Friday Open Thread

“We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.”

–Carl Jung

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (March 25)

We’re not going streaking! 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…

► The state Senate has approved a school vouchers bill that would also give tax credits to home-schoolers. FOX 31 News gives a brief rundown, with everything you need to understand about this bill wrapped up in one sentence:

As public schools continue to lose funding, many Republicans are now looking to subsidize parents who choose to send their kids to a private school or home-schooling.

That makes…no sense whatsoever. Even if Sen. Kevin Lundberg muscles this nonsense through the Senate, the grown-ups in the State House will almost certainly reject the idea.

► Reporters at the Colorado Springs Gazette could be fired for speaking out against a 4-part series in the Gazette that is little more than a long, extended, editorialized rant against voter-approved legal marijuana. The Colorado Springs Independent has been doing a good job following the controversy from various angles:

According to national media reporter Jim Romenesko, employees at the Colorado Springs Gazette are being told to sit down and shut up when it comes to its recent marijuana series, “Clearing the Haze,” which, as we reported, is plagued with ethical problems.

Learn more about this growing controversy (pun intended) from longtime Pols reader Zappatero.

► Congressional Republicans are nearing final votes on a budget plan that has no hope of becoming law, but they’re doing it anyway because otherwise they’d have to, you know, govern or something. National media outlets are calling this a “make-or-break” week for Republicans; the smart money is not on the “make” side.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Wednesday Open Thread

“Rage only works if it is justified. That’s the trick with rage. You gotta have a reason to be mad.”

–Sam Kinison

Dems, Common Sense Score Small Victory

drivers-license

AP reports via the Fort Collins Coloradoan on the sort-of agreement between Democrats and Republicans in the legislature to sort-of fund the existing program for driver licenses for undocumented immigrants on Colorado roadways:

A compromise to fund a Colorado program granting driver’s licenses to immigrants regardless of their legal status is heading to the governor’s desk…

The Senate gave unanimous approval to the deal Monday, sending it to Gov. John Hickenlooper. The House had already approved it.

The revenue department initially asked for $166,000 to keep open five offices that handle the licenses, and potentially expand the program. Lawmakers readjusted the request to $66,000, allowing for three offices to be open.

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

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

The dispute over funding this program, in the end, was hurting Republicans politically more than it was helping them. After the Joint Budget Committee Republicans led by strident anti-immigrant Sen. Kent Lambert blocked the funding request for this program, the debate shifted from one of immigration policy to one of functional government. Because the law allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver licenses was already on the books, and Republicans did not have the majority needed to repeal it, starving the program of funds was broadly condemned as improper and out of character for Colorado. By reducing the number of driver license offices that could process these applications to one for the entire state, an intentionally broken process would have resulted. Responsible lawmakers aren’t supposed to do that, even if it seems like the norm in Washington, D.C. these days.

So what you have here is a partial win for Democrats and immigrant rights groups, salvaging something like a functional program, and giving hope that the clear public safety benefits of licensing undocumented immigrants–with the attendant testing and insurance compliance requirements in order to drive legally–can still be achieved. Whoever it was among the Republican legislative leadership who decided to pull the plug on this ill-advised grandstand made a wise but belated decision.

Because it would be a lot better to do that before getting beat up in the press.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (March 24)

Get More Smarter

Sorry folks, we’ve been filling up on Vitamin D this Spring Break. It’s better late than never 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…

► It’s apparently a significant story on cable news today that Ted Cruz switched to country music after 9/11. Reportedly he was a classic rocker before that terrible day:

“I actually intellectually find this very curious, but on 9/11, I didn’t like how rock music responded,” he said. “And country music, collectively, the way they responded, it resonated with me.”

Okie dokie then.

► In other Cruz news, no one is happier about his presidential aspirations than Hillary Rodham Clinton.

► President Barack Obama is delaying the withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan. Our thoughts are with affected troops and their families.

► For the first time in almost seven years, child poverty is down in Colorado. That’s really good news, because what this economic recovery needs most is to be felt by more kids.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Get More Smarter on Monday (March 23)

Get More Smarter

Today is the nicest day of the work week weatherwise, so play hooky if you can! For the rest of us, 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…

► Ted Cruz is running for President.

► Colorado had the third-highest voter turnout in America in 2014, which means we are doing something right–unless you don’t want everybody to vote.

► Republicans in Congress have a nightmare of a week ahead. From the FOX News report we cited over the weekend:

Next week could very well break the U.S. House of Representatives.

Or, if things go well, the House Republican majority could score two of its biggest legislative victories in quite a while, demonstrating it can govern.

The stakes are high as the GOP plans to debate and approve a budget. It’s a two-step in which Republicans slash spending but maneuver parliamentarily to bolster defense programs, satisfying both fiscal conservatives and budget hawks.

Or, the effort could blow up in the Republicans’ face.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Ted Cruz First To Enter 2016 Presidential Race

Sen. Ted Cruz, with Tom Tancredo (L) and Rep. Steve King of Iowa (R).

Sen. Ted Cruz, with Tom Tancredo (L) and Rep. Steve King of Iowa (R).

AP via the Denver Post:

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz has become the first major candidate for president, kicking off what’s expected to be a rush over the next few weeks of more than a dozen White House hopefuls into the 2016 campaign.

“I am running for president and I hope to earn your support,” the tea party favorite said in a Twitter message posted just after midnight on Monday.

Cruz will formally launch his bid during a morning speech at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, choosing to begin his campaign at the Christian college founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell rather than his home state of Texas or the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire. It’s a fitting setting for Cruz, a 44-year-old tea party darling whose entry into the 2016 campaign drew cheers Sunday among fellow conservatives.

“Tea Party darling” Sen. Ted Cruz has proved a major thorn in the side of most of his fellow Republicans, ready to scuttle delicately-balanced negotiations over important matters at any time in order to score relatively meaningless political points against President Barack Obama. “Tea Party” factions in both the House and Senate look to Cruz for leadership, sometimes to the profound chagrin of House Speaker John Boehner–as we saw perhaps most damagingly in last year’s standoff over Obama’s immigration executive orders.

Obviously, what Ted Cruz needs to be successful with his grand vision of…well, whatever his grand vision is, he needs to be President to do it. It’s tough to imagine Cruz actually winning the GOP nomination, kind of like it was hard to imagine Rick Santorum as President. But he’s certainly allowed to try.

In the 2012 cycle, fellow Texan Gov. Rick Perry, a candidate we’d consider on the same general tier intellectually and politically as Ted Cruz, earned the backing of Rep. Mike Coffman. Coffman in fact served as the state chairman of Perry’s campaign until Perry imploded in a series of campaign trail and debate gaffes.

Well folks, here’s another chance for Coffman to be “a proud member of the Party of No.”

Monday Open Thread

“If a man went simply by what he saw, he might be tempted to affirm that the essence of democracy is melodrama.”

–Irving Babbitt

When Ken Buck Is The Reasonable One…?

Finger on the button.

Finger on the button.

FOX News’ Chad Pergram with a surprisingly candid report on a tough week ahead for Speaker John Boehner and the fractious GOP-controlled House:

Next week could very well break the U.S. House of Representatives.

Or, if things go well, the House Republican majority could score two of its biggest legislative victories in quite a while, demonstrating it can govern.

The stakes are high as the GOP plans to debate and approve a budget. It’s a two-step in which Republicans slash spending but maneuver parliamentarily to bolster defense programs, satisfying both fiscal conservatives and budget hawks.

Or, the effort could blow up in the Republicans’ face.

In addition, the House will tiptoe through what has become one of the most-nettlesome votes in Congress: approving a replacement measure to cover the “doc fix” for physicians and seniors who use Medicare.

In the days since the Republican-controlled House and Senate released their competing budget proposals, each has been widely panned as reliant on “gimmicks” to achieve their stated goals–for this year, and to achieve the long held “Tea Party” goal of balancing the budget within a decade. The biggest problem is that, while both budget proposals would fully repeal the Affordable Care Act, they keep the tax revenue generated by it.

In other words, they’re totally unworkable.

The only thing we can add is that when freshman Rep. Ken Buck, one of the loudest and angriest conservatives in the GOP House says his chamber’s plan is not realistic, we’re obliged to take note:

Still, some Republicans aren’t even drinking their own party’s Kool-Aid when leaders extoll the merits of Price’s budget.

“I don’t know anyone who believes we’re going to balance the budget in 10 years,” claimed Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo. “It’s all hooey.” [Pols emphasis]

And one more problem: any conservative alternative likely would be even worse.

[T]here’s a problem when considering a substitute: If the House adopts a substitute before the base resolution (in this case, Price’s budget), that budget wins. The entire process comes to a screeching halt and members never get to Price’s outline.

One senior Republican leadership source told Fox “we’re screwed” if the House OK’s the RSC budget or anything. The source argued the top-line spending numbers in any budget more conservative than Price’s are too low and could have drastic fiscal impact on the entire federal government. [Pols emphasis]

So before we conclude that Ken Buck really is the voice of Republican reason in the budget debate, we should probably ask what his alternative would be. Because there’s every reason to believe what Buck wants would be much worse. The again, based on recent experience, the entire effort from the GOP to produce a budget that the President could sign with this dysfunctional majority is mostly likely a waste of all of our time.

We invite Rep. Buck and his colleagues to prove us wrong.

Weekend Open Thread

“It is one thing to praise discipline, and another to submit to it.”

–Miguel de Cervantes

Don’t Discriminate Against the Elderly; Everyone Else is Fair Game

Sen. Laura Waters-Woods.

Sen. Laura Waters Woods

Freshman Senator Laura Waters Woods (R-Arvada) is up for re-election in 2016, and that means Senate District 19 will be one of the most heavily-contested legislative races of the cycle. Republicans may wish they could get rid of her (and they might try), because she has been nothing short of her own negative advertisement during her first few months in the Senate. 

“We don’t want to discriminate against the elderly, so that is why they were excluded in this bill.”

— Sen. Laura Woods, speaking today on the Senate Floor in support of SB15-069

Senator Waters Woods was again on the Senate floor today speaking in favor of her “Right to Discriminate” legislation (SB15-069) that seeks to repeal anti-discrimination laws put on the books just a few years ago. Under existing law, employees have rights against discrimination based on disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, age, national origin, or ancestry; Republican-aligned business interests have opposed these laws because they fear “frivolous lawsuits,” and Woods has been just the person to carry this leaking pail of water around the Capitol in 2015.

Woods wants to get rid of almost all of the anti-discrimination protections created in the “Job Protection and Civil Rights Enforcement Act of 2013,” but she has rendered her own arguments moot by insisting on one solitary exception. Woods believes that Colorado should only have anti-discrimination laws that protect the elderly, an absurd stance to take on an already ridiculous policy idea. As Sen. Rollie Heath (D-Boulder) said in a press release, “It doesn’t make sense. A 77 year old white man, like me, is protected under the bill still, but a 60 year old African American is not. Why?”

It’s not like this bill was a late addition to the calendar that caught some people off guard; Woods introduced this bill in January, and has been taking heavy blows in the media ever since. Did Senate Republicans not realize that Woods would be so vocal in her support of an exception for the elderly? Have they not been paying attention to the words that are coming out of her mouth? [Video after the jump]

The “Right to Discriminate” bill has one stop left on the Senate floor before it heads to the House for its official demise, which makes this whole thing that much weirder from a political and strategic perspective. Republicans don’t have the votes to get this bill to the Governor, so why not just kill it in a Senate committee before Woods can use it for self-harm? This is a bad bill, made worse by stupid arguments, all of which will undoubtedly come back to haunt Republicans in one of their most at-risk State Senate seats.

Watch the video after the jump…

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Gardner Gets Weasely On Crude Oil Exports

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

A news hit for Colorado’s junior Sen. Cory Gardner from the trade journal Hellenic Shipping News, a story titled Oil Producers Face Skeptical Congress in Drive to End Export Ban:

Coming into this year, it seemed that the time was right to overturn a ban on exporting U.S. crude oil: Republicans controlled Congress, production was nearing an all-time high and gasoline was falling toward $2 a gallon.

Despite a lobbying push by drillers, and steep job losses in the oil fields, there’s been no significant effort in Congress to lift the 40-year-old ban. Even the Senate’s top advocate for the idea hasn’t proposed legislation…

The reason for the go-slow approach is wariness among lawmakers that they’d be blamed if gasoline prices climb after the ban is lifted. And the oil industry itself is split, with some refiners, who benefit from low prices, opposed to lifting the ban. Oil produced domestically is selling for about $9 less than the global benchmark.

Yesterday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, on which Sen. Gardner serves, held a hearing on the subject of lifting the ban on crude oil exports. Going into the hearing, Gardner was reportedly “undecided” about whether to support lifting the ban, but his reported comments certainly indicate where he’s leaning:

Two members of the panel, Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who often sides with Republicans on energy issues, and Senator Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, said they were still undecided on the issue.

Gardner said it may make sense to sense to send some of the light sweet crude produced from shale rock formations overseas, because U.S. refiners along the Gulf Coast can better handle heavier crudes. [Pols emphasis]

Sounds pretty supportive to us! And an energy industry press release after yesterday’s hearing praises Gardner’s “insightful question” that teed up the industry’s argument perfectly:

“Colorado Senator Cory Gardner asked an insightful question yesterday about what happens if we don’t lift the ban,” said Eberhart. “We will have a glut of crude with nowhere to go.  Oil and gas companies will no longer have an incentive to keep producing, so we’ll start losing jobs. The current shale boom has helped create 1.7 million of them.”

Consumers are plowing their savings from cheap gasoline right back into the economy all around the country, helping boost economic growth. The full reasons for the current rock-bottom price of oil are more complicated than simply the “shale revolution,” most importantly the price war initiated by foreign oil producers intended to make North American shale production from “fracking” unprofitable. The industry wants a “price floor” to ensure their operations remain profitable, and the ability to export crude oil would raise prices at least by the difference between the American and global market price–and possibly much more, depending on what OPEC does.

And once the price of oil starts going up again as it surely will, American consumers would feel the pain even more. This is where politicians with the authority to decide these questions must face the hard reality of choosing between their oh-so friendly allies and donors in the energy industry…and the rest of the economy.

Gardner may pay lip service to being deliberative about this, but where he’ll land in the end is unfortunately a foregone conclusion.