UPDATE: AP's Nicolas Riccardi reports—Cory Gardner's response to questions about his role in the government shutdown last year and tensions with East Coast states over disaster relief funds–once you get past the wall of faux outrage bluster from his surrogates–are really quite extraordinary. And not in a good way. Now we can see why he didn't want to actually talk about this, just yell.
Gardner spokesman Alex Siciliano contended that congressman never supported the shutdown. However, Gardner, who is close to House Republican leadership, voted with other House Republicans to shoot down Democratic efforts to reopen government and for spending bills designed to be rejected by the U.S. Senate during the 16-day standoff. [Pols emphasis]
Siciliano noted that, before the shutdown, Gardner had warned against requiring Democrats to defund the Affordable Care Act as a requirement for keeping government open. Gardner was also one of a minority of Republicans who eventually voted to reopen government.
Udall spokesman Chris Harris said the Republican still deserves blame. "Everyone can say they don't want a shutdown, but what matters is what you do about it," Harris said. "What Gardner did caused the shutdown."
Udall's campaign also noted that Gardner voted against aid to communities hit by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, which opened him to charges of hypocrisy from northeastern Republicans when he helped Colorado secure federal assistance after the 2013 floods. Siciliano said Gardner had supported an initial Sandy relief package but voted against a later version because it contained too much pork. [Pols emphasis]
And that, dear readers, is why Chris Christie called him a hypocrite.
As the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports, a simmering point of contention between Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall and GOP challenger Cory Gardner blew up today into a full-fledged war of words, as Udall slammed Gardner over votes against Hurricane Sandy relief and to shut down the government in 2013–votes that came back to haunt the state during and after the historic flooding along the Front Range last September.
During a three-day road trip Monday through Wednesday, Udall, who is running for re-election, dinged Gardner while touting his efforts in helping Colorado’s flood victims. Udall’s campaign on Thursday sent a news release with the headline, “Gardner Endangered Flood Recovery.” Udall this week released a campaign ad featuring the emotional mayor of Jamestown talking about the flood.
“I was incredibly disappointed to hear and see Sen. Udall dismiss our work together on behalf of flood relief last fall,” Gardner said, in the release. “When Colorado suffers a disaster, we have a history of banding together as Coloradans and helping our family, friends, and neighbors recover. I led the effort in the House to secure federal disaster relief and stood proudly with Sen. Udall and others when we successfully moved this legislation through Congress.”
FOX 31's Eli Stokols:
The impassioned response from Gardner’s campaign isn’t unexpected, but it offered Udall’s campaign a new opening: to attack Gardner and his fellow Republicans once again for voting to shut down the government last fall in an effort to stop the implementation of Obamacare.
The shutdown, which occurred just weeks after the floods, delayed federal disaster relief.
As Udall's campaign explained in their release, there are two parts to the story of last year's flooding and federal disaster relief that are bad for Gardner:
As Colorado was reeling from the worst flooding in our state’s history, Congressman Gardner chose to put his own extreme ideology over the needs of families struggling to put their lives back together. With many families still cut off from their homes and the flood waters still receding, Gardner voted to shut down the government — forcing Colorado to front the bill for National Guard personnel, endangering response readiness, and delaying assistance to farmers impacted by the floods.
In addition to voting to shut down the government and delay urgently needed recovery efforts, Gardner also had voted against the federal disaster bill that funded much of Colorado’s flood recovery needs. This funding was made possible by a disaster assistance bill that Congressman Gardner and Tea Party Republicans in the House fought against tooth and nail. As Republican Gov. Chris Christie said, House Republicans’ refusal to help Americans in need ‘was disappointing and disgusting to watch.’ [Pols emphasis]
In the immediate aftermath of the devastating flooding last year along the Front Range, local media wasn't very interested in battles playing out in Washington. But events combined to significantly threaten federal relief efforts to our state in late September and early October of 2013, at a time they were needed most. The first was the Republican-engineered shutdown of the federal government in a last-ditch attempt to halt the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
The second factor, which we reported on in detail in this space, concerned bipartisan outrage from representatives of East Coast states impacted by Hurricane Sandy in October of 2012. Rep. Cory Gardner and the rest of Colorado's GOP delegation voted against the second round of Hurricane Sandy relief funding. In an unfortunate twist, the disaster relief funds Colorado needed after our flooding last year were slated to come from the same pot of money approved in the disaster relief bill Colorado Republicans voted against.
Last October, politicians in both parties from areas affected by Sandy attacked Colorado Republicans for their hypocrisy. New Jersey Rep. Frank LoBiondo called Colorado Republicans the "Hypocrisy Caucus." A front-page story in the New York Daily News quoted an NYC congressman saying "I only wish the best for the people of Colorado as they repair their lives after such devastation, but…these members are persona non grata in our town." The Washington Post covered Colorado Gov. Chris Christie's reaction:
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Thursday called out four Colorado Republicans in Congress who opposed a bill to fund disaster relief programs in his state, then turned around and pushed for federal aid when their state was hit by devastating floods.
“They’re hypocrites. That’s what they are,” Christie said of the Colorado Republicans [Pols emphasis] during a telephone town hall meeting Thursday night, in comments first reported by the Newark Star-Ledger. But, he added: “We can’t be vindictive. Because we have to be concerned about the actual people that are being hurt.”
Ultimately, Colorado did receive the money we needed for recovery–after efforts by Colorado Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet to smooth tensions, and the release of a hold on Colorado's aid request by New Jersey's then-Sen. Jeff Chiesa.
With all of this in mind, this week's bitter exchange of press statements makes a lot of sense. Gardner's public anger over Udall calling him out for the shutdown and Sandy relief votes is meant to squelch what is in fact a devastating criticism. In hindsight, the GOP's government shutdown to stop Obamacare was an absolute fool's errand, one that hurt Republicans vastly more than anybody else. In Colorado, that pain took on added significance as federal disaster relief was delayed due to the shutdown. And when you combine that with Gardner's vote against Hurricane Sandy relief, which blew up in all of our faces as vengeful East Coast politicians made an example of our "Hypocrisy Caucus?"
God help Cory Gardner if Colorado voters realize the full truth of all this–which is why he doth protest too much.