 3.4 percent globally. Asked about it during an interview Wednesday night with his friend Sean Hannity on Fox News, Trump disagreed with that number.

“I think the 3.4 percent is really a false number,” Trump said. “Now, and this is just my hunch [Pols emphasis], and — but based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people that do this. Because a lot of people will have this and it’s very mild. They’ll get better very rapidly. They don’t even see a doctor. They don’t even call a doctor. You never hear about those people.”

Trump eventually settled on a number of “way under 1 percent” for the COVID-19 mortality rate. The source for this information? There is no source:

Trump twice admits that he’s simply making up the percentage he’s talking about, calling it a “hunch” and saying that it’s his personal assessment. Yes, he has access to more experts on the subject than your average American, which may inform that personal estimate, but his access to experts didn’t prevent him from reiterating obviously inaccurate information at an event with drug companies earlier this week.

Bump sums up Trump’s manufactured numbers with a sober warning:

We don’t know the mortality rate of the coronavirus in the United States in part because we don’t know the spread of the virus thanks to the government’s slow, faulty start in measuring it. We do know, though, that, by themselves, numbers offered by Trump aren’t trustworthy. That the world he presents is often not the real one.

Swell.

 

 According to data from Public Policy Polling, Americans are very nervous about Coronavirus and very dissatisfied with how the federal government is handling response efforts:

Voters take the virus a lot more seriously than the president does. Only 8% of voters agree with Trump’s claim that the virus is a Democratic hoax, while 82% think the virus is real. Only 16% of Trump’s own voters agree with him that the virus is a hoax.

Trump’s handling of the coronavirus could threaten his reelection. By a 20-point margin, voters say his administration’s handling of the virus makes them less likely to vote for him this fall. Independents say they’re less likely to vote for Trump by 32 points because of how he’s dealt with this issue. Only 37% of voters agree with Trump’s assessment that his administration is doing a “great job” dealing with the coronavirus, while 53% disagree.

 

►  The Colorado Option has landed. As The Denver Post reports:

The long-awaited Colorado bill to create a variation of a public health insurance option — an effort that has garnered national attention and the ire of hospitals — was unveiled Thursday, just before the midway point of the legislative session.

Although Democrats are preparing for a contentious fight about the proposal they’re calling the Colorado option, they say they believe they can pass it.

The bill would provide Coloradans who purchase insurance on the individual market another choice by the state through private insurance at what’s expected to be a more affordable cost by Jan. 1, 2022. The bill targets counties that only have one option to create competition and lower premiums and will require hospitals to participate. If everyone on the individual market opts to use the plan, that’s about 8% of Coloradans, bill sponsors have said. In some rural parts of the state, participation is expected to be higher.

 

Check out this week’s episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast, and listen to House Majority Leader Alec Garnett explain what might happen next if a legislator or staffer at the State Capitol ends up testing positive for COVID-19.

 

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

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Whaaa??? Ken Buck Votes No on Coronavirus Funding

THURSDAY UPDATE: By a vote of 96-1, the U.S. Senate approved the $8.3 billion coronavirus response legislation that passed out of the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul was the lone dissenting voice in the Senate; he joins Colorado Rep. Ken Buck and Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs as literally the only Members of Congress who refused to support a funding bill to help in the response to the ongoing COVID-19 threat. President Trump is expected to sign the bill as soon as it reaches his desk.

—–

UPDATE #2: This is working out well:

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UPDATE: Here’s Buck’s, uh, rationale for today’s vote. We’re sure it’s not lost on our readers that a guy accusing Democrats of “politicizing” the coronavirus just did exactly that:

Cool. Maybe you can ask the coronavirus to stop infecting people while you have this spending debate.

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Rep. Ken Buck (R) pressed the red button today.

There were only two “NO” votes today when the House of Representatives voted to pass an $8.3 billion emergency spending bill for coronavirus (COVID-19) response. As CNBC reports:

The House passed a sweeping bill Wednesday allocating more than $8 billion in emergency funds to combat the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

The vote was 415-2. Republican Reps. Ken Buck of Colorado and Andy Biggs of Arizona were the only members to vote against the legislation. [Pols emphasis]

The emergency funding package, which provides more than $3 billion in vaccine research and $2.2 billion in prevention and preparedness efforts, was unveiled hours earlier following days of negotiations on Capitol Hill.

The coronavirus bill will head to the Senate, where leaders there hope they can quickly bring it to a vote. If the bill passes that chamber, it will move to the Oval Office desk of President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it.

Yeah, that part about Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) caused a double-take for us, too. But here’s the official vote count:

We can’t imagine what kind of ridiculous logic Buck will try to use to justify voting “NO” on funding for coronavirus response. Remember that this is the same Ken Buck who is the Chairman of the State Republican Party in Colorado, so he’s really going to have a lot of explaining to do here.

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Colorado GOP Chairman Sponsors Bill To Punish Colorado

Colorado GOP chairman Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley).

As originally reported earlier this month by Fox News, and we wanted to be sure to mention this before it slips down the memory hole:

Republicans in the House and the Senate are introducing legislation that would block federal funds from states that allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses — the latest move in an escalating fight over “sanctuary” laws.

The Stop Greenlighting Driver Licenses for Illegal Immigrants Act would block funds to sanctuary states — which limit local cooperation with federal immigration authorities — and those that give licenses to illegal immigrants. Specifically, it would halt Justice Department (DOJ) grants, in particular those awarded under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, which is a top source of federal criminal justice funding for states.

The legislation is being introduced in the Senate by Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. It is being co-sponsored by Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.; Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga.; Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Mike Rounds, R-S.D. Meanwhile, in the House, Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., is introducing companion legislation. [Pols emphasis] That bill is co-sponsored by 21 other members.

“Tennesseans know all too well what can happen when illegal immigrants are granted driver licenses,” Blackburn said in a statement…

Here in Colorado, as readers should know, we’ve had a law on the books since 2013 (the Colorado Road and Community Safety Act) that allows undocumented immigrants to who meet specific requirements, including an affidavit promising to apply for legal status if they haven’t already, to obtain a state-issued driver license. The licenses issued to noncitizens are clearly marked to not provide evidence of citizenship. “What can happen” when undocumented immigrants are allowed to obtain driver licenses is pretty simple: they get driver’s licenses. That means they’ve passed driver safety tests, and are able to do basic things expected of everyone on the roads in Colorado like purchase auto insurance.

For Colorado’s Rep. Ken Buck, who is leading the unlikely House effort to pass this legislation despite the fact that it would jeopardize federal funding for his own state, this gratuitous attack on a law put in place to protect all Colorado residents from untrained, uninsured motorists is both insult and injury. Since Rep. Buck is incapable of snapping his fingers and making the undocumented population in Colorado disappear, what he’s essentially saying with this bill is that it’s better to have uninsured, untested motorists on Colorado roads. How is that a responsible position for any public official to take?

Especially with one of our own elected lawmakers leading the charge, this attack on Colorado–and every other state trying to develop reasonable policies to manage public safety and immigration issues–is the public policy equivalent of Buck cutting off Colorado’s nose to spite our face.

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Trump Lies About Wind Power While Gardner, Tipton, Buck Cheer


Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

A portion of President Donald Trump’s hour and forty minute rambling disquisition yesterday evening in Colorado Springs devoted to the subject of wind power is provoking considerable discussion today–not just for the extremely fact-challenged nature of Trump’s oft-repeated bogus complaints about wind energy, but also the Colorado Republicans who stood idly by clapping while Trump disparaged an industry that directly employs literally thousands of Coloradans.

Transcribed for those readers who find a minute and twelve seconds of Trump too much to bear:

TRUMP: They want to use wind, wind wind, wind blow please, please blow. Please please keep the birds away from those windmills, please. Tell those beautiful bald eagles, oh no a bald eagle! You know if you shoot a bald eagle, they put you in jail for a long time. But the windmills knock them out like crazy. It’s true. And I think they have a rule, after a certain number of kills they have to close down the windmill until the following year. Do you believe this? Do you believe this? And they’re all made in China and in Germany, Siemens… [Pols emphasis]

AUDIENCE: (boos loudly)

TRUMP: And for those of you that want to hear it, when they’re making them, more stuff goes up into the air, and up into the ozone, the atmosphere. More stuff is going up there, they’re making it, ay yi yi…and they don’t say this but after a period of time they get tired, they get old, they get rusty, and a lot of the guys say hey their useful life is gone, let’s get the hell out of here. And they’re all over the place. You look at Palm Springs California, take a look, Palm Springs, they’re all over the place. They’re closed, they’re rotting, they look like hell.

We’ll start by acknowledging the possibility that the audience booed Trump after he claimed wind turbines “are all made in China and in Germany,” because they knew that Colorado is home to four wind power manufacturing facilities owned by Vestas which directly employ over 3,700 Coloradans–from Windsor in the northern part of the state to Pueblo’s Vestas turbine tower plant in the south. But as much as we would like to give the crowd in attendance the benefit of the doubt, it’s sadly much more likely that the crowd was simply booing any mention of China and Germany: either ignorant or unconcerned with the robust wind power manufacturing industry in our own state.

For at least three Republicans who stood with Trump on stage yesterday, there’s a bigger problem. Reps. Ken Buck and Scott Tipton both represent Vestas wind power manufacturing plants in their districts, as well as the thousands of employees who work there. And not only did Sen. Cory Gardner represent Vestas plants and workers in Congress and the U.S. Senate, in 2014 Gardner ran for the U.S. Senate on his “different kind of Republican” platform that highlighted Gardner’s support for renewable energy (see above).

With all of this in mind, what should Colorado voters take away from Trump’s low-information lambasting of wind power while Republicans who know better stood idly by and cheered his falsehoods on? Do they agree with Trump disparaging thousands of Colorado workers based on egregiously false information, or are they just too afraid to call Trump out?

Back before Trump turned bald-faced lies into a daily routine, this would be a front page story.

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“Law and Order,” Colorado Republican Style

“We probably won’t see any relief in these kinds of robberies until these businesses aren’t forced to deal only in cash”

As Westword’s Thomas Mitchell reports, two Republican members of Congress from Colorado, Reps. Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn, have signed on to a letter to the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee Sen. Mike Crapo, asking Senate Republicans to reject the SAFE Banking Act, legislation which would allow banking institutions to serve the presently cash only multibillion-dollar retail marijuana industry:

Two Colorado members of the U.S. House of Representatives, along with ten other members of the House, have once again announced their opposition to federal banking reform for state-legal marijuana businesses. But since they’ve already cast their votes on the matter in the House, they’re looking to the Senate for help.

Less than a month after a group of representatives led by Congressman Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat from Colorado, sent a letter to Senate Banking Committee chairman Mike Crapo, urging him to advance Perlmutter’s successful House legislation that would protect banks serving marijuana businesses, another group of House members sent Crapo a letter with a starkly different stance on the bill, the SAFE Banking Act…

“The SAFE Banking Act jeopardizes public safety by legitimizing banking access for a Schedule I drug. It is important that we continue to tread lightly and consider public health concerns that surround the marijuana industry,” Buck says. “That’s why I opposed the SAFE Banking Act when it came to a vote in the House of Representatives and urge Senator Crapo to weigh these concerns when considering this legislation in the Senate.”

From the letter signed by Buck and Lamborn:

We write as Republican Members of Congress who voted against the SAFE Banking Act in the House of Representatives. Thank you for introducing a public health perspective to the question of banking for marijuana enterprises, including recreational stores that are advertising products that are appealing to children. We understand you have received significant pushback from these businesses for raising public health questions related to their business practices, and we urge you to stand strong…

We thank you again for your examination and consideration of these important public health topics. We remain opposed to liberalizing drug laws (including around banking), and we see these as some of our areas of greatest concern. We must protect our youth by preventing investment into companies that would prey upon them.

It’s important to understand that Buck and Lamborn’s objection to the SAFE Banking Act are not based in an easily-resolved technicality, but rather wholesale opposition to the legalization of marijuana. Even though they both represent a state that was the vanguard of legalization back in 2012, and has been joined by ten other states including major population centers like California and Illinois with more on the way, Buck and Lamborn refuse to allow the businesses raking in billions of dollars every year to use banking services every other legal business takes for granted.

For the cannabis industry in Colorado, the results have been needlessly tragic. Forced to operate as cash-only businesses, marijuana shops in Colorado have become lucrative targets for armed robberies–including in Aurora in 2016 in which a security guard for the dispensary was murdered execution-style. Dispensary owners have been forced to invest heavily in security and safe handling of large amounts of cash as a result.

With all of this in mind, it’s fair to ask the majority of Colorado voters who voted to legalize marijuana in 2012–what’s the bigger public safety risk here? Legal marijuana, or criminals targeting businesses forced to operate on cash? What public safety benefit is there in making an already legal industry needlessly dangerous? And where the hell is Sen. Cory Gardner, supposed best GOP friend of Colorado’s weed business? Once again, Gardner’s lip service to supporting the industry is being undercut by his fellow Republicans.

Politically, this is the sort of thing one can only get away with while holding a very safe seat–not just a safe Republican seat. It’s hard to imagine a position more opposed to the interests of the state Buck and Lamborn represent, actually supporting a status quo that invites crime against law-abiding Coloradans. Two out of three of Colorado’s GOP members of Congress were under no real pressure to sign a letter only ten other members from across the country were willing to put their name on.

It is not a principled stand. It is a slap in the face to the folks at home.

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Ken Buck’s Jaws Still Unhelpfully Flapping

UPDATE: Note that the GOP Senator who first fielded a similar question, Joni Ernst of Iowa, swiftly walked back her answer:

“That was taken entirely out of context. The point is that the Democrats have lowered the bar so far that … regardless of who it is, if you have a different party in the House than that of an elected president, you can have just random comments thrown out there with folks saying we’re going to impeach,” Ernst said when asked by The Hill about her earlier Biden comments.

“So, no, it was taken out of context. I didn’t say what the headlines [said] but simply that we‘ve lowered the bar so much, is this really what the American people want? And I would say no, it’s not,” she continued. [Pols emphasis]

Looks like Rep. Ken Buck is down, however–and not just impeachment right after an election like Sen. Ernst suggested. Buck is ready to rock right now.

And yes, that says more about Rep. Buck than it does about reality.

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Rep. Ken Buck (R) repeals Obamacare, except not really.

AP and 9NEWS reporting–Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, who has been at times surprisingly (and we assume unintentionally) feckless in the defense of President Donald Trump during the years of investigations leading up to Trump’s impeachment, continues to fire off rhetorical broadsides as the final vote in the Senate trial approaches that are unlikely to age well:

Following a senator’s warning that former Vice President Joe Biden could face impeachment the day after becoming president, if he were to be elected, Colorado Congressman Ken Buck said there was no reason to wait…

“Well, I would say this. There’s no reason to wait for that. Vice President Biden could be impeached now,” Buck said. [Pols emphasis] “There’s no reason that you have to only impeach someone that is in office. You can hold the hearings. You can gather the evidence. You can move forward. But the extent of the corruption that you see, at least the allegations of corruption, that you see around the Biden family is very troubling.”

Rep. Buck made these remarks in an interview yesterday on the Fox Business channel, which if you haven’t had the pleasure is where Rupert Murdoch dishes out the conservative red meat too outlandish even for the “mainstream” Fox News Channel! Obviously, the idea of a Democratic House impeaching a former Democratic vice president years after leaving office who just happens to be running for President is sufficiently far-fetched that it wouldn’t even make a believable SNL skit.

So why say it at all? The Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter:

Buck’s spokeswoman, Lindsey Curnutte, said the congressman believes Democrats have set the bar so low that any future president could be impeached under new Democratic standards. Buck also believes Congress has an oversight role and that there are serious allegations surrounding the Bidens, she said.

“In last night’s interview,” Curnutte said Tuesday, “he was laying out Congress’ constitutional ability to impeach former federal officials.”

Morgan Carroll, chair of the state Democratic Party, released this comment: “Ken Buck’s absurd statement demonstrates the serious moral decay of today’s Republican Party leaders. Impeachment is a serious and somber process used only for the most egregious abuses of office.”

For the purpose of distracting from the impeachment trial and undermining its legitimacy with already persuaded base Republican voters, Buck is keeping up a consistent drumbeat. Outside the not-even Fox News but Fox Business conservative news bubble, however, where no evidence to support any of the allegations against the Bidens has ever been uncovered, and a majority of Americans do not buy any of this based on their support for Trump’s impeachment and all evidence against Trump to have been considered?

Buck is just insulting people’s intelligence. Anywhere a GOP seat is less safe than Buck’s own, he isn’t helping.

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The Get More Smarter Podcast: Bold Predictions for 2020

This is it: The final episode of 2019 for The Get More Smarter Podcast. To close out the year, hosts Jason Bane and Ian Silverii discuss the most important Colorado political stories of 2019 and look ahead to 2020 with some bold predictions. Will Democrats take control of the U.S. Senate in 2020? Can Sen. Cory Gardner win re-election? Which one of Colorado’s seven Congressional seats could flip next year? 

And for the first time, Jason plays America’s worst favorite game, “Duke or Donald.” Ian is the current record-holder in the game that nobody really wins, but can Jason take the title in the last episode of 2019?

The Get More Smarter Podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Buzzcloud, Spotify, and Overcast. You can also follow the Podcast on Twitter @MoreSmarterShow. If you have a question or comment, hit us up at AngryRants@GetMoreSmarter.com.

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Ken Buck Says Impeachment Proves Existence of Deep State; Plans to Fight Back against Federal Workers

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Speaking on Greeley radio KFKA yesterday, U.S. Rep. Ken Buck of northern Colorado said the “really scary part” about the impeachment process is that “there really is a deep state,” and he pledged to fight back in part by taking a “very hard” look at pay raises and other benefits for federal employees and “job security” of “senior bureaucrats” in the executive branch.

“There is this group of bureaucrats that think they run the government and that Congress and the president, whether they’re elected or not, should answer to this group of bureaucrats,” Buck told KFKA host Gail Fallon. “And they — you know — fought against President Trump’s trying to reform government and trying to change the balance between the appointees in the in the executive branch and the career bureaucrats. And they won! That is the only winner of this. The Democrats didn’t win. They’ll learn that next November. The Republicans didn’t win. The president didn’t win. Congress didn’t win. The only winners in this are the bureaucrats.”

In attacking the so-called deep state, Buck is echoing a long-running theme of Trump, who’s long portrayed himself as a victim of deep state operatives.

Most recently, Trump even pointed to the existence of a deep state within the U.S. military.

Much has been written about the topic, including a New York Times bestseller.

And the deep state comes up repeatedly on conservative media outlets, like Fox News.

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Republicans Flummoxed on Prescription Drug Pricing

Image via AARP

While you were reading about impeachment news last week, you may have missed a significant vote in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives addressing an issue that is of utmost concern to American voters in 2020: Reducing the outrageous costs of prescription drugs.

The “Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act” (HR-3) passed out of the House on Thursday on a largely party line vote (Colorado’s four Democratic House Members voted “YES,” while all three Republicans voted “NO”) and will now head to the place where all good pieces of legislation go to die: The desk of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. As CBS News explains:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bill would cap Medicare recipients’ out-of-pocket costs for medicines at $2,000 a year. It would use about $360 billion of its projected 10-year savings from lower drug costs to establish Medicare coverage for dental care, hearing, and vision, filling major gaps for seniors.

But the legislation has no chance of passing the Republican-controlled Senate, and the White House has issued a veto threat. Still, Democrats saw a victory in the message their bill sends to voters…[Pols emphasis]

…Pelosi is claiming bragging rights because her bill would deliver on the promise that President Trump made as a candidate in 2016, when he said he would “negotiate like crazy” to lower prescription drug prices for Medicare recipients. It’s a pledge that Mr. Trump has backed away from as president.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Cory Gardner don’t know where to go from here.

Polling data continually shows that health care and prescription drugs top the list of voter concerns in 2020…much like they did in the Democratic wave year of 2018. A recent survey from Healthier Colorado found that 82% of Colorado voters believe that prescription drugs are too costly; nearly half of voters say that health care in general is unaffordable. The bill passed last week in the House of Representatives has the support of groups such as AARP, but McConnell won’t touch it in part because it is fiercely opposed by the pharmaceutical industry. As Politico reports today, the issue has put Republicans in a bind:

Yet with an election year cresting and massive divisions among his members, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is staying put. Associates say the Kentucky Republican is not eager to make a move that splits his caucus and could incur the wrath of the well-financed pharmaceutical industry.

A final decision will wait until after the Senate’s impeachment trial. Many Senate Republicans, however, know they need to do something to satisfy Trump and avoid the awful optics of doing nothing at all.

Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) this summer advanced a bill that would fine drugmakers that hike prices above inflation rates, but from the start it had more Democratic support than Republican backing. Even though a significant number of GOP members say it’s a bold stroke with crucial presidential support, many Republicans liken the move to price controls that would kill innovation.

This quote from Louisiana Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy sums up the absurdity of the GOP’s position: “Thank goodness Republicans control the Senate. That said, we still need something to make medicines affordable.” Ya think?

Republicans have lambasted impeachment investigations against President Trump as a distraction from the key issues facing average Americans, but Democrats snatched that stool right out from under them last week by multitasking on important topics. As The Hill explains:

Vulnerable Democrats in swing districts can point to the legislation as keeping a long-held promise to let Medicare negotiate drug prices. Members can show they are focused on kitchen table issues despite the chaos over impeachment.

The bill also gives moderate Democrats in Congress a chance to tout a health care issue that’s separate from the “Medicare for All” debate consuming the Democratic presidential primary.

“If a Democrat wins the White House and the party takes control of the Senate, a bill to allow the government to negotiate drug prices seems much more likely to pass than Medicare for All or even a public option,” said Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health care policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Congressional Republicans are now in the unenviable position of arguing against the substance of legislation that would reduce health care costs for millions of Americans. Republican leaders can shake their fists at the idea of “price controls” for prescription drugs, but that language only makes a dent with pharmaceutical lobbyists; controlling prices is exactly what average voters want to see from Congress on the issue of prescription drug costs.

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Gardner Smart to Act Like Impartial Juror He’s Not, Says Buck

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Mitch McConnell, Cory Gardner.

On conservative KNUS last week, host Steffan Tubbs asked U.S. Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) why Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner wasn’t speaking out more on impeachment.

Buck replied with, “I think Cory is absolutely right. Cory will be part of the jury in the near future, and I think Cory is demonstrating that he is entering this with an open mind, that he wants to see the evidence. But Cory is a thoughtful and he is a senator that is well-respected because he holds his cards close to his vest. And I think that that Cory Gardner, when he speaks and when he says, ‘I’ve listened to the evidence and this is my vote,’ it’s much more convincing than if he was a partisan all the way along.”

In fact, Gardner hasn’t been spewing out news releases on impeachment, like KNUS’ Steffan Tubbs wants him to do.

But the senator has already called the impeachment inquiry a “total circus” He also voted for a Senate resolution condemning the inquiry.

The irony hasn’t been lost on 9News’ Kyle Clark, who tweeted Dec. 10: “Quite the contortion in [Gardner’s] statement on impeachment. Says it’s a ‘total circus’ to ‘appease the far-left’ but Gardner says as a juror in Senate they’ll be ‘bipartisan and fair.'”

And speaking of contortion, Buck doesn’t have a problem saying that he “absolutely” does not believe that Gardner will vote against impeachment, which is what he told Tubbs Friday.

So Buck is saying, Gardner needs to act like an impartial juror, but don’t worry my fellow Republicans, Gardner will absolutely vote with Trump.

That’s what it looks like when a contortionist defends a contortionist.

Buck’s own impeachment behavior is getting national attention.

Maureen Dowd of the New York Times spotlighted Buck as having the “most twisted” defense of opposing the impeachment.

The twisted moment came, Dowd wrote over the weekend, when Buck said that it doesn’t make sense to impeach for obstructing Congress because “we were sent here to obstruct this Congress.” It was “a campaign promise.”

If you read that a few times, then Buck’s defense of Gardner maintaining his non-silence silence to be impartial seems logical.

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Neguse and Buck: Colorado’s Best And Worst Take Center Stage

UPDATE: Rep. Ken Buck continues to put the GOP’s worst foot forward, as the Washington Post reports:

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) argued that impeaching Trump for obstruction of Congress doesn’t make sense because Republican lawmakers were “sent here to obstruct this Congress.”

…Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) pushed back on Buck, calling it “terrible ignorance” to suggest that obstruction is a good thing. [Pols emphasis]

“Whether you think Congress is behaving well or badly, whether it’s popular or unpopular, if you want a dictator, then you subvert the ability of Congress to hold the executive in check,” Nadler said. “What is central here is do we want a dictator? No matter how popular he may be, no matter how good or bad the results of his policies may be. No president is supposed to be a dictator in the United States.”

“When I hear colleagues of mine arguing that the Congress is unpopular and therefore obstruction of Congress is a good thing, this shows terrible ignorance or lack of care for our institutions, for our democracy, for our form of government, for our liberties,” Nadler added.

—–

Rep. Joe Neguse (D).

Reporter Robin Bravender from Washington via the Colorado Independent:

A Colorado Democrat on Wednesday night delivered a forceful plea for the U.S. House to impeach President Donald Trump, while his Republican colleague helped lead the president’s defense.

Rep. Joe Neguse, a freshman Democrat, spoke of his immigrant parents, refugees from Eritrea. “They wanted their children to grow up in a place that is free, a country where leaders respect the rule of law and where they don’t use the power of government to target political opponents — a country with fair elections where everyone has the right to vote,” he said…

Neguse accused Trump of soliciting the interference of a foreign government in the 2020 U.S. presidential election for his own political advantage. “Every American deserves to know that their president will not endanger our national security, that he or she won’t seek to use their power to undermine our free and fair elections and that they won’t tap a foreign government to help tip the scales in their favor,” he said.

Rep. Joe Neguse’s powerful opening statement in favor of impeachment against Donald Trump (video above) is getting a lot of attention today as House Democrats move forward with the markup of the articles of impeachment and Republicans continue to cry foul as loudly and distractingly as they can. Neguse eloquently got to the heart of the matter:

I’d like to begin tonight by speaking directly to the Americans listening and watching who may disagree with the steps this Committee is taking. I hope you’ll understand we are proceeding on this path truly out of love for our country. We are your neighbors, we are your colleagues, your fellow worshipers, and we are all citizens of the greatest nation on earth. We are blessed to live in a country where our similarities far outweigh our differences…

In 2016, Russia interfered in our elections in “sweeping and systematic” fashion. And as we now know, the Trump campaign welcomed at that time that interference, and now, the President of the United States has solicited the interference of a foreign government in the 2020 presidential election for his own advantage. President Trump abused his power, and then, engaged in a wholesale obstruction of Congress to cover it up.

The fact remains that in the history of our republic, no president has ever ordered such a complete defiance of an impeachment inquiry, until now.

If anything is clear, it is this: every American deserves to know that their President will not endanger our national security, that he or she won’t seek to use their power to undermine our free and fair elections, and that they won’t tap a foreign government to help tip the scales in their favor.

Colorado GOP chairman Rep. Ken Buck (R).

Comparing the thoughtful approach of Colorado’s freshman lawmaker on the House Judiciary Committee to the bad faith of Neguse’s Colorado Republican counterpart on the committee Rep. Ken Buck, makes for a remarkable contrast:

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) told his colleagues to “go ahead” and vote for impeachment. “Say goodbye to your majority status and please join us in January 2021 when President Trump is inaugurated again.”

Throughout the impeachment proceedings now coming to a head in the U.S. House, the contrast between Neguse’s incisive questioning of witnesses versus Buck’s descent into silly-season obstruction tactics and even promoting the wildest diversionary conspiracy theories injected into the debate by Trump’s defenders has been a useful exemplar for both sides. Yesterday, though, Buck appears to have dispensed with debating the case against Trump on the merits, reverting to shopworn political threats instead.

Because public opinion of the impeachment process largely divides by party affiliation, the opinion of Colorado’s principal figures in the process will hew pretty closely to the observers’ partisan leanings. For voters in neither tent, however–who make up a decisive plurality in Colorado–Neguse’s diligence comes across immeasurably better than Buck’s contempt.

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The Sky is Still Blue; Up Is Not Down

Yep, still blue

Rex Huppke of the Chicago Tribune has a great column today that is worth your time. The premise of Huppke’s column is about fighting to preserve important things like truth and facts at a time when they are constantly under attack by right-wing sources:

It can feel, especially lately, as if reality has been bent sideways and backward, like facts are meaningless and, quite frankly, like many of us are losing our minds…

…First, the good: Facts still matter, and truth still exists.

Second, the bad: You can’t feel exhausted. You have to cling to the truth, tighter than ever before, because an entire political party, a massive news network and the leader of the free world are trying to pull it away.

Huppke could point to any number of recent examples in making his point, though this case he uses the release this week of a watchdog report which found that the FBI was justified in opening an investigation into President Trump’s 2016 campaign (and its ties to foreign governments) and was not influenced by political bias one way or the other. As Huppke summarizes:

Even a cursory review of the report reveals a thorough debunking of many of the president’s favorite conspiracy theories. It clearly states there is no “documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced” the decision to launch an investigation into contacts between Russians and Trump campaign members.

The report shows the FBI had an “authorized purpose” for starting the investigation, meaning it was not, as Trump claims ceaselessly, a “witch hunt.” The report even shows that while screams of bias have been leveled ad nauseam at certain investigators who were texting anti-Trump comments, there were also investigators texting pro-Trump comments. There was no evidence either form of bias had bearing on the investigation.

I speak THIS MUCH truth.

Alas, President Trump and his apologists sought their own sort of “facts.” Trump curiously called the report “far worse than I would’ve ever thought possible.” Fox News talking monkey Sean Hannity breathlessly declared it “the biggest abuse of power corruption scandal in the history of the country.”

As Huppke writes:

Up is down. Dogs are cats. The world is flat as a pancake.

Trump, members of his party and propagandists like Hannity failed to note anything debunked by the report. They didn’t just overlook a few things. They flat-out lied.

And they did it as easy as they breathe.

Like most things in life, you can have a different opinion of these developments…but you cannot claim a different set of facts. As The Washington Post reported today, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz told lawmakers that a senior prosecutor — appointed directly by Attorney General William Barr — failed to convince him that the FBI’s 2016 investigation was improper.

Trump and Hannity are free to say that they disagree with the report’s findings; what they shouldn’t be able to get away with is declaring that the report reached an entirely different set of conclusions. But it happens because Trumpians are incessant about driving false narratives, and because news outlets often let them get away with it.

Take, for example, this Monday story in The Denver Post recapping a day of impeachment hearings in front of the House Judiciary Committee.

The Denver Post (12/9/19)

The Post headline makes it look like this discussion is a difference of opinion, when in reality it is more about a difference in accepted truth. There is zero evidence that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections, yet the headline treats the discussion as though the facts are still to be determined. As the Post’s Justin Wingerter writes later:

“Isn’t it true that President Trump had a legitimate reason to request help from the Ukraine about the 2016 election?” Rep. Ken Buck, a Windsor Republican, asked a House Judiciary Committee lawyer, who was testifying during the impeachment hearing. “And I’m not suggesting for a minute that Russia didn’t interfere. Of course they interfered! But the Ukraine officials tried to influence the election.”

It’s a view asserted by an increasing number of Republicans in recent days despite the intelligence community and even Trump administration officials saying there was no evidence to support it. Democrats reiterated that on several occasions Monday. [Pols emphasis]

Again, Buck is entitled to his opinion. But media outlets should not allow him to present that opinion as fact.

Even media institutions like the New York Times are guilty of permitting this false factual equivalency. New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen was critical of a Times story that reported little more than what different sides had to say about the subject:

9News in Denver reported on different statements from Members of Colorado’s Congressional delegation, offering little in the way of context until reporter/anchor Kyle Clark Tweeted this separately:

Clark’s comments should have been included in the original 9News story, which went on to quote Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) saying this:

“The Democrats don’t have the evidence to support their case.”

This is not true. Not even a little. 9News should have reported that it is Buck’s “opinion” that Democrats don’t have the evidence to support their case. As Huppke of the Chicago Tribune reminds us, Trump supporters are muddying the waters for a very specific purpose:

Disinformation is intended to wear critics down, to make them feel that resistance is futile, that combating nonsense with facts is a waste of time.

You can’t let that happen. You need to keep your mind right.

News outlets seem to be growing increasingly worried about being viewed as presenting “both sides of the story” at a time when what the public really needs is for the media to present “the accurate side of the story.”

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