Bennet, Romanoff Burying the Ol’ Hatchet?

Burying hatchet and/or digging to China

Burying hatchet and/or digging to China

Most Pols readers will not soon forget the odd, long, bruising, and odd battle between Andrew Romanoff and Sen. Michael Bennet in the 2010 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. The weirdness began in early 2009 with Gov. Bill Ritter's out-of-left-field appointment of Bennet to fill the seat vacated by Ken Salazar, who accepted President Obama's nomination for Secretary of the Interior. Democrats weren't particularly excited about Bennet's appointment, largely because he was unknown outside of Denver. There was also a good deal of lingering resentment that Romanoff did not get the nod from Ritter.

Inexplicably, Romanoff then waited until August to finally jump into the Primary, giving Bennet lots of time to raise money and convince Colorado Democrats that he was the right man for the job. Romanoff raised just enough money to be a pain in the ass for Bennet, but not nearly enough to overcome Bennet's huge head start (not to mention his connections to President Obama). Bennet overcame some last-minute negative ads from Romanoff and ended up with an 8-point victory before going on to defeat Republican Ken Buck in the General Election. Romanoff, Bennet, and many of their respective supporters carried some obvious lingering resentment well past Election Day. 

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Delegation Scores from LCV’s 2012 National Environmental Scorecard

The League of Conservation Voters released their 2012 National Environmental Scorecard today [Wednesday].  The Colorado congressional delegation split as one might expect:

U.S. Senate: Senator Michael Bennet (D), 100 – Senator Mark Udall (D), 93

U.S. House: Rep. Diana DeGette (D), 97 - Rep. Jared Polis (D), 100 –  Rep. Scott Tipton (R), 11 – Rep. Cory Garnder (R), 11 - Rep. Doug Lamborn (R), 6 – Rep. Mike Coffman (R), 9 –  Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D), 83

The Scorecard reflects the U.S. Senate’s work in defending against the U.S. House of Representatives’ unprecedented assault on our nation’s environmental and public health safeguards during the second session of the 112th Congress, a time when extreme weather events fueled by climate change were becoming all too common across the country.

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Bennet Plays Key Role In Latest Immigration Proposal

UPDATE: Statement from Colorado Democratic Party chairman Rick Palacio:

With this afternoon’s announcement from eight U.S. Senators, including Colorado’s own Michael Bennet, of a bipartisan framework for comprehensive immigration reform, a solution to this problem is a real possibility. That a Colorado voice, especially that of Senator Bennet, is helping to drive this discussion is no accident.
 
“Our state is on the leading edge of this issue and understands the need to fix a broken immigration system,” said Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio. “As we welcome the new members to our community, we realize that sensible federal policies are needed to solve many of the complicated challenges that immigrants, their families, businesses, schools, and ultimately everyone must deal with. Between his leadership in developing the Colorado Compact and his work on today’s framework, Senator Bennet has addressed the complicated and emotional questions surrounding immigration and offered clear solutions. And as challenging as that is, it is what Coloradans expect and what the country has been calling for. Most of all, it is welcome progress.”

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CO GOP Chair Ryan Call to be Challenged by DougCo GOP Chair Baisley

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)



When it comes to Ryan Call, Ken Clark and Jason Worley are not impressed.

In the past week on Grassroots Radio Colorado (airing weekdays from 5 to 7 p.m. on KLZ 560 AM), show hosts Worley and Clark have been heard to call for current GOP State Party Chairperson Call to own up to his responsibility for the devastating November election losses “like a man”, and step down from his leadership position.

Last Friday on Grassroots, Arapahoe County Tea Party Chair Randy Corporon was filling in as guest host, as he often does.  Worley and Clark were on a “top secret” special assignment.  The guests that day, freshman State Representative Justin Everett (HD-22) and John Ransom from Townhall.com/Finance pleaded with Corporon to throw his hat into the race for the GOP Chairmanship.  Their enthusiastic request was modestly evaded.

And then yesterday, Mark Baisley, Douglas County GOP Chair, appeared on Grassroots to announce his candidacy for the position.

Ryan Call probably isn’t too worried.

He has endorsements from approximately half of the current County GOP Committees that will eventually vote to decide who leads the state party, as well as support from GOP notables such as AG John Suthers, and Rep. Cory Gardner.

Call’s ascendency two years ago came in a firestorm of name calling and finger pointing around previous Chairman Dick Wadhams, who withdrew his candidacy for reelection after the debacle that was The McInnis-Maes-Tancredo Show and Ken Buck’s losing challenge to Democrat Michael Bennet’s senate seat.  

Stating his frustration with trying to herd the un-herdable cats of Colorado’s GOP, Wadhams said in a recent Lynn Bartels blog post for the Denver newspaper’s political blog, The Spot (January 11, 2013) “he was “tired of the nuts who have no grasp of what the state party’s role is.”

In the same column, Bartels quoted Wadhams pointing to fundraising as another piece of the fallout from his decision to withdraw. He said donors were reluctant to give money to a GOP that is “run by an idiot.”  Wadhams said that Call was the donors’ pick for the CO leadership position.

The “idiot” refered to in Wadham’s quote is most likely Senator Ted Harvey, who was challenging Call at the time with support from liberty and grassroots groups in the GOP.  

Could the same divisive scenario be setting up for this spring’s GOP Chair election?  Well, Baisley is no Ted Harvey, although they appear pretty similar on paper.

Worley and Clark were happy to give Baisley a soapbox to announce his candidacy, as they have with other successful GOP candidates.  But they didn’t hold back with their criticism of Call, who they said runs a party that’s not all too inviting to liberty groups’ participation.  Worley points out that he and Call went to high school together, but they still butt heads.

Callers to Grassroots Radio last Friday echoed some of Wadhams’ concerns from 2011, namely the danger of splitting a minority Party whose wounds continue to weep along ideological fractures, and the proven abilities of a candidate to deliver in the Chairmanship’s two biggest responsibilities:  winning elections and fundraising.

Baisley addressed both concerns.

He asserted his longstanding friendship with Ryan Call and said they have always worked well together.  He’s offering to unite the all who believe in limited government with his “model of respect,”  where everyone is invited to share their talents in defeating the Dems – apparently to include  ”nuts” and “idiots.”

As proof of his capabilities, Baisley cited his success in organizing over 3,000 Douglas County volunteers, activitating a localized ground game for getting out the vote, and the notable coup of electing seven conservatives to the Douglas County School Board which eventually tossed the American Federation of Teachers union from the district.

As far as fundraising, Baisley reduced its importance as secondary to the ground game, but noted his successes, just the same.  On the finance committee during Bruce Benson’s tenure ten years ago as leader of the Colorado GOP, he helped raise more than $10 million for the Party.  In Douglas County this election cycle, enough funds were generated to cover all GOTV costs, max out a contribution to Mike Coffman’s congressional campaign, while filling in gaps in other legislative races, he said.

Addressing Ryan Call’s claim of early support from the counties, Worley and Clark enthusiastically point out that new leadership in the counties committees could undermine some of those initial endorsements.

Then  Baisley said he had heard from some county leaders, who said if they’d known Baisley was running for the Chair, they would never have endorsed Call.   They promised Baisley they wouldn’t be seen campaigning actively for Call.

It all sounds very encouraging for Baisley, if you can believe Grassroots Radio.

But can he herd cats?

All Colorado Republicans Vote Against Sandy Relief *

Politico reports on the long-awaited vote yesterday in the GOP-controlled U.S. House, on the second relief bill for states affected by Hurricane Sandy:

The House approved nearly $50.6 billion in long-sought emergency aid to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy on Tuesday night, after Northeast lawmakers successfully added tens of billions to bring the package more in line with the White House’s initial request last month…

“While the House bill is not quite as good as the Senate bill, it is certainly close enough,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). “We will be urging the Senate to speedily pass the House bill and send it to the president’s desk.”

Near-solid Democratic support in the House was pivotal to the whole strategy, together with Christie and his close ally, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), working the phones and mining the Republican ranks for precious votes.

NBC News reports on an unsuccessful attempt by none other than arch-conservative Rep. Cory Gardner to persuade fellow Republicans to fund flood mitigation in other states–including Colorado, where the relief is needed after last year’s devastating wildfires.

Earlier Tuesday Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., defended the bipartisan effort by Colorado members to add to the emergency bill $125 million for watershed protection and flood mitigation, including about $20 million for areas in Colorado burned by last summer’s wildfires.

The watershed protection money was in the Sandy bill that the Senate passed last month. The House Rules Committee rebuffed Gardner’s effort Monday night, but he said he hoped Colorado’s two senators will make efforts to add the money when the Senate debates the emergency bill next week.

“The title of the bill is ‘The Disaster Relief Appropriations Act.’ That’s the name of the bill. It’s not the ‘Sandy Disaster Act.’ It’s not the ‘Sandy Relief Act.’ It’s a disaster relief act. New Yorkers weren’t the only ones who had their homes burned down in a devastating natural disaster. We had over 600 in Colorado alone,” Gardner said.

“If we’re going to have disaster assistance for people in this country who truly need it – because we are all in this together — then we shouldn’t just cherry-pick Northeastern United States versus Southwestern United States,” he added.

Rep. Gardner’s frustration over excluding these funds from the bill that passed the yesterday is echoed by Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, in a statement from his office:

“It is extremely disappointing to see the House of Representatives move forward with a bill that does not include critical resources Colorado needs to recover and protect its water supply – resources that were included in the Senate bill that received bipartisan support,” Bennet said. “While eastern states should have the resources they need to recover from the destruction of Hurricane Sandy, this summer, Coloradans also endured devastating disasters – catastrophic wildfires in the midst of one of the worst droughts in decades.”

“It’s frustrating when you hear people talk about how they’re fiscally responsible while they are creating a set of conditions that are inevitably going to cost more money and much more pain. If we don’t deal with these problems now, we could be facing as much as five times the cost to deal with future flooding and damage,” Bennet added.

Bottom line: the vote approved an amount of aid consistent with what affected states asked for, and what the Senate passed last year before the House’s failure to take up that bill killed it. We haven’t seen statements from other Colorado Republican representatives who voted no on the final package yet to know what their objections were–for Gardner, despite the ideological inconsistency this creates, maybe it really was the failure to include this flood assistance.

Unfortunately, that can’t explain the votes of all but a handful of Republicans against the final bill. Rep. Doug Lamborn’s vote against the first Hurricane Sandy relief bill earlier this month on “fiscal responsibility” grounds is likely to be the explanation for most Republican votes yesterday–he just has more company. Either way, Rep. Gardner’s unsuccessful push for more money as most of his party voted against more disaster relief money, like Rep. Lamborn’s hypocritical vote against the earlier bill after seeking additional FEMA assistance of his own during last year’s fire season, seem to exemplify the GOP’s muddled message coming out of this debate.

It is impossible to reckon from their actions what these men stand for at all.

Ken Salazar To Leave Interior Department

Widely reported overnight, as confirmed by the Washington Post:

Salazar, a former Colorado senator whose family is of Hispanic descent, has served at Interior for President Obama’s entire first term.

His exit means that Obama’s cabinet, which has already come under some fire for lacking diversity in its recent nominees, will lose a little bit more diversity – at least temporarily.

Another Latino cabinet member, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, resigned last week, and two other top women – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Environmental Protection Agency head Lisa Jackson – are both on their way out.

It’s not clear who will be chosen to succeed Salazar. Interior secretaries generally come from west of the Mississippi River. Former Washington governor Chris Gregoire (D), former congressman Norm Dicks (D-Wash), and former North Dakota senator Byron Dorgan (D) have all been mentioned as potential appointees, as have former Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D) and Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes.

We’ve often wondered about other choices Ken Salazar might have made after 2008, and how that might have affected both his own career and Colorado politics had he chosen differently. We’ve heard that Secretary Salazar was often frustrated in his position, and wasn’t able to enact many of the reforms he envisioned when he took the job. That being the case, in hindsight, would Salazar be better off if he had remained a U.S. Senator? And where does four years at Interior leave Salazar in terms of his future political ambitions?

No doubt Sen. Michael Bennet thinks it all worked out just fine, but we’re curious if you agree. And either way, it would come as a great surprise to many politicos in Colorado if we have seen the last of Salazar in public office.

Restarting The “Romanoff Clock?”

UPDATE: FOX 31′s Eli Stokols:

Romanoff tells FOX31 he didn’t intend to start the drumbeat of speculation with a story in a national publication. Burns had called Romanoff, who now moonlights as a political analyst, for a comment on another story about states considering gun control legislation.

Toward the end of the conversation, Burns reportedly asked Romanoff if he was interested in challenging Coffman. According to Burns’ piece on that subject – the gun laws story isn’t posted yet – Romanoff “elaborat[ed] at length on his thinking about the race”.

After being passed over for the U.S. Senate seat he openly coveted when then-Gov. Bill Ritter appointed Michael Bennet to replace Ken Salazar in 2009, Romanoff waited six months before announcing a primary challenge to Bennet that he eventually lost by eight points.

Many political observers believe that Romanoff could have won that race if he’d committed to it earlier, before establishment support coalesced around Bennet. [Pols emphasis]

Stokols mentions Sen. Morgan Carroll and state Rep. Rhonda Fields as potential 2014 CD-6 Democratic candidates. We can confirm there is at least one other as-yet unnamed strong candidate making inquiries about this race. All of which should serve to underscore that Romanoff cannot expect much patience while he contemplates his next move.

There is a deep bench waiting to jump if Romanoff doesn’t run, but few are in a better position to take the plunge. Romanoff doesn’t have family or employment concerns that complicate the decision for other potential candidates.

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Politico reports today:

Former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who helped lead a Democratic resurgence in the state before mounting an unsuccessful 2010 Senate campaign, is considering a run for Congress in 2014.

Romanoff told POLITICO that he may challenge GOP Rep. Mike Coffman in the upcoming midterm elections. Coffman’s district grew more competitive after the last round of redistricting and the Republican won reelection with less than 49 percent of the vote in 2012.

We’ve likewise heard that former House Speaker and 2010 U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff is looking seriously at running for Mike Coffman’s CD-6 seat. Romanoff might face Coffman, or it’s possible–though the chances have recently declined–that Coffman will run for Senate against Mark Udall in 2014, leaving this highly competitive seat open.

The fact is, Romanoff had an open shot at running for this seat last year, and chose not to–passing up what turned out to be a prime opportunity against an unexpectedly weak incumbent, and a race where in hindsight, Romanoff’s experience might have made the difference. There have been numerous instances over the years when we have been critical of Romanoff for remaining indecisive past the point of viability–including his star-crossed 2010 Senate bid.

We’re not going to jump on him the January after the election, but he’d better keep this in mind.

Bennet, Krugman and Deficits: Questions for Sen. Bennet

It was not Senator Michael Bennet’s No vote on the budget deal, but rather his explanation that he did so because the deal did not reduce the deficit, that brought to mind the only opportunity I have had to ask a question directly of Sen. Bennet. It was during the 2010 campaign in a small gathering after a larger campaign event in Colorado Springs. I wanted to ask the same questions of his education policy, but restricted my inquiry to economics: “Who do you read? Who do you listen to?”

I noted there were a number of economists who had been generally correct about the economy over the previous decade-folks like Paul Krugman, Robert Schiller, Dean Baker and Joesph Stiglitz. There were also a number of economists who had been dead wrong. Bennet’s policy positions on his website put him in the group who were wrong. So I asked, “Why are you right and Krugman wrong?”

Bennet insisted that he did read Paul Krugman and that “Krugman isn’t wrong!” But the meeting ended before I could follow up with questions about why his policy positions were then so different from Krugman’s. Bennet’s deficit fixation shows his views are still different-and they are still wrong.

So I just sent off a letter to Sen. Bennet that again asks the questions I asked over two years ago: “Who do you read? Who do you listen to? Why are you right and Krugman wrong?”

(Full letter to Bennet-with more detail-below the jump.)


Dear Senator Bennet:

The January 1, 2013 vote on the budget bill was a tough call. I respect Senator Mark Udall’s Yes vote. On the other hand, I applaud Senator Tom Harkin’s eloquent statement explaining his No vote. I cannot, however, applaud the reason for your No vote–a fixation on the deficit, a vote for austerity and unnecessary continued suffering.

There is no reason you would remember this conversation, but during your 2010 election campaign, I was among a small group of activists who met with you following a larger campaign event in Colorado Springs. I asked the last question, as your staff was trying to move you on to your next appointment. My question concerned your economic policy: “Who do you read?”

I explained that I had reviewed the economic and fiscal policy statements on your website. I noted that there were a number of economists who had been largely correct about the economy over recent years-folks like Paul Krugman, Dean Baker, Robert Shiller, and Joseph Stiglitz. There were also a number of (prominent) economists who had been dead wrong. The policies on your website-especially the emphasis on the deficit-were the opposite of that advocated by the economists who had been right. So my question to you was, “Who do you read? Who do you listen to? Why are you right and Paul Krugman wrong?”

You insisted, “Krugman’s not wrong!” and you claimed you did read Krugman. But then you proceeded to explain that Congressional Democrats needed to do a better job explaining their policies and having a consistent message. I pointed out that Democrats had long been lousy at that; you agreed, and proceeded to talk more of what the message should be. At that point, your staff insisted you needed to move on to the next event and the discussion ended. Unfortunately, I was left without an answer to my questions.

If you indeed read Krugman, Baker, Stiglitz, etc., you know that they have continued to be correct. We are seeing Europe fall back into recession as the consequence of the austerity and deficit reduction they have pursued and against which Krugman warned. Even the IMF is finally acknowledging that fact.

So if Krugman and all are “not wrong,” why are the policies on your website, and the reasoning for your No vote (that the deal did not sufficiently address the deficit), the opposite of what they are advocating? They argue that the focus now must be on employment and stimulus, that deficit reduction now not only creates unnecessary suffering but actually hurts the long term deficit reduction because it slows and could even reverse the recovery, and that when (but only when) the economy recovers is the time for mid- and long-term deficit reduction. If they are right, you are wrong.

My concern is not over whether a Yes or a No vote was best for this specific bill. My concern is that you are misguided about the correct current policy while the recession is still is a very tenuous recovery and the focus needs to be on jobs, employment and economic recovery. So I ask you again, please explain, “Why are you right and Paul Krugman [et.al.] wrong?”

Gardner, Coffman Promise More, Bigger Showdowns With Obama

You know, because they have so much leverage and all. FOX 31′s Eli Stokols reports:

“People think this was a big fight over the fiscal cliff,” Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, told FOX31 Denver Wednesday. “It wasn’t. The big fight is coming up.”

Coffman, like a majority of his House GOP colleagues, voted against the Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 on Tuesday night.

“I don’t think going over the fiscal cliff would have been a huge deal,” he continued. “Temporarily, the markets would have been aggravated until the next Congress could have passed new tax cuts and ironed things out.

“But the real big deal is what’s upon us and going past the debt limit. I have to see a way out of this, real spending cuts, before I vote to raise the debt limit.”

Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, and most House Republicans, are in the same boat, promising not to raise the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling until they can force Obama to agree to deep spending cuts for entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.

It’s easy to see, given the intransigence from Republicans over even the reduced scale two-month deal passed this week, why President Barack Obama wanted to get a much larger “grand bargain” for the purpose of getting past this agonizing and mostly unproductive debate. Now, the country faces another manufactured fiscal crisis in only two month’s time–and although the administration was able to stave off Medicare and Social Security cuts this time, there’s potentially less negotiating leverage now to do that again.

The upshot in this for Democrats, of course, is the continuing and overwhelming public opposition to making cuts to Social Security and Medicare. After all the drama of the last few weeks, it’s going to come as a rude shock to many Americans two months from now when they discover that Republicans are once again trying to cut these popular institutions. As we’ve said repeatedly, the zeal to do so, and the unvarnished way the demands for cuts to Medicare and Social Security are made by today’s GOP, make very little political sense to us.

Likewise, we’re hearing more grumbling from the left about Sen. Michael Bennet’s very splashy vote against the “fiscal cliff” compromise, one of only eight Senators (and three Democrats) to do so. It’s worth noting, as we did, that liberal Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa also voted against the bill, but for objections he very clearly articulated regarding the higher limit on income remaining covered by the Bush tax cuts. Nobody disputes that Harkin voted “no” because he thought this was a bad deal for the middle class. And nobody’s really dwelling on Harkin’s vote.

Not so for Bennet, whose “no” vote has received a great deal of press attention. Part of that is because of his status as incoming head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, but in Bennet’s statement and subsequent interviews, he has given no indication why he opposed the deal other than it “does not put in place a real process to reduce the debt.”

As a number of local press stories have pointed out today, that’s what the GOP says too.

The lack of nuance, or even some lip service to the idea of preserving popular institutions in the context of “reducing the debt,” probably do call for a fuller explanation of where Bennet stands. Knowing what we know about Bennet, we think he can explain this vote in a way that assuages liberal Democrats, and reaffirms the party’s message on the recent battle. In the absence of that, however, Bennet arguably muddies an otherwise clear distinction, and gives the GOP a bit of at least rhetorical comfort. The head of the DSCC can and should make his point better.

House GOP Pulls a Tancredo on Hurricane Sandy Relief

UPDATE #2: Under fire, Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor release a statement promising a quick vote on Hurricane Sandy relief…later:

“Getting critical aid to the victims of Hurricane Sandy should be the first priority in the new Congress, and that was reaffirmed today with members of the New York and New Jersey delegations. The House will vote Friday to direct needed resources to the National Flood Insurance Program. And on January 15th, the first full legislative day of the 113th Congress, the House will consider the remaining supplemental request for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.”

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UPDATE: A blistering joint statement hammering House Republicans from Govs. Andrew Cuomo (D) of New York and Chris Christie (R) of New Jersey:

“With all that New York and New Jersey and our millions of residents and small businesses have suffered and endured, this continued inaction and indifference by the House of Representatives is inexcusable,” the governors said. “It has now been 66 days since Hurricane Sandy hit and 27 days since President Obama put forth a responsible aid proposal that passed with a bipartisan vote in the Senate while the House has failed to even bring it to the floor. This failure to come to the aid of Americans following a severe and devastating natural disaster is unprecedented.”

“The fact that days continue to go by while people suffer, families are out of their homes, and men and women remain jobless and struggling during these harsh winter months is a dereliction of duty. When American citizens are in need we come to their aid. That tradition was abandoned in the House last night.”

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USA TODAY, as we’ll explain:

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio indicated late Tuesday the 112th Congress would end its term without voting on federal emergency aid for victims of Superstorm Sandy.

“The speaker is committed to getting this bill passed this month,” Boehner’s spokesman, Brendan Buck, said in an email…

“I think it’s unprecedented for the United States Congress to walk away from a natural disaster,” [GOP Rep. Peter] King said, adding that he was not given a reason for the postponement. “This to me is just walking away from responsibility.”

King and Republican Rep. Michael Grimm of Staten Island, who represents some of the hardest-hit neighborhoods, joined Democrats at an impromptu news conference to publicly plead for Boehner to reconsider.

Grimm described himself as “somewhat in disbelief and almost ashamed,” adding that he’s “not proud” of the decision his party has made.

Back in 2005, then-Rep. Tom Tancredo became the only member of the Colorado delegation, and one of only 11 representatives in the House to vote against the bill funding assistance for Hurricane Katrina victims. It’s a pattern we observed last year, when House Republicans led by Rep. Eric Cantor demanded cuts to offset emergency funding in the wake of Hurricane Irene. Here at home, we’ve got Rep. Doug Lamborn, who eagerly badmouths President Barack Obama’s “politicized” disaster declarations…until he needs one himself.

Each time this happens, we marvel at the political cluelessness on display–perhaps a popular move with a small percentage of, you know, heartless people, it’s a terrible attitude with which to win over soccer moms. In this case, Speaker John Boehner says he wants the bill to come to a vote, while conservative House members decry its “pork,” thinly concealing what appears to be a temper tantrum over the totally unrelated “fiscal cliff” compromise passed last night.

So ends the 112th Republican Congress.

Short-Term “Fiscal Cliff” Fix Goes To House; Bennet Votes No

UPDATE 9:00PM: House passes Taxpayer Relief Act 257-167. In the Colorado delegation the vote is party line, all Democrats voting in favor, all Republicans voting against.

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UPDATE #2: Just when you thought it was safe to exhale, FOX 31′s Eli Stokols:

After House Republicans caucused Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Eric Cantor, R-VA, the second-ranking member of the caucus, stated he was opposing the bill, the first big sign that the Senate compromise may be in serious trouble.

Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, a close confidant of Cantor’s, also confirmed that he’ll oppose the legislation as it’s currently written.

“But [Gardner] will consider an amendment that meets the test of cutting spending, growing the economy (through responsible tax policy) and not burdening an ever growing deficit,” Rachel George, Gardner’s spokeswoman, told FOX31 Denver in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

The very latest word is that a vote will be held tonight on an unmodified version of the deal passed by the Senate early this morning. It should then pass, with support of Democrats and some number of moderate Republicans in favor. We’ll update when and if that happens.

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UPDATE: Politico’s Seung Min Kim has more from dissenting Sen. Michael Bennet:

“While I do support many of the items in this proposal – for example, extending unemployment insurance, the wind production tax credit and tax cuts for most Americans – I believe they should have come in the context of a comprehensive deficit reduction package,” Bennet said. “Without a serious mechanism to reduce the debt, I cannot support this bill.”

“Putting the country on a sustainable fiscal path and bringing our debt under control is incredibly important to our economy and our standing in the world and is a top priority for me,” Bennet continued. “I remain committed to continue working with any Republican or Democrat willing to address this problem in a serious way. Colorado’s kids deserve no less.”

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Los Angeles Times:

After a rare holiday session that lasted through the New Year’s Eve celebration and two hours into New Year’s Day, senators voted 89-8 to approve the proposal. Three Democrats and five Republicans dissented, most prominently Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

“It took an imperfect solution to prevent our constituents from very real financial pain,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky)  said before the vote. “This shouldn’t be the model for how to do things around here. But I think we can say we’ve done some good for the country.”

President Obama, in a statement released by the White House early Tuesday morning, said, “While neither Democrats nor Republicans got everything they wanted, this agreement is the right thing to do for our country and the House should pass it without delay.”

One of those three dissenting Democrats was Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado:

In addition to Rubio, the dissenters to the deal in the Senate were Democrats Tom Harkin (Iowa), Thomas R. Carper (Del.) and Michael Bennet (Colo.), and Republicans Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Richard Shelby (Ala.).

CNN has a statement from Sen. Bennet:

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, is the incoming chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the group tasked with electing Democrats to the upper chamber. He created his own plan to avert the fiscal cliff in November alongside Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander (who voted for the compromise measure early Tuesday).

He wrote in a statement Tuesday: “Washington once again has lived up to its reputation as the ‘Land of Flickering Lights.’ For four years in my townhall meetings across the state Coloradans have told me they want a plan that materially reduces the deficit. This proposal does not meet that standard and does not put in place a real process to reduce the debt down the road.”

Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa also voted against the deal, calling it “grossly unfair” to the middle class after the ceiling on income remaining eligible for the Bush tax cuts was raised to accomodate Republicans. It’s possible Bennet’s objection is similarly progressive in nature, but we’ll have to see more details than this brief statement to know for sure.

Poltico reports the deal is off to the House, sped by its overwhelming bipartisan passage in the Senate. Despite the Senate vote, a number of conservative House Republicans have already come out against the measure, meaning it will likely pass only with the help of the Democratic minority–which could force Speaker John Boehner to abandon his standing rule that bills should only come to a vote with the support of “the majority of the majority.”

Although Republican leaders have been non-committal about when the bill will come to the floor, and whether it will be amended, there could be implications if a vote slips to Wednesday. Financial markets are closed Tuesday for New Year’s Day, and reopen Wednesday. If the Senate bill isn’t signed into law, that could shake market confidence.

For the time being, Congress has sent the nation over the fiscal cliff. The Senate passed its bill after 2 a.m. on New Year’s Eve, so over the cliff the country went – though perhaps for only a day or two and, assuming no snags, without incurring the double whammy of another recession and higher unemployment.

The $620 billion agreement was a major breakthrough in a partisan standoff that has dragged on for months, spooking Wall Street and threatening to hobble the economic recovery. It turned back the GOP’s two-decade-long refusal to raise tax rates, delivering a major win for President Barack Obama, who has said he would sign this legislation.

We’ll update when the House takes action (or not).

2012′s Top Story: The “Tipping Point,” Well and Truly

Colorado Pols is recapping the top ten stories in Colorado politics from the 2012 election year.

As the New York Times’ poll guru Nate Silver explained just after the elections:

In the simulations we ran each day, we accounted for the range of possible outcomes in each state and then saw which states provided Mr. Obama with his easiest route to 270 electoral votes, the minimum winning number. The state that put Mr. Obama over the top to 270 electoral votes was the tipping-point state in that simulation.

Now that the actual returns are in, we don’t need the simulations or the forecast model. It turned out, in fact, that although the FiveThirtyEight model had a very strong night over all on Tuesday, it was wrong about the identity of the tipping-point state. Based on the polls, it appeared that Ohio was the state most likely to win Mr. Obama his 270th electoral vote. Instead, it was Colorado that provided him with his win – the same state that did so in 2008. [Pols emphasis]

So according to Silver’s initial analysis, Colorado, which the incumbent carried by just under five points, was the tipping-point state that gave President Barack Obama his Electoral College win. But there’s a little more to our state’s pivotal role we’d like our readers to consider.

As was the case going into the 2010 elections, pundits going into 2012 frequently cited Colorado as a state that, although President Obama won handily here in 2008, was very much “back in contention” due to a number of factors: Democratic and independent disillusionment with Obama’s first-term accomplishments, pent-up conservative angst after a rough recent history in this state for Republicans, and a healthy Mormon population to provide a natural base constituency for eventual GOP nominee (and always the institutional favorite) Mitt Romney.

Not only did Romney lose the GOP caucuses in Colorado to the laughably unelectable Rick Santorum, Romney’s entire campaign in Colorado came to symbolize what was wrong both with his campaign and the Republican Party in general today. Every lurch to the right from Romney to win “Tea Party” primary votes was carefully recorded and amplified by Democrats and their allies in Colorado, who never lost sight of Romney as their long-term target through the long GOP primary season. In addition, Romney’s campaign had a bizarrely, pre-emptively hostile relationship with the local press that we were never able to understand.

It’s difficult to enumerate just how many ways the Romney campaign made no sense in its misbegotten approach to winning the state of Colorado. This was especially clear from the earliest visits by the campaign to the state after securing the nomination. Instead of mounting a determined effort in the pivotal suburbs of Denver, Romney’s early campaign visits were to unpopulated places like Ft. Lupton, and remote Craig in the northwest corner of the state. Romney’s message was also hopelessly out of touch: in Craig, Romney’s claims that Obama was hurting the nearby coal industry were refuted by the city’s own mayor, who was happy to report that jobs and coal production were in fact on the rise.

When Romney announced his choice of Rep. Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate, Ryan was quickly dispatched to Colorado in the hope of improving the ticket’s showing in this state. But Ryan quickly backfired on the Romney campaign in Colorado after questions surfaced about the veracity of his claims to have climbed dozens of Colorado fourteeners opened a segue into much broader questions about his truthfulness. Ryan’s strident views on abortion were pounced on by Democrats and pro-choice advocates, driving home the Michael Bennet strategy.” Robust spending on Spanish language advertising not only wooed Spanish-speaking voters, but demonstrated the Obama campaign’s value for the Hispanic community as a whole.

Logistically as well as in the critical field campaign organization to turn out voters, Romney was never able to keep up with the Obama campaign’s massive and highly professionalized operation. Even though crowds overall were smaller this year than in 2008, Obama’s campaign events consistently drew larger and more enthusiastic audiences. The one major exception to this rule, Romney’s overflowing rally at iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre, resulted in thousands upsettedly turned away due to wildly overbooking the venue–and hours of traffic jams as attendees and would-bes clogged nearby roads.

While Obama’s superbly-organized field campaign turned out Colorado voters, including a solid mail-in and early vote operation, Romney’s Colorado field effort on Election Day broke down as part of the nationwide ORCA fiasco, helping Democrats handily overcome a small GOP lead in the final early and mail-in ballot counts. In the end, the Democratic coordinated campaign worked seamlessly and effectively to get out the vote, up and down the ticket. As we saw in 2008 and fully keeping pace today, Democrats possess a level of campaign sophistication that has taken years to develop–and that Republicans are years away from equaling.

Certainly, the many scandals and gaffes that beset Romney on a national level had their effect in Colorado, and it’s also possible that Romney could have hypothetically won (or lost) in a few scenarios that didn’t include the state of Colorado’s nine electoral votes at all. But as it was, recently-blue Colorado was once again pivotal; and the failures on the ground, and in the earned media war unique to Colorado by Romney’s campaign, are a piece of the story of Republican losses in 2012 that both sides will study closely if they know what’s good for them.

Top Ten Stories of 2012 #8: Greg Brophy and the “War on Women”

Between now and New Year’s Eve, Colorado Pols is recapping the top ten stories in Colorado politics from the 2012 election year.

Two years ago, one of the closest U.S. Senate races in the country was decided, in some of the clearest terms we’ve ever seen, by women voters in Colorado. The record on women’s issues of Weld County DA Ken Buck, who narrowly defeated former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton in a bitter GOP primary, was the single most significant factor in Buck’s loss to appointed incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet in a year that otherwise trended heavily Republican. Bennet’s 17-point victory with women voters, overcoming many other demographics where Buck prevailed, has subsequently become a model for defeating Republicans in other competitive states.

As 2012 revealed once again, Ken Buck’s problems from 2010 are systemic and unresolved within the Republican Party. In the national and local political spotlight this year was a Republican Party intent on branding itself as overtly hostile to women, on a range of issues that most women no longer consider debatable.

A good example was provided, at the national and local level, by the response to testimony in Washington by a law student at Georgetown University, Sandra Fluke. After Fluke’s testimony in favor of contraceptive insurance coverage, nationally-syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh called Fluke a “slut,” resulting in nationwide outrage. Colorado Sen. Greg Brophy jumped to Limbaugh’s defense as the controversy raged and Limbaugh issued a rare apology, saying he too doesn’t “want to buy your booze, pay for your spring break or your birth control.”

After Democrats and their allies put Brophy’s name up in lights, his colleagues in the Senate Republican minority held a jaw-droppingly absurd rally on the west steps of the state capitol, where they defended Brophy, and compared contraceptive insurance coverage to the Nazis, “mind control,” and (our favorite) King Henry VIII. Needless to say, this helped provide local Democrats with bountiful evidence to support their claim, without any hyperbole, that Republicans were waging a “war on women.”

By the time the presidential campaign was in full swing this summer, Colorado Democrats and allies were hard at work planting the “war on women” meme on the GOP presidential ticket. To some extent with Mitt Romney but especially targeting Romney’s running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, hard-line positions on abortion and contraception played a major role in alienating women voters from the Republican presidential ticket–just as was done to Ken Buck in 2010.

From Buck in 2010 to Ryan, Todd Akin, and Richard Mourdock in 2012, recent history is full of examples of conservative candidates brought to ruin by their unpalatable views on women’s issues. After this election, there was a brief attempt here in Colorado to downplay the significance of women voters–based on faulty information and, in our view, wishful thinking.

If Republicans in Colorado and elsewhere do not learn this lesson, and meaningfully change course, we see many more Ken Bucks in their future.

Local Unions, Progressives Step Up Pressure on Both Parties

The above Christmas-themed political ad (savor the whole idea of that for a moment), going after Rep. Mike Coffman on the “fiscal cliff” negotiations, is brought to you by the combined forces of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the National Education Association (NEA). From their release this week:

“Boehnerville” is a six figure television buy asking Americans to call their member of Congress and urge them to reject any proposal by Speaker Boehner that calls for devastating cuts to vital services like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and education.

“Speaker Boehner continues to demand huge sacrifices from the middle class by blocking their tax cut and demanding cuts to vital services like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security,” said Chuck Loveless, AFSCME Federal Government Affairs Director. “Much like the fictional, Mr. Potter, Speaker Boehner wants to hold hard working men and women hostage, cut their benefits and give more tax breaks to his wealthy contributors. Speaker Boehner needs to get his priorities straight by protecting the middle class and maintaining vital services that so many middle class Americans depend upon.”

Meanwhile, CBS4′s Shaun Boyd reports on “Fiscal Cliff Carolers” who visited the offices of both Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall yesterday:



Hickenlooper: Let’s Talk (Modest) Gun Control Reforms Next Year

UPDATE #4: From President Barack Obama’s emotional statement today:


The majority of those who died today were children — beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old.  They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.  Among the fallen were also teachers — men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams.

So our hearts are broken today — for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children, and for the families of the adults who were lost.  Our hearts are broken for the parents of the survivors as well, for as blessed as they are to have their children home tonight, they know that their children’s innocence has been torn away from them too early, and there are no words that will ease their pain.

As a country, we have been through this too many times.  Whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago — these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children.  And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.

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UPDATE #3: The first Colorado Republican to opine on the “is it too soon to talk about gun control?” question, quite predictably, is Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman.



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UPDATE #2: A statement now available on the Connecticut shootings from Gov. Hickenlooper:

“The shooting in Connecticut is absolutely horrific and heartbreaking. We know too well what impact this kind of violence has on a community and our nation. Our thoughts and prayers are immediately with the families of those killed. We can offer comfort, but we all know the pain will stay forever.”

And from Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado:

“This tragic and senseless shooting is deeply troubling and saddening. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of the victims and their families affected by this terrible tragedy. We in Colorado experienced a similar tragedy earlier this year. Just as we came together then to grieve and support one another, Colorado and our nation will again pull together to support our friends in Connecticut.”

Also Sen. Michael Bennet, a Wesleyan graduate:

“The terrible news out of Connecticut is staggering. Like all Colorado families, my family is grieving and our hearts are with the victims, their families, and all of the students and employees at the school. This is a parent’s worst nightmare. As Coloradans, we know how this type of tragedy can shake a community to its core. We are here for Connecticut as they work together to heal in the days ahead.”

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UPDATE: Tragically apropos, CNN is reporting on yet another horrific mass shooting today, this time at a Connecticut elementary school.

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As reported by the AP via Politico yesterday:

In an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, Hickenlooper said that the legislative session in January would be an appropriate time to take up a debate on gun control in his state.

“I wanted to have at least a couple of months off after the shooting in Aurora to let people process and grieve and get a little space, but it is, I think, now is the time is right,” Hickenlooper said.

The comments also come after a mass shooting at an Oregon mall and a murder-suicide involving a professional football player this month touched off a national debate over gun laws…

“When you look at what happened in Aurora, a great deal of that damage was from the large magazine on the AR-15 (rifle). I think we need to have that discussion and say, ‘Where is this appropriate?’”

In the immediate aftermath of the shootings at an Aurora movie theater last summer, Gov. John Hickenlooper expressed skepticism about whether regulations on firearms might have stopped the killer from obtaining his arsenal of weapons, saying on CNN just as one example:

“This person, if there were no assault weapons available, if there were no this or no that, this guy’s going to find something. Right? He’s going to know how to create a bomb,” [Hickenlooper] said.

In Colorado, the slightest move to regulate guns is sure to be met with a furious reaction from our local and very vocal pro-gun lobby. Hickenlooper’s comments last summer were seized upon by pro-gun conservatives as evidence that not even an horrific act of violence could shake the public’s support for easy access to guns, and helped feed a narrative in the press that nothing was going to change after Aurora. Polling on the issue tends to rely on how the question is phrased, with some polls showing persistent support (for years now) for reforms such as universal background checks, but conservative pollsters like Rasmussen showing the opposite.

It’s into this delicate environment that Gov. Hickenlooper has just bravely stepped, and Democrats should give him some credit for doing so. Hickenlooper’s moderate image, often upsetting to the liberal Democratic base, could lend key legitimacy to a push for modest reforms like universal background checks for firearm sales, or limits on outsize ammunition magazines as he mentioned above. Hickenlooper’s apparent willingness to invest his hoarded political capital on this issue could honestly do a lot to relegate the “U.N. gun grab” and other unserious opposition from the gun lobby–and Republican legislators who regurgitate them–to the fringe.