Is Michael Bennet part of the New Dem/Elizabeth Warren strike team?

I sure hope our Senior Senator, the Esteemed Michael Bennet, isn't part of this bull:

Centrist Democrats are gathering their forces to fight back against the “Elizabeth Warren wing” of their party, fearing a sharp turn to the left could prove disastrous in the 2016 elections.

[snip]

The New Democrat Coalition (NDC), a caucus of moderate Democrats in the House, plans to unveil an economic policy platform as soon as this week in an attempt to chart a different course.

"I have great respect for Sen. Warren — she's a tremendous leader,” said Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), one of the members working on the policy proposal. “My own preference is to create a message without bashing businesses or workers, [the latter of which] happens on the other side."

Peters said that, if Democrats are going to win back the House and Senate, "it's going to be through the work of the New Democrat Coalition."

This is truly laughable. Or cryable.

And if the abject failure of this continued Democratic Triangulation away from its own natural base is not clear to any of those people, then their competence to address politics in any form is reaching nil.

Gabe Horwitz of centrist Third Way told The Hill, “In the last election, Democrats, as a party, offered a message of fairness. Voters responded, and they responded really negatively … Democrats offered fairness, and voters wanted prosperity and growth.”

Actually, Gabe, most analyses said the Democratic message wasn't. The biggest policy gains that would've helped our losing candidates were ignored and the president who ushered them in was given no credit. A prime example of the failure of Third Way's strategy is our own Mark Udall.

“For Colorado, there are some different dynamics in place. We have a fast-growing state, we have growing Latino, millennials and youth populations. That, together with the right message, should help our nominee. At the same time we are going to be fully cognizant that we have got to appeal to middle-class, working-class voters, and we can’t allow Republicans to increase their share of the vote there. The message has been a little challenging. We really need to be talking about where the two parties are different and focus on the economy in terms of job creation and pocket-book issues.”

This is where Warren comes in, from the Digby post:

The Hill notes that the NDC's policy proposal is aimed at pushing back against a progressive agenda announced last week by Warren and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). The Facebook video of Warren discussing the plan and hammering the unfairness of the current economy for hard-working Americans has received just short of 2 million views.

Hey, that's what Udall and Bennet did in 2010.

Colorado’s two freshman senators, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, are part of a self-described centrist group of 15 Democrats meeting regularly “seeking to restrain the influence of party liberals in the White House and on Capitol Hill,” according to an account in Roll Call.

The group has a “shared commitment to pursue moderate, mainstream and fiscally sustainable policies across a range of issues, such as health care reform, the housing crisis, educational reform, and energy policy,” according to a statement issued Wednesday by the group.

(I should start getting royalties from that link any day.)

Those results should also speak for themselves. They succeeded in their own short-sighted goal, hamstrung the president from the time he took his first oath, and guaranteed that our economy would be moribund for the next 8 years. Huzzah!

Michael Bennet has remained eerily quiet this whole time, despite his term ending soon and the new campaign beginning - if only in its planning stage. Though he did make sure to deflect the blame for his horrible shot at DSCC Strategist-in-Chief.

And yet the New Democrats, Third Way-ers and Blue Dogs persist, despite red flags everywhere.

Warren speaks to kitchen-table issues in plain English working people understand.

My wife spoke last month with a Fox News-watching brother of a friend. He's white, registered unaffiliated, disenchanted with both parties, and didn't bother to vote in the 2014 mid-terms. Neither party has done anything for the working man for 40 years, he told her. Yet he liked "that woman" who's taking on the big banks. He couldn't name her, but thought it a miracle that she's still alive.

(That's Warren he's talking about.-ed.)

He's a conservative from North Carolina, where Third Way's Kay Hagan — running an Obama-style field campaign, but selling herself as the "most moderate" senator — narrowly lost her U.S. Senate seat to "Typhoid Thom" Tillis.

Centrist Democrats, don't be too proud of that political battle station you're constructing.

Word to the wise. And to the blinkered centrists who think Bipartisanship is the solution and that Republicans will start acting rationally any time soon and can be counted on to complete a triangle of equal policy and political dimensions.

NOT. GONNA. HAPPEN.

Buck’s vote with Boehner screws talk-radio hosts

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

How you like me now?

How you like me now?

In standing with House Speaker John Boehner on Friday to avert the shutdown, albeit temporary, of the Department of Homeland Security, Colorado's new Republican Congressman Ken Buck apparently had second thoughts about his pledge to shut down DHS if necessary to stop Obama from allowing some immigrants to avoid deportation.

Asked by KLZ's Randy Corporon in January whether he would resist "public pressure and media assaults" and refuse to fund DHS along with Obama's immigration program, Buck said, 

Buck: "I can tell you this: Ken Buck will. I will make the case, and I will make sure that we are not funding those portions of his executive action that are so repugnant."

In another interview, delivered to KFKA guest host Nancy Rumfelt in January, Buck pledged stand firm against any moderating winds that might emanate from House Speaker John Boehner:

Buck: “Speaker and the leadership team know that they cannot count on me when they move to the middle, that I will be voting against leadership’s efforts in certain areas, especially is true when it comes to the fiscal issues, the appropriations bills and the regulatory issues. And I include Obamacare in that. But absolutely. The people in the 4th Congressional District can count on Ken Buck to be with the conservative votes when it comes to the bills that are coming up in the future.” 

Colorado Springs' Doug Lamborn did what Buck said he'd do, when Lamborn voted against temporary funds for DHS.

Lamborn: “I cannot support funding, even for a short period of time, the President’s unlawful executive action that violates the Constitution,” Lamborn said in a statement, reported by The Denver Post.

BREAKING: House Fails to Support DHS Funding as Deadline Looms; Now What?

SATURDAY UPDATE: Congress passes one-week extension of DHS funding last night setting up a fresh battle for next week, while the immediate story continues to revolve around House Speaker John Boehner's crushing defeat at the hands of conservative House Republicans. Politico:

The vote was 357-60. The Senate approved the stopgap measure earlier Friday evening and it was signed by President Barack Obama minutes before the midnight deadline when the department’s funding was to expire.

The 11th-hour move came after dozens of House Republicans dealt a humiliating defeat to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other GOP leaders. Conservatives teamed up with Democrats to shoot down a Boehner-backed measure that would have funded DHS for three weeks.

Boehner’s allies are concerned after Friday’s setback that his critics inside the Republican Conference may try to oust him as speaker if — as expected — he puts a long-term DHS funding bill on the House floor next week. While Boehner shrugs off such speculation, close friends believe such a move is a real possibility.

Are these the final days of Boehner's speakership? Is the GOP-controlled House totally incapable of carrying out basic responsibilities? All these questions and more will be answered next week! Stay tuned as the embarrassing spectacle that is the 114th Congress continues after a word from our sponsor.

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UPDATE #3: Via the Associated Press: "You have made a mess," [Rep. Nancy] Pelosi said to Republicans as debate neared an end on the measure.

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UPDATE #2: Twitter is abuzz. Republicans have the largest Congressional majorities since the New Deal…they just can't govern.

Plan B? Looks like Plan B is for Republicans to get slaughtered in 2016.

 

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UPDATE: Click here to see the voting live on the House floor.

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It appears as though House Republicans may not pass legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in time for the midnight deadline tonight. Voting is happening as we type — we'll update when the final tally is available.

Here's what the Washington Post wrote a few hours ago, when it still seemed as though Republicans would do something in the House.

House Republicans are hoping to pass a stopgap funding bill Friday that would avert a partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security at midnight, as the Senate passed its own bill that would fund the agency through September.

The House GOP plan is a fallback proposal Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) put forth to rank-and-file members in a Thursday meeting. He did so because a House-passed funding bill that takes aim at President Obama’s executive actions on immigration has been blocked in the Senate.

The new measure would fund DHS for three more weeks. If approved by Congress, it would continue a standoff between the House and the Senate over more lasting agency funding. The Senate bill to fund DHS through September that would not touch Obama’s immigration directives passed on a 68-31 vote Friday morning.

Get More Smarter on Friday (Feb. 27)

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The dress is definitely bluish-brown. It's time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here's a good example).


TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Today is the deadline for Congress to authorize funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), so what should we expect of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner? If you guessed, "punt the issue for three more weeks," you win the door prize. But as Politico reports, Republicans are merely delaying an answer on a budget problem that is about to get much, much worse:

First the good news: Congress appears to have found a way to avoid a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security for the next three weeks.

Now the bad: March is beginning to look awfully grim for the new Republican Congress that had lofty expectations for legislating in 2015.

GOP leaders appear set to win approval of their short-term solution to the DHS impasse on Friday, hours before the money runs dry. But that will leave the House and Senate just three weeks to bridge their fundamental differences on funding the department for the long term and blocking President Barack Obama’s changes to the enforcement of immigration policy.

On top of that, Congress must update a complicated Medicare reimbursement formula for doctors. And it needs to pass a budget.

This is where we remind you, again, that REPUBLICANS HAVE MAJORITY CONTROL IN CONGRESS and they still can't figure out how to govern.

Mr. Spock is dead.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

 

(more…)

John Boehner is Losing It

UPDATE: It's been animated, because of course:

boehnerkiss

Sorry, folks. It can't be unseen now.

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Via NBC News, here's House Speaker John Boehner blowing kisses at a reporter who asks a question about funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Watch the video:

Get More Smarter on Thursday (Feb. 26)

MoreSmarterLogo-Hat1

We've installed fresh batteries in the Colorado Pols Quadruple Doppler (with cheese), which is predicting as much as 10 feet of snow today. Or maybe less. It's time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here's a good example).


TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► With one day left to authorize funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Colorado's Congressional delegation remains divided on how to move forward — no surprise, perhaps, given that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner can't even work things out inside their Republican majority. And what about freshman Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma)? Here's Mark Matthews of the Denver Post:

Less clear was the stance of newly elected U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner. The Colorado Republican did not agree to an interview. Instead, his office released a statement that spoke less to a legislative solution and more to the actions of Democrats. "Senate Democrats are playing politics with our national security. It's wrong, and they should stop," he said in a statement. [Pols emphasis]

Once again, we remind you that REPUBLICANS HAVE MAJORITY CONTROL IN CONGRESS. Blaming Democrats for this one is like saying it's John Hickenlooper's fault that the Denver Broncos didn't win the Super Bowl. There's no way out of this mess for Republicans now.

Chris Cilizza of the Washington Post explains how Republicans got into this DHS funding mess in the first place.

► The Colorado legislature took a Snow Day on Monday because of poor road conditions, but not again today; there's plenty of legislatin' going on under the Golden Dome of the State Capitol.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Yes, Bennet’s Keystone XL Triangulation Is Stupid

Sen. Michael Bennet

Sen. Michael Bennet

This week, President Barack Obama vetoed a bill passed by the GOP-controlled House and Senate to expedite construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. This legislation would have short-circuited an ongoing State Department review of the project, and trumped court proceedings in the state of Nebraska over the legality of eminent domain takings to build the route. Obama had repeatedly threatened to veto the bill, and the administration has become increasingly ambivalent about the Keystone XL project overall as global oil prices have plummeted, domestic oil production has surged, and grassroots opponents have waged a highly effective publicity campaign.

As we've discussed in this space many times, the case to build Keystone XL, even years ago when these intervening pressures weren't yet a factor, has been consistently overhyped by its proponents. Last year, Cory Gardner insisted on the campaign trail that Keystone would result in "thousands of Colorado jobs," a number that was inflated somewhere in the neighborhood of 100%. The truth is, Keystone XL won't enter the state of Colorado, won't produce a significant number of jobs in our state, won't produce more than a few dozen permanent jobs anywhere once the pipeline is built, and will result in an increase in local gas prices due to the routing of Canadian oil supplies to Gulf Coast export terminals. Even ardently pro-oil Gov. John Hickenlooper agrees with Obama's decision to veto the bill.

With these facts once again established for the record, 9NEWS' Brandon Rittiman reports:

They come from different political parties, but Colorado's US Senators both voted for legislation to authorize building of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner both also confirm to 9NEWS they will vote for a veto override, which is being planned by majority leader Mitch McConnell.

That Sen. Michael Bennet planned to vote for the Keystone XL pipeline was never in question. He's voted for it before, including late last year during ex-Sen. Mary Landrieu's desperate attempt to get Keystone XL passed during her runoff election campaign. Bennet says he thinks Keystone should be "part of a bigger solution" to climate change, a statement that we'll admit makes very little sense to us.

But voting to override the President's veto makes even less sense. Politically, this doesn't win Bennet any supporters who would actually support him against a viable Republican. But worse, Bennet's unapologetic thumbing of his nose at Keystone XL opponents further drives an emerging wedge within the Democratic coalition in Colorado. Even if he got a green light from the White House to vote this way since the override has no real chance of succeeding, this is insult added to injury for Bennet's Democratic base–and has no political upside that we can see.

Though assailed by the GOP as a monolithic party of anti-energy environmentalists, the uneasy truce among Colorado Democrats over support for the oil and gas industry is in fact extremely fragile. Too many Democrats at high levels have convinced themselves that they can openly triangulate on the issue, and keep the Democratic coalition that has mostly dominated elections in this state since 2004 together.

Our response, delivered with increasing urgency: there's a limit.

Senate Close to DHS Budget Deal; Republicans are Screwed

kenbuckonthebutton

Republican Rep. Ken Buck is probably a little less enthusiastic about pressing these buttons this week.

As Politico reports:

The Senate is moving quickly to break a weekslong impasse that has threatened funding for the Department of Homeland Security and paralyzed the Capitol, putting pressure on House Speaker John Boehner on the brink of a shutdown of the national security agency.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid announced Wednesday afternoon that they would move forward on a “clean” $39.7 billion DHS-funding bill — free of provisions targeting President Barack Obama’s immigration policies. McConnell agreed to relent after Reid’s caucus filibustered a House-passed bill on four separate occasions, demanding that Republicans strip the immigration provisions or risk a shutdown of the department.

The Senate voted 98-2 to open debate on the House bill, setting the stage for a last-ditch scramble for Congress to act before DHS funding expires on Friday.

Politically-speaking, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell basically just punted the ball back to House Speaker John Boehner. The story of this funding bill has largely been about dissention among Republicans than about anything Democrats have proposed, and it's hard to see any scenario where the GOP doesn't lose on this one. The House can hold firm on Tea Party principles and refuse the Senate version, but if they do that and refuse to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for political reasons related to immigration reform, they will hand Democrats the undisputed title of "Party that gets to say it cares more about protecting Americans from terrorism."

And for what? It's not like Congress is just going to stop funding for DHS forever. Republicans have majority control of both chambers of Congress, which limits the number of fingers they can point, and even trying to toss this onto President Obama's shoulders isn't going to save them; Obama is in his seventh year in office and his approval ratings are starting to rise as he nears the end of his stay in the White House.

Whatever happens, this isn't going to end well for Republicans. The only question yet to be answered is this: Just how bad will it get for the GOP?

DeGette Skipping Bibi Netanyahu’s Speech

Benjamin Netanyahu.

Benjamin Netanyahu.

Controversy is building in Washington over an address to Congress by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scheduled for March 3rd–just weeks before Israeli elections, and not invited by President Barack Obama as a breach of diplomatic protocol. Netanyahu's address, pertaining to negotiations with Iran over that country's nuclear program, is controversial in Israel for the same reason, with a majority of Israeli voters saying the speech should be cancelled. Reuters:

The speech has caused controversy in Israel and the United States, where the Democrats and the White House are angry that the Republican speaker, John Boehner, invited Netanyahu to speak at a sensitive time in the nuclear negotiations between Iran and six big powers including Washington, and only two weeks before Israel's closely fought March 17 election.

Following complaints from opposition parties, election chief Salim Joubran decided that Netanyahu's address should be broadcast with a five-minute delay in Israel, giving news editors time to cut any statements deemed partisan…

President Barack Obama, at odds with Netanyahu over the Israeli prime minister's criticism of the nuclear talks, will not meet him during his visit, saying it is a breach of protocol to receive a foreign leader before an election.

As of now, most members of Colorado's delegation reportedly plan to attend Netanyahu's speech, including all the Republicans, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, and Rep. Jared Polis. Rep. Ed Perlmutter hasn't made a public announcement yet. The one Colorado representative who has said she will not attend Netanyahu's speech is…well, we just gave it away, it's Rep. Diana DeGette. Rep. DeGette has a scheduling conflict on March 3rd:

Congresswoman DeGette will not be able to attend Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech. She has had a long-standing scheduling commitment that morning to address a clinical research group about her 21st Century Cures initiative, and we just learned this morning that the Prime Minister’s speech is scheduled for 11:00, which creates a conflict for her.

Other than a highly one-sided report in the Boulder Jewish News, DeGette's decision to not attend Netanyahu's address hasn't received much press. We expect that will change as long as the speech isn't cancelled, that others will be given many chances to comment, and that Rep. Perlmutter's decision whether or not to attend will be closely watched. It's a longstanding presumption in American politics that categorical public support for Israel is mandatory for any real political viability. The problem with this address to a Republican-dominated Congress is that Netanyahu is making a partisan issue out of something that historically hasn't been. And it's forcing a conflict of loyalties that American supporters of Israel haven't been made to reckon with.

In Israel, Netanyahu has been roundly criticized even by some of his right-wing allies, mostly for appearing to put his ties to the Republican Party ahead of the close relationship Israel has always had with the United States. [Pols emphasis]

It should be noted that attending a speech is not the same thing as agreeing with it. But insofar as Netanyahu is involving Colorado politicians in Israeli domestic politics without their consent, we're obliged to point out that not every friend of Israel is a Likudnik.

Or, for that matter, a Republican.

Hillary/Bennet 2016: Possibility or Joke?

For a relative latecomer to politics, Michael Bennet sure has led a charmed life. Prior to politics he was a Big Money guy working for one of Colorado's leading Conservatives. Then…

As one of President Barack Obama's early advisers on education issues, Bennet was speculated in late 2008 as a frontrunner for Obama's United States Secretary of Education. He was instead appointed by Governor Bill Ritter to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Ken Salazar when Salazar became Secretary of the Interior in January 2009. Bennet was elected in the 2010 Senate election where he defeated Republican Ken Buck.

Michael Bennet is now serving his first full term and would be up for reelection in 2016.

Though he is fairly new to public elective office, he has proven to be a consummate insider and competent press manipulator. He played an effective, yet widely criticized role, in the early machinations that led to a Public Option-less Obamacare. He had to lift nothing besides a well timed press release in that effort. Bennet's latest political responsibility has been deemed a failure by many.

As Chairman of the DSCC for this last election cycle, Bennet led Senate Democrats into a historic minority and proved useless in electing his Democratic peer, former Senator Mark Udall. But he was still able to get some favorable press immediately after the losing election.

And the charmed life, or at least the favorable press, continued yesterday as Bennet got a top mention as a Veep possibility for the almost pre-ordained Hillary Clinton presidency:

The potential opposition is so weak that Clinton might wind up not even debating during the primaries, which many Democrats view as a mixed blessing.

Some advisers expect a push for diversity on the ticket. So the shortlist also is expected to include Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, Labor Secretary Tom Perez, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and perhaps California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is running for U.S. Senate.The Clinton team knows it can’t campaign with the swagger of a presumptive nominee because the air of inevitability was so damaging last time around. That said, some advisers are already privately talking up potential running mates, with Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado and Tim Kaine of Virginia dominating the early speculation.

Despite the internal confidence, Clinton won’t enter without substantial concerns and obstacles, some of which are self-evident to her top advisers and are a subject of constant conversation among Democrats during the build-up phase.

The Democratic Party, and its leaders, are going through some public soul-searching after all this electoral excitement. The big, and probably only, question for me is whether Democrats will continue their love affair with Big Money at the expense of The Middle Class or will they start giving priority to those who helped America's economy become the titan it is – the true Job Creators.

Senators like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are clearly on the side of The Middle Class. 

Michael Bennet has been eerily silent since the election. He's surely playing it safe and hoping not to kill any of this flattering VP talk. But his history and his path don't tell of someone who has the same concern for those in the middle of our economy as he does for those at the top of the heap who are on his Favorites list. Can he even contemplate the policies being proposed by Sanders and Warren? Would he dare support any of them?

Michael Bennet, and his benefactors, are going to have to make a critical choice soon about continuing that decades-long affair with 1%-er Democrats at the expense of a declining Middle Class. Those Middle Classers can't afford big campaign donations, and have been less than enthusiastic about voting for a class of Democratic politicians who think they have no where else to go on election day. But even though they don't have the money, they've freely given their votes to Democrats without asking too much in return.

That ask is getting bigger lately, and elected Democrats will have to come up with satisfactory answers that address rising inequality, the effects of austerity on the world's economies, and the base assumptions about who our economy should protect and serve. Those answers need to come sooner, rather than later, and should spell out how the richest among us can start paying their fair share again while taking the load off the hardest working Middle Class on the planet. No joke.

Have We Mentioned That Kent Lambert Doesn’t Like Immigrants?

Sen. Kent Lambert using night vision scope on the Mexican border.

Sen. Kent Lambert using night vision scope to “patrol” the Mexican border.

The Colorado Statesman's Marianne Goodland reports on a bill sponsored by Sen. Kent Lambert of Colorado Springs that's more than meets the eye:

The new chair of the Joint Budget Committee has stirred up a bit of a hornet’s nest with a bill that would radically change the mission and admission standards for Metropolitan State University of Denver. And it’s not a change that they sought.

Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, is the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 15-072, which would change Metro’s admissions standards from “modified open” to “moderately selective.”

The state has five standards for granting admissions to its public colleges and universities. Metro currently falls under “modified open,” which means any applicant age 20 or older can be admitted with a high school diploma or GED. Those under 20 must meet additional criteria. Metro is the only higher education institution in the state with modified open standards…

As of press time, Metro officials and Lambert had not yet met about the bill.

MetroStateLogoWeb-304

Kind of strange, don't you think? Why would Sen. Lambert introduce a bill making such a major change to the admissions criteria for one of the state's largest public colleges without even meeting with them?

That's simple enough–Metro State does not support the bill.

Metro spokesperson Cathy Lucas said that Metro was not looking to change to their admissions standards. Initial data from the university shows that about 1,200 students would be affected by the admissions change. That would include 432 students of color…

Metro State serves a key role in Colorado's range of public higher education offerings as what's known as a "college of opportunity"–a chance for returning adult and otherwise "nontraditional students" to obtain a full four-year college degree without the same high admission standards prevalent at most four-year schools. As a consequence, Metro State has a lower graduation rate than many other four-year schools, but that is considered acceptable in pursuit of the school's mission of making a full college education available to everyone.

So why would Lambert want to change Metro State's "college of opportunity" model? As we discussed last week, Lambert is one of the Colorado legislature's most strident anti-immigrant lawmakers. Lambert has taken "fact finding trips" to the Arizona border to meet with anti-immigration extremists like border militiaman Chris Simcox, and ex-Arizona Sen. Russell Pearce of SB-1070 infamy. Metro State was a major advocate of the ASSET legislation passed in 2013 allowing undocumented students who graduate from Colorado high schools to attend college with affordable tuition, and the largest share of ASSET students are students of Metro State. As you can imagine, this did not make Lambert a very happy anti-immigrant lawmaker.

And basically, Kent Lambert is now looking to screw with Metro State. It's important to know this backstory, lest anyone think Lambert's bill is some kind of altruistic pursuit of better educational standards. Be assured, its not.

Kent Lambert Ain’t Funding No Immigrant Driver Licenses

UPDATE: Majority House Democrats react with anger to Joint Budget Committee Republicans' budgetary shenanigans: "That might be what they do in Congress, in Washington. That’s not how we do it in Colorado."

Republicans on the Joint Budget Committee are trying out a tactic that’s new to Colorado – if you don’t like a law, defy the will of the legislature and just deny funding for the law. 
  
This morning, the three JBC Republicans voted for a second time this week to deny $166,000 for a program to grant driver’s licenses to undocumented Colorado residents. 
  
The driver’s license program was authorized by a state law enacted in 2013. The JBC Republicans’ action had the effect of reducing the number of DMV offices offering this type of license to one, statewide. The Denver Post calculated that the change would increase the waiting time for these licenses to 16 years. 

Later this morning, the Republican JBC members – Sens. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, and Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, and Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale — voted against a different public safety licensure program, the Department of Public Safety’s request for an additional $369,000 to administer background checks for the state’s concealed carry firearms licensing program…
  
“Amazingly, with this one motion, Republicans on the JBC are hurting law-abiding gun owners and jeopardizing community safety at the same time,” said Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder. “By boosting the waiting times, you’re making law-abiding citizens wait longer for their concealed carry permits. It’s hard to understand what they were trying to achieve here, because it's really just a lose-lose for everyone.” 
  
“The Joint Budget Committee’s job is to fund programs authorized by Colorado law,” said Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, the JBC vice chairwoman, who voted to preserve the driver’s license program and to assist law-abiding gun owners by cutting the waiting time for concealed carry licenses. “If we don’t like a law, we try to change it through the legislative process. I do not support using the budget process to change existing laws by not funding them appropriately. That might be what they do in Congress, in Washington. That’s not how we do it in Colorado.” 

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Sen. Kent Lambert (R), and immigration activist Chris Simcox.

Sen. Kent Lambert (R), and anti-immigration activist Chris Simcox.

As the Durango Herald's Peter Marcus reports:

Republicans on Friday defunded a large portion of a state program intended to provide driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.

The three Republican members of the state’s budget committee rejected a spending authorization to fund the new program, causing a tie vote that killed the motion.

The move highlighted Republicans flexing their new muscle after taking control of the Senate this year, which created a split Legislature. The GOP opposed providing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants…

Ulibarri sponsored the measure in 2013 when Democrats controlled both chambers of the Legislature. The bill was framed as a public safety measure, with sponsors pointing out that drivers are more likely to flee the scene of an accident without a license or insurance.

It's important to understand the purpose of the immigrant driver license program, which was not to provide "sanctuary" to undocumented immigrants. Immigrants drive to get to work and elsewhere, but with no ability to obtain a valid license, they can't get auto insurance–and that makes them rolling liabilities to everyone else on Colorado roads. Given the fact that immigrants are here, the intent of this law is harm reduction.

According to proponents, defunding the immigrant driver license program (as opposed to repealing it with legislation) could result in the worst possible outcome: the program remains on the books, but becomes prohibitively difficult to operate. Practically speaking, it means that four out of the five DMV offices currently able to process these licenses will be forced to discontinue the service:

For Durango-area applicants, the news is crushing. Undocumented immigrants already were forced to drive the four hours to Grand Junction to apply for a license. Now they will likely have to drive considerably more.

It's possible that we'll see more of this tactic on other issues, but on anything related to immigration that arrives before the JBC, it should be noted that the new chairman of the JBC, GOP Sen. Kent Lambert, is one of the state's most strident anti-immigrant lawmakers. As a member of the Republican Study Committee of Colorado, Lambert has taken field trips to the Arizona and Texas borders to "survey the situation." In Arizona, Lambert met with anti-immigration extremists like former Sen. Russell Pearce, and accused child molester/Minutemen founder Chris Simcox (photo with Lambert above right).

Because of the effects defunding a program that is not legislatively repealed would have, this is considered bad form. There have been occasions, including at least one instance so far this year, of the Joint Budget Commission unanimously agreeing to drop funding for a line item that has demonstrably failed in one way or another. In this case, using the JBC to grandstand on an issue one party lost legislatively, and cannot repeal legislatively, is an improper use of the JBC's considerable power.

Add it to a growing tally of misdeeds this session.

GOP Talks Immigration, but Only in Spanish-Language Translation of English Rebuttal…Wait, What?

Sen. Joni Ernst

Yes, Senator Ernst, there were apparently two versions of your speech last night.

The Republican Party supports working with President Obama on immigration reform…but only in Spanish?

Republicans chose freshman Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) to deliver the GOP response to President Obama's State of the Union speech last night, which is about where this entire story stops making sense.

Florida Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo was tapped to deliver the Spanish-language version of the rebuttal, which was supposed to be a translation of the Ernst speech…except that Curbelo added a section about immigration reform that Ernst does not actually support. It should be noted here that Sen. Ernst is an advocate of making English the "official language" in the United States; in other words, the GOP Spanish-language rebuttal was intended to be a translation of a speech given by someone who doesn't really think we should be speaking Spanish anyway.

Of course, that's not what actually happened.

To help explain what went down after the President's speech last night, we'll begin with a preview yesterday as reported by Mother Jones magazine:

The GOP has also announced it will be offering a Spanish-language rebuttal, which will be delivered tonight by freshman Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a young conservative from a diverse Miami congressional district. But there's a wrinkle. According to a press release from the House Republicans, Curbelo will not be sharing his own thoughts and words with the public. Instead, he will only be reading a Spanish translation of Ernst's speech.

Curbelo's office confirmed that he will not be delivering his own remarks. [Pols emphasis]

By the way, Ernst has endorsed English as a national language and once sued Iowa's secretary of state for offering voting forms in languages other than English. Her office did not respond to requests for comment.

Congressman Carlos Curbelo

The role of Sen. Joni Ernst was played by Rep. Carlos Curbelo, or something.

Okay, that's a bit strange — but it seems straightforward enough, right? Perhaps, though the plan went awry at some point. As Politico reports:

Republicans sent mixed signals on immigration in their two official rebuttals to President Obama Tuesday night: Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst’s rebuttal made no mention of the topic, but the Spanish-language version of the rebuttal, delivered by Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo, said Republicans wanted to work with Obama to fix the immigration system. [Pols emphasis]

“We should also work through the appropriate channels to create permanent solutions for our immigration system, to secure our borders, modernize legal immigration, and strengthen our economy,” said Curbelo in Spanish. “In the past, the president has expressed support for ideas like these. Now we ask him to cooperate with us to get it done.”

Earlier on Tuesday, House Republicans had described Curbelo’s response as “the Spanish-Language translated address of Sen. Joni Ernst response.” That language was later removed from the release, according to Mother Jones.

Curbelo has bucked many in the Republican Party to support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, while Ernst opposes that.

Ladies and gentlemen, your Republican majority in Congress! And we didn't even mention Sen. Ted "Eh, Lemme Start Over" Cruz.

Reporters are still letting Gardner play them on immigration

Republican Sen. Cory Gardner took his slippery interview tactics to the national stage of PBS' Newshour yesterday, responding to questions with predictions of the future, not answers to the questions, leaving us thinking we got answers from our new Senator. When we really didn't.

In a re-wind of what we heard from Gardner during his election campaign, the Newshour's Al Hunt asked Gardner about immigration. Hunt acted as if he'd gotten an answer from Gardner, since he didn't follow up, but in reality, he'd gotten little or nothing from him.

Hunt: There are some House Republicans who are proposing now, with the Homeland Security authorization, that they would deny funding for Obama's executive action in November. And some would go and deny funding. And some would go even and deny funding for the DREAMer's action in 2012. Is that helpful? Is that constructive?

Hunt: …You supported the DREAMers' action, didn't you?

Gardner: That will ultimately be part of the solution, but we have to start with a secure border. We have to start with a guest-worker program. Those are things the American people support. They want it to be proven that we can actually handle some of these bigger issues, like border security now.

Hunt: Do you think it's possible to get some kind of accord that includes some kind of legal status or citizenship for almost all of the 11 million undocumenteds who are here.

Gardner: I think at some point that will be one of the solutions that is reached. But right now, I think Republicans should put forward a bill that starts with border security, addresses a guest worker program, because without a workable guest-worker program you do not have border security. Let's put those pieces in place, make sure they work, and then move forward to additional solutions that must be part of the overall fix to immigration.

From reading this, you might think Gardner supports the DREAM Act, as well as offering legal status to undocumented immigrants. But he doesn't.  During the election campaign, he voted against halting the deportation of Dreamers. But throughout his career, he's been against the Dream Act, which would give young undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship through college or military service. Gardner even opposed offering in-state tuition rates to undocumented young people, brought into our country illegally by their parents.

Gardner smiles and says he's in favor of immigration reform, that he wants a "solution," but his record is nearly void of evidence that he's done anything about it, and he even opposed the bipartisan Senate immigration bill. Most recently, he opposed Obama's action to halt the deportation of undocumented immigrants whose children are U.S. citizens.

Gardner fooled Hunt into thinking he got answers. And he fooled Breitbart into thinking he's too moderate on immigration. What a mess.

Reporters can cut through Gardner's obfuscation by pressing the senator about what he'll do, specifically, to advance immigration reform. Will he vote for the DREAM Act? Will he vote for a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants? What does he favor? What will he do?

Michael Bennet Gets First 2016 Challenger: Darryl Glenn

Republican Darryl Glenn, apparently.

Republican Darryl Glenn, apparently.

Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet apparently has his first official (potential) challenger to his 2016 re-election campaign, and you probably didn't see this coming any more than we did. As the Colorado Springs Gazette and the Denver Post both reported today, El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn has announced that he will seek the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2016.

Who is Darryl Glenn, you ask? Well, you see…um…er…we'll tell you?

Actually, we had never heard of Darryl Glenn before today, and we're not alone. From what we understand, this announcement was as much of a surprise to many Republican politicos as it was to everyone else. We know that Glenn is an attorney in private practice and a super-duper conservative Christian who was just elected to his second term as an El Paso County Commissioner after serving two terms on the Colorado Springs City Council. Here's part of his bio from El Paso County:

Darryl Glenn graduated from Doherty High School in Colorado Springs. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the United States Air Force Academy, a Master’s in Business Administration from Western New England College and a Juris Doctor from New England School of Law.

Glenn retired from the Air Force as a Lieutenant Colonel after 21 years of active duty and reserve service. He led a $19 million Iceland Command and Control Enhancement Program implementing performance standards that saved $400,000. He served as Program Manager for a $5 billion office responsible for implementing a base realignment and closure plan. And, he supervised 35 communication system programs valued at $1 billion developing support plans that saved $20 million while providing a 40 percent increase in warfighting capability.

Say what you will about Glenn, but anybody who helped implement performance standards for the Iceland Command and Control Enhancement Program must be…well, whatever. We don't know what that means, either.

What we do know is that the 2014 election of Republican Cory Gardner to the U.S. Senate has created a perception of a new sense of opportunity for many Republicans looking to take a shot at higher office — and Glenn is just the beginning. Glenn acknowledged his early entry into the race in announcing his campaign, saying in a press release that he is jumping in the race now because he wants to use all the time he can to put together a statewide infrastructure that can help him secure the Republican nomination for the seat.

It's too early to judge whether Glenn can be a competitive candidate, but by entering the race now, he is going to force other potential Republican candidates to make their intentions known sooner rather than later. Remember that Gardner didn't enter the 2014 race until late February, and you can see how things are changing already. 2016 is not going to be like 2014, in more ways than one.