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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Mayor of Palm Springs Has More Guts Than Cory Gardner

Palm Springs, CA Mayor Geoff Kors.

President Donald Trump’s more or less fact-free tirade against wind power in Colorado Springs Thursday evening, in which Trump claimed among other things that wind turbines are “all made in China and in Germany” despite the fact that Colorado has thousands of workers employed by wind turbine manufacturer Vestas in production plants across the state, provoked a fiery response Friday from one Geoff Kors–the mayor of Palm Springs, California. Trump singled out Palm Springs in particular Thursday due to the presence of a large nearby wind farm at San Gorgonio Pass, one of the largest and oldest such facilities in the nation:

Palm Springs Mayor Geoff Kors Friday fired back at President Donald Trump’s recent comments at a campaign rally in Colorado, where he blasted Palm Springs’ windmills, saying they “look like hell.”

Kors responded by praising the city’s quest to achieve 100% carbon- free energy in the face of climate change, and called the windmills that dot Interstate 10 “especially beautiful.”

“It is unfortunate that, at this critical time in our history, we have a president who lies about and denigrates clean green power while embracing and promoting dirty power such as coal and offshore oil drilling, which is destroying our planet,” Kors said in a statement. [Pols emphasis]

San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm.

As the Sacramento Bee reports, this isn’t the first time Trump has dissed the city that bills itself “the golf capital of the world” over the nearby San Gorgonio Pass wind farm:

It’s not the first time Trump has been angry about the Palm Springs windmills. In 2012, Trump tweeted that Palm Springs had been “destroyed” by the “world’s ugliest wind farm.”

In 2016, Trump said Palm Springs was a “poor man’s version of Disneyland” on a radio show, The Desert Sun reported.

Now to be as fair as we can, Trump’s disdain for the Palm Springs area may have as much to do with failed casino management scheme in the nearby Coachella Valley in which Trump got Trumped by the Twenty-nine Palms Band of Mission Indians. It’s a fascinating side story, the kind that Trump has left littered in his wake for decades–but we digress.

Trump’s broadside against wind power in Colorado Springs on Thursday contained statements that should have resulted in fierce bipartisan pushback–and that means from the Colorado Republicans who directly represent wind power manufacturing plants and workers in our state. Back in 2012, when then-GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney promised to end the wind power production tax credit, some of the same Republicans who were silent this week were forced to distance themselves from their nominee:

Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) is the latest Republican to come out against Mitt Romney’s plan to end the production tax credit for the wind industry.

In an interview with ThinkProgress, Tipton rejected Romney’s pledge to end the wind tax credit, saying that the industry needs at least two years before it can be self-sustainable. “Do you want to cut it off when they’re on the cusp of being where we want them to be and to be able to create jobs and to be able to part of the energy solution?” Tipton asked, before answering his own question: “No, I don’t think we do.”

Sen. Cory Gardner (R), from a 2014 campaign ad highlighting Gardner’s support for renewable energy.

E&ENews reported in August of 2012:

Another wind-heavy state that could help decide the election is Colorado, where Romney’s newly aggressive opposition to the PTC also got plenty of attention yesterday. The industry supports at least 5,000 to 6,000 Colorado jobs, according to AWEA, and extending the credit has bipartisan support among the state’s congressional delegation. Freshman Colorado Republican Reps. Cory Gardner and Scott Tipton were among those who signed onto a letter to House leaders in June urging extension of the credit.

President Barack Obama fired back at Romney on the campaign trail in Pueblo:

“[A]t a moment when homegrown energy is creating new jobs in states like Colorado and Iowa, my opponent wants to end tax credits for wind energy producers. Think about what that would mean for a community like Pueblo. The wind industry supports about 5,000 jobs across this state,” Obama plans to say Thursday in Pueblo, Colo., where the Danish wind turbine giant Vestas has a major manufacturing plant.

We of course understand that the political climate in the country has changed considerably since 2012, mostly due to President Trump’s unprecedented free-ranging ignorance and rambling speechification completely untethered from any need for factuality. But for Colorado Republicans who were in 2012 forced to acknowledge reality, due to their representation of the very real people and industries who belie such deceitful attacks on wind energy, cheering on President Trump while he says things that would have been considered an unqualified disaster for the GOP a few years ago is just too much.

If there is no price to be paid for this by Colorado Republicans, not even an acknowledgement that their Republican President was spewing one alarming falsehood after another about an industry that employs thousands of Coloradans, a crucial element of accountability that once existed has broken down.

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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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Boebert Slams Tipton On Major Conservative Shibboleth

Lauren Boebert.

During the second term of President Barack Obama’s administration, conservatives accused the Internal Revenue Service of unfairly targeting conservative activist nonprofit groups for heightened scrutiny. Although a detailed report from the Treasury Department Inspector General in 2017 found that the IRS targeted both conservative and liberal groups based on keywords like “Tea Party” and “progressive,” it’s been an article of faith on the far right from the beginning that the whole business was a treacherous partisan attack on Republicans by the Obama White House.

This is where it gets tricky for incumbent GOP Rep. Scott Tipton, as Politico reported in December of 2016:

The House squelched a resolution to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in a bipartisan rebuke of conservative House Freedom Caucus efforts.

Lawmakers voted 342-72 to kick the resolution back to the Judiciary Committee, averting a floor vote on outright impeachment after outgoing House Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan introduced a privileged resolution on Tuesday to impeach Koskinen…

The IRS chief has been under fire by conservatives for his handling of the aftermath of the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups, which exploded into the headlines in spring of 2013. Koskinen, who was not IRS commissioner at the time, has denied allegations that he misled Congress about the controversy.

The Colorado GOP majority delegation at that time split their vote on this motion, with Reps. Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn voting with the 72 hardcores in the minority and Reps. Mike Coffman and Scott Tipton voting with the bipartisan majority. Although still a lively topic on conservative talk radio, by this time it was apparent that the IRS’ nonprofit dragnet was, if perhaps a bit overzealous, bipartisan in its overzealousness.

But folks, you know who doesn’t want to hear the unsexy truth? Republican primary voters! If Tipton wants to refute this allegation from challenger Lauren “Yosemite Samantha” Boebert, he has to convince his audience that the much-balleyhooed “Obama IRS scandal” really, you know, wasn’t so much of a scandal.

And needless to say, that’s no help in a Republican primary either.

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The Get More Smarter Podcast: Impeach the Caucuses!

This week on The Get More Smarter Podcast, hosts Jason Bane and Alan Franklin discuss the disastrous Iowa caucuses; the final day of the Senate impeachment trial; and what we learned from a couple of big last-minute campaign finance reports. We also chat again with House Majority Leader Alec Garnett in our regular “Smart Alec” crossover, covering topics including the death of a puppy mill bill; the latest on efforts to repeal the death penalty; legislation that would allow college athletes to get paid; and how Colorado decided to ditch its Presidential caucus system in favor of holding a straightforward vote. It would be impossible to not Get More Smarter this week!

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

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

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Danger, Scott Tipton

The Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter updates on the CD-3 money race, where incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton finds himself with a new challenge: a wealthy Democratic opponent who can effectively counter Tipton’s financial advantage as a protected GOP incumbent:

Rep. Scott Tipton (R).

Honestly, we would have expected James Iacino’s self-funding to be a much larger percentage of his almost $300,000 total than $20,000–an indicator that this heretofore politically unknown businessman can compete in this race on Tipton’s level, and in the 4th quarter of 2019 well above Tipton. That’s a new data point for everyone watching this race to consider.

Although Tipton’s upstart primary challenger Lauren Boebert logged a little less than $30,000 in the fourth quarter–in fairness raised in just a few weeks after Boebert announced her run in early December–Tipton’s lackluster fundraising relative to one possible Democratic challenger could actually have the effect of boosting her campaign. Boebert can counter that she would have all the money she needs to defend the seat in the event she wins the primary, and Tipton isn’t pulling away enough to take her out of the running just yet.

Either way we’re looking at different dynamics in the 2020 CD-3 race so far than we’ve seen in previous election years, which have ended anticlimactically for Scott Tipton. In 2020, an easy cruise to victory for the GOP incumbent in this race cannot be guaranteed.

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“Yosemite Samantha” Lands Coveted Tom Tancredo Endorsement

Lauren Boebert.

Ernest Luning at the Colorado Springs Gazette reports, the CD-3 Republican primary heats up with the announcement that former Republican congressman, presidential candidate, and fringe-right gadfly extraordinaire Tom Tancredo is throwing his weight behind upstart primary challenger Lauren Boebert:

Calling her a “principled, no-nonsense patriot,” former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo on Monday endorsed fellow Republican Lauren Boebert, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in a primary.

The immigration hardliner who served five terms in Congress said in a radio ad obtained by Colorado Politics that Boebert, the pistol-packing owner of Shooters Grill in Rifle, “has the same fight in her that I brought to Washington.”

…The ad also touts Boebert’s well-publicized confrontation with Beto O’Rourke when the Texas Democrat brought his soon-to-be-concluded presidential campaign to Aurora to talk about gun violence in September.

Tancredo, one of the legendary pillars of Colorado’s special breed of “kamikaze conservatives” who helped relieve the GOP of most of its power in this state in the last fifteen years (see: The Blueprint by Adam Schrager and Rob Witwer), nonetheless wields a built-in base of support that remains quite influential within the party. Tancredo is also blissfully untethered by any loyalty to the Republican elites in Colorado, who generally remain supportive of incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton.

Does Tancredo’s support win Boebert the primary? Of course not. But we can’t see how it hurts.

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Tipton, Gardner Celebrate “Dirty Water Act”

Ricardo Lopez Jr. of the Pueblo Chieftain reports:

On Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army finalized the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which replaces the Waters of the United States Act approved by the Obama administration in 2015.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis immediately denounced the move, calling it a plan “to gut federal clean water protections.”

The revised definition identifies four clear categories of waters that are federally regulated under the Clean Water Act: the territorial seas and traditional navigable waters; perennial and intermittent tributaries; certain lakes, ponds, and impoundments; and wetlands that are adjacent to jurisdictional waters…

“In Colorado, we value our clean water. Our rivers, streams, and lakes serve as the lifeblood of our communities and help support our thriving outdoor and agriculture industries,” Polis said Thursday. “Our administration will continue to reject attempts by the Trump administration to gut proven ways to protect our health and environment.”

The Grand Junction Sentinel’s Dennis Webb:

Federal agencies on Thursday finalized a new clean-water rule that supporters including U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton say provides much-needed regulatory certainty.

But opponents, including the administration of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, say it will result in the weakest protections since the passage of the Clean Water Act nearly a half a century ago…

Last April, the Polis administration and Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser submitted joint comments on the rule proposal that was finalized this week. Their letter said that as with many western states, the large majority of Colorado’s stream miles are intermittent or ephemeral. [Pols emphasis] The state said the proposal would shrink federal jurisdiction far below guidance issued in 2008 by the George W. Bush administration “to a smaller number of Colorado waters” than what presidential administrations have required since the Clean Water Act’s passage. While many ephemeral waters aren’t jurisdictional under the 2008 guidance, the new rule categorically excludes them from jurisdiction, “regardless of their connection to downstream waters,” the state wrote.

Although the new rule is intended to resolve “uncertainty” over the extent of the Clean Water Act’s jurisdiction, meaning continued special-interest grumbling and court challenges since the Obama administration passed the 2015 “Waters of the United States” rule, this rollback is particularly bad for arid Western states. The seasonality of precipitation and overall scarcity of water here compared to states east of the “20 inch isohyet” means many ephemeral waterways which most certainly can contribute to water pollution in “navigable” bodies of water covered by the Act will lose their federal protection.

It’s a classic case of choosing economic interests over environmental protection, and it works against both Rep. Scott Tipton’s and Sen. Cory Gardner’s claims to be different from other Republicans on conservation–or at least attuned to how these issues differ in the state they represent from other regions of the country. The only people this new rule should make happy are those who benefit financially from being able to pollute small bodies of water with impunity.

And it’s hard to imagine that being a majority of Colorado voters.

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“Yosemite Samantha” Assails Tipton Over “Amnesty Bill”

Lauren Boebert.

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports, upstart CD-3 Republican primary challenger Lauren Boebert broadsided GOP incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton over his recent vote with “Nancy Pelosi, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and 224 other Democrats” in favor of a new farm worker visa program bill:

Rifle restaurant owner Lauren Boebert, who announced last month that she is challenging the four-term congressman in the June primary, said that when Tipton voted for the Farm Workers Modernization Act of 2019 last month, he was voting for a pathway to citizenship for “illegal farm workers and their families.”

That bill, which established a new certified agricultural worker status and revamped parts of the nation’s H-2A agricultural visa program, cleared the U.S. House on Dec. 11 on a 260-165 vote. Thirty three other House Republicans voted for the bill along with Tipton, the only GOP representative in Colorado’s congressional delegation to do so.

“It was certainly shocking that you voted alongside Nancy Pelosi, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and 224 other Democrats to give amnesty to millions of illegal farm workers and their families,” Boebert wrote. “To then falsely claim, ‘This is NOT an amnesty bill” is a good indicator of why you should no longer be representing hardworking American citizens in Congress. How stupid do you believe voters are?”

Although it would be disingenuous for Democrats to directly criticize Rep. Tipton for voting with them and against an overwhelming majority of fellow Republicans, this vote could still be a big problem for Tipton in a Republican primary. There’s nothing that gets the blood of rock-ribbed conservative primary voters up like “caving” on immigration, and since President Donald Trump has made demonizing immigrants a central GOP campaign plank Tipton’s vote with Democrats on this bill is even more problematic–again, not in the general election, but Tipton has to get there first.

We said previously that Boebert’s best strategy is to seize the ideological momentum among hardcore GOP primary voters from Tipton, and successfully sell herself as a stronger conservative and more than just a novel personality. It still remains to be seen whether Boebert can compete down the stretch with Tipton’s well-oiled re-election machine, but savaging Tipton over this vote is strategically right on target.

Boebert says her objective is to become the “conservative AOC.” So far, so good.

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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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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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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (December 11)

Happy “Indiana Day.” Please celebrate responsibly. 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…

Jesse Paul of The Colorado Sun examines a question we have long pondered here at Colorado Pols: Does Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) have a breaking point when it comes to his fealty to President Trump?

Gardner made an early endorsement of Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign. He has a direct line of communication to the president — they speak on the phone fairly regularly. And he has refused to answer questions about whether Trump’s interactions with Ukraine’s president — which are now the subject of impeachment proceedings — were wrong…

…In a recent interview, Gardner declined to answer questions about his views on Trump and instead attacked Democrats. He has said, when explaining his support of the president, that he could never support someone who backs policies he said are socialist, including government-run health care or the Green New Deal.

Asked whether there is a red line that Trump could cross that would lead him to abandon his support of the president, Gardner didn’t directly answer.

There is a LOT of information to absorb about Gardner in this story — make sure to read the entire thing yourself — including some very unflattering comments from Colorado voters:

Alan Schwartz, another unaffiliated voter who said he leans left but has backed Republicans in the past, made a thumbs-down motion when asked about Gardner. “I feel he is a butt-kisser,” said Schwartz, adding that he was upset about Gardner’s support of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation. “He says he’ll do one thing and then flip over and go with Trump. I don’t trust him at all.” [Pols emphasis]

 

The House Judiciary Committee today begins the process of “marking up” articles of impeachment against President Trump.

9News runs down how Colorado elected officials feel about impeachment, none of which will surprise you. Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) announced via Twitter that he has already made up his mind on an impeachment vote:

President Trump, meanwhile, says that abuse of power “is not even a crime.”

 

 Attorney General Bill Barr has been trying to help President Trump come up with evidence that the FBI was illegally targeting his 2016 campaign by investigating contacts with foreign officials. But as The Washington Post explains, the facts keep winning out:

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said Wednesday that a senior prosecutor failed to convince him that the FBI’s 2016 investigation of President Trump’s campaign was improperly opened, revealing new details about internal tension among senior officials over the politically explosive case.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Horowitz was asked by the panel’s senior Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), if Attorney General William P. Barr or his hand-picked prosecutor on the issue, Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham, offered anything to change the inspector general’s view that the FBI had a valid reason to open the probe in July 2016.

“No, we stand by our finding,” said Horowitz, who said he met in November with Durham to discuss the findings in the inspector general’s 434-page report released Monday…

…Horowitz’s testimony marked his first public pushback to Barr and Durham, and further revealed the depths of the disagreement among senior law enforcement officials about Horowitz’s findings. Before the report was released publicly, The Washington Post reported that Barr disputed Horowitz’s conclusion that the FBI had sufficient grounds to open the investigation.

 

► Editorial pages across the country are coming to the same conclusion: President Trump must be impeached.

 

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

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Scott Tipton Faces Primary Challenge From Gun-Right

Lauren Boebert.

As the Colorado Sun’s Jesse Paul reports:

Lauren Boebert, the owner and operator of a Western Slope restaurant where all staffers openly carry guns, announced on Sunday a conservative primary challenge to Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton.

“Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Squad and the rest of these left-wing lunatics are taking a wrecking ball to our country while our current representative stays utterly silent,” Boebert said in a statement announcing her candidacy in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District…

“Hard-working, patriotic Americans like you and me don’t want the Green New Deal and socialized medicine,” Boebert said. “Every time AOC and the rest of the Squad pipes up with another crazy idea, I will remind them that our belief in God, country and family are what built the United States of America into the greatest nation the world has ever known.”

Lauren Boebert, the owner of the relatively famous Shooters Grill in Rifle which features wait staff openly carrying loaded handguns so you don’t have to worry about anything in the middle of lunch, gained additional notoriety last September when she vocally weighed in at a town hall in Aurora held by then-Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke. This was right after O’Rourke had called for an Australia-style mandatory buyback of assault weapons, which didn’t boost O’Rourke’s campaign but did make him an especially reviled figure among the gun rights crowd.

Will Boebert’s newfound fame as the “Hell No Beto Mom” give her a competitive advantage taking on the low-charisma but surprisingly durable Republican incumbent in Colorado’s Third District, Rep. Scott Tipton? There’s a lot that has to happen before we can say that with any certainty. But if we were Tipton, we’d be more worried about Boebert than many of his previous small-time primary opponents. If Boebert gains momentum with fiercely conservative Western Slope Republicans, and shovels the red meat the base wants to hear better than Tipton, an upset in the GOP CD-3 primary is not beyond possibility.

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Colorado Republicans Stand at Historical Crossroads

Via CNN

On Thursday the House of Representatives voted along party lines to formalize the process for impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

For weeks Republicans have railed against Democrats for not opening a “formal” impeachment inquiry — it was easier for Republicans to attack the process than to defend Trump on the merits of his actions — but on Thursday the GOP demonstrated that this argument was more style than substance. If Republicans can’t assail the process or defend the President’s decisions, then what’s left?

The only obvious step forward is to actually consider the case against President Trump and to vote accordingly. As the editorial board of the Aurora Sentinel wrote on Wednesday:

Credible, compelling, consistent and growing allegations against Trump extorting Ukraine for his own political gain have reached a tipping point…

…Trump himself has now offered honest Republicans a way out of having to defend an indefensible, lying, untrustworthy and incompetent president. Trump has admitted his “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Democrats are documenting them and making the unequivocal case for impeachment. Gardner and others can now finally step out from under the pressure to appease Trump’s misguided base of supporters. But to do that, they must commit to representing the voters in their district, not the delusional, fear-driven scheme of Republican Party leaders.

This is the way out for Gardner and other Republicans of becoming complicit with a duplicitous president. The nation is about to see Trump’s malevolent scandal exposed, and all voters will see which Republicans have the temerity to spurn or defend it.

The nation and history are watching what happens next.

Clockwise from top left: Cory Gardner, Ken Buck, Doug Lamborn, and Scott Tipton.

History does not yet appear to motivate Republican members of Colorado’s Congressional delegation. Instead, they appear more concerned about the present and how they will be perceived by Trump in 2020. Congressmen Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) and Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) are the co-chairs of Trump’s re-election campaign in Colorado; even if you could figure out a simple way to explain this to Lamborn, there’s little chance that he would bother to listen to the arguments. Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley)? He moonlights as the Chairman of the State Republican Party (or vice-versa) and has been clear about his loyalty to Trump.

As for Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma)…well, Quid Pro Cory gave up any pretense of a conscience long ago. Gardner may not have a breaking point when it comes to Trump.

It seems clear that Colorado Republicans aren’t going to be moved by the present, but surely they can comprehend the impact impeachment proceedings may have on their own legacies. David Greenberg, a history professor at Rutgers University, examined this subject for The Washington Post:

Still, people return to this notion for a reason: It acknowledges the potentially high stakes of any political action — how a single vote or decision can loom large in someone’s legacy when the day of reckoning finally comes. It appeals to transcendent ideals that may be obscured by the fervor of the moment; sometimes these coalesce crisply over time, making right and wrong seem obvious and incontestable in retrospect. When, for example, a dying Sen. John McCain went to the well of the Senate to give his thumbs-down on the gutting of Obamacare, he knew this was an act he’d be remembered for…

But the Watergate saga does tell us this much: Those loyalists who abandoned Nixon early, when it mattered — who stood up for principle over party, for integrity over professional advancement, before Nixon was politically doomed — are remembered and praised for their courage. [Pols emphasis]

And what of those who chose to stand with Nixon?

None of these men has been well remembered. All of their obituaries led with the fact that they defended Nixon. That decision became the headline of their entire lives. [Pols emphasis]

Wherever the impeachment inquiry leads, Tipton, Buck, Lamborn, and Gardner have shown no indication that they will do anything but march alongside Trump.

But there is never a wrong time to do the right thing.

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Trump, Tipton Join Forces To Screw West Slope

UPDATE: Ernest Luning at the Colorado Springs Gazette:

[Sen. Cory] Gardner hasn’t signed on to a bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, both Colorado Democrats, dubbed the Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy Act, or the CORE Act — but he hasn’t said he’s opposed to the legislation, either…

“Coloradans need a senator who will stand up for public lands and listen to local communities,” [former Gov. John] Hickenlooper said in a statement. “I am calling on Sen. Gardner to join me and Coloradans from across our state in supporting the CORE Act.”

Rep. Joe Neguse:

—–

Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez)

As the Colorado Sun’s Jesse Paul reports, the unexpectedly “partisan partisanized” standoff over what should have been bipartisan legislation to extend new protections to some 400,000 acres of Colorado land, the CORE Act, escalated dramatically today after President Donald Trump threatened a veto of the bill:

President Donald Trump’s administration on Tuesday threatened to veto the CORE Act in a statement that said the massive Colorado public lands bill puts the Western Slope economy at risk.

The White House also said that not enough local input has been addressed when it comes to the legislation, which is expected to get a vote this week in the U.S. House.

If the act — which aims to protect about 400,000 acres of public land, including around the historic Camp Hale and along the Thompson Divide — were “presented to the president in its current form, his advisers would recommend that he veto it,” the White House statement said.

As our readers know the shell game over the CORE Act has been going on for some time now, with Colorado Democrats united with local stakeholders in support of the bill attempting to persuade Rep. Scott Tipton and Sen. Cory Gardner to join them. Republicans have alternated between delaying while they slowly “consider” changes to the CORE Act, and competing legislation introduced last summer by Tipton and backed by Gardner that significantly dimmed prospects of a bipartisan CORE Act at all–and with a divided Congress and a Republican President, a bipartisan bill is the only bill with a prayer.

Politically, this further partisan isolation on an issue that voters on all sides care about isn’t going to help either Tipton or Gardner going into next year’s elections. Just yesterday a new poll was released showing strong public support for the goals of the CORE Act on the Western Slope–voters who are about to be bitterly disappointed by the evening news, as the Colorado Springs Gazette reports:

Of 400 voters surveyed in Congressional District 3 and Chaffee and Fremont counties, two-thirds endorsed the designation of more public lands as wilderness areas, which is one of the aims of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy Act… [Pols emphasis]

Another finding of the poll, conducted by New Bridge Strategy, is that support for wilderness areas increases among people who participate in more than one outdoor recreational activity. Majorities of both Republicans and Democrats agreed with greater wilderness designations.

At this point, CORE Act supporters need to stake out clearly what they are willing to live with in terms of compromise to get a bipartisan CORE Act back on track. And if the current administration, Republican-controlled Senate, and the incumbent representative of most of the affected lands are determined to forestall the bill Colorado needs, it may be necessary to solve the political problem first.

It looks like in that event, the voters will have Democrats’ back.

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James Iacino Joins the Fray in CO-3

James Iacino

As Justin Wingerter reports for the Denver Post:

With a campaign kickoff video touting his family’s attainment of the American dream, the former CEO of Seattle Fish Co. announced Thursday that he is running for Congress in Colorado’s expansive 3rd District.

“While working on loading docks and driving trucks, I learned that upward mobility for workers is key to a whole community’s success,” said James Iacino, a grandson of the century-old Colorado company’s founder.

Here’s more from SeafoodSource.com, mostly because we can’t pass up an opportunity to cite a Seafood news website as a resource for something political:

Seattle Fish Company is a major seafood distributor in the Rocky Mountain region of the U.S.. The company, founded in 1918 in Denver, Colorado, has 170 employees and counts more than 1,400 restaurants and retailers as customers.

As a candidate, Iacino said he will campaign on a platform of advocating for economic mobility, environmental conservation and sustainability initiatives, and the importance of social justice.

Iacino is not a well-known name in Colorado politics, but he has both the local roots and the personal wealth to be a very interesting candidate in CO-3. Iacino slots into The Big Line just below 2018 candidate Diane Mitsch Bush and well ahead of State Rep. Don Valdez (you can stick a fork in Valdez’s candidacy after a miserable $25k third quarter fundraising period).

Incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) is still the presumptive favorite here because of the general conservative makeup of the district, but his ties to President Trump — Tipton is a co-chair of Trump’s Colorado re-election campaign — could come back to bite him.

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Blame Trump, But Don’t Forget His Republican Enablers

Republicans don’t seem to sweat President Trump’s dangerous behavior.

According to the website VeryWell Family, these are the top warning signs for children with a “serious behavior problem”: 1) Difficulty managing emotional outbursts, 2) Difficulty managing impulses, and 3) Behavior that does not respond to discipline.

You don’t need to be an expert or a parent to recognize reckless behavior in children. We’ve all seen out-of-control children at grocery stores, shopping malls, and airplanes. Our first reaction in this situation is usually to glance around in search of a parent or guardian, shaking our head in bewilderment that such behavior could go unchecked. We might be dismayed at the child’s actions, but our ire is generally reserved for the oblivious or indifferent parent nearby.

President Trump is the man-child in this analogy, and the Republican Party — particularly top GOP elected officials such as Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) — are the parental guardians. While the world collectively shakes its head at Trump’s ridiculous behavior, it is Trump’s Republican enablers who deserve an equal amount of scorn. When Trump throws a tantrum, he doesn’t get rebuked by fellow Republicans; instead, he gets a cookie. Trump can all but beg to be impeached, as he did on Thursday, and Republicans like Gardner will still headline a big fundraiser for him days later.

Chris Cillizza of CNN has a great outline today of this phenomenon, which he calls “the real issue” regarding President Trump’s scandalous behavior:

And yet, even as his actions in office grow more and more erratic and without historical precedent, the party stays united behind him.

Why? Simple! Fear.

“What is surprising, or shocking might be the better word for it, is the fact that Republican elected officials seem willing to not just condone this sort of behavior but even defend it.”

Every GOP elected official lives in fear of becoming the next Jeff Flake or Justin Amash — conservative Republicans in good standing with the party until they decided to publicly criticize Trump for something or other. The President pounced, his base attacked and both men found themselves in deeply precarious political predicaments.

Fear of being “Flaked” explains, for example, Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-South Carolina) absolute and total about-face on Trump. Ditto Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. And dozens and dozens of other Republican elected officials who voiced deep concern about the idea of Trump even being their party’s nominee in 2016 — much less the President of the United States.

If political survival is your only goal, then what Republicans are doing vis a vis Trump is not only fine, but right. Of course, leadership is a very different thing than what we are seeing out of Republican elected officials at the moment.

And there is the very real possibility that the damage Trump is doing to the party (let alone the country) will have impacts that last well after he is gone from office — and come back to haunt those Republicans who stood silently by. [Pols emphasis]

Republicans like Gardner have always valued political survival above the interests of anything else, but it’s still hard to fathom the idea that there is no line Trump can cross that will be a line too far for the GOP.

Sen. Cory Gardner always stands behind President Trump

Gardner has made it abundantly clear, in fact, that he won’t be backing away from Trump for any reason. As Ian Silverii writes today in the Denver Post:

That Gardner would participate in this fundraiser with the full knowledge of the whistleblower scandal probably tells us that he understands that there will be no political exit for him. If new facts emerge from the impeachment inquiry or if public opinion continues to move against him, calling for Trump’s resignation will also be an indictment against Gardner for supporting him this far. Afterward, if Gardner tries to pull the ripcord, Trump-brand forks and knives will come out of the bag instead of his parachute.

The 2020 election will be a referendum on President Trump. It should also be a referendum on his Republican enablers. History will not be kind to the likes of Gardner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, but Americans won’t have to wait for those books to be written in order to take action.

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Scott Tipton Won’t Do Squat About Gun Violence

Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez)

Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) was a guest on “Politics Unplugged” on Denver7 last weekend. Late in the interview, Denver7 host Anne Trujillo tried to ask Tipton several questions about how Congress plans to address the issue of gun violence and got absolutely nowhere with the CO-3 Republican.

You can watch the entire interview below, but here’s the relevant pablum on gun violence:

TRUJILLO: Do you think Congress has a role in addressing gun violence? What would that be?

TIPTON: I think, uh, as a society we have an obligation to be able to deal with this. The one issue that I hope to have a lot more conversation on…

[TIMEOUT!] We’d bet $1,000 that he says “mental health” next. Any takers?

TIPTON: …I just had a few visits earlier today with people in regards to mental health…

Somebody owes us $1,000! Let’s continue…

TIPTON: As a society, what did we do that was so wrong that all of a sudden this becomes an outlet? To be able to have these mass tragedies that are going on when they never, ever used to happen before, and we had guns, uh, that were there. [Pols emphasis] So, a lot of mental health issues, talking to our families in terms of awareness of issues, and building that family structure again.

The Columbine High School massacre took place in April 1999. We understand that Tipton is 700 years old, but there are entire generations of Americans who have absolutely no experience living in a time when mass shootings “never, ever used to happen before.”

Also, we need to build “that family structure again.” Whatever that means. Look, squirrel!

TRUJILLO: And how do you feel about background checks?

TIPTON: You know, here in Colorado we have the universal background checks. I always want to be able to look…speculation in terms of what’s always in legislation, to be able to look at. None of us want to be able to have guns in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them…

TL;DR: Scott Tipton does not support background checks.

TRUJILLO: So, ‘red flag’? Where do you view that…

TIPTON: So, ‘red flag’ needs to be sure that it’s always protecting also something that is integral to the American system, and that’s called ‘due process.’ To make sure that you don’t have somebody just assign something, and you pay a consequence, and have to prove yourself innocent, if you will, to be able to address that. [Pols emphasis]

Please, tell us more about this “due process” thing, Congressman.

If we’re worried about consequences, how about we consider the people who get shot and killed by someone with an assault rifle when they are just minding their own business shopping or going to school? That’s seems like an unfair consequence for doing absolutely nothing wrong.

TRUJILLO: So, are you prepared to address any changes in our gun laws right now?

TIPTON: You know, we’ll see. We’re having conversations currently. We’re in, you know, what’s called the ‘August break,’ the recess for Congress to be out. There are a couple of pieces of legislation that are being discussed in a tentative fashion right now until we get back to Washington. And, uh, it’s always important to be able to look at the legislation and to be able to see where there is an appropriate role to play.

See, Anne, we’re in what they call an “August break,” which means that I don’t have to even pretend to be considering legislation to curb gun violence. But if people are still talking about gun legislation when I get done with this “August break,” there’s a decent chance that I’ll read at least some of those bills. In the meantime, are there any other terms that I can mansplain for you?

TRUJILLO: So you’re willing to consider changes?

TIPTON: Huh? Wha…I think we all want to make sure that we are ending gun violence in this country. This should not happen. We ought to be able to go to our schools, to our shopping areas, and also to be able to be safe in our homes. And to be able to protect the Second Amendment. [Pols emphasis]

Yada, yada, yada, Second Amendment.

This epidemic of gun violence absolutely “should not happen.” But it does. Scott Tipton isn’t going to do a damn thing to stop it, but he is going to trot around the topic as long as he can. Heck, even Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) eventually stops dancing enough to say, “I don’t support gun control.”

We’ve said it over and over and over again: If we really want to see movement on curbing gun violence, we’re going to have to elect different people.

 

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Public Lands Shenanigans: Why Play These Games At All?

Rep. Scott Tipton (R).

The Aspen Daily News’ Todd Hartley follows up on a story we’ve been watching for some days now, growing controversy over a “public lands” bill from Republican Rep. Scott Tipton and backed by Sen. Cory Gardner introduced in direct competition with the CORE Act–legislation Colorado Democrats are hoping to get bipartisan consensus on in order to move any kind of public lands protection bill forward in the current divided Congress.

As Hartley reports, Tipton is responding to the blowback with vague promises to revisit a major difference in the two bills pertaining to the Thompson Divide area, additional protections for which was “left out” of the Republican version:

“The congressman is interested and plans to have those conversations regarding Thompson Divide,” said Matt Atwood, Tipton’s communications director. “That’s part of the reason we left it out, because it is a ‘discussion draft,’ and we want to get all sides of the story before we introduce the full bill.”

That’s better than nothing, we guess, but it sidesteps the larger problem: why run two bills at all?

The prospect of having Thompson Divide protections included in an amended draft of the bill is welcomed by leaders of local conservation groups, but they still expressed skepticism about the underlying motivation behind the REC Act and the exclusion of the divide in the first place…

“We believe that the CORE Act is a well-crafted, well-vetted compromise that is the result of a decade of consensus and stakeholder engagement, and it has really broad community support,” said Julia Morton, interim executive director of the Thompson Divide Coalition. “We believe the solution that has been crafted in the CORE Act is a really fair and good one, and so I think our preference is, obviously, for Tipton to support the CORE Act.” [Pols emphasis]

Not surprisingly, it’s a sentiment echoed by Bennet and his staff.

“The CORE Act is the result of Coloradans working together to hammer out compromises and develop proposals that have widespread local support, including in places such as the Thompson Divide,” said Courtney Gidner, a spokesperson for Bennet. “Our focus is on advancing each of the four components of the CORE Act together. Any contribution that leads us to accomplish these goals is welcome, and we hope Congressman Tipton will join this effort.”

The problem, as we’ve outlined in previous posts, is straightforward. In a divided Congress, the only public lands protection bills that have any realistic chance of passage are bills that enjoy enough bipartisan support to survive the Democratic-controlled House and GOP-controlled Senate to arrive on the President’s desk. If Democrats have a bill and Republicans introduce competing legislation instead of working out their differences with Democrats, the most likely outcome is that no legislation at all passes. That’s why supporters of the CORE Act, the product of years of study and negotiation, were blindsided by Tipton’s introduction of the “REC Act” to accomplish many of the same goals but with certain key differences–in the case of Thompson Divide, taking a side by omission in a long-running fight over protecting a vast natural area from oil and gas drilling.

What happens next? We’ll have to wait. There’s always a chance of a resolution that’s acceptable to all parties, which would take this issue off the table politically ahead of a pivotal general election next year. But if the more likely outcome of no bill at all prevails, Scott Tipton’s bad faith is going to be plain for all CD-3 voters to see.

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Tipton/Gardner Fake Lands Bill Goes Over Like A Lead Zeppelin

Rep. Scott Tipton (R).

Westword’s Chase Woodruff follows up on legislation we wrote about earlier this week from Colorado Republicans Scott Tipton and Cory Gardner, ostensibly to protect more Colorado public land but in truth a competing measure to an original Democratic proposal to protect thousands of acres of wilderness–and, importantly close the long-fought over Thompson Divide area to new oil and gas drilling:

When congressional Democrats and a coalition of conservation groups unveiled the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act earlier this year, Senator Michael Bennet voiced his hope that the bill, a proposal to establish protections for approximately 400,000 acres of public lands across the state, might be immune to the “partisan disease” afflicting American politics.

The CORE Act, which is narrower in scope than other Colorado public-lands bills introduced in Congress in recent years, had “required compromise,” Bennet told supporters at a Denver ski-industry conference in February. He hoped that Colorado Republicans like Senator Cory Gardner and Representative Scott Tipton — who represents the West Slope’s 3rd Congressional District, where much of the CORE Act land is located — would sign on as co-sponsors, and urged conservationists to lobby Gardner and Tipton to make a “bipartisan lands package” a reality.

Six months later, Colorado Republicans have made a counterproposal, and their offer is this: nothing. Or at least very close to it, conservation groups say. [Pols emphasis]

In the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent today, locals express anger at Rep. Tipton over the omission of Thompson Divide in particular:

[T]he absence of Thompson Divide protections in the bill suggests Tipton is “not interested in helping out our community even though support for protecting the Divide spans political and social divides,” according to Mike Pritchard, board member of the Thompson Divide Coalition.

According to Tipton’s staff, the reason the proposed removal of the 200,000 or so acres of Thompson Divide area west of Carbondale from future oil and gas leasing was not included in the REC Act is because Garfield County’s position remains unclear, and because there are still questions about grazing.

According to the Post-Independent, Garfield County commissioners have indeed come out in support of protecting Thompson Divide under the terms of the Democratic-sponsored CORE Act–but Tipton’s spokesman says came too late to make it into the GOP “REC Act” as introduced. But that could all just be a smokescreen for partisan treachery, since Tipton’s spokesman alluded to the congressman’s real problem being with Democrats having the temerity to care about public lands “in another member’s district.”

As with any such impasse where there remains hope of a bipartisan agreement, it’s important to show restraint in calling these situations how they appear–not least so one doesn’t end up forestalling agreement by being uncomfortably frank to one side.

But if, as conservation groups warn, this attempt by Republicans to sidestep the bipartisan consensus Democrats are trying to reach results in no public lands bill whatsoever or a bill that woefully fails to meet the desires of non-industry stakeholders, it’s going to be painfully obvious who’s to blame. If the goal of the “REC Act” was to provide cover to Tipton and Gardner while scuttling the public lands protections they say they support, these past few days of scrutiny have made that impossible.

That’s a nice way of saying the game is up.

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How To Screw Public Lands While Pretending You’re Not

Rep. Scott Tipton (R).

The Colorado Sun’s Jesse Paul takes an informative look today at a new “public lands” bill introduced by Republican Rep. Scott Tipton and expected to be supported by Sen. Cory Gardner–but rather than cheering this new legislation, the effort is raising questions about the true motives of Tipton and Gardner among public lands supporters:

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, a Cortez Republican, took issue with parts of the omnibus Colorado Outdoor Recreation Economy Act — or CORE Act — brought earlier this year by his Democratic colleagues from Colorado. It aims to protect thousands of acres of public land with new wilderness designations and by limiting oil and gas drilling.

And on Wednesday he unveiled a draft public lands proposal of his own: the Colorado Recreation Enhancement and Conservation Act, or Colorado REC Act.

As Paul explains, the process of passing a public lands bill is long and frequently unsuccessful in today’s Washington, and when such bills do succeed it’s usually only because they enjoy overwhelming bipartisan support. That means a competing measure from Republicans up against a bill supported by Democrats is more likely to ensure that no bill passes than any other outcome.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

And in the case of the “Colorado REC Act,” there’s plenty for Democrats–or anyone actually concerned about protection of public lands–could object to:

The CORE Act calls for roughly 100,000 acres of wilderness, recreation and conservation areas in the White River National Forest along the Continental Divide and would also designate the land around Camp Hale, where the 10th Mountain Division’s roots are, as a national historic landscape.

That’s not part of the Colorado REC Act.

The CORE Act also has clauses withdrawing about 200,000 acres of public lands along the Thompson Divide from being open to oil and gas drilling. The measure also would create a program to lease and generate energy from excess methane in coal mines in the North Fork Valley.

Again, those are not components of the Colorado REC Act.

In other words, some of the biggest public lands protection priorities in the state are omitted from Tipton and Gardner’s bill! To be sure, Democrats are still talking hopefully about working with Republicans, and if both sides are able to make a deal we don’t want to prejudice their efforts. But with this weaker legislation now in the mix, the two most likely outcomes are a scaling back of the original goals to win back Republican support or (more likely) nothing passes at all until after the 2020 elections.

Either of those outcomes would be “wins” for Tipton and Gardner’s political benefactors.

As for Colorado’s public lands, which everybody claims they care about, not so much.

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Throwback Thursday: When Colorado Republicans Opposed Racism

Nate Marshall.

The past week has seen a massive escalation of racial tensions in American politics, primarily the result of President Donald Trump’s racist attacks on four women of color who have been vocal opponents of the President since winning office last November. It’s important to be clear from the outset that Trump’s call for four members of Congress, three of whom were born in this country to “go back” to their countries of origin cannot be interpreted any way other than as a racially motivated attack–since by definition persons born in this country have nowhere to “go back” to.

Since Trump’s racist attacks on these four members of Congress over the weekend, Colorado Republicans have played an uneasy game of cat and mouse with inquiring reports–generally avoiding comment as much as they can, and when cornered giving either the most gentle criticism of the President or none at all. Rep. Scott Tipton doesn’t think it was racist, and while Sen. Cory Gardner worked up the nerve to say on the radio that he “disagreed” with the Tweets in question he refused to condemn them for what they are.

One of the biggest dangers of electing an openly racist demagogue like Donald Trump has always the normalization of rhetoric that has not been acceptable, at least in mainstream American politics, for many years. Trump’s open appeals to nativism and racial prejudice have opened the door to a rise in hate crime since his election, and given space to Republican candidates at all levels to either turn a blind eye to racism or exploit racist sentiment themselves for political gain.

Maria Weese.

In Colorado, we have a long history of Republican candidates and even officeholders who turned out to be unapologetically racist. In 2014, GOP House candidates Nate Marshall and Maria Weese had frightful racist comments in their recent pasts exposed just in time for Republican brass to intervene–dumping both candidates for slightly less embarrassing placeholders who went on to lose. In 2006, Rep. Jim Welker was “persuaded” by ranking Republicans to not run for re-election after racist commentary he shared with his supporters become public.

Colorado Republicans certainly weren’t free of racists back in the day (see: Tancredo, Tom), or even really making a concerted attempt to dissociate themselves from racism. But when people like Nate Marshall became a political liability for Colorado Republicans, the will existed to deal with the problem.

Based on what we’ve seen this past week, no such will exists today.

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Cory Gardner is Too Darn Busy to Condemn Racism

UPDATE: Gardner was on KOA radio this morning to talk about the BLM move to Colorado, but he couldn’t get away without being asked about Trump’s racist remarks. His answer was pretty awful:

HOST: What’s your take on that, and is it defensible to say things like that?

GARDNER: Well, I disagree with the President. I wouldn’t have sent this Tweet. I think he shouldn’t have done it, and I think we oughta be focused on things that are bringing this country together and moving this country forward…I wouldn’t have sent that Tweet. I just disagree with it.

“I wouldn’t have sent that Tweet.” Unreal.

—–

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma)

The House of Representatives is preparing to hold a vote today to rebuke President Trump for his racist comments over the weekend about four Democratic Members of Congress. In the meantime, as the Washington Post reports, Trump is really digging in on his disgusting remarks:

Trump lashed out at the freshman Democrats again on Tuesday and questioned why Congress was not rebuking them instead.

“The Democrat Congresswomen have been spewing some of the most vile, hateful, and disgusting things ever said by a politician in the House or Senate, & yet they get a free pass and a big embrace from the Democrat Party,” Trump wrote on Twitter, listing several grievances about the lawmakers. “Why isn’t the House voting to rebuke the filthy and hate laced things they have said? Because they are the Radical Left, and the Democrats are afraid to take them on. Sad!”

His tweets marked the third day in a row of attacks on the lawmakers — a series that began Sunday with tweets in which the president said the four Democrats should “go back” to “the crime infested places from which they came.” Three of the lawmakers were born in the United States, and the fourth is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Somalia.

As we wrote yesterday, Colorado Republicans have been reluctant to speak out about Trump’s remarks. The Washington Post has been keeping track of Republican responses (and non-responses) to Trump’s comments; as of this morning, Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) is the only member of Colorado’s congressional delegation to offer an opinion, expressing (very) mild disagreement in an interview with Fox News.

Still silent on the matter are Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez), Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs), and Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma). As Justin Wingerter of the Denver Post reports, Gardner has just been too darn busy to speak out about racism:

Gardner obviously does not want to talk about any of this, either because he doesn’t disagree with President Trump or because he doesn’t want Trump to think that he disagrees. Gardner’s excuse that he has been solely focused on “the BLM move” is as silly as Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli repeatedly insisting that he didn’t have a response to Trump’s remarks because he hadn’t logged onto Twitter recently.

Gardner’s silence on Trump’s racism nevertheless speaks volumes, particularly considering that other endangered Republican Senators up for re-election in 2020 have still managed to find their voice.

Here’s Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa):

“Yeah I do [find Trump’s comments racist]. They’re American citizens. I personally think the GOP has a stronger platform to talk about. That’s what we should be focusing on.”

And Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine):

“I disagree strongly with many of the views and comments of some of the far-left members of the House Democratic Caucus – especially when it comes to their views on socialism, their anti-Semitic rhetoric, and their negative comments about law enforcement – but the President’s tweet that some Members of Congress should go back to the ‘places from which they came’ was way over the line, and he should take that down.”

Gardner’s refusal to discuss Trump’s comments reminds us of something that then-House Speaker Paul Ryan told CBS News after he was elevated to the top job: “I think you can walk and chew gum at the same time. I think you can oppose the president on some issue that you fundamentally disagree with, but also work with the other party on issues you do agree with.”

Maybe now that the BLM’s move to Colorado has been announced, Gardner can manage to turn his attention to another issue…not that we’re holding our breath or anything.

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DCCC Steps Up In CD-3

Rep. Scott Tipton (R).

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is starting to run ads targeting incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton in Colorado’s CD-3–signaling that once again Democrats will compete for a seat they held until Tipton picked off incumbent Rep. John Salazar in the 2010 Republican wave year:

Seeing 2020 as an opportunity to pick up another seat in Congress, the national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is sinking money into the race to defeat incumbent GOP U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton…

Currently, two Democrats have entered the primary race and the right to challenge Tipton. They are Mitsch Bush, a former state representative, and Durango resident Root Rutledge. Mitsch Bush eventually won the nomination in last year’s race, while Rutledge never qualified for the ballot.

Other Democratic candidates are expected to come forward, but no on else has so far. One possible contender, Senate President LeRoy Garcia, D-Pueblo, said he’s been approached about running, but wouldn’t say if he will.

Although Tipton survived in 2018 against former state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, Democrats are increasingly hopeful for another wave in 2020 that could give them a shot at this and other “reach goal” districts. The possibility of Senate President Leroy Garcia of Pueblo launching a bid is certainly interesting, and speculation has been fueled to some degree by Garcia’s spending on self-promotion following the end of this year’s session despite being term-limited. Garcia would bring a very different set of qualifications to the race, including the ability to potentially shut down the crucial Pueblo-area vote for Tipton.

Being the only GOP-held seat left in Colorado that Democrats have a realistic chance of picking up, CD-3 is where the House action is in 2020. We’ll be watching to see how Rep. Tipton handles the undivided attention.

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Colorado GOP Chair Voted ‘NO’ on Disaster Relief Bill

No disaster relief for you, says Congressman and State GOP Chair Ken Buck.

The House of Representatives has approved $19 billion in disaster relief funds for hurricane and flood-ravaged areas such as the Florida panhandle, Arkansas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Puerto Rico. The legislation advanced by a vote of 354-58, with all ‘NO’ votes coming from Republicans (more on that in a moment).

The Senate had already overwhelmingly passed the disaster relief measure, and President Trump — who has repeatedly expressed his support — is expected to sign the bill once it reaches his desk. Yet as the Associated Press reports, this seemingly-popular bill took quite a long time to actually get through the sausage-making process in Washington D.C.:

…conservative Republicans in the House held up the bill last week, objecting on three occasions to efforts by Democratic leaders to pass the bill by a voice vote requiring unanimity. They said the legislation — which reflects an increasingly permissive attitude in Washington on spending to address disasters that sooner or later hit every region of the country — shouldn’t be rushed through without a recorded vote…

…As the measure languished, disasters kept coming — with failed levees in Arkansas, Iowa and Missouri and tornadoes across Ohio just the most recent examples. The measure is supported by the bipartisan party leadership in both House and Senate.

The legislation is also being driven by Florida and Georgia lawmakers steaming with frustration over delays in delivering help to farmers, towns and military bases slammed by hurricanes last fall. Flooding in Iowa and Nebraska this spring added to the coalition behind the measure, which delivers much of its help to regions where Trump supporters dominate. [Pols emphasis]

Panama City, Florida in the wake of Hurricane Michael

Colorado’s Congressional delegation did not vote strictly along party lines; Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) joined all four Democrats in voting ‘YES’ on Monday. The two ‘NO’ votes from Colorado’s delegation were from Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs). While Lamborn’s vote is as unsurprising as it is unimportant, Buck’s vote is a different story because of his other job as Chairman of the State Republican Party in Colorado.

When Buck decided to run for the vacant State GOP Chair position earlier this year, he made it clear that he had no plans to give up his Congressional seat. Buck now does both jobs, though the day-to-day operations of the State Party have been handed off to former Chairman and new “CEO” Steve House.

Buck and his spokespeople will say that his votes in Congress are made strictly as a representative of CO-4, where a solidly right-wing base of supporters might actually approve of their Congressman acting like a heartless dickhead. While this may be technically accurate, it doesn’t change the fact that the man who is also the leader of the Colorado GOP was among a small contingent of Congressional Republicans who opposed providing disaster relief for suffering communities across the country.

Buck can claim that what he does in Congress is unrelated to his work as State Party Chairman, but it’s just not possible to cleanly separate the two roles on policy issues. Would Buck have voted differently on the disaster relief measure if he were casting a vote on behalf of all Colorado Republicans? If so, then what does that say about the residents of CO-4? There was always going to be an obvious conflict of interest for Buck to do both jobs at the same time; these are the type of votes that turn a small discomfort into a festering wound.

Buck can be the symbol of the Colorado Republican Party or he can represent his Congressional district…but he can’t do both. Republicans who don’t think this is going to be a problem in 2020 are kidding themselves.

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