Senate GOP Friday Night Obstruction Fails Hilariously

Sen. Chris Holbert (R).

As the Denver Post’s Anna Staver and Nic Garcia report, last night’s attempt by Colorado Senate Republicans to procedurally obstruct legislation from passing that chamber, continuing a campaign of obstruction from the Senate GOP minority that began with a demand to read a 2,000-page technical cleanup bill into the record and continued yesterday with Republicans ordering more bills read at length and endless ad nauseum speechifying by GOP caucus members…didn’t end off the way Republicans were hoping:

The debate over House Bill 1177 ran nearly 12 hours, but the vote came down as expected, with Republicans opposing the extreme risk protection order or “red flag” bill and Democrats supporting it.

The voice vote at about 7:30 p.m. was only the beginning of the drama on the Senate floor, as Republicans triggered a procedure to continue debate, keeping senators at work…

And that’s where the tables turned on Republicans, who thought they had gummed up the works yet again:

At about 9 p.m., Senate President Leroy Garcia of Pueblo asked for all senators to return to the chamber. That triggered a search by the state Highway Patrol to find five Republican senators who had left the building hours earlier. [Pols emphasis] According to a GOP Senate spokesperson, two were on their way to the Western Slope and at least one had left the state altogether.

As it turns out, gentle reader, if you’re trying to force endless debate into late in the night on a Friday and a third of your caucus bails on you without permission, your protest loses its intended effect! Not to mention that Senate President Leroy Garcia can and apparently did send armed State Patrol to cart your wayward caucus members back to the Senate chamber. In a late-night session forced by the same GOP minority, this was a moment of absurdity that no Democrat could have better engineered.

Ultimately, party leaders brokered a deal to proceed with debate and end the search for the absent senators — Don Coram, Ray Scott, Kevin Priola, Jim Smallwood and Larry Crowder — but mark them absent during debate on a bill that their party sees as a top-priority Second Amendment issue.

In the end, the “red flag” bill passed second reading and Senators went home around 10:00PM last night. Whether this embarrassing episode results in a check on the Senate GOP’s “slowdown” campaign when the body reconvenes on Monday is anybody’s guess, but whatever message victory Republicans were hoping to achieve with yesterday’s no-doubt exhausting effort was squandered–by five Republican Senators who decided beating the traffic out of town was more important than Minority Leader Chris Holbert’s no-win pissing match with the majority.

It’s not the message Republicans wanted to send, but it says a mouthful.

Weekend Open Thread

“Governing was always difficult for conservatives, but as they return to the opposition, they are rediscovering their skill at blame evasion.”

–Thomas Frank

BREAKING: Mueller Submits Completed Report to AG

UPDATE: So…now what? The Washington Post breaks down the next steps. The New York Times considers 6 key questions that need answers.


Robert Mueller

As the Washington Post and every other news outlet on the planet is reporting:

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has submitted a confidential report to Attorney General William P. Barr, marking the end of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by President Trump, a Justice Department spokeswoman said.

The Justice Department notified Congress late Friday that it had received Mueller’s report but did not describe its contents. Barr is expected to summarize the findings for lawmakers in coming days.

The submission of Mueller’s report marks the culmination of his closely held inquiry, a case that has engulfed the Trump administration since its inception and led to multiple guilty pleas from former advisers to the president. With the closing of his investigation, Congress and the newly empowered Democratic House majority will soon assess his findings – and determine what steps to take next.

We will update this post as more information becomes available.

Colorado Week in Review: 3/22/19

Your deliberately oversimplified glance at what happened in Colorado this week.

Gardner Once Called for Release of Mueller Report. What Will He Do Now?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner.

UPDATE: Gardner’s statement on release of Mueller report: ““I have consistently said the Mueller investigation should be allowed to reach a conclusion, and I’m grateful the Special Counsel has finished the investigation and submitted a report today. The American people have a right to know the outcome of this investigation and the Department of Justice should release as much as possible to the public in accordance with the law.”

Trump Attorney General William Barr told reporters today that he will review Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report and determine how much could eventually be released to Congress and the public.

During his confirmation hearing earlier this year, Barr faced pointed questions from Democrats about whether he’d release the Mueller report, and he never committed to doing so.

It’s not clear what Democrats can do to force the release of the report now, but one Republican with close ties to the Trump White House is Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, and he’s called for the release of the report.

Asked about Mueller’s investigation, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner said earlier this year that the “American people need the information so that they can make up their own minds.”

“Look, the Mueller investigation needs to be completed as soon as possible,” Gardner told KHOW’s Krista Kafer, substituting for Ross Kaminsky Jan. 24. “The American people need the information so that they can make up their own minds. And I think transparency is in the best interests of the President. The President has said that. And, you know, we’ve heard his Attorney General nominee say the same thing. And so, I think getting this information out — this will be — this is something that is important. This can’t drag on for four years. It needs to be done. It needs to be done quickly.”

Listen to Gardner on KHOW 630-AM Jan. 24, 2019.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: God Sent Trump

Politico proposes, God disposes:

“Could it be that President Trump right now has been sort of raised for such a time as this, just like Queen Esther, to help save the Jewish people from the Iranian menace?” [Christian Broadcasting Network reporter Chris] Mitchell asked Pompeo.

“As a Christian, I certainly believe that’s possible,” Pompeo, who was visiting Israel, replied.

“It was remarkable — so we were down in the tunnels where we could see 3,000 years ago, and 2,000 years ago — if I have the history just right — to see the remarkable history of the faith in this place and the work that our administration’s done to make sure that this democracy in the Middle East, that this Jewish state remains,” he said.

“I am confident that the Lord is at work here,” Pompeo concluded.

The short–very, very short–version of the backstory to this question is that many American evangelical Christians believe the foundation of the modern state of Israel in 1948 was the fulfillment of prophecy meant in the end to culminate in the cataclysmic events of the Biblical book of Revelations. Although this would seem to indicate a ready common interest between American Christians and the Jewish state, it should be noted that according to a strict reading of the book of Revelations, the Jews will either convert to Christianity or be sent to burn in Hell for all eternity. Not surprisingly, many Jews take a dimmer view of evangelical “support” once they understand this. Isn’t it great to ponder this being the “principle” guiding America’s chief diplomat?

So, there’s that. As for Donald Trump personally, it’s a bit of a roller coaster for American Jews–between being happy about an embassy in Jerusalem, versus horrified by the resurgence of hate in America that Trump rode to victory in 2016 and then defended as “very fine people” after he took office.

With all this in mind, we’d argue that God’s got nothing to do with Trump, unless Trump is punishment.

Colorado Democrats Look to Clear the Air. Literally.

The mountains are still there. Probably. (photo of Denver area in early March, via Streetsblog Denver)

Carbon. Mercury. Sulfur Dioxide.

These are fine things to be discussing in a chemistry class, but not to be inhaling into your lungs in copious amounts. Concerns about air quality and Climate Change were a top priority for Colorado voters even before a disgusting gray soup settled over the Denver Metro area in recent months. At one point in early March, Colorado’s air quality measured more than three times worse than moderate air quality levels in Beijing, China, where people regularly walk around with masks over their nose and mouth.

On Thursday, Democrats in the State House of Representatives introduced legislation that is intended to clean up Colorado’s air quality: House Bill 19-1261, “Climate Action Plan to Reduce Pollution.” The bill sets goals for reducing carbon pollution by at least 25 percent by 2026, 50 percent by 2030, and 90 percent by 2050 by directing Colorado’s Air quality Control Commission to “reduce, prevent, and control air pollution throughout the state of Colorado.” As House Speaker K.C. Becker tells the Denver Post, HB-1261 contains no new fees for pollution and would have little impact on oil and gas operations that follow methane regulations.

House Bill 1261 is sure to draw opposition from some critics who will try to compare it to the “Green New Deal” proposed by Congressional Democrats, but Colorado’s legislation is focused solely on reducing carbon pollution in our state in an effort to reduce adverse health effects such as asthma, heart disease, lung disease, and cancer.

Even your phone knows that Colorado’s air quality sucks.

From a purely political perspective, this bill follows many of the promises made by Democratic candidates in 2018; its goals are widely supported by Colorado voters, as poll after poll has confirmed. A full 90% of Coloradans support increasing the use of clean, renewable energy in Colorado, and 62% believe that Climate Change is a significant issue. Polling conducted after the 2018 election further validates this approach.

As Kelly Nordini pointed out in a December opinion piece for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman, voters were clear about their concerns in November:

When asked which policy issue was “most important in your vote for governor,” 42 percent of independents selected “energy and the environment” as one of their top two choices – the most of any issue tested. Coming in second place was health care at 35 percent, followed by education at 32 percent.

In other words, it wasn’t the economy, healthcare, education, immigration, or taxes that rose to the top for Colorado’s independents as they headed to the ballot box. The most important policy issue for this key voting bloc was energy and environment, with a strong plurality of the state’s independents going for pro-environment candidates.

Of course, Gov.-Elect Jared Polis won the Colorado governor’s race in a landslide against State Treasurer Walker Stapleton by running as a fierce advocate for Colorado’s environment, pledging to transition Colorado to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, pushing for common-sense safeguards on oil and gas drilling, and calling for protecting the state’s parks and public lands.

Breathe easier, Colorado — your legislative leaders are paying attention.

Watch Senate Republicans Waste Everyone’s Time

“Frankly, it feels like we’re negotiating with children sometimes.”

— Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg (3/21/19)

Republicans in the State Senate (and to a lesser extent, the State House) have decided to go all-in on their tantrum strategy of “delay, delay, delay” because they don’t have the votes to stop legislation that makes them sad. It is perfectly within the rules for a legislator to demand that everything be read aloud, but usually nobody makes this request because it is a complete waste of time and money.

Denver7 has more on this “childish obstruction”:

“The constitution gives us the right to say ‘Slow down. Don’t make these big changes,’” Senator Own [sic] Hill from Colorado Springs said.

On Thursday, Hill requested that the Senate journal, or minutes from the previous day’s session, be read back in full before work could start. That took a half hour to complete. Hill then asked for multiple bills to be read out loud in full before they were voted on…

…The Democratic Majority Leader of the Senate disagreed with the tactic, calling it “obstructionist.”

“They’re basically slowing things down to a crawl and creating an embarrassment for the institution of the democratic process,” Senator Steve Fenberg said…

…It took the Senate two-and-a-half hours to vote on two total bills on Thursday morning. [Pols emphasis]

Per the demands of Sen. Owen Hill and friends, Senate staffers have been required to read the entire journal from the previous day, including the votes taken by every Senator on every bill (Senate Journal for March 21, 2019 starts here on page 509).

Reading the entire journal aloud on Thursday took about 48 minutes. This is what it sounded like:


Marshall Zelinger of 9News has more on the poor bastard whose job it is to read aloud to a bunch of grown men and women. We’re looking forward to Senate Republicans trying to explain this nonsense to voters in 2020.

Denver Council District 1, 2019

Northwest Denver, including Sunnyside, Berkley, Sloane’s Lake, Highlands, and part of West Colfax is in Denver Council District 1. Since it is an open seat in 2019 there are seven (!) candidates to replace the outgoing Councilman Rafael Espinoza.

Denverite has short introductions to all seven in a March 19th article. The really interesting part for the horse race of who’s getting support is the money raised by each.

Somma- $48,791.05, $1,000 self funded
Sandoval- $47,470.00
Durrah- $43,902.20
Kulkarni- $26,093.47 $4,900+ self funded
Sabados- $25,936.59 $1,000+ self funded
D’Agosta- $15,192.75 including a $2,635.75 loan
Aguilar- $6,221 $2,000 self funded

Purely on this basis it looks a lot like a three person race between Michael Somma, Amanda Sandoval, and Scott Alan Durrah and seems likely to go on to a run off. Denver city elections, even though they probably impact people’s lives more than statewide elections, are low turn out and low information votes.

Random chance has them on the ballot as:
1) Praj Kulkarni 2) Victoria R. Aguilar 3) Sabrina D’Agosta 4) David Sabados 5) Mike Somma 6) Amanda Sandoval 7) Scott Alan Durrah

Will this give a boost to Kulkarni? He’s not leading in fundraising, but he’s not totally out of the hunt either. Without the usual signals of party affiliation voters might break for him. Espinoza has endorsed Sandoval and the other two top fundraisers are white guys. Will that give her an edge? On the other hand Somma is a firefighter and lots of people have warm feelings towards that profession. As of the 22nd his election website is also the highest ranked in searches for “Denver Council District 1”.

Michael Bennet Gets Ready to Jump

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver)

As the Denver Post reports, there is about to be a second Coloradan in the pool of candidates seeking the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2020:

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet is taking the final steps toward becoming the second Colorado Democrat in the 2020 race for president, with a possible announcement coming soon, sources familiar with his plan have told The Denver Post.

Craig Hughes, a longtime adviser, said a final decision has not been made.

“We’re making progress towards a decision and encouraged by what we are seeing and hearing,” Hughes said.

While an announcement is not imminent, Bennet could announce within a month, the Democratic sources said.

This is about as close as you can get to announcing that you are running for President without actually announcing that you are running for President.


No Seriously, Where Is Cory Gardner This Recess?

We joked earlier today about a photo sent out by Sen. Cory Gardner’s social media accounts featuring Gardner behind the controls of a commercial aircraft, which as it turns out was a simulator at the United Airlines pilot training facility in the Stapleton neighborhood of Denver taken yesterday. So far as we know, that’s the only word that’s leaked out about Sen. Gardner’s whereabouts during the March congressional recess. ShareBlue’s Emily Singer reported earlier this week:

This week is a district work period for members of Congress — better known as a recess week, when lawmakers head home to meet with constituents and get a feel for what the voters who sent them to Capitol Hill want to see them work on in the nation’s capital.

Yet three vulnerable Republican senators up for re-election in 2020, who just voted to ignore the Constitution and uphold Trump’s fake national emergency, have no public events listed for constituents to attend, according to a review of senators’ official websites, campaign websites and social media accounts…

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), arguably the most vulnerable Republican incumbent senator facing re-election in 2020, also has no public events listed on his websites nor social media accounts. [Pols emphasis] Gardner was rebuked by his hometown newspaper, which revoked its endorsement of the senator after Gardner’s vote to uphold the fake emergency.

Sen. Gardner’s lack of accessibility by his constituents back home in Colorado is a long-running matter of record, with his last public town hall event apparently having occurred all the way back in November of 2017 in Pueblo. Gardner’s 2017 round of town halls were generally considered to be a public relations disaster, after angry constituents vocally rejected unsatisfying answers that did little to improve Gardner’s dented image.

But when you don’t do them at all, and everybody knows you’re in town…that’s worse.

Hickenlooper Introduces Himself to America

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper

On Thursday Wednesday, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper took the spotlight in the race to become the Democratic nominee for President in 2020 when he held a live CNN “town hall” event. Hickenlooper performed very well overall, but most of the attention following the event was about one specific exchange that highlights Hick’s inexperience with “soundbite politics.”

We would encourage you to watch the full town hall event yourself in order to understand the proper context for some of Hick’s remarks (for the Cliff’s Notes version, here are some key takeaways via CNN). But CNN also devotes a separate story to the one exchange that generated the most buzz on Thursday Wednesday evening:

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said that he would consider putting a woman on his presidential ticket, and then asked why female Democratic presidential candidates are not being asked if they would select a man as their running mate.

The comment struck a number of Democrats as off base, especially considering that the nation has never had a female vice president.

“Governor,” CNN’s Dana Bash said at a presidential candidate town hall, “some of your male competitors have vowed to put a woman on the ticket. Yes or no, would you do the same?”

“Of course,” Hickenlooper said, before saying he wanted to ask Bash a question.

“How come we’re not asking more often the women, ‘Would you be willing to put a man on the ticket?’ ” he said with a shrug, to audible groans from the audience.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, left, with CNN’s Dana Bash on March 20, 2019

Obviously, this is not a good soundbite for Hickenlooper, but it’s much less cringeworthy when Hick gets a minute to explain:

Hickenlooper stood by the comment after the town hall, telling CNN that his point was “too often media discounts the chance of a woman winning” by asking questions like that.

What Hick was trying to do, in a nutshell, was to make the case that female candidates should be considered frontrunners on an equal plane with men and that asking a question about “would you put a woman on the ticket” is disrespectful to the women who are running for President. It’s a solid point that was inartfully articulated, and it would be a shame if it dogged Hick’s campaign for an extended period of time.

Hickenlooper also had a weird moment when telling a story about watching an adult movie with his mother — this is a yarn that he’s spun before that is also included in his memoir “The Opposite of Woe.” The story is entertaining, but the problem with telling it to a wider audience is that there is no real “moral” in conclusion; it’s not clear why Hickenlooper is talking about this, and in a Presidential race where soundbites can take on a life of their own, this probably isn’t a great clip for Hick.

Hickenlooper will certainly get better at this sort of thing the more he campaigns around the country, but “soundbite politics” are not his strong suit. This is partly because Hick just doesn’t have much experience in this regard; both of his campaigns for Governor featured massively-flawed opponents who didn’t have the ability to land solid punches. By the time Hick was running for re-election in 2014, the former Denver Mayor was a well-known character to voters along the Front Range who largely got the benefit of the doubt whenever he stumbled verbally. This is the same basic reason that Hick speaks out so often against “negative ads” — it’s easy to be critical of negative advertising when you have never had to worry about employing that strategy yourself.

Hickenlooper is not any more or less likely to win the 2020 Democratic nomination based on Thursday’s Wednesday’s performance. In fact, if he learns and grows from this experience as a candidate, this CNN “town hall” might even prove to be a landmark moment for his campaign.

Biden Considering Adding Running Mate on Day One

Stacey Abrams and Joe Biden

Axios reports on an interesting idea apparently being considered by former Vice President Joe Biden:

Close advisers to former Vice President Joe Biden are debating the idea of packaging his presidential campaign announcement with a pledge to choose Stacey Abrams as his vice president.

Why it matters: The popular Georgia Democrat, who at age 45 is 31 years younger than Biden, would bring diversity and excitement to the ticket — showing voters, in the words of a close source, that Biden “isn’t just another old white guy.”

We’re less interested in who Biden might choose as a running mate (though Abrams would probably be a strong VP choice) than we are in the general possibility of picking a running mate early and not waiting until just a few months out from Election Day. New York Magazine’s “Intelligencer” thinks this is a grand idea:

The biggest single argument against naming Abrams at the beginning is that it just hasn’t been done before. [Pols emphasis] The closest parallel is Ted Cruz’s last-minute desperation gambit to name Carly Fiorina as his running mate in the closing stages of the 2016 primary. The fact that the combined charisma of Cruz and Fiorina was not enough to overcome Trump’s big lead hardly proves it can’t work. If anything, the lateness of the maneuver gave it a whiff of desperation. If Biden does wait, and his polling lead starts to melt, naming Abrams will have the same pitfall. The Cruz example argues for joining with Abrams on Day One.

Sometimes there’s a new idea that has not been done before for no good reason. “Political brilliance” is not a phrase I would normally associate with Joe Biden. But running with Stacey Abrams seems to qualify.

The more we think about this, the more intriguing it becomes — primarily because it’s different. In a field of dozens of Democrat candidates, different is good.

So, what say you, Polsters? Cast your vote below…

Is It a Good Idea for a Presidential Candidate to Choose a Running Mate Early?
View Result

Caption This Photo: Today You’re Flying With Cory!

Courtesy the Airline Pilots Association, to whom Sen. Cory Gardner paid a visit yesterday during the ongoing congressional recess! The public in Colorado hasn’t seen hide nor hair of our junior Senator in quite some time, and as of now no public events are on the calendar–but as you can see, Sen. Gardner is having a ball behind closed doors.

Keep those seatbelts fastened, though, 2020 is looking increasingly turbulent.