Romney: An Etch-a-Sketch Too Far?

UPDATE #2: Colorado Sen. Mark Udall was on NBC News’ “The Cycle” this afternoon to discuss Romney’s, uh, changes. Here’s the video:


UPDATE: FOX 31’s Eli Stokols reports as local Democrats open fire:

“The American women will not be fooled by a Mitt Romney who is trying to be everything to everyone at the end of this election,” said Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette, D-Denver, on a conference call Wednesday organized by the Obama campaign.

“Throughout this campaign, Mitt who describes himself as ‘severely conservative’, has come out and said he opposes all abortion and supports Personhood amendments,” DeGette continued. “Suddenly, in October, Mitt Romney says he knows of no legislation that would restrict abortion.

“We had nine pieces that would restrict a women’s right just last year. If those passed the House and the Senate and were sent on to a President Romney, we know he would sign them.”



Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he doesn’t intend to pursue anti-abortion legislation if elected, a stance that threatens to alienate some core supporters just as he’s surging in national polls.

“There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda,” Romney told The Des Moines Register’s editorial board yesterday before an event in the swing state of Iowa… [Pols emphasis]

While Romney’s comments may widen his appeal among independent female voters, they risk raising questions among other independents about where he stands on the issue and depressing turnout among anti-abortion Republicans who already had misgivings about his past positions.

The abortion remarks overshadowed Romney’s attempt to accelerate his campaign’s momentum coming out of his first debate with Obama and as the two candidates were making their pitches to voters in Ohio, a state that has voted for the winner in the past 12 presidential elections.

Now in case there’s any doubt in your mind about where Romney used to stand:

While seeking the Republican nomination, Romney vowed to limit abortion funding.

In September, he said he would appoint justices to the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that established a woman’s right to abortion.

“I hope to appoint justices to the Supreme Court that will follow the law and the constitution,” he said at the time on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “It would be my preference that they reverse Roe v. Wade and therefore they return to the people and their elected representatives the decisions with regards to this important issue.”

ABC News goes back to 2007 for this unequivocal gem:

[O]n “Good Morning America,” Romney was asked by ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos if he supports the Republican Party’s 2004 platform on abortion rights, which states, “We support a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution and we endorse legislation to make it clear that the 14th Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.”

Romney replied, “You know, I do support the Republican platform, and I support that being part of the Republican platform [Pols emphasis] and I’m pro-life.”

CBS News adds:

In an interview with an Ohio TV station during the heat of the Republican primary in February, Romney said he was “in favor of a pro-life policy.” He noted that “the legislation that relates to abortion is something which is going to have to be approved by the Supreme Court,” a body to which he would appoint nominees to fill any vacancies if he is elected.

Mitt Romney could be in fresh Ken Buck-style trouble here, facing the classic dilemma of needing to moderate ahead of a general election, but still shackled to statements he made during the long Republican primary. There’s no clearer case of a candidate attempting to flip-flop than for Mitt Romney, after repeatedly affirming his anti-abortion credentials on the primary campaign trail, to suddenly declare in October that “there’s no legislation with regards to abortion that would become part of my agenda.” Either Romney lied then, or he’s lying now.

And it’s worse for Romney; flip-flopping in October is what the cynics expect him to do.

In a base-turnout election like this one, which is the smarter strategy? Enrage your base to attempt to court the center, or shore up the base you’re counting on to win the election?

Just like Rick Santorum warned of, Romney has made his choice.

Forget the Primary…Let’s Talk 2014!

The Colorado Statesman has some good gossip online about the 2014 Senate race (Sen. Mark Udall’s seat). There are a few particular items that we thought worthy of further analysis:

In no uncertain terms, state GOP boss Ryan Call wants to demolish the notion that he might be considering a run for Democrat Mark Udall’s U.S. Senate seat two years from now. That’s right: He’s not running, not even maybe.

We don’t think Ryan Call would be a particularly strong candidate for the GOP in 2014, but it’s interesting that his name came up enough to garner reporting from the Statesman. When you see or hear someone’s name being floated for a particular office, it’s almost always with at least implied consent from said person. This says a lot about Call’s future ambitions, but what really stands out is the relative weakness of the GOP bench; if Call’s name is being taken even slightly seriously, then Republicans have little hope of taking out Udall.

The Statesman writes that Rep. Mike Coffman’s name might be cooling off significantly as a 2014 Senate contender. As we have noted in this space many times, Coffman has been trying to put down his marker for the eventual Republican nomination for more than a year now. But if it’s not Coffman?

The most likely Republican candidate for Udall’s seat, top Republicans tell us, is a name familiar to friend and foe alike: former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez, who gave up a congressional seat six years ago to launch what most agree was a stumbling campaign for governor, which he lost to one-termer Democrat Bill Ritter.

That’s right, Beauprez, a former state party chairman and nearly constant fixture at major state Republican events in recent months, is weighing a run for the U.S. Senate what would be eight years after his last race.

We’re more than a little surprised to hear the name Beauprez being mentioned with any shred of truth. We’re talking about a guy whose 2006 campaign for governor is on the short list of worst statewide campaigns in Colorado history.

We still think that Coffman will eventually be the Republican nominee unless he crashes spectacularly this November. But even if it isn’t Coffman, we’d be absolutely floored to see Beauprez emerge as the GOP favorite.

“If Prop 103 Passes…” Squirrels, Monkeys and Maes

Since 2004, interested parties have relied on Colorado Pols for news and insight on Colorado politics and policy matters. Proposition 103 is an education funding initiative on the statewide ballot this November. If passed, Proposition 103 would restore the income and sales tax rates that were in effect in 1999 in Colorado: increasing from 4.63% to 5%, and 2.9% to 3% respectively for five years.

But that’s not all!

If Proposition 103 passes, Colorado will immediately be set upon by a fierce, probably rabid plague of squirrels. Yes, squirrels. Scary ones. Scarier, even, than the one in the picture at right.

In order to combat this squirrel attack, Colorado will be forced to import massive numbers of Squirrel Monkeys, which we presume eat squirrels (and also stuffed ducks). Over the course of three years, these Squirrel Monkeys will succeed in decimating the population of crazed squirrels…at a terrible price. You see, the Squirrel Monkeys will reproduce at incredible rates. In pictures we’ve seen, they can fly between trees and stuff, which means that they will soon be soaring back and forth across the skies of Colorado.

This new menace will force more Coloradans to abandon their bicycles and stick to riding in cars (but the convertible business will be destroyed). Ultimately the Squirrel Monkey infestation will expose the folly of the United Nations’ sinister plan to force people to ride bicycles, thus validating the beliefs of 2010 Republican Gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes (which, frankly, is still the most unbelievable part of this entire post), propelling him to victory in the 2014 U.S. Senate race over Democratic Sen. Mark Udall.

And all because of Proposition 103. It’s in the data!

Maybe Mike Coffman Doesn’t Want to Get Elected Statewide

Republican Rep. Mike Coffman is putting forth legislation to repeal a section of the 1973 Voting Rights Act that allows districts with high percentages of non-English speakers to print ballots in different languages. From Talking Points Memo:

Coffman said Wednesday that his legislation would repeal Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires states or districts to provide bilingual voting materials if more than 10,000 or more than 5% of voters “are members of a single language minority and are limited-English proficient,” or if the illiteracy of members of the language minority is higher than the national average.

“Among other factors,” Section 203 says, “the denial of the right to vote of such minority group citizens is ordinarily directly related to the unequal educational opportunities afforded them resulting in high illiteracy and low voting participation.”

As Polster VanDammer points out, Coffman has signed on to most major “anti immigrant” bills offered in Congress in the last year. While this would make sense for a conservative, Tea Party-loving Congressman, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for someone with statewide aspirations.

Coffman has made no secret of the fact that he wants to run against Sen. Mark Udall in 2014, but he’s going to have a hard time winning a statewide race by going out of his way to antagonize Hispanic voters, which he is doing with bills like repealing part of the Voting Rights Act. There’s a reason why Texas Governor, and now Presidential candidate Rick Perry has been supportive of issues like in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants — he knew he needed support from Hispanic voters in Texas.

In the 2010 Senate race in Colorado, 81% of Hispanic voters selected Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet over Republican Ken Buck; if Buck had received just 30 percent of the Hispanic vote, he would be in the Senate today. Take a look at what Mike Melanson, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s campaign manager, had to say about the Hispanic vote last November. From Colorado Independent:

He said the Hickenlooper campaign saw an uptick in early voting among Hispanics this year – the first time he had seen that in a non-presidential year. He said Hispanic voters are a very strong element in Colorado and that it was a mistake by Republicans to focus on immigration in a negative way.

Either Mike Coffman wasn’t paying attention in 2010, or he just doesn’t really want to win a statewide race. But if he continues down this path of casting himself as a hardliner on immigration, there’s no way he’s going to defeat Udall in 2014. Hispanics accounted for 12% of all Colorado voters in 2010, and that number is only going to increase in the next four years. The numbers don’t lie — you just cannot win an election if you immediately lose the support of 10-15 percent of the electorate.

Udall Introduces Updated Energy Security Act

From The Colorado Independent:

Colorado U.S. Senator Mark Udall Wednesday unveiled an updated version of the Energy Security Act he worked with Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords to introduce last year. The bill aims to boost increasing military efforts to move away from dependence on fossil fuels.

“Osama bin Laden reportedly called our fuel convoys the military’s ‘umbilical cord.’ We risk the lives of thousands of troops each year because of our dependence on fossil fuel in theater and at home,” Udall said.  “We owe it to our troops and the American people to find ways to use energy smarter and more efficiently.”…

…The Pentagon move toward renewable energy has been characterized in the last half-decade by an urgency that doesn’t tolerate usual U.S. energy politics and congressional dithering.

With an annual budget in the hundreds of billions, the military makes its own markets for all kinds of products and services, and energy is no different. Military leaders have simply decided they need to use renewables and have begun ordering technology, circumventing fraught Capitol Hill stand-offs on climate change and turf battles over whether taxpayers should be subsidizing this or that energy-industry sector.

The Independent story includes a link to a piece from The New York Times last fall, with some pretty convincing arguments:

“There are a lot of profound reasons for doing this, but for us at the core it’s practical,” said Ray Mabus, the Navy secretary and a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who has said he wants 50 percent of the power for the Navy and Marines to come from renewable energy sources by 2020. That figure includes energy for bases as well as fuel for cars and ships.

“Fossil fuel is the No. 1 thing we import to Afghanistan,” Mr. Mabus said, “and guarding that fuel is keeping the troops from doing what they were sent there to do, to fight or engage local people.”

Udall, Bennet Vote to Repeal Oil Subsidies

Colorado Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet voted in favor of a failed measure last night that would have repealed taxpayer subsidies to oil and gas companies. As Politico reports:

Democrats said the bill on the floor Tuesday was needed to reduce unnecessary spending and help lower the debt, pointing to about $36 billion in profits over three months recently reported by Big Oil. “The administration believes that, at a time when it is working with the Congress on proposals to reduce federal deficits, the nation cannot afford to maintain these wasteful subsidies,” according to a statement of administration policy.

Tuesday’s outcome was never in doubt. Democratic leaders knew the measure would fail to get the necessary 60 votes to advance, but it gave them a chance to give talking points to some of their vulnerable colleagues this election cycle.

While this particular vote may have failed, Republicans are keenly aware that this issue is not good for them, and Democrats have promised to bring it up again. Polling shows that more than 80 percent of Americans blame oil companies for rising gas prices, and 74% favor cutting oil and gas subsidies.

More from Sen. Udall’s office in a press release after the jump.

Moday, Mark Udall joined a majority of his colleagues in voting to begin debate on a bill to close tax loopholes and subsidies for the five biggest and most-profitable oil companies in the world.  Unfortunately, the measure failed to win the 60 votes needed to proceed.

The legislation would have saved the taxpayers over $21 billion over 10 years – money that could have been put toward deficit reduction.  Experts said that eliminating the tax credits will not impact gas prices.

Udall delivered a speech on the Senate floor earlier in the day to express support for the bill.  He said the measure would end subsidies that Coloradans oppose and that the most profitable companies do not need in order to make billions of dollars in profits.

But he also added that he is disappointed that the Senate is not debating comprehensive energy policy to wean ourselves off of foreign sources of oil.

“Like most Americans, I’m frustrated that once again politics is getting in the way of progress.  I’d much rather that we be debating a comprehensive energy policy this week that includes a renewable electricity standard, promotes energy efficiency and encourages responsible development of domestic resources like safe nuclear power and natural gas,” Udall said in his speech.

“We need to move beyond partisan fights and blame games,” he continued.  “Instead, we need to work toward what we all can agree are key priorities: developing energy that brings affordable prices to American families and businesses; building a sustainable long-term energy future; and doing it in a way that protects our clean air and water for future generations.  Put simply, establishing energy security – perhaps above any other issue – will assure our nation’s future success.”

Please contact Tara Trujillo or Jennifer Talhelm at 202-224-4334.

The following are Senator Udall’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Mr. President, I rise today to speak about the energy-related votes that we face this week the Senate.

Coloradans – and all Americans – are feeling the sting of skyrocketing gas prices.  And “pain at the pump” puts a crimp in the budgets of hardworking families and small businesses everywhere.  I hear this every time I am back in my home state, talking to folks.  They think it’s unfair – and I agree.  

Runaway gas prices are not acceptable … and we must work across the partisan divide to bring a stop to it.

In fact, I recently called on the State Department and the U.S. Trade Representative to do everything they can to crack down on global oil market manipulation.  And I joined my colleagues in urging the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to ratchet up their efforts at preventing over speculation in oil trading domestically.  Taking these steps would help reduce the chance that market manipulation is hurting American consumers.

But from a larger perspective, the challenge is that we simply do not have any quick fixes.  And substantial relief today would have required us to take steps years ago to reform our energy system – but unfortunately we let those opportunities pass us by.  That is the unvarnished truth the American people need to hear, not false promises or bumper sticker solutions.

The real solutions involve tough choices and strategic investments in clean energy that will help wean our nation off foreign sources of oil.  It really is the only way we will be able to dig ourselves out of this hole and lower gas prices.  And importantly – it’s one of the ways that we will get the United States back on the path to winning the global economic race.

Unfortunately, neither of the votes that we will take this week will reduce gas prices for consumers.  Like most Americans, I’m frustrated that once again politics is getting in the way of progress.  I’d much rather that we be debating a comprehensive energy policy this week that includes a renewable electricity standard, promotes energy efficiency and encourages responsible development of domestic resources like safe nuclear power and natural gas.  

We need to move beyond partisan fights and blame games.  Instead, we need to work toward what we all can agree are key priorities: developing energy that brings affordable prices to American families and businesses; building a sustainable long-term energy future; and doing it in a way that protects our clean air and water for future generations.  Put simply, establishing energy security – perhaps above any other issue – will assure our nation’s future success.

Now, we each often say that our states are the best laboratories to create innovation.  But in Colorado, we have a great example of this in action.

Back in 2004, Colorado cast aside partisan politics and bumper sticker solutions by taking a big, brave step forward and embraced the emerging clean energy economy.  That year I led a bipartisan ballot initiative with the former Republican Speaker of the Colorado House, Lola Spradley, in a campaign to convince the voters of Colorado to approve a state-based RES that would harness renewable resources like the sun, the wind, and geothermal energy.  We barnstormed the state, speaking over and over again – to anyone who would listen.

There was a lot of industry opposition to an RES, and dire predictions that it would cost consumers money and damage Colorado’s economy.  But, Mr. President, those arguments were proven wrong.  And Colorado industries, consumers and people across the political spectrum have embraced clean energy as part of Colorado’s effort to win the global economic race.

In fact, last year, the Colorado legislature approved and former Governor Bill Ritter signed a bill to increase the RES standard even further: from 20 percent to 30 percent renewable energy by 2020.  This makes the Colorado RES the second most aggressive standard in the nation, only after California.

Even more refreshing is that in the years since Colorado established one of the earliest and strongest Renewable Electricity Standards our energy producers have embraced the move.   One of our state’s largest utilities, Xcel Energy, has become a national leader in clean energy.  In proving that clean energy can be profitable and competitive, Xcel is making the case for how an RES can create jobs, stimulate the economy and help us achieve energy independence.

The clean energy economy is one of the greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century, and the global demand for clean energy is growing by one trillion dollars every year.  The lesson to be learned from Colorado is that clean energy can unleash the American entrepreneurial spirit.  We must pursue forward-thinking policies that will help America seize and lead this growing market.

Make no mistake – we are in a race against foreign competitors and are quickly being left behind.  Last year, I returned from China where I discussed clean energy issues with American businesses located there.  I saw it firsthand…they are ready to eat our lunch when it comes to clean energy.  China is pursuing renewable energy and clean energy technology so ambitiously, not because they want to save the planet, but because it makes good business and economic sense.

In fact, China has announced that it is investing over $738 billion dollars over the next 10 years in clean energy development – nearly the size of our entire American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  Just imagine, their economy uses a comparable amount of energy, but they take clean energy so seriously that they plan to invest a stimulus-sized amount of money solely in renewables.

But we can’t just rely on renewable energy … rather, America must have an all-of-the-above energy policy.  For example, conservation and energy efficiency efforts offer the quickest way to reduce energy demand today.  And safe nuclear energy and natural gas can and should fill a larger share of our energy portfolio as they both are cleaner fuels.  In addition, we all know that America will be dependent on fossil fuels for years to come … so, it’s not realistic to exclude them in our strategy.  All of these elements should be in America’s energy mix and we must acknowledge that to really embrace 21st century solutions.

But when you look at the future demands for clean energy and the economic opportunities ahead of us, renewable resources hold the greatest promise.  And the more home-grown renewable energy we can produce, the less money we need to spend buying oil from foreign nations who wish to do us harm – which means less money spent at the gas pump.   I don’t think anyone in this chamber can argue with the proposition that we should be moving aggressively toward energy independence with dividends like that.

It is time we made a concerted national effort to reclaim our position at the front of the pack.  We should be harnessing the wind and sun and other renewable resources here in America, and putting Americans to work in good-paying jobs developing, building, and leading the clean energy revolution.  It’s an example of what we call back home “Colorado common-sense.”

But instead of pursuing those common-sense goals that are sure to move our economy forward, we are here today exchanging political punches on issues largely unrelated to our energy independence and the prices Americans pay at the pump.

While I support reducing tax breaks for the five largest oil companies, I honestly wish this issue was a smaller part of a larger discussion on a comprehensive energy strategy that allows the U.S. to lead the global economic race.  That said, I will vote to repeal these needless tax breaks for BIG oil.  Traditional energy production has received billions in subsidies over the last 70 years.  And the top five oil companies in particular make billions in profits that far exceed the need for government support.

I happen to agree with the thousands of Coloradans who have told me: these companies – among the biggest in the world – don’t need and shouldn’t receive taxpayer money, especially as we look for ways to consolidate our tax code and reduce the deficit.

Now, it’s important to me that this bill is limited to the top five companies and does NOT include small, independent producers that provide many jobs in Colorado.  I should note that there are some tax credits – like the production tax credit for wind, the investment tax credit for solar, and the intangible drilling costs tax credit for SMALL oil and gas producers – that are important to jobs in Colorado and across the country.  While my ideal energy market would be free from any tax credits, I also want to make sure we continue to invest in domestic energy industries that still need help getting off the ground.  Just as with most policy, it is a delicate balance.

As I wind down my remarks today, my request to my Senate colleagues is that we would take responsibility for our economic future and get serious about energy independence.  This means shedding our doctrinaire positions, and our “my way or the highway” approaches.

There are ways to responsibly drill for oil while also increasing our renewable electricity usage.

There are ways to safely expand nuclear power while also boosting energy efficiency.

There are ways to harness natural gas as a bridge fuel while also spurring a generation of electric cars.

These are NOT either-or propositions.

We must seize this clean energy opportunity so that two, four, and 10 years from now we are not still sidetracked on political infighting because we’ve once again failed to make the tough decisions.  A comprehensive energy policy is critically important to our nation’s economic recovery and our long-term energy future.  Believe me, Americans are ready for it – in fact, they are demanding it.  Thank you.

Still a Bad Idea

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

News has hit that Senator Mark Udall is cosponsoring the resurrected constitutional balanced budget amendment. The paper which shall not be named has a gushing editorial about it.

Needless to say, the base is rattled, and I think the Senator would do well to make the progressive case for this policy, or else every time the topic comes up the blogosphere will be a beehive being poked by a stick.

Fortunately, I don’t think it’s going to see the light of day in its current form for many reasons, but here are just a few:

1. The spending limit isn’t substantially different than the reconciliation rules in that it only takes a 3/5 majority to override it. Congress frequently waives the Byrd Rule already. So the spending side doesn’t have a lot of teeth while the revenue side is a straight jacket (see #2).

2. It contains a TABOR-like ratchet where spending is based on the previous year’s revenue. So when we go through a multi-year recession such as the one we just had, the budget would be needlessly constrained when spending is needed so as not to stymie a recovery. In addition, it has a percent-of-GDP cap at 20%. The problem there is sometimes the GDP drops suddenly. When that happens, government needs to spend more, not less, or the GDP will drop again as output gets choked off.

3. 3/4 of the states will never, ever ratify it. States and local governments derive a substantial share of their funding from the federal government, and as such if the federal government’s share of the funding expands and contracts with the economy then states will take a double hit.

4. There are times when we must deficit spend or face annihilation. If we had a balanced budget amendment in 1941 we’d all be speaking German or Japanese today. Fortunately the proposal has an out clause–a congressional declaration of war. Problem is, Congress hasn’t declared war since 1941. So while on one hand the constraint would tend to reduce the size of the military industrial complex and perhaps keep us out of several of our recent misadventures, it would also wipe us off the map as a world power. You can’t speak softly yet carry a big stick if you can’t afford the stick.

5. The base will stay home again. If we got a shellacking in 2010, imagine what will happen to us when hundreds of thousands of people are thrown off Medicaid because Wall Street screwed up again.

I don’t doubt Senator Udall’s sincerity about wanting to pay down the debt. But there’s very little in this proposal that seems workable. What we have to do is get the corrosive effect of money out of politics. We have a massive defense budget because of the power of the defense lobby. Our health care costs are so high because of the power of the various medical and insurance lobbies. We give massive tax cuts to the rich because if we don’t they’ll “shove 30-second ads up his ass,” to coin a phrase.

Even if, by some miracle (or catastrophe), this thing passes, and we don’t do something about the system of influence peddling, the rich and powerful are still gonna get theirs. The people who will suffer the wildly alternating cuts in services and tax hikes as the economy bobs up and down will be those who can’t afford to spend billions of dollars lobbying to protect their bottom lines. Comprende?

Senator Udall Revives Hackneyed and False Talking Point in Support of his Balanced Budget Amendment

I just received Senator Mark Udall’s newletter. When I came to the part about his balanced budget amendment, I – quite literally – almost fell out of my chair.  To support his amendment Udall revives a Republican talking point which is both hackneyed and a patent falsehood:

“American families have to balance their own checkbooks – and, especially in these hard times, they’re wondering why their federal government doesn’t have to do the same,” Udall said.

Udall Co-sponsors Balanced Budget Amendment

Mark, for your information – in case you have become completely out of touch there in Washington – American working and middle class families have not been living within their means for years.  You know – it’s this little thing called consumer credit.  We’ve been relying on credit to maintain our standards of living for nearly three decades now.  We have run up trillions of dollars in debt try to stay where we are because our wages and salaries have declined in real dollars over the past 30 years.

In times of depression/recession we need the Federal Government to spend more than it brings in to stimulate demand.  If your idea carries the day, we would now be in the biggest depression in our history with unemployment standing at near 40%.  

It time for you to stop being a Republican Lite.

BREAKING: Udall Will Oppose Obama Tax Cut Deal

From The Hill:

A deal between President Obama and congressional Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts for two years has met with an angry backlash from Senate Democrats.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) joined Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in stating his opposition to the deal…

“I’m opposed right now,” said Udall, who added that some provisions in the package make sense, such as extended unemployment benefits, but he questioned whether it does enough to help middle-class families given its cost.

Udall also said he opposed the proposal to set the estate tax at 35 percent for inheritances worth more than $5 million for the next two years. He would prefer a lower exemption.

Full statement from Udall’s office follows: “With our debt out of control, our troops battling two wars, and American families struggling every week in the recession, extending tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires makes no sense.”

We note that Udall is considered one of several key bipartisan negotiators in the Senate, and also has an interest in getting to other items on the lame-duck agenda like the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. In our view, that makes his willingness to throw down over the weakness of this compromise even more significant.

At the same time, Udall and other Democrats need to be careful about framing this debate to be solely about the national debt, because that’s exactly the kind of talking point that Republicans want to hear. Republicans want to use “cutting the national debt” as an excuse to oppose everything, and Democrats would be wise to not play into that trap.

Udall: Extending Tax Cuts for Billionaires is Irresponsible

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Mark Udall issued the following statement in response to the deal struck between President Obama and Republican leaders over extending the Bush-era tax cuts:

“Just last week, a bipartisan group appointed by the President called our national debt a ‘cancer’ that is threatening our country from within.  As I’ve said for many years, our looming debt is perhaps the greatest challenge to our economy and our national security.  Now, exactly four days later, we are being asked by the President to add $900 billion to that debt over the next two years.

“I feel like we are suffering from the worst possible case of collective short-term memory loss.  The cost of extending tax breaks for millionaires alone is $700 billion over the next decade.  As I’ve said many times – I believe there are better ways to strengthen the economy than tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.

“I agree with the President that we need to make progress on the question of whether to extend the Bush tax cuts – and like him, I believe this is an issue that is critical to our economy.  But that is the extent of our agreement.  While I still want to examine the details, my first response to this proposal is to be opposed.

“With our debt out of control, our troops battling two wars, and American families struggling every week in the recession, extending tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires makes no sense.  And I’m willing to stay here in Washington and work weekends, nights and through the holidays rather than pass a compromise that I believe will weaken our economy for the long term.”

Please contact Tara Trujillo or Jennifer Talhelm at (202) 224-4334.


Democrats Hold Hands, Sing Kumbaya, Share Cookies and Milk

The Democratic “Unity” Rally was held this afternoon in Denver to show that things were just hunky-dorey for Sen. Michael Bennet and former challenger Andrew Romanoff (full press release from the Bennet campaign and from Colorado Democrats after the jump).

Said Romanoff:

“I am very, very proud of our grassroots team, and proud to see so many folks standing with us together in this united Democratic Party today. For not just my sake, and not Michael’s sake, and not even for the sake of the Democratic Party, I’m asking you today to throw your support fully and unequivocally behind Michael Bennet for the United States Senate.”

This is all pretty standard stuff in terms of the Kumbaya atmosphere, which makes it all the more curious that Colorado Republicans don’t seem prepared to do the same thing just yet. Heck, GOP Gubernatorial nominee Dan Maes apparently can’t even get a phone call right now from other Republicans.

Bennet Campaign Press Release:

Supporters of Andrew Romanoff and Michael Bennet filled the lawn of the state Capitol building today as the former rivals came together in a united front, pledging to work together as sights turn toward November. Two days after Michael won the Colorado Democratic Senate primary, Speaker Romanoff rallied supporters of his campaign to support Michael and asked them to do everything in their power to keep Michael in the Senate.

“I am very, very proud of our grassroots team, and proud to see so many folks standing with us together in this united Democratic Party today,” said Romanoff.  “For not just my sake, and not Michael’s sake, and not even for the sake of the Democratic Party, I’m asking you today to throw your support fully and unequivocally behind Michael Bennet for the United States Senate.”

Following the Speaker’s sincere and gracious speech, Michael Bennet addressed the crowd of supporters gathered at the Capitol. Michael spoke to Romanoff’s supporters, volunteers, and staff, promising to work hard to earn their support.

Michael went on to say, “Andrew’s legacy within the Democratic Party runs deep and will only continue on in the years to come. He is a man who has given his time and talents to this state, its people and our party, and Colorado is a better place for having Andrew as a leader.”

For the past year, Michael and Speaker Romanoff competed in a spirited primary that challenged both candidates to build an extensive grassroots network, cultivate a fundraising base, and develop the type of campaign organization essential to winning in November. Michael’s campaign, Bennet for Colorado, has emerged a stronger, battle-tested organization as a result of Speaker Romanoff’s challenge.

Michael closed the rally highlighting several key issues on which he and his Republican opponent Ken Buck clearly disagree. Michael vowed to reject ideological extremes in favor of common-sense solutions informed by his unique, real-world experience saving jobs, balancing budgets and reforming public schools – experience that has separated him from every other candidate in the race since the beginning.  

In closing, Michael and Speaker Romanoff both drew clear distinctions between the extreme positions Ken Buck represents and the solutions for Colorado that Michael is fighting for everyday.  

“The end that we share is a better quality of life, a higher standard of living, a cleaner and healthier environment, more affordable healthcare, stronger schools, more jobs,” said Romanoff. “Those goals, which we share, will better be advanced by Michael Bennet than any other candidate in this race. It is an easy call for me, and it should be an easy call for all of you as well.”

These points were echoed by Michael,”As we face the most savage economy since the Great Depression, we must look at providing a better education for our kids, and as we tackle the out-of-control spending that stands to saddle generations to come with debt, there is a serious debate to be had about how we bring about solutions. Because the opponent we’re facing this fall believes in efforts that are simply too extreme for Colorado.”

Colorado Democratic Party Press Release

The Colorado Democratic Party celebrated Democratic candidates statewide today during a unity rally in front of the state capitol building. Democratic elected officials and candidates alike came together and pledged to support each other’s campaigns. Senator Michael Bennet and Former Speaker Andrew Romanoff appeared together. Governor Tim Kaine, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC),  Senator Mark Udall, Senator Michael Bennet, Former Speaker Andrew Romanoff, Congressman Ed Perlmutter, Lt. Governor Barbara O’Brien, State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, Attorney General Candidate Stan Garnett, House Speaker Terrance Carroll, Senate President Brandon Shaffer, Lt. Governor Candidate Joe Garcia, CD 6 Candidate John Flerlage, CU Regent Candidate Melissa Hart, CDP Chair Pat Waak and many more were present during the rally.

Below are remarks from Democratic officials statewide:

Senator Mark Udall stated, “Michael has spent his life outside of politics, he has turned around struggling companies and turned around failing schools, those skills and experiences are desperately needed in Washington. He has been a strong and effective voice for solving problems and putting aside political games. Having earned voters’ support and the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, I am confident Michael is the best choice for Colorado and the partner I need in the Senate.  I look forward to campaigning with Michael in the coming months so we can continue our partnership working on behalf of the people of Colorado.”

“Colorado Democrats this year are fired up and ready to go,” said Congressman Ed Perlmutter.  “Democrats want to drive this country forward in getting people back to work and toward economic stability, unlike the Republicans who want to put the gears in reverse and go back to the Bush failed policies and Wall Street free-for-all.  The bottom line is they are in disarray and divided, and we are united.”

Congresswoman Diana DeGette said, “Throughout their careers both Michael and Andrew have served the people of Colorado admirably. Now, thanks to our democracy, they can bring together their shared passion and leadership, to make sure we keep our delegation strong to fight for Colorado.”

State Treasurer Cary Kennedy said, “Over the past year, two amazingly talented, caring and dedicated men have shown us how deeply they care about our state and how deeply they care about us — the people who call Colorado their home. That passion can inspire us in the months ahead as we work together to continue to make Colorado such a wonderful place to live.”

“Democrats and all Coloradans are lucky to have such talented public servants willing to step up. It is going to take Democrats working together to make sure we have a government that is accountable and transparent to the citizens. We can’t afford to return to failed leadership of the Bush-Cheney era,” stated Speaker Terrance Carroll. “As the outgoing Speaker, I am so pleased to look around and see what the future of the state house looks like — we look like Colorado, we Democrats ARE Colorado!  We are Black, Latino and White, straight and gay, younger and older, men and women working together for jobs and a strong economy.”

Senate President Brandon Shaffer stated, “This has been a primary season in which everyone has worked very hard for their favorite candidate.  Now it’s time to unite behind our Democratic nominees.  I know we can and I know we will.”

“We are united and will harness the energy of the primary to elect our candidates up and down the ticket,” stated Pat Waak, Colorado Democratic Party Chair.

Hooray! 18 Months Later, We Have a U.S. Attorney!

It only took 18 months to finally confirm the position, but John Walsh is now officially Colorado’s new U.S. Attorney. Walsh’s nomination was approved by unanimous consent last night. Press release from Sen. Mark Udall’s office after the jump:

Today, U.S. Senator Mark Udall praised the Senate for approving President Obama’s nomination of John Walsh to serve as U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado.  Walsh’s nomination was approved by unanimous consent late Thursday.

Walsh, a Colorado native and a partner at Hill & Robbins, was nominated in April by President Obama after both Colorado Senators recommended him for the position.

“John is eminently qualified, and he’s one of the most civic-minded people I know.  He’s a Coloradan through and through and will serve us well,” Senator Udall said.  “Colorado has been without a permanent U.S. Attorney for nearly 19 months, and I’m very pleased that the Senate has approved his nomination.”

However, while the Senate was able to act on Walsh’s nomination, there is still a big backlog of judicial nominations that are being held up purely for partisan reasons – including William Martinez, whose nomination to the U.S. District Court in Colorado has been in limbo since April.  Five judges in the District of Colorado have been doing the work of seven for almost two years, and caseload has grown so heavy that the situation in the court is now classified as a “judicial emergency.”

Last week, Senator Udall led an effort with nine of his colleagues to try to convince Republicans to stop blocking Martinez’s nomination and that of several others.  Today, he pledged to continue fighting against partisan obstruction.  More information is available HERE.

“I’m frustrated with these partisan games that are only hurting the people our courts are supposed to serve,” Senator Udall said.  “But I’m not giving up.  I’m going to continue to work across the aisle to convince my colleagues that the time to fill these vacancies in our judicial system is now.”

Support Net Neutrality!

Hopefully this is an issue that unites us all here at Colorado Pols, because without Net Neutrality, this might be a different place entirely.

As Politico reports:

The Federal Communications Commission Thursday suspended its weeks-long series of talks with Internet providers on Net neutrality, dealing a blow to efforts to produce a deal that the agency could take to Congress.

The decision to cut off negotiations marks a major political setback for Chairman Julius Genachowski, whose office reached out to stakeholders six weeks ago to strike an agreement and avoid a public battle over rules that would treat all users’ Web traffic equally.

But the end to industry discussions – which a source close to the FCC talks blamed entirely on news that Google and Verizon separately sought some form of net neutrality agreement – could now force the FCC to take a more aggressive approach to solidifying its broadband authority.

FCC chief of staff Edward Lazarus stressed in a briefly worded statement that the agency has no plans to back down on Net neutrality, months after a federal court in a case involving Comcast essentially nullified much of the agency’s broadband authority…

…”Any outcome, any deal that doesn’t preserve the freedom and openness of the Internet for consumers and entrepreneurs, will be unacceptable,” he said.

Colorado’s congressional delegation has taken different positions on Net Neutrality. Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn has opposed it, while Democratic Rep. Jared Polis has been a supporter. Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter signed onto an odd letter last fall that sort-of questioned Net Neutrality. Both Colorado Senators, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, are supporters of Net Neutrality.

Bennet, Udall Playing Key Role in Energy Legislation Debate

You may have noticed from the two ads currently running on Colorado Pols that energy legislation is now the key topic on Capitol Hill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today outlined what looks to be the legislation that will be discussed next week, and both Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall have played a significant role in the process.

First, Reid’s remarks after today’s Senate Democratic Caucus meeting:

“We have a responsibility – both to our constituents and our children – to take on America’s energy challenge. Many of us want to do that through a comprehensive bill that creates jobs, breaks our addiction to oil and curbs pollution.  Unfortunately, at this time not one Republican wants to join us in achieving this goal. That isn’t just disappointing.  It’s dangerous.

“So, the President, Senator Kerry, and I will continue to reach out to Republicans and work with the environmental and energy community to garner the support needed to move forward on a larger bill. But Republican political calculations don’t change our obligation to lay the foundations of a safer and stronger future. So in the coming days we’re going to introduce a solid four-part bill.

“One, we will hold BP accountable. We will ensure it pays to clean up its mess, and we will put forth measures to prevent a disaster like this from ever happening again. Two, we will create clean-energy jobs across America. Home Star is a bipartisan energy efficiency program that will not only lower consumers’ energy costs, but create American jobs that can never be outsourced. Three, we will lessen our dependence on oil.

“And fourth, our country is blessed with abundant resources and we must tap into those. That is why we will invest in the manufacturing of natural gas vehicles. We will protect our environment by investing in the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Doing so now will help ensure our land and water is protected long into the future – even from the effects of climate change. [Pols emphasis]    

“To be clear: we are not putting forth this bill in place of a comprehensive bill. But we will not pass up the opportunity to hold BP accountable, lessen our dependence on oil, create good paying American jobs and protect the environment.  I’m disappointed in my Republican colleagues, who again find themselves on the wrong side of history. But as we work through our differences on a comprehensive energy bill, Republicans have an immediate choice to make.  

“They can join with us to pass these simple, straight forward bipartisan measures to hold BP accountable, lessen our dependence on oil and create jobs, or they can continue to protect big oil companies and kill job growth in America.”

Bennet and Udall have been in the thick of many of these discussions, and earlier this week Bennet sent a letter to Reid requesting that the Land and Water Conservation Fund — which is already paid for from oil & gas leasing revenue — receive full funding in the proposed energy bill. Congress has traditionally siphoned off for other projects the money meant for the Land and Water Conservation Fund — money which funds national parks and other recreation areas open to the public, such as the Sand Dunes National Monument, renovations to Steamboat Lake, the Poudre River Trail in Greeley and the Greenland Open Space Trail in Douglas County.

Meanwhile, Udall has long been pushing plans for an amendment in any energy bill that would fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Both Bennet and Udall’s insistence that some oil & gas leasing revenue be used to preserve national parks and recreation areas was apparently critical in ensuring that this issue was not left out of the Senate energy bill.

UPDATE: Udall’s statement on Reid’s announcement after the jump.

Statement from Mark Udall:

Today, U.S. Senator Mark Udall released the following statement after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that he will introduce a scaled-back energy bill focused on creating jobs and preventing another spill like BP’s Deepwater Horizon:

“There are many things to like about the legislation Senator Reid plans to introduce next week.  BP’s disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has revealed dangerous gaps in our ability to respond to drilling accidents.  Senator Reid is correct that any energy legislation we pass should hold BP and other companies accountable.  I’m pleased that he has made it clear today that he will move forward with a bill I helped shape to prevent such a spill from happening again.  This is a step in the right direction.

“I’m also very pleased that Senator Reid intends to include a measure I have advocated for years, which would invest in the Land and Water Conservation Fund – a 40-year-old program that uses revenues from oil and gas development to purchase special land for conservation.  Congress has chronically failed to keep its promise to ensure that as we drill for oil and gas, we also set aside land for hunting, fishing and recreation.  There’s no greater example of the kind of success this program can have than the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, which was made possible in part thanks to the LWCF.  I’m absolutely certain that Americans will embrace future efforts to conserve our nation’s treasured places when we give this program its due.

“Finally, Senator Reid has also made it clear that we must move forward with incentives to create jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.  Both are critical steps to rebuild our economy and strengthen our national security.

“But while I’m pleased that we are addressing several immediate concerns through this legislation, today is a disappointment.  Despite numerous efforts to reach out and work across the aisle by many Senators – including myself – my Republican colleagues have put politics ahead of our country’s economic future and our national security, and they’re preventing us from moving forward on a comprehensive clean energy bill.

“We’ve seen wake-up calls in the form of the BP oil spill, the economic recession, and the disturbing changes in pollution levels across the country.  It’s time to stand up and act.  We can’t sustain our leadership as a world economic and national power if we let ourselves fall behind China, India and Europe – and it would be a tragedy if we did so simply for short-term political gains.

“I have called on Congress to pass a cap on greenhouse gases that pollute our air and water and to establish a strong renewable electricity standard, among other steps, to secure our position as a leader in the clean energy economy.  And I will continue to fight for such legislation this year.”

More information about Senator Udall’s work to on the BP oil spill and the clean energy economy is available HERE.

Senators Udall and Bennet Should Support the PACT Act

With all the controversial legislation under discussion at the federal level, one very important bill, s.1147 the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking (PACT) Act, has not received the kind of attention it deserves. This is a bill which would go a long way to protecting Colorado’s children and creating a more competitive economic climate while closing legal loopholes in online tobacco sales. The PACT Act enjoys broad bipartisan support, but it’s unclear if our U.S. Senators support the bill. Given the seriousness of the problem which this legislation addresses, I hope Senators Bennet and Udall will come forward as a leaders by cosponsoring this important legislation.

Currently, out-of-date federal statutes regulate online tobacco retailers. These are regulations, which were written well before anyone could have imagined the development of internet commerce, result in online tobacco vendors are not being subject to the same identification requirements as brick-andmortar retailers. As a result, some online retailers are selling cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products to our children and teenagers. The PACT Act would make sure that everyone, both physical stores and online sellers, are using rigorous identification checks which will go a long way in ensuring our children aren’t buying tobacco products.

The PACT Act also levels the competitive playing field between brick-and-mortar tobacco retailers and online vendors. Currently, online retailers are not collecting state and federal taxes on tobacco sales, leading to a built-in illegal price advantage for their products. This isn’t fair to retailers who play by the rules. It undercuts the economic health of chain stores and mom and pop retailers, the folks who employ us and our neighbors and ensure that the money we spend stays in the local community. It also deprives our state government of badly-needed revenue and forces our legislators to look into cutting vital services or seeking to further tax folks who already play by the rules. This legislation makes sure that if you’re an online tobacco vendor, you’re following the same rules and laws that everyone else has to.

This legislation also helps our law enforcement officials. In order to ensure that this is a bill with teeth, the PACT Act allows law enforcement to charge violators with committing a federal offense. The PACT Act gives our law enforcement the tools they needs to protect our children from illegal tobacco sales and make sure that everyone is obeying the law.

There has been a lot of dialogue at both the state and the federal level about how we can improve the Colorado economy and try to stem some of the bleeding our state government is seeing in its revenue streams. S.1147, the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking (PACT) Act, which enjoys broad support from a wide array of legislators and citizens, protects Colorado’s children, and actually does something to promote a healthier economy for our state and country. I hope that Senator Bennet takes the lead on this in order to protect our children and our economy.

If you’d like to learn more, including how you can help make sure this bill gets passes, please visit the home of the Coalition to Stop Contraband Tobacco (

How Long Can Buck and Romanoff Keep the Lights On?

When fundraising numbers for Colorado’s U.S. Senate candidates were all announced earlier this week, it continued a rabid conversation about what individual reporting numbers mean for each campaign. Less discussed, but no less important, is whether or not each campaign is raising enough money just to keep the lights on.

As we’ve said before, fundraising reports are normally a reliable indicator of potential electoral success, because most large donors (people that give at least $500 to a candidate) write checks to the candidate that they believe is most likely to win.

But the other reason that fundraising is so important is for very fundamental purposes: You need a lot of money to both support a statewide campaign and to get your mug on television. It’s no secret that the candidate who does best on TV is often the candidate who ends up winning the election, so an effective campaign has to be able to pay for its day-to-day operations while also saving as much as possible (70-80% is a general rule of thumb) for television.

Obviously, a U.S. Senate race is a costly affair. In 2008, Democrat Mark Udall outspent Republican Bob Schaffer $11.7 million to $7.4 million. Now that the fundraising reports for the 2010 batch of Senate candidates are available, we thought it would make sense to look at just how much money they are going to need just to fund their campaign. The answers tell us a lot about which candidates are in a position to win, and which are just treading water right now.

In 2008, neither Udall nor Schaffer had a primary to worry about, yet both spent significant amounts of money in the first three months of the year on general campaign operations (staff, travel, office space, phones, copies, etc.) Here’s how those numbers stack up:

2008 U.S. Senate Race

Campaign Expenditures for Q1 (Jan. – March)

Mark Udall: $824,828

Bob Schaffer: $361,400

The 2004 election is a little more difficult to compare. Because incumbent Sen. Ben “Nighthorse” Campbell didn’t announce his retirement until March 2004, there isn’t any Q1 data from that year to compare. But take a look at the expenditures from the first report on the Republican side, which featured an expensive primary between Schaffer and Pete Coors:

2004 U.S. Senate Race (GOP Primary)

Campaign Expenditures for Q2 (April – June)

Pete Coors: $813,541

Bob Schaffer: $457,296

Now, back to 2010. Of the current field of candidates, only Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and Republican Jane Norton have cracked the $1 million mark in fundraising, and only those two candidates are currently raising enough money each quarter to allow them to both cover expenses and save for television (we don’t include Tom Wiens because he’s only had one quarter of ahem, fundraising). Here are the current “cash on hand” numbers for each candidate:

Michael Bennet (D): $3,482,581

Jane Norton (R): $595,563

Tom Wiens (R): $540,132

Andrew Romanoff (D): $480,000

Ken Buck (R): $276,000

Recent history shows that it costs at least $400,000 per quarter at this point to keep a strong campaign operation running. History also shows that if you don’t have a strong television buy, you can’t win; TV is still the most effective way to reach the large number of voters you need to win either a primary or a general election.

Given those two realities, it’s hard to see how Romanoff and Buck will be able to win their respective party’s nominations if they don’t significantly increase their campaign coffers, either through fundraising or self-funding. Unfortunately for both candidates, they have likely exhausted the low-hanging fundraising fruit at this point; most candidates have their strongest fundraising quarters early in their candidacies because the first people they call for money are the most likely to donate.

Both candidates have already brought in relatively highly-paid staff (Walt Klein for Buck and Celinda Lake, Joe Trippi, etc. for Romanoff), and both candidates have to staff up heavily now in order to do well at the caucuses. They are both going to have to spend a lot of money in the next few months, but neither is raising enough cash to do more than just cover those bills. And in Buck’s case, he’s not even raising enough to do that.

Look, we’re not saying that Romanoff and Buck won’t or can’t win in August — a lot can change in the next few months. But as it stands right now, the numbers don’t lie. When you combine their fundraising pace with both the money they need to spend on their campaign and the need to squirrel away funds for TV, there’s just no way that each campaign can stay in the black financially.

If Romanoff and Wiens can’t maintain a balance for heavy television advertising, then there is absolutely no way they can win in August. Buck is getting some help from outside interest groups, and perhaps Romanoff will get some outside help as well, but you can’t rely on those groups for your only televised outreach to voters; those ads should be the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.

This fundraising quarter could, and should, be the most critical period for both campaigns. If Romanoff and Buck don’t significantly increase their warchests, there’s not going to be a happy ending for this story. Buck and Romanoff will probably stay in the race until the bitter end, but at this pace, they won’t be doing much when the end comes.

Udall: Public Option or Bust

Via the e-mail tubes, an electronic telegram just arrived in my inboxulator. The message is pretty darn clear:

Dear Thilly,

I just left a meeting at the White House with President Obama.

The President reiterated the need to pass real health care reform, and I am committed to doing everything I can to ensure that happens in the U.S. Senate.

Coloradans deserve affordable and stable health care, and I believe a public option is one tool that could provide much-needed competition and additional choice for consumers.


Please join me in answering President Obama’s call. Contact your members of Congress to pass meaningful health care reform today!

We’ve watched the debate over health insurance reform get off-track thanks to special interests that benefit from the broken insurance system we have now. Last night, President Obama set the record straight on distortions being spread by opponents of health care reform, who simply want to “kick the can further down the road” and delay reform.

Much of the debate has focused on the public option. Last night, the President said this about the public option:

But an additional step we can take to keep insurance companies honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the insurance exchange. Let me be clear — it would only be an option for those who don’t have insurance. No one would be forced to choose it, and it would not impact those of you who already have insurance. In fact, based on Congressional Budget Office estimates, we believe that less than 5% of Americans would sign up.

Despite all this, the insurance companies and their allies don’t like this idea. They argue that these private companies can’t fairly compete with the government. And they’d be right if taxpayers were subsidizing this public insurance option. But they won’t be. I have insisted that like any private insurance company, the public insurance option would have to be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects.

I support the President’s plan to include the public option as a tool help reform our broken health care system.

But above all, any reform must be done in a deficit-neutral way and must provide choice, stability and security for those who have insurance. We must see to it that insurance companies can’t ever break their promises to consumers or drop their coverage unexpectedly — especially not when they’re sick.

Please contact your members of Congress today. Urge them to pass health care reform, including a public option, today!…

President Obama’s speech ushered in a new phase of the debate. Our economy and the health of hardworking Coloradans can’t wait. The time to act is now.

Thank you,

Mark Udall

U.S. Senator

Reading the above text, does Senator Udall support the Public Option?

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Senator Udall Stands Ground on Gun Vote

For better or for worse.

I felt the question was not whether to be counted as “pro-gun” or “anti-gun,” but to look beyond labels and examine the real, and not theoretical, impacts of the proposed legislation – particularly on Colorado and our citizens.

Since states have different laws governing concealed firearms, The Denver Post suggested that the amendment I supported would wipe away Colorado’s law by forcing us to recognize other states’ laws. It was alleged that this legislation would open the door to illegal activity and create unsafe conditions for our citizens.

These are not trivial concerns, and I considered them carefully.

My final judgment was influenced by our experience in Colorado. We have a law, passed in 2003, that allows Colorado to recognize out-of-state permits from other states that recognize Colorado’s law and only requires permit holders to be at least 21 years old. That’s it. There are no additional restrictions. [emphasis added]

That’s not really the point the editorial was making, and it’s a bit of a strawman argument to suggest that it was.

If law-abiding residents of one of the 27 states that are part of Colorado’s reciprocity agreement travel here, they can use their permits legally, just as Coloradans with permits can travel freely with concealed weapons in theirs. That’s not the case in states such as New York, where it’s very difficult to even get a concealed-carry permit. Kopel argues that Thune was taking aim at those heavily restrictive states.

The argument, Kopel says, is those restrictive states are endangering the lives of law-abiding people who carry weapons for self-protection. But Thune didn’t address that disparity. Instead, the senator attempted to force states to accept a least-common-denominator set of regulations regarding concealed weapons.

Our senators need to rethink their support of these policies. [emphasis added]

As a federal legislator, Senator Udall’s votes affect every state, not just Colorado. While his priority should be to make sure Colorado gets a fair shake from Federal laws and regulations, he also needs to be cognizant of their effects on the other 49 states. It is because of Senators taking similarly parochial views on every piece of legislation that we haven’t seen progress on health care, global warming, and other issues of national importance that have potentially uncomfortable effects on different states and regions of the country while having a net positive effect on the whole.

Senator Udall’s position is that his vote was essentially a net neutral in its effects on Colorado because it already has reciprocity with most other states. That argument works in the other direction as well. The fact that the amendment failed means about as much or as little for Colorado as it would have had it passed.

Udall Gaining His Stride?

While yesterday’s gun vote was disappointing, I would be remiss not to note something I had meant to write up last week.

On Senator Udall’s YouTube page is some video of a floor speech he apparently made on the Defense Authorization Act to which this gun vote was attached.

In Part II, there are some nuggets that remind me why I worked so hard to get him elected last year:

At about 2:20, a strong statement on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:

Other policies need change because they are antiquated and no longer reflect the reality of our society. The failed policy “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is a good example of this. But the fact that it will be difficult to repeal doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Since the implementation of this policy in 1993, the armed forces have discharged over 12,000 brave and qualified combat troops, code-breakers, medical and intelligence specialists, and skilled translators simply for being gay. This includes nearly 300 discharged since President Obama took office this year.

Mr. President, this is 2009. I believe this discriminatory policy undermines the strength of our military and the fairness of our great nation. We are also engaged in two wars. It is counterproductive to discharge qualified service members who have critical skills to winning these wars – even as the military has to spend millions of scarce dollars to replace them. We need to bring the unjustness of this policy to the forefront now, and I plan to work with my colleagues and with the Administration to see that we accomplish in a timely manner the full repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”

And at 3:55, he smacked some fellow members of the Senate Armed Services Committee for porking up the bill with F-22 aircraft that could only be justified by members of what John McCain called the “military-industrial-congressional complex.”

But there are also provisions in this bill that shouldn’t be included, such as additional spending on the F-22. I voted in Committee against an amendment to add $1.75 billion to the bill to purchase additional F-22 aircraft that the military does not want, does not need, and says we cannot afford. The F-22 is a valuable and capable aircraft – and we will have this capability for many years to come. The question is whether we need more than 187 aircraft to meet the nation’s requirements, and there is bipartisan agreement that we do not. Presidents Obama and Bush, two secretaries of defense, three chairmen of the joint chiefs, and current members of the joint chiefs agree that 187 aircraft are sufficient.

This is why I actively worked to get him elected. He is not a firebrand but an introvert. He’s a brainiac who is intellectually curious and he is grounded by his fundamental sense of fairness. What a contrast from Wayne Allard (aka “Dullard”) or Bob “I never witnessed any forced abortions” Schaffer.

I haven’t been completely thrilled with his low profile since he moved to the Senate, but I attribute it to culture shock. The Senate is not the House. But watching over the last few weeks it does seem that he’s getting acclimated, and that’s a good thing.

In Defense Of Mark Udall

During the past week, a lot of…ahem…commotion was stirred up in the local blogosphere over the decision by both of our US Senators to join the so-called Moderate Dems Working Group–better known as the Moderate Caucus Thingy. Though their decision caused some head-scratching here, and some guillotine sharpening elsewhere, the move shouldn’t be that surprising; at least from the perspective of Mark Udall, and considering the tone of his 2008 US Senate campaign.

Let’s step into the wayback machine to late last summer when the campaign was in full swing, and some insiders were wondering why Udall didn’t seem to be sealing the deal. While some have seen Udall’s decision as a purely political move, or one out of character with his reputation as a “Boulder Liberal”, I believe he’s only trying to fulfill some of his most important campaign promises.

Here’s a Udall for Colorado ad from 2008:

Was I the only one watching TV during the campaign? Mark Udall is doing exactly what he said he would, and the last time I checked that wasn’t a bad thing. One of the main reasons we wanted him instead of Bob Schaffer was because of his desire to seek bipartisan solutions, as Udall emphasized in this ad:

Being a part of a group of moderate Democrats who share his views, along with his counterpart Michael Bennet, is one of the best ways for Senator Udall to make good on his promises. If only all of our elected officials were honest enough to be themselves–despite what they might lose politically by doing so. Whatever factors ended up putting him in office (Scandal-matic Schaffer, bad year for the GOP brand, people like denim shirts, etc.) he did make the promise, and just like any other promise, he should be held to it.

Some Democrats can wring their hands and stomp their feet all they want on this issue, but it’s obviously not going to change Udall’s mind. They might shout the loudest, or use the sharpest rhetoric, but they aren’t the majority.

If they don’t like it, they can always run a primary campaign in 2014.

Where is Mark Udall on EFCA?

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

The question has inexplicably been bandied about on various blogs lately. All you have to do is search the Congressional Record for the details.

In short, Udall thinks EFCA as drafted has much room for improvement.

Follow me after the jump to read the gory details…

He thinks too much focus has been placed on the secret ballot/card check provision by both sides, and that both sides should be willing to move a little from their heels-dug-in positions.

On labor’s side, he thinks they should favor the secret ballot election, and to skip an election they should have some burden of proof on a case-by-case basis that majority signup would be more equitable to the workforce than a secret ballot election controlled by management. Labor can easily meet that burden of proof in most cases with all the history they have amassed with various troublesome employers since Taft-Hartley in 1948. This should not be a problem, yet they refuse to budge.

And while EFCA does some good stuff, he pointed out that it also doesn’t go far enough. The reason labor doesn’t like business’s ability to mandate a secret ballot election is that business gets to control the timing of said election and drag it out ad infinitum while they punish, bribe, fire, or otherwise coerce people into voting no. EFCA won’t fix that even if the union gets 100% of the workers to sign cards.

As Colorado Pols noted, it’s unlikely in this state that EFCA would eliminate even a single secret ballot election because it will be easy for employers to find 30% to petition for an election. So what then? The same broken process that drags on forever and fizzles out, which EFCA does very little to fix.

On business’s side, they need to stop lying about the process. They get “card check” to decertify a union. Why shouldn’t unions be held to the same standard in the process of certifying? It boggles the mind that they are concerned about “workplace democracy.” The bottom line is they don’t want to give up any power or money. If they want to declare that outright and try to defend it, more power to them. But they need to stop bamboozling the public with this Defenders of Democracy crap.

Not all businesses, however, are engaging in the lie fest. From Kaiser to AT&T, many businesses both massive and powerful (who could easily crush unions under the current law) adhere to the original principles of the NLRA and allow workers to organize however they want to.

My advice for Mark Udall:

Keep on keeping it real. You are the master of seeing both sides and, when necessary, seeing through both sides. Unions are good for business. A strong, well-paid workforce–not tax cuts for Wall Street–will fuel our economic recovery. EFCA is needed, but imperfect legislation. So perfect it.

Sign on to EFCA on the proviso that the Senate allow an up-or-down vote on a specific set of amendments that you propose. Don’t be afraid to point out when anyone–labor or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce–is either being dishonest or isn’t looking any farther than the hood ornament.

Now that we’re out from under the thumb of Bush, we have the opportunity to be bold, yet wonkish and comprehensive in that trademark Udall way. You’ve done it on energy. You’ve done it on wilderness areas. So do it again, even if it pisses off Tom Donohue. Bob Schaffer was an annoying little gnat in 2008 by comparison. The US Chamber was a grizzly bear with teeth and claws, yet you beat them decisively.

And if you make EFCA better for labor than it would be as drafted I am sure they can be coaxed aboard, despite their saber-rattling. It’s all about card check for them because they’re still reeling from Reagan, let alone the Bushes and Gingrich. Make them see beyond it.

But whatever you do, get out there quickly and make it known. The only people profiting from the uncertainty are the TV stations who are running the ads from both sides. And tell Bennet to do the same. Y’all are in the majority now. Lead by example.

Udall’s 2007 floor statement:

Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Madam Chairman, when I agreed to cosponsor this important legislation two years ago I made clear in a floor statement that I had serious reservations about weakening the secret ballot in union organizing elections. I believe American workers ought to make decisions about organizing unions in a way that is free from intimidation by labor or employers.

  It is because the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has largely failed in their responsibilities to protect the rights of American workers to organize that we even have to consider this legislation.

  Despite my reservations, therefore, I am persuaded that we ought to pass this imperfect bill so that the Senate may take up reforms in the labor-business relationship that will protect the rights of workers to organize, and at the same time preserve balance, fairness and objectivity in the way the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) conducts elections.

  Before I get to the merits of this legislation, however, I want to register my disappointment that more amendments were not allowed for our consideration. The majority may not be well served by an open process that allows for deeper debate and the consideration of amendments, but our country would be better served. And on legislation with such far-reaching consequences for the balance between business and labor, I believe we are ill-served by not debating and considering more amendments.

  There are other improvements to this bill that we should have considered, and that I hope will be considered in the Senate. For example, I hope the Senate will consider amendments that address decertification procedures and deadlines for the NLRB to reach decisions. And I am hopeful the Senate will consider carefully whether this legislation should apply equally to small businesses. Perhaps the Senate will also consider the wisdom of a sunset provision for this legislation so that we can revisit it later–in order to determine whether it will have the desired effect for workers and for our economy.

  As I said in 2004, I am reluctant to endorse changes in current law that could be seen as preventing workers to make decisions in private about union representation.

  I agree with those who say a secret ballot process is preferable in most cases, and think that the burden of proof is on those who say that an alternative should be used.

  However, I have been and remain disturbed by reports of employers using heavy handed techniques to discourage workers from organizing in the first place and intimidating and even illegally firing workers who decide to join.

  But there is a real possibility that the NLRB won’t do that–which is the primary reason I support this bill.

  I am disturbed–I think we should all be disturbed–by the serious questions that have been raised about whether the NLRB is doing its job. And I am worried that recent NLRB decisions tilt too far toward allowing employers to intimidate union organizers.

  For example, the NLRB has decided that as workers are considering whether to form a union, an employer may explicitly “inform” them that workers in two other facilities lost their jobs after they decided to organize.

  I understand that in the case in question the regional NLRB director ruled this “clearly implied” the union was responsible for the firings and insinuated the same would happen to others who chose a union. In other words, the NLRB official closest to the case saw this as an example of an illegal threat of retaliation.

  But in a 2-1 party line vote–with two appointees by the current Administration in the majority–the NLRB overruled the regional director’s decision and claimed the memo “did not exceed the bounds of permissible campaign statements.”

  I think that decision shows just how far the playing field has been tilted away from a fair balance between employers and employees who want to bargain collectively.

  And the purpose of this legislation is to move back toward a fairer balance.

  Consider what the law says about ending–not establishing, but ending–union representation. Under the National Labor Relations Act, if 50% or more of the employees in a bargaining unit sign a petition that they no longer want to be represented by their union, the employer can withdraw recognition without an election.

  And if just 30% of the employees in a bargaining unit sign a Decertification Petition, the NLRB will conduct a secret ballot election on the question of ending union representation. Not a majority–just 30%.

  In other words, the current law makes it harder for workers to get a union than to get rid of one–and, as I just said, current policies of the NLRB add to the burden of people who want to have a union. I don’t think that’s balanced. Why should it be harder for workers to get a union into their workplace than it is for them to get the union out?

  This bill would not completely change that. But it would say that just as signatures of a majority of workers can end union representation, a majority of signatures could start it. And I think that is reasonable and equitable.

  Also, the bill would correct some of the problems with the current NLRB by changing parts of the law under which it operates.

  Current law says the NLRB must go into federal court and ask for an injunction against a union if the NLRB thinks there is reasonable cause to believe that the union has violated the law’s prohibition of secondary boycotts. Under the bill the NLRB would have to take the same action to enforce the law that protects workers against pressure to reject a union as it does to enforce the law’s limits on what a union can do to put pressure on employers. I think that is fair.

  And the bill also increases the amount a worker could collect if he or she has been unlawfully discharged or discriminated against during an organizing campaign or first contract drive and by providing for civil fines of up to $20,000 per violation against employers found to have willfully or repeatedly violated the law. Again, I think these are improvements over the current law.

  Finally, I think some of the attacks on this bill have been exaggerated. For example, some have said it is intended to deprive workers of their right to an election. But under current law, elections are not always required–if a majority of workers sign cards saying they want to have a union, their employer can agree, and then the union is established without any election. So what the bill does is to deprive employers of the option of insisting on an election any time a majority of the workers have signaled that they want a union.

  Madam Chairman, this bill is not perfect, and in some ways I think it might have been better to take a different approach to the problem, with even greater emphasis on changing the law governing the operations of the NLRB rather than the card-check process. But I think it can, and should be improved before final passage by the Congress, and should go forward to the Senate for further and, hopefully more deliberate, consideration.

Shills: Can you turn off the talking points and have an honest discussion?

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Sen. Udall Gets Love from D.C. Press

Not bad for a guy who became Colorado’s Senior Senator shortly after being sworn in as a freshman. From Congressional Quarterly (subscription required):

Mark Udall of Colorado spent a decade in the House slowly inching up the House leadership ladder. Now, just nine weeks into his Senate career, he’s working from a post where he can influence his party’s agenda on Capitol Hill.

As a newly minted deputy whip, Udall is charged with building close ties between Democratic leaders and a gaggle of senators just like him – the freshmen who will be crucial to so much of President Obama’s legislative success.

In the session’s first two months, Udall has helped align every one of the 11 new Democrats behind two of the first big-ticket items on Obama’s agenda: the $787 billion economic stimulus package and the expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. But bigger challenges loom that might divide the newcomers from many members of their caucus, ranging from the president’s request for a $3.55 trillion budget for fiscal 2010 to his ideas for overhauling health care and energy policy.

The Senate Democratic Class of 2008 already ranks as one of the biggest groups of majority party newcomers in modern times. This year, the seven Democrats who were elected for the first time last fall have been joined by four people appointed to succeed senators who left for the Obama administration (the president among them) – and the group may yet grow to a dozen if Al Franken ends up prevailing in Minnesota. (By contrast, there are just two GOP freshmen: Idaho’s James Risch and Nebraska’s Mike Johanns.)

Udall’s boss, Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, and other senior Democrats want to galvanize a firewall of freshman support behind Obama’s legislative initiatives, in much the same way that Democratic Senate leaders tapped the class of 16 Democrats first elected alongside Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 to be partners in the early days of the New Deal. But in trying to keep the newcomers in the party’s corner, Udall and other leaders have to perform a delicate balancing act…

…With such past dramatic reversals of fortune in mind, Udall said he and his fellow freshmen feel compelled to carve out nuanced, independent records that will appeal to voters when they run for re-election themselves in 2014 – without the benefit of any presidential coattails, because Obama will have either won or lost re-election two years before.

Comfortable that Udall is a Lock, DSCC Pulls Out

From The Denver Post:

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee will cease television advertising in Colorado by Tuesday, according to state Democratic sources, a signal that the national candidate committee believes U.S. Rep. Mark Udall is comfortably ahead of former congressman Bob Schaffer in the race for Colorado’s open U.S. Senate seat.

The DSCC instead will put its resources into competitive races elsewhere as the party tries to secure a filibuster-proof, 60-seat majority.

In polls released last week, Udall, D-Eldorado Springs, had opened up double-digit leads over Schaffer, apparently helped along by the recent financial meltdown.

Hey, maybe the NRCC is pulling out of CD-4 because it thinks Marilyn Musgrave is a lock, too. Just not the same kind of lock.

Udall Refuses Online Debate

( – promoted by DavidThi808)

The potential for a bipartisan online debate between Senate hopefuls Bob Schaffer and Mark Udall, co-sponsored and moderated by Schaffer v Udall on the right and David Thielen on the left, was killed after the Udall camp backed out after Schaffer agreed to the format and the participants:

If you are one of the handful of people who have been following developments on this blog for months, you may remember that at one point we were working with liberal blogger David Thielen to co-sponsor an online debate between Mark Udall and Bob Schaffer.

In mid-February, David took the lead in sending out invitations to both camps, with my name attached to show that it was a bipartisan effort. On March 18, Bob Schaffer agreed to participate (see also here). Meanwhile, I was told that for weeks the Mark Udall team had dragged its feet and essentially said, “Maybe.”

On several occasions I put up posts essentially asking “why in the world is Udall refusing to join a bipartisan online debate?” Well, at long last, here’s the answer.

Two weeks after Bob Schaffer’s acceptance – on April Fool’s Day, in fact – David informed me of the Mark Udall team’s official response. Out of deference to David’s wishes, I didn’t mention the email or divulge its contents publicly – that is, until this weekend when David gave me the green light to explain why Udall refused to join the debate those many weeks ago: The Boulder Democrat didn’t want yours truly as the moderator. The alleged reason? The use of the tag “Udall as a Liar” on this blog.

Attempts to find a suitable alternative conservative co-moderator failed:

I was quite flattered by the singular reputation I seemed to have acquired from the Mark Udall campaign, but deferentially refused to make public hay out of the matter. Behind-the-scenes negotiations were still under way. The Mark Udall team refused to back down. David mentioned the possibility of a certain anonymous conservative blogger stepping up to fill my place, but that wasn’t acceptable. Both sides held firm, and the online debate never materialized.

While neither campaign has an obligation to blogs or other online outfits from either side of the aisle, it is surprising that Team Udall found replacements for SvU unacceptable. By holding out for long enough, the campaign managed to avoid a New Media entanglement, and appeared to do so behind the scenes, not fearing any negative publicity on the blogs.

Regardless of the bipartisan selection of moderators, would you like to see an online debate between Bob Schaffer and Mark Udall?

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Udall Raises $1.45 Million in Q1

Democrat Mark Udall today announced that he had raised a campaign-record $1.45 million for his Senate campaign in Q1, leaving him with $4,236,532 cash-on-hand.

Full press release follows.

The U.S. Senate campaign of Congressman Mark Udall today announced that the first quarter of 2008 was Udall’s most successful fundraising period of the campaign so far.   Between January 1st and March 31st, Udall raised $1.45 million for his Senate campaign, receiving contributions from 8,038 individual donors.  

“We are deeply grateful for the strength and breadth of support Mark is receiving from people all over Colorado,” said Udall spokeswoman Taylor West.  “Mark has a long record of independent thinking, innovation, and hard work for this state’s families, and this support shows Coloradans are excited about having a Senator who will fight on their side in Washington.”

Udall enters the second quarter of 2008 with $4.2 million in cash-on-hand.

A summary of the quarter’s fundraising data is below:

           Total Receipts:                                                         $1,457,678.42

           Total Individual Donors:                                        8,038

           Total Contributions $100 or Less:                        6,735

           Percentage of Contributions $100 or Less:       83%

           Total Disbursements:                                             $830,989.28

           TOTAL CASH-ON-HAND:                                         $4,236,532.89