House (Finally) Passes DHS Funding Bill as Republicans Abandon Ship

UPDATE: Statement from Rep. Diana DeGette:

“Finally, Republican leaders recognized what has been clear for weeks: whatever their disagreements with President Obama and his actions to address our broken immigration system, Congress must provide the necessary resources to protect our homeland from attacks and be prepared to respond to natural disasters. While we should have taken this action weeks ago, I am pleased to see this get done at last.”

—–

House Speaker John Boehner (R).

This picture of House Speaker John Boehner is a good summation of his last couple of weeks in Congress.

As CNN reports, the House of Representatives finally voted to approve a "clean" funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), but all is not well in the GOP caucus:

The House cleared legislation Tuesday that will keep the agency operating through the end of September after a standoff last week threatened to shutter the agency and furlough thousands of workers. The 257-167 vote sends the bill to President Barack Obama for his signature.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who rarely casts votes, backed the bill, along with his top lieutenants. A majority of House Republicans opposed the bill. Just 75 GOP lawmakers joined with 182 Democrats to push it across the finish line. [Pols emphasis]

The legislation does nothing to rein in Obama's immigration executive orders — a top priority of conservatives. That issue was a sticking point for weeks as Republicans tried to tie DHS funding to the repeal of the orders but the party couldn't overcome Democratic filibusters in the Senate…

…Boehner told his members Tuesday morning that he had run out of options and the Senate couldn't pass a bill with immigration language attached.

It's nice to see the House doing its job and actually, you know, governing, though the political damage has been considerable on the GOP side. After weeks of arguing, House Speaker John Boehner seems to have all but given up on trying to work with his fractured caucus, which didn't help him anyway; despite holding the largest majority in Congress since the New Freakin' Deal, Republicans couldn't even fund a critical department without the support of Democrats. Colorado's Congressional delegation reflected this divide, with Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) the only Republican to vote YES, along with Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter, and Jared Polis.

How bad have things gotten for House Republicans? Bad enough that the American Action Network, a political group aligned with House leadership, spent $400,000 this week on TV and radio ads targeted at Republican dissenters. As Politico reported yesterday:

So, that worked out well.

So, that worked out well.

The nonprofit American Action Network is airing an ad in three states — Kansas, Oklahoma and Ohio — urging Reps. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to back funding for the anti-terrorism agency. The 30-second spot will run at least 50 times in each district — on broadcast, in prime slots — Tuesday and Wednesday as the House is expected to take up a DHS funding bill.

The group says the ad campaign, which also includes radio ads on nationally syndicated shows and digital ads in dozens of other districts represented by House conservatives, is the opening salvo of a larger effort to help Republican leaders pass center-right legislation. American Action Network says it will spend millions of dollars to contact voters in the coming months. The move appears designed to give Boehner cover to end the months-long impasse over homeland security funding.

The TV ad feature images of what appear to be terrorists and says that “some in Washington are willing to put our security at risk by jeopardizing critical security funding. That’s the wrong message to send to our enemies.” [Pols emphasis]

Jordan is the leader of the House Freedom Caucus, which led last week's effort to oppose Boehner's vote on DHS funding, and he voted NO today along with Reps. Huelskamp and Bridenstine. Republicans are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars going after fellow Republicans in their home districts just to try to get them to not shoot their own toes off. It's safe to say they aren't listening.

Republicans have been getting hammered for weeks by local and national media over an ideologic battle against President Obama's immigration policies…but they didn't do anything to stunt Obama's plans, either. Hell, Brian Shaw might be a better leader for House Republicans at this point.

It was obvious to anyone who could read that Republicans were not going to win this fight, but the degree to which they completely bungled this mess is stunning. This is an absolute disaster for Boehner and Congressional Republicans. It's difficult to see how things won't just get worse from here.

Jeffco School Board Snaps Up GOP Media Consultants

Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call, Jefferson County Communications Officer Lisa Pinto.

Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call, Jefferson County Communications Officer Lisa Pinto.

We talked just over a month ago about the hiring by Jefferson County Public Schools of one Lisa Pinto, a right-wing Leadership Program of the Rockies graduate and former board member of the embattled Colorado Republican independent expenditure committee, as the new Chief Communications Officer of the district. Pinto appears to have been hired due to her political affiliations, as she was apparently rejected by a number of people involved in the hiring process as unqualified–yet somehow in the end deserving of a higher salary than her more qualified predecessor. We've heard that unflattering information about the process that led to Pinto's hiring by the district may shortly be disclosed, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, Jefferson County School Board Watch reported last month that Pinto is getting some extra reinforcements on the public-relations front, having hired a usual-suspect Republican aligned communications firm Novitas Communications to…well, it seems like they were more or less hired to do Pinto's job:

a) Set measureable objectives against which Novitas and the District Communications
Department efforts can be evaluated. For example, if the mix of media coverage of the district is 50% negative and 50% positive, work toward shifting that percentage to 25% negative and 75% positive.

b) Evaluate objectives’ metrics regularly and help the District Communications Department shift strategies and tactics to keep the department on track to meeting its objectives.

c) Develop strategies to address hot-button or controversial issues to ensure that District constituencies (e.g., parents, teachers, community leaders) are engaged and empowered in District decisions, and to ensure that the District is driving the narrative on these issues.

d) With District staff, develop core messaging for the District as well as on controversial issues that will help ensure spokespersons and staff are unified in their communications to District stakeholders.

e) Develop/enhance a crisis communications plan for rapid response action, as needed…

You know, the stuff Chief Communications Officers are supposed to do!

And here's the "ah-ha" reveal: Novitas Communications is run by Michelle Balch Lyng, a longtime Republican operative and former head of the Denver Republican Party–the same urban Republican social circle as Pinto herself. Lyng's staff includes Devan Crean, the Republican "tracker" who got embarrassingly mixed up in the state GOP chairmanship election battle early last month. You'll recall what Crean said about her work then:

The organization Ellie and I both work for ONLY tracks politicians and policy makers who are left-leaning. We DO NOT track fellow Republicans…

We haven't heard if Ms. Crean still works for Revealing Politics after that little fiasco, but we assume her Republican loyalties remain firmly intact. Given Pinto's background, we expect none of this will trouble her.

The obvious question is, why does the district have a need for so many conservative PR consultants? And that's an easy answer: in addition to having repeatedly stepped into controversy over such things as the conservative school board majority's ill-fated AP history "review" proposal, negotiations with the district's teachers on a new contract are about to get underway. A preliminary meeting just last night began to set the timetable for those negotiations. Following the antics of the Republican school board majority up to this point, fears that they will not enter negotiations with teachers in anything resembling good faith are well-founded. One need only look at Douglas County to see the worst-case scenario.

If these negotiations get ugly, the district's new army of GOP media flacks is going to be very busy indeed.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (March 3)

Get More Smarter

Today is "303" day! Some of you may have to wait until July 20 to celebrate. 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…

Colorado's Congressional delegation — minus Rep. Diana DeGette — was on hand today as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress. House Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu to speak to Congress so that Republicans would stop yelling at him for a few hours. 

► Like just about everything else these days in the Colorado legislature, partisan lines are forming over the Parental Leave BIll. Either that, or Republicans really don't want to go to that ballet recital.

► The Denver Nuggets have finally fired head coach Brian Shaw. The Nuggets were just 56-85 during Shaw's tenure, or what Congressional Republicans might call a "winning record."

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

GOP Anti-Abortion Bill #3 (!) Up Today

Creepy Uncle Sam holding a speculum.

Creepy Uncle Sam holding a speculum.

9NEWS' Amy Crowfoot reports, they just can't help themselves:

HB15-1112, sponsored by Rep. Lois Landgraf (R-Fountain), would require a physician to "take all medically appropriate and reasonable steps to preserve the life of a born-alive infant" and prohibits denying nourishment to a born-alive infant with the intent of ending the infant's life. It also prohibits using a born-alive infant for scientific research or other experimentation.

Landgraf said that because there are no reporting requirements for abortions, there is no way of knowing what happens to born-alive infants at this time. "The baby," she said, "can be set on a shelf and allowed to die."

Back in reality,

"It is already illegal to kill a living human being," [Pols emphasis] [Rep. Lois] Court said, also adding, "I am really tired of my Republican colleagues bringing forward divisive social issues when we really should be focused on rebuilding our middle class here in Colorado."

The same arguments apply here as with the other GOP anti-abortion bills that have been introduced to certain death in the Democratic-controlled House. The motivation must be deeply emotional and ideological, because politically, it's just disastrous. Whatever marginal benefit running these bills have with motivating the conservative anti-abortion base is totally undone by the moderate voters these bills alienate. Politically, it's a tremendous gift to Democrats, proof positive that the "War on Women" is no myth.

There seems to be this idea that Republicans can insulate themselves from criticism over abortion, perhaps following Cory Gardner's example of gumming the issue to death, even as they run anti-abortion legislation year after year.

2014's experience notwithstanding, we do not share their optimism.

Tuesday Open Thread

"With most people disbelief in a thing is founded on a blind belief in some other thing."

–Georg C. Lichtenberg

Ryan Call changes tune about his opposition to at least one recall campaign

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call.

Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call.

Appearing on KNUS 710-AM’s Jimmy Sengenberger Show Saturday, Colorado GOP Chair Ryan Call emphasized his support for Colorado’s 2013 recall campaigns, when, in fact, Call flat out opposed at least one recall effort.

“From a tactical perspective, frankly, the worst thing that I could do is to get to the head of the column and say that this is a Republican initiative,” Call told Sengenberger Saturday in explaining why he didn't take an earlier or higher profile stance in the recall campaigns. Call pointed out that Republicans would have had a harder time winning over Democrats and independents if the recall campaigns were perceived as GOP-led.

This contrasts with what Call told Fox 31 Denver at the time about his decision not to support the recall campaign of Democratic Sen. Evie Hudak:

Call: “This recall election would undermine our efforts in the governor’s race, the U.S. Senate race and to win a senate majority if voters perceive that Republicans are trying to win a majority through recalls.”

“The job of the Republican Party is to get Republicans elected when there are regular elections,” said Colorado GOP Chairman Ryan Call. “And there are already a lot of things competing for our time, attention and resources. [BigMedia emphasis]

Hudak recall organizer Laura Woods, now a GOP state senator who went by the name "Laura Waters" at the time, told KNUS radio host Peter Boyles that Call obstructed their efforts.

(more…)

Partisan Battle Lines Forming Over Parental Leave Bill

parental-leave-bill-2013

A fact sheet from 9 to 5 Colorado summarizes House Bill 15-1221, legislation to renew existing Colorado law allowing parents to take unpaid leave for their childrens' school activities. This legislation passed its first House committee test today on a party-line vote, but faces an uncertain future in the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate:

In 2009, the Colorado State Legislature passed the Parental Involvement for Academic Achievement Act, which allowed many Colorado employees to take leave to attend their children’s school activities. Research has consistently shown that increased parental involvement in the education and schooling of their children correlates with greater academic achievement outcomes. This legislation expires this year and should be permanently extended.
 
What the Current Parental Involvement Policy Does:

•    Allows employees of Colorado businesses to take up to 18 hours of leave per academic year to attend their children’s parent-teacher conferences, special education services, response to interventions for dropout prevention, attendance, truancy or other disciplinary issues.
•    Allows parents to participate in the above activities for children in Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade.
•    Applies to businesses with 50 or more employees. 
•    Limits leave to 6 hours per month, and the employer may require that the leave be taken in increments of 3 hours or less.
•    Requires parents to provide employers with at least 1 calendar week’s notice of the leave, except in an emergency. 
•    Employers may require that employees provide written verification of the reason for leave, and in the case of leave taken for an emergency, the employee must provide written verification of the leave upon return to work. 
•    Part-time employees accrue their leave at the percentage of full-time hours that they work (if you work 20 hours a week you would receive half of the leave time received by a full-time employee).
•    An employer may limit the leave granted to an employee if the health and safety of a person necessitates that the employee be present at work.  
•    Specifies that businesses that already have comparable leave policies that may be used for the same purpose and under the other provisions of the bill are not required to provide additional leave.
•    Allows for employers to deny leave if their absence would result in a halt in service or production.

House Bill 15-1221 would permanently renew the 2009 Parental Involvement for Academic Achievement Act, and expand the definition of "school activity" to include events like back-to-school meetings and meetings with counselors. This legislation saw a significant fight in 2009 when originally passed, which is one of the reasons it included a five year "sunset" provision requiring it to be reauthorized by the General Assembly. We've seen nothing to suggest that the 2009 bill has caused problems for employers, but Republicans are getting air cover from conservative group Compass Colorado as they try to kill it:

“Everyone wants to encourage parent participation in their children’s academic lives,” said Kelly Maher, executive director of Compass Colorado. “We need to ask ourselves if we really need to legislate every aspect of the employer/employee relationship. Does more regulation imposed on businesses get the desired outcome, or will it just create more red tape and make the employer/employee relationship more adversarial?”

We're not saying they have a good argument, but it's interesting that Republicans are trying to fight what seems like a no-brainer bill. Supporters cite polling that says 93% of parents want to be involved with their child's education, but 52% say work responsibilities make that harder. We're not aware of any Democrats being targeted in 2010 for supporting parental leave legislation–but in 2016, what kinds of ads will be made about Republicans who are trying to repeal it? What does this say about the party who claims they're "pro-family?"

Once again, this is not a fight we would willingly take on, with a huge potential for blowback on Republicans from voters if they kill this bill. But that appears to be what's happening as of now.

Get More Smarter on Monday (March 2)

Get More Smarter

Did March begin more like a lion or a lamb? What about a giraffe? 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…

► Conservation groups are drawing attention today to Republican efforts to roll back Colorado's renewable energy standards. The State House is almost certain to reject these attempts, but not before Republicans are done dragging themselves through the mud.

► Congressional Republicans have another few days to figure out how to continue funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) after a dramatic end to last week that saw passage of a one-week extension. According to poll results from CNN, Americans would blame Republicans for any problems with failing to fund DHS; no surprise here, since REPUBLICANS HAVE THE LARGEST CONGRESSIONAL MAJORITY SINCE THE NEW DEAL.

► House Speaker John Boehner (R-Tanning Bed) is trying to downplay GOP disarray by calling internal dissention a "disagreement on tactics." Colorado Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) sided with Boehner on Friday despite spending weeks on the talk-radio circuit saying he would do the opposite.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Polis Co-opts Ted Cruz on Legal Pot As Cruz “Evolves”

Rep. Jared Polis, Sen. Ted Cruz.

Rep. Jared Polis, Sen. Ted Cruz.

The Denver Post's Mark Matthews reported Friday on some fun Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado is having at the expense of 2016 GOP presidential hopeful and "Tea Party" firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz:

Jared Polis and Ted Cruz are about as far apart on the political spectrum as two lawmakers can get.

But this week the Boulder Democrat and Texas Republican took the same stance on at least one hot-button issue: Colorado’s right to legalize marijuana.

And it's true: at last week's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Cruz paid lip service to Colorado's right to legalize weed.

At the annual gathering of conservative activists and Republican Party leaders, Fox News' Sean Hannity asked Cruz if he thought Colorado's legalization of marijuana was a good idea.

“Look, I actually think this is a great embodiment of what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called ‘the laboratories of democracy,'" Cruz replied. "If the citizens of Colorado decide they want to go down that road, that’s their prerogative. I personally don’t agree with it, but that’s their right.”

Rep. Polis, who is sponsoring federal legislation allowing states to legalize marijuana, took the opportunity to co-opt Sen. Cruz's apparent support–though we seriously doubt Polis honestly expects Cruz to co-sponsor his bill. From Polis' statement:

Cruz's defense of local control over marijuana policies comes as members of his party in the House have made outlandish threats of penalties and dire consequences directed at the mayor of Washington, DC as she implements marijuana legalization approved by 70% of her constituents. These threats included the outrageous remarks from Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) saying there would be “very severe consequences” and threatening that DC Mayor Muriel Bowser “can go to prison for this.”

“I’m proud to join with Ted Cruz in calling on our colleagues in Congress to respect the right of local citizens to decide how to regulate marijuana use, without federal government interference,” said Rep. Polis. “My bipartisan bill, the ‘Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act,’ would do just want Sen. Cruz now supports, leaving it to the states to regulate marijuana how they see fit, and I look forward to seeing Mr. Cruz introduce companion legislation in the Senate, which I expect he will do imminently.”

In case you were still wondering is Polis was being serious here, his statement concludes:

Polis also praised Cruz’s support of the local dispensaries in Colorado, where Cruz told attendees at CPAC the brownies they enjoyed had come from. He did warn Senator Cruz that under current federal law, transporting them across state lines was illegal, although TSA agents, who may go without pay if the Republican Department of Homeland Security shutdown occurs, may have been more worried about whether they were going to be able to make rent. [Pols emphasis]

Ouch. So no, not buddies! And Cruz isn't likely to sign on with Polis to do anything. With that said, the shift in Cruz's position on Colorado marijuana legalization is large and notable, compared to his very different view just a year ago–Raw Story:

(more…)

Renewable Energy Standard Rollback To Die Today

UPDATE: The Durango Herald's Peter Marcus:

The measure made it through the Republican-controlled Senate last month but faced an uphill climb in the House, where Democrats on the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee ended the effort by a 6-5 party-line vote…

Environmentalists held a rally at the Capitol just before the hearing to express their opposition to the bill. A group of mothers said the issue is about protecting the health of future generations by moving away from traditional fuel sources that many believe is at least in part the cause of climate change.

“Moms believe we have a moral obligation to protect children’s health and future, ensuring they have clean air is one of the very basics,” said Dana Gutwein, a leader with the group Colorado Moms Know Best. “The reality is that chopping the state’s renewable-energy standard in half would mean relying more on coal-fired plants and more kids dealing with asthma and other respiratory problems.”

—–

Wind power.

Wind power.

AP via the Aurora Sentinel:

A bill to lower the mandates has passed the Republican state Senate and awaits its first hearing in a House committee Monday.

That committee is controlled by Democrats and is expected to reject the idea.

The bill would cut in half the percentage of renewable energy required of large utilities by 2020, from 30 percent to 15 percent. It would also reduce the renewable energy mandate on rural electricity co-ops, from 20 percent to 15 percent by 2020.

Ahead of today's hearing, 350.org and Conservation Colorado are rallying to draw attention to Senate Bill 44:

The House State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee has the capacity to kill Senate Bill 44. This bill would roll back our renewable energy standard from 30% by 2020 to 15%. This is especially absurd because Xcel already gets 19% of their electricity from wind alone. Some renewables are cheaper than fossil fueled power and actually help rural Coloradan communities, contrary to the 'war on rural Colorado' narrative.

This is another situation where Democrats have an opportunity to use GOP support for a bill with no real backing outside one special interest–in this case the fossil fuel industry–against Republicans with the much larger majority of voters who won't support rolling back Colorado's popular renewable energy standard. The "war on rural Colorado" rhetoric employed by opponents of the renewable energy standard for rural electric co-ops in particular was always dreadfully over the top, and fell flat during the failed "North Colorado" secession movement.

The only thing that's changed is control by one seat in the Colorado Senate, and that's why the bill survived long enough to be noted in two separate news cycles. Keep in mind that even Cory Gardner had to run as a renewable energy proponent last year. Outside a small segment of climate change denialist diehards and fossil fuel industry surrogates, opposing Colorado's renewable energy standards–which most voters aware of the issue consider a good thing–makes little political sense.

But along with abortion bans, making the world safe for anti-vaxxers, and rolling back gun laws, this is where Colorado Republicans have chosen to plant their flag. For Democrats looking ahead to 2016, it's a wealth of material.

Monday Open Thread

"How often it is that the angry man rages denial of what his inner self is telling him."

–Frank Herbert

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: Palacio Re-Elected Democratic Party Chairman

MONDAY UPDATE: Statement from Rick Palacio:

Thank you to the Democratic Party family. Its been an incredible honor to lead our Party for the past four years, and it will be my continued honor to lead our Party for another two years as well. A lot of very important issues have been raised in the last month, and I'm determined to ensure that voices from across our state are heard and respected as we move forward and continue to build a united, inclusive, forward looking and successful party that we can all be proud of.

—–

SUNDAY UPDATE: The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels:

Palacio won after one round of balloting during the Democrats’ reorganizational meeting Saturday at the downtown Denver Marriott. With 468 Democrats voting, Palacio received 248 votes to Sabados’ 182 votes. Former congressional candidate Vic Meyers received 38 votes. In other words, Palacio received 53 percent of the vote, Sabados 39 percent and Meyers 8 percent…

The race received national attention after Palacio announced Thursday night that the make-up of the committee that was going to do the voting did not meet party requirements for gender equality and he needed to appoint 46 more men. Sabados accused him of trying to stack the deck, but Palacio pointed out the rule has been in place since the 1970s. He also appointed Sabados and Meyers to the committee.

—–

Coverage coming soon, but that's the word from the Colorado Statesman's Ernest Luning:

We'll update.

Weekend Open Thread

"Farce treats the improbable as probable, the impossible as possible."

–George Pierce Baker