Senators Bennet and Udall: Make Farm Bill History

"Why use up the forests which were centuries in the making and the mines which required ages to lay down, if we can get the equivalent of forest and mineral products in the annual growth of the hemp fields?"

~Henry Ford

 

The United States Senate will have the opportunity to make history this week while debating the 2013 Farm Bill: a full debate on the re-legalization of industrial hemp via an expected floor amendment.  The crop of our forefathers.  A crop deemed so critical to our nation's future that farmers in Colonial America were under a mandate to grow the crop.  The crop that made possible Ben Franklin's Colonial Free Press.  The crop that clothed our early military; protected our pioneering ancestors as they crossed our vast prairies -  and counted 16 million acres of production in the 1862 Census. The crop USDA deemed so critical to national defense the federal prohibition was lifted during WWII.

It was a tragic confluence of events that lead to the demise of hemp.  Prohibition was in its waning days, and the federal bureaucracy built around alcohol seizure no longer had a mission – a focus on narcotics would be the lifeline for the bureaucracy.  Our nation was on the cusp of launching an economy mobilized by Rockefeller's new-found 'black gold'; the synthetic clothing market and the advent of the agricultural chemical industry was in its infancy at DuPont.   And media titan Randolph Hearst,  the owner of significant forestry assets, had launched an all-out media war on Hispanic immigrants and marijuana.

Thus was borne the "Marihuana Tax  Act of 1937";  legislation devised by Henry Anslinger and his uncle, Andrew Mellon of Mellon Banks to tax the production of industrial hemp.  And with the new tax, the production of hemp became an uneconomical alternative to the newly developed energy, synthetic clothing and chemical industry derived from fossil resources controlled by titans DuPont and Rockefeller.  Mellon was the banker of both DuPont and Rockefeller.  It's not terribly hard to do the math.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

And with the enacting of the Marihuana Act came the demise of Henry Ford's "Iron Mountain" project where he had developed a sedan made of industrial hemp composites that was powered by ethanol fermented from hemp.  He had also developed an entire line of hemp-based  lubricants and industrial products.  

Forward to 1970 and the birth of our nations failed 'War on Drugs'.  Marijuana is defined as a Schedule 1 narcotic, on par with cocaine and heroine by the DEA, despite the fact the Congressional intent stated emphatically: 

 

    "nothing in this Act is meant to prohibit the production of hemp for industrial purposes"

 

In 2012 Colorado voters passed a constitutional amendment, Amendment 64, which in addition to legalizing adult use of marijuana also legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp by Colorado farmers.  Touting wide bi-partisan support, the amendment garnered more votes than our President.  The Colorado legislature acted swiftly and by Sine Die 2013 had put in place a regulatory framework for hemp.  The legislation passed third reading in both chambers with a unanimous vote.

Thus, an industry was borne.  Now the conflict between Federal and State law must be resolved.  And from this growing conflict between state and federal law (18 states took various legislative action on industrial hemp this year) was borne the "2013 Industrial Hemp Farming Act", known in Congress as S. 359 and H.R. 525.  Both Chambers tout broad, bi-partisan support.  But this legislative journey remains unclear.  The Judiciary Committees were given jurisdiction in their respective chambers.  In both cases, no hearings have been scheduled.  It's even more unclear whether the bills will be heard at all this year, given they are in the queue behind Immigration Reform.

Is there a better, more efficient way to move this legislation on an issue that broad support from across the political spectrum?  Yes – a floor amendment during the full Farm Bill debate in the Senate this week.  And we need the pro-active leadership of our two Senators.

Industrial Hemp has the potential to add a new, vibrant  addition to our agricultural 'horn of plenty' in Colorado.  The crop requires few chemical inputs; its water requirements are minimal when compared to many traditional crops across the eastern plains and western slope.  Its ability to remediate soils has at the potential to heal salt-laden agricultural soils and mitigate heavy metal contamination from old mines and superfund sites.  The United States is the largest consumer market of hemp products in the world – a $400 million annual market demand met exclusively from imports.  American farmers remain the only agriculturalists in the industrialized world to be prohibited from its cultivation.  

And while giving Colorado farmers a crop alternative to help them meet their ever-growing water resource challenges, the crop also gives us significant environmental benefits:  its ability to extract enormous amounts of atmospheric carbon from the atmosphere.  Hemp extracts four times the CO2 annually per acre than does a standing forest.  Annual dry biomass yields per acre range from 2-3x the amount of biomass produced by either a corn or switchgrass crop;  ethanol-from-hemp reduces the greenhouse-gas-emissions by 86% when compared to transportation fuels from petroleum.

It is expected that Senator Mitch McConnell will introduce a floor amendment to the 2013 Farm Bill on Tuesday that would remove hemp as a Schedule I narcotic, legalizing its cultivation under federal law, and moving jurisdiction of the crop from DEA to USDA.

Despite recent demands on House members from the Heritage Foundation to not move on any legislation, (which also includes the Farm Bill) the action will be in the Senate on Tuesday.  A unique opportunity for our Senators to lead the fight for the passage of this amendment – and stand with the 55% of their fellow Coloradans who so wisely legalized the crop six months ago.  

Senators Bennet and Udall, please take a proactive role on this potentially historic event.  Farmers, conservationists, the environment, our natural resources and the state economy will be the benefactors of your leadership.  

 

 

Delving in to the immigration reform package

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

In the midst of the craziness of the news of the last week, it’s little wonder that the largest reform to our nation’s immigration policies ended up taking a back burner in news coverage.  Lost in the shuffle were a few items worth of our consideration here in Colorado.

The bi-partisan bill from the Senate’s Gang of Eight includes both a fund for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and an increase of the H-1B visa cap. An increase in the cap was needed to help companies fill the thousands of vacancies in high-skilled jobs. The bill proposes increasing the cap from 65,000 per year to 110,000, and allowing the number of H-1B visas available to continue to expand up to a maximum of 180,000 to better track with demand. Given that all the H-1B visas were snatched up within the first few days of them becoming available this year, it is clear that this expansion is necessary.

It is also encouraging to see a national fund to provide a significant stream of money to all states, which would expand opportunities for more students to pursue STEM fields. The STEM education fund would be paid for with an increase in fees on green cards and wouldn’t present a new cost to the American taxpayer.  Our country faces an immediate and long-term crisis with the shortage of qualified workers in STEM fields as the number of available science, technology, engineering, and mathematics jobs far outpaces our ability to fill them.

While the increase in H-1B visas helps patch this significant current problem, providing a fund to encourage and retain students in STEM fields is needed to support the jobs of the future. As evidence: Over the last few years, Colorado employers requested on average 2,735 H-1B visas per year for foreign, temporary workers, 74% of which were requested to fill STEM jobs.

If anything, the designated STEM fund in the reform package should be even stronger. The U.S. ranked 41st out of 42 nations in innovation based capacity, according to the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation and 35 states are spending less on education than they were five years ago.

If we’re going to improve, there is also important work to be done in erasing disparities in STEM fields. African Americans and Latinos are 28 percent of the U.S. population, but only seven percent of the STEM workforce. Additionally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women will fill just 29 percent of the 1.4 million computing jobs expected to open through 2018.

Strengthening the nation’s STEM education pipeline as a part of immigration reform will also strengthen America’s economy and its ability to be an innovation leader well into the future.

Bennet Raising Big Money for DSCC

It came as little surprise when Sen. Michael Bennet confirmed in December that he would take over as Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) for the 2014 election cycle. Bennet had withstood entreaties to run the DSCC for the 2012 cycle, which he could reasonably avoid after having just finished a brutal 2010 election of his own, but this is one of those "requests" that you really can't continue to refuse if you want the Majority leadership to actually consider your interests for key Senate committee assignments.

If you're wondering why Senate Democrats wanted Bennet to Chair the DSCC, it comes down to one word: fundraising. Bennet is pretty damn good at raising money, and as the Denver Post explains, the DSCC just set a new fundraising record for the first quarter of the year:

The fundraising arm for the Senate Democrats, headed by Sen. Michael Bennet, has raised more money in the first quarter of 2013 than at any other time in the committee's history, according to documents obtained by The Denver Post.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee — which exists primarily to keep and gain Democratic seats in the U.S. Senate — raised $5.3 million in March and has brought in $13.6 million in 2013 alone, according to documents the committee will file with the Federal Elections Commission on Monday…

While it's still early in the 2014 election cycle, Senate Democrats are far out-raising the similar fundraising arm of the Senate Republicans. In the first quarter, Republicans raised $6.8 million, compared with the $13.6 million brought in by the Dems.The Republicans reported raising $3.2 million in March.

Senate Democrats have their work cut out for them when it comes to keeping the majority in 2014, and Bennet will play a significant role in the outcome. We have no doubt that being Chair of the DSCC is a pain-in-the-ass, but a successful 2014 would ensure Bennet a position near the top of the Senate Democratic ladder and would certainly give him a nice head-start into his own re-election efforts in 2016.

Udall, Bennet Back Colorado Dems As Federal Gun Control Dies

Joe Hanel and Stefanie Dazio of the Durango Herald report:

Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall voted Wednesday in favor of a failed amendment that would have strengthened federal gun controls.

Both Colorado Democrats supported a bipartisan amendment that would have expanded background checks to gun shows and the Internet.

That amendment, one of seven that failed in the Senate on Wednesday night, was rejected 54-46. None of the seven amendments received the required 60 votes to pass.

“It’s a sad day for our nation when a minority of the U.S. Senate has blocked commonsense legislation that is supported by 90 percent of Americans,” Udall said in a statement. [Pols emphasis]

FOX 31's Eli Stokols:

Obama blamed the gun lobby that “willfully lied” about the amendment and members of his own party who “caved to the pressure” and voted against the amendment.

Five Democrats voted against the measure, most of them representing more conservative states and facing uncertain reelection prospects next year (Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, voted no for procedural reasons only so that he can re-introduce the amendment should it magically garner additional support).

Four Republicans voted in favor of the proposal, which would have closed the so-called “gun show loophole”, something Colorado did a decade ago, and require background checks for all online gun sales.

In addition to their vote to expand background checks on firearm sales, Colorado Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet also voted for the amendment to limit magazine capacity. These votes resolve what was a significant concern among local Democrats, the possibility that one or both U.S. Senators would essentially vote against the similar legislation passed in the Colorado General Assembly this year. It's politically very good for Colorado Democrats that everybody got through this debate more or less on the same page at all levels.

Sens. Udall and Bennet did vote against the amendment from Sen. Diane Feinstein to ban some 180+ specific models of so-called "assault weapons." There is some consternation about that among supporters, but in Colorado this year, no attempt was made to ban any specific model of firearm–and the closest to a bill regulating assault weapons was a liability measure that was pulled by its sponsor. In the near term, especially after yesterday's result, any kind of federal assault weapons ban campaign is likely to be at best a flanking effort in a campaign to get background check expansions passed. Of all the amendments debated yesterday, federal background check expansion is by far the most popular, and we do expect to see it again very soon.

Opposition to background check expansion at the federal level relied on many of the same absurd arguments we heard at the state level: that the bill would lead to a "gun registry," that it "bans private gun sales," and our favorite idiotic tautology, "criminals don't obey laws." Despite the polls that show support for closing background check loopholes of all descriptions at near-unanimous highs, 80% or more reliably, the gun lobby's legendary influence in Washington killed this legislation with many of the same tired falsehoods we've already refuted in Colorado.

Those who opposed the proposal argued that it would lead to a federal registry of all firearms, something Democrats and even Republican Sen. John McCain, who voted yes on the amendment, dismissed as a scare tactic.

It's another sad story of Washington gridlock, but Colorado Democrats can at least be a little proud.

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.

—–

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.