Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) has spent more than 25 years in elected office, which is an impressive feat no matter how you break it down. But how does a partisan Republican like Mad MIke Coffman manage to appeal to a different group of voters time and time again?
The answer is fiendishly simple and requires a calculated approach that Coffman has honed to a science over the years: You present yourself as all things to all people. When a controversial issue pops up, Coffman often takes the same approach of wandering an erratic path that allows him to select "All of the Above" on issues that require real decisions from most everybody else. Coffman doesn't sit on the fence; he stands in an open gate so that he can pop in and out on both sides. He's done it before, many times, in fact,, and he did it again during the recent debate over immigration reform and funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
This is not a new criticism; we're talking about the same guy who penned an Op-Ed for the Denver Post in July 2013 calling for "comprehensive immigration reform." While campaigning for re-election a few months later, Coffman was suddenly telling everyone who would listen that a comprehensive immigration reform approach was the wrong way to go. Mad Mike Coffman is always on your side, at some point.
So how did Coffman manage to be all things to all people on the immigration/DHS funding debate? We outline the process below:
Perhaps Mike Coffman spent a little too much time reading Bill Keane’s Family Circus cartoon strip.
1. Coffman Calls for Budget Battle Over Immigration Policy (Dec. 4, 2014)
Coffman opposes Republican legislation targeting President Obama's Executive Action on immigration — and gets to claim a "pro-immigrant" vote — while calling for a budget battle over immigration policy instead. Here it is, straight from Coffman's mouth:
“I voted against H.R. 5797 because, although I strongly believe it is unconstitutional to have immigration policy made through executive orders and without consent of Congress, this legislation will only mislead the American people into believing that we are taking care of the problem when the only way to address President Obama’s overreach is either through the U.S. Supreme Court or through the appropriations process." [Pols emphasis]
2. Coffman Opposes First Budget BIll Tied to Immigration Policy…Sort Of (Jan. 14, 2015)
Coffman actually voted NO on the first attempt by Congress to tie funding for DHS to plans aimed at crippling Obama's immigration policy (Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act), but he deftly maneuvered to make sure he was on record taking multiple positions here.
Now, here's where he gets really slick. Coffman voted NO on the Blackburn Amendment, which sought to defund DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Again, from his own mouth:
“The President’s executive actions are clearly unconstitutional and I strongly oppose his unilateral decisions on immigration but my party needs to stop just saying what we are against and start saying what we are for when it comes to fixing our broken immigration system.”
Aww, how sweet. Of course, Coffman fails to mention that he also voted YES on the Aderholt Amendment, which blocked funding for President Obama's enforcement relief efforts announced in November. Coffman opposed the Blackburn Amendment aimed at deporting DREAMERs, but voted YES on the Aderholt Amendment that sought to deport basically everyone else. In other words, Coffman voted NO on the final bill, but supported an amendment to basically block funding for Obama's Execitive Order. Coffman's votes were not missed by immigrant advocacy group "America's Voice," which said this in a press release:
While Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) voted against final passage of the bill and an amendment to end the 2012 DACA program, he lined up with his party on a critical amendment that tainted and defined the entire bill. [Pols emphasis] The Aderholt amendment, which Coffman supported, would block the President from expanding DACA to others who came to this country at a very young age. The amendment also prevents the Department of Homeland Security from allowing individuals who have lived in the U.S. for years, raising children who are U.S. citizens, to come forward and apply for temporary immigration papers.
Now, despite Coffman’s attempt at a face-saving vote on final passage, the DHS bill moves forward to the Senate with both anti-DACA and anti-expansion provisions intact. It will be up to Colorado Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) to ensure these mean-spirited provisions are gutted and replaced with responsible homeland security funding measures.
3. Coffman Says he Supports a "Clean" Funding Bill for DHS (Feb. 23, 2015)
Yes, you read that correctly. Coffman says he supports a "clean" funding bill… just two months after he said Congress should use the budget process to derail Obama's immigration policy.
4. House Rejects DHS Funding Extension (Feb. 27, 2015)
Two days after Coffman says he supports a "clean" funding bill, the U.S. Senate votes in favor of a clean bill to send back to the House. In a stunning move two days later (Feb. 27), the House rejects a proposal to extend funding for DHS for three more weeks. Coffman votes YES on the extension.
5. House Approves "Clean" Funding Bill for DHS; Coffman Votes YES (March 3, 2015)
After getting hammered from all sides for weeks, House Speaker John Boehner finally comes to the conclusion that this battle has been lost. Coffman, meanwhile, has now come full circle — from calling for a budget fight to ending up as the only Republican from Colorado to vote YES on a clean funding bill. Along the way, of course, Coffman supported an amendment favored by hardline anti-immigrant factions, which allows him to come back to Colorado and spin this whole debacle in whatever direction best suits his audience.
Coffman's endless run-around on the issues has served him well in more than 25 years in office, and this latest fiasco may be an indicator of what Coffman is planning for 2016. In a potential Republican Primary for Senate in 2016, Rep. Scott Tipton (R-West Slope) can tell the party faithful that he remained firm in his decision to oppose Obama's immigration policies by whatever means necessary, while Coffman's message would need to be much more nuanced. You can try to be all things to all people, but not in a Republican Primary.