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.

Specifics needed in news coverage of immigration debate

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)



I blogged a few weeks ago about the need for media types to smoke out the views of state politicians on federal immigration reform.

So it was good to see extensive local coverage of a bipartisan initiative by Sen. Michael Bennet laying out the broadest of principles for immigration reform, like the humanitarian notion that U.S. immigration policy should “prioritize” keeping families together. That is, “where possible.”

The “where possible” caveat symbolizes the document, called the “Colorado Compact.” If the call to “prioritize” wasn’t sufficiently vague, it had to be clouded further with the phrase “where possible.” And there’s no comment on whether immigrant families should be kept together in the U.S. or deported juntos.

Top to bottom, the document is void of details, like how big a fence might be built, if a path to citizenship is essential, and if immigrant kids can get Pell grants, much less the same college-tuition rates offered to American-born kids.

The document calls for a “path forward for immigrants,” but not much in the rubber-hits-the-road category.

That’s fine for a broad bipartisan community effort, like the Colorado Compact.

But journalists should be focused on specifics.

That’s what pissed me off about most of the news coverage of the Compact. (See a compilation of news coverage on the Colorado Compact’s website here.) It was gushing, mostly without any skeptical edge that you want from reporters.

The coverage barely hinted at stumbling blocks down the line, like Obama’s and other Democrats’ insistence on a path to citizenship and GOP opposition to this (e.g., Coffman, Gardner, Lamborn, Tipton). What about the Dream Act? What about the folks like Tom Tancredo who are saying it’s just wrong, period, to reward a person who’s entered the U.S. illegally with any form of legal status?

What about the folks like Helen Krieble, whose proposal for immigration reform has been floated by some Colorado Republicans like Rep. Ray Scott.  Krieble reiterated her immigration proposal on Sunday to approving KNUS talk-radio host Krista Kafer, who’s a former aid to failed GOP Senate candidate Bob Schaffer:

Krieble: So, our recommendation [is to] have these employment agencies outside our borders.  So, [illegal immigrants] don’t have to go home to their home countries.  But they must go, by appointment, outside the borders, run through the security check, prove they have a job, or take a job, so they’re self-supporting, and return to the United States according to the rule of law.  Which, could all be done in 48 hours.  Because remember, you don’t have bureaucrats who have no incentives to do a hundred people a day versus two people a day.  But a private business has every incentive in the world to do it and do it well and quickly.  So, that would be our recommendation.

Krieble’s proposed policy solution is full of unanswered questions regarding its implementation and implications.  But Kafer doesn’t venture to open those cans of worms.

We love reporters becasue they deal in the world of specificities, like data, numbers, concrete ideas, etc., and the ramifications of those specific things.

That’s what we want in news coverage of the immigration debate, even if politicians and policy makers don’t want to go there.

Constituents to Converged on Sen. Bennet and Sen. Udall’s Denver offices on Monday

Over 150 constituents descended on Sen. Michael Bennet and Sen. Mark Udall’s offices on Monday, December 10, 2012 to deliver a clear message that “No deal is a bad deal” on “fiscal cliff” negotiations.  From 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. arriving in 20 minute cycles, 24 delegation groups urged the Senators to put the middle class over millionaires.

The press availability event took place at noon to talk to constituents who pressed the Senators to heed the will of Colorado voters and extend tax cuts for middle class families, end tax breaks for the richest two percent and protect vital services Coloradans depend on like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and education.

From 12:00-12:30 several constituents spoke on the importance of the current negotiations in Washington D.C. The speakers included Katie Facchinello from Tynnyson Center for Children, David Bouchey, a former biotech executive working two part-time jobs, and Lori Goldstein, a teacher from Adams 12 Schools.  



‘Visions of Oil Shale Drums Danced in Their Heads’

This past weekend the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel ran opposing op-eds on the prospects of oil shale development in Colorado, and specifically on the Obama administration’s pending finalization of an oil shale leasing plan.  

The Obama plan is a solid improvement over an earlier plan put forth by the Bush administration.  It would help ensure that oil shale development–should it ever prove viable–happens more sensibly.  With finalization, future decisions about developing oil shale will have to recognize resources like our scarce water and the public lands of the Piceance Basin are too valuable and important to just hand over to industry without knowledge of what exactly we would be getting into.  Industry will have to be able to show what the impacts to those resources are likely to be before they are given permissions and permits to do so.  

The Sentinel columns are behind a paywall but are notable not only for the substance but for the authors. On one hand Colorado Department of Natural Resource Director Mike King–himself a western Colorado native.  On the other Brad McCloud the director of the suspiciously-named ‘Environmentally Conscious Consumers for Oil Shale’ also known as EIS Solutions, an industry-funded astrourfing PR shop.  

Of course significant questions still remain about potential impacts that might result from a commercial oil shale industry in Western Colorado. And King’s basic point is there is no reason to rush ahead, given both technologies and impacts remain unknown.  

This is because after a century of effort and billions in taxpayer subsidies to help “unlock” the secret of the ‘rock that burns’ and turn it into a commercial fuel source: zilch.  

Oh sure, there is talk as there has always been, and then another glitch, another setback, another delay. But with the Obama administration poised to finalize new leasing parameters and regulations for oil shale, the rhetoric has of late heated up. This is where the EIS Solutions op-ed comes in.  Mr. McCloud argues that the U.S. taxpayer is not making enough of the public’s resources available to industry, and not enough is the same as nothing in industry’s overblown rhetoric.    

Despite its history of disappointment and despair, the yet imaginary oil shale industry has an eager–if not unpredictable–chorus of boosters, including a handful of elected officials like Garfield Country commissioners John Martin and Tom Jankovsky. Having had to retract its illegal resolution from the secret meeting with oil shale lobbyists in Utah, the GarCo commission nonetheless recently decided to throw more taxpayer money after bad and file a protest on the Obama administration’s pending oil shale plan.

 

Reading Mr. McCloud’s op-ed, perusing industry and other reactionary blogs, or seeing the Chicken Little quotes from the likes of Commissioner Jankovsky, one might think that President Obama has actively thwarted, stopped, and shut down oil shale development, ‘closing off’ millions of acres and shutting down production of untold gushers of ‘crude’.

In reality, the Obama administration just approved new oil shale Research, Development and Demonstration leases, and is set to make over half a million acres of additional public lands available for further RD&D leasing.

To many observers, the whine of industry and their choir is the song of the self-entitled, for more: another hand out, more public land, more public dollars. The pending plan would dial back the Cheney Task Force inspired ‘open it all up now’ approach and require that companies first prove up their technologies and show they can properly mitigate impacts on a more limited basis before moving toward commercial leasing. This more measured approach has won the support of Colorado Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet in addition to the State of Colorado.  

Among other reasons, and why notable local governments support the Obama plan including Rifle and Grand Junction, is the memory of the last time federal subsidies for research were handed out and and public lands thrown open to the sugar plum dreams of oil shale.  That ended badly for Colorado in May 1982 .

 

So far industry, on the hundreds of thousands of acres it already controls or has under lease has failed to demonstrate what commercial oil shale technology might look like, and what it might impact.  

But to the oil shale chorus who seem to accept at face value whatever sweet things industry whispers in their ear: all the industry needs to succeed is more taxpayer beneficence and public resources. And so we get to Texas congressman Ralph Hall who is proposing $50 million in additional taxpayer subsidies for oil shale.

Rep. Hall, the Garfield County Commissioners and all the industry choir sing of the great manna about to be cooked from the earth if only more public treasure is handed over to industry.  This is the absolute wrong approach according to many, as summed up in this radio clip with former Grand Junction mayor Jim Spehar here. Spehar, like many others, prefers the Obama administration’s approach.    

And so the boosters evoke grand visions of great and wondrous things, to distract as they can from real and persistent questions and lingering doubts about our precious water supplies, impacts to wildlife, our economic future.

And even as the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation supposedly considers siphoning water from Kansas to Colorado to replenish the dwindling river with that namesake, a small water company in Rio Blanco County (doc) has filed for a massive water development on its rights–enough for a large city–in part to quench the industrial needs of a future oil shale industry.  

“But do not fear,” the choir hums, “Gold will drip like oil from the skies, if only industry can have its way.”

The potential for both quantity and quality impacts to our vital water resources and to the public lands has many in Colorado concerned–another reason the State is siding with the measured approach of the Obama administration.

And while the industry and its choir try hard to divert attention from these recurrent concerns, serious doubts persist.    

Taxpayer groups are skeptical of another boondoggle, to see more public dollars go to boosting up oil shale.  Sportsmen, elected officials, state and local governments, are among those concerned about the impact to resources.

But the oil shale choir remains, chanting to hand over more public wealth to a mythical oil shale industry lured with promises of future goodies to come.  

Bennet to Head DSCC in 2014 Cycle

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee just announced via press release that Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet will assume the responsibility of overseeing the protection of a Democratic majority in 2014. From the release:


Senator Bennet takes the helm following an extraordinarily successful cycle for the DSCC, in which Democrats gained two seats and not a single Democratic incumbent lost reelection. The conventional wisdom was that Democrats were doomed to lose the majority. But under the leadership of Senator Patty Murray and Guy Cecil, the DSCC pushed incumbents to make re-election decisions and begin building their campaigns early in the cycle, recruited stellar candidates in Republican-held and Democratic open seats, and outraised the NRSC.

This announcement comes as little surprise after Bennet’s name was mentioned as a potential DSCC Chair a few weeks ago. Bennet turned down requests to take the helm in the 2012 cycle, and it’s not really an offer you can refuse twice.

Full release after the jump.


SENATOR MICHAEL BENNET TO SERVE AS CHAIR OF THE DSCC; GUY CECIL TO REMAIN AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Majority Leader Harry Reid announced today that Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado will serve as Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for the 2014 cycle. Guy Cecil will continue as Executive Director of the DSCC. Cecil served as Chief of Staff to Bennet during his win in 2010.

“Michael is one of the brightest rising stars in the Democratic Party, and he is exactly the right person to lead our efforts over the next two years,” said Majority Leader Reid. “Not only does Michael know how to win tough races, he has the trust and loyalty of the entire Democratic caucus behind him.”

“I couldn’t be happier that Guy has agreed to continue at the DSCC,” Reid continued.  ”He has been an outstanding leader in our Party and provided strong strategic leadership in 2012.  He has my full confidence.”

“This will not be an easy job, but I feel strongly that families and small businesses in my state have a lot riding on our success,” Senator Bennet said. “Coloradans, like all Americans, need a US Senate that fights for them – not the special interests. The DSCC has helped stop the rise of the Tea Party and given ordinary families more voices in Washington. I look forward to working once again with my friend Guy Cecil and I know the caucus is enormously grateful for his continued service.”

“I know we face a difficult map and the history of midterm elections, but the stakes have never been higher,” said Cecil. “Elections have real consequences, and this cycle gives us an opportunity to shift the course of our country by electing leaders who will stand up to the far right and push for progress. I’m humbled by the success we’ve had and I’m thankful that Leader Reid and Senator Bennet have placed their confidence in me.”

Senator Bennet takes the helm following an extraordinarily successful cycle for the DSCC, in which Democrats gained two seats and not a single Democratic incumbent lost reelection. The conventional wisdom was that Democrats were doomed to lose the majority. But under the leadership of Senator Patty Murray and Guy Cecil, the DSCC pushed incumbents to make re-election decisions and begin building their campaigns early in the cycle, recruited stellar candidates in Republican-held and Democratic open seats, and outraised the NRSC.

Meanwhile, Jane Norton Seeks 2010 Campaign Debt Lifeline

The Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby updates on 2010′s U.S. Senate primary loser, former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton. Here’s a reason, maybe just one but a good one, the more recent lists of likely GOP candidates to challenge Mark Udall in 2014 haven’t included her name:

Norton, a Grand Junction native who lost the 2010 Republican Party nomination to Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, owes as many as 18 creditors nearly $476,000.

But while she’s tried to raise additional funds to cover that debt over the past two years, she’s only managed to pull in a few thousand dollars [Pols emphasis] to help pay off her mostly out-of-state creditors, her husband, Mike Norton, said.

As a result, her campaign, Jane Norton for Colorado Inc., filed a debt settlement plan with the Federal Election Commission offering to pay about 4.6 cents on the dollar…

Norton said his wife blames people who ran the campaign, but declined to point fingers at anyone specifically.

“Jane entrusted a group of people with the responsibility to manage and run the campaign, and do with the resources that were made available,” Mike Norton said. “That just didn’t happen.”

He stopped short, however, of naming specific people, including former Grand Junction state senator Josh Penry, who ran the campaign for more than three months before the August 2010 GOP primary, when she earned 48 percent of the vote.

Back in May of 2011, Norton was praised by New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte as a “terrific” potential candidate in 2014, and Norton’s brother-in-law, powerful D.C. lobbyist Charlie Black held a fund raiser for both Ayotte and to retire Norton’s primary debt.

Apparently that fundraiser didn’t go so well? Not what we would expect from Charlie Black.

Needless to say, this puts Norton at a significant disadvantage to starting fresh in 2014, particularly if the settlement plan is not approved. Even if it is, while there is no doubt a deep pool of consultants and vendors to replace any with whom bridges that have been burned, we would expect them all to ask for payment in advance from Norton wherever possible.

Bottom line: the stars aren’t aligned for Norton in 2014 like they (almost) were in 2010, and her lingering campaign debt problems are just another symptom of her unresolved weaknesses. The expected difficulty of this race for any Republican candidate is probably deterrent enough, and the embarrassment of stories like this one surely won’t help. It’s well known that Norton came out of the 2010 Senate primary bitterly disappointed, and she probably does believe she would have beat freshly-appointed Michael Bennet. But that moment is gone forever.

Colorado Senate Seat “Likely Democratic”

Roll Call has an early rundown of where the 2014 Senate races are ranked in order of competitiveness. Colorado is listed as “Likely Democratic” among the 33 Senate races, which puts Sen. Mark Udall’s seat well outside the top tier:

The early read from both sides is that Udall is in a strong position for re-election. Even Republicans concede that he has deftly positioned himself as a moderate on fiscal and social issues.

But the DNA of Colorado is a swing state, and midterm races are typically difficult for the president’s party, especially during a second term. Republicans fell just short of ousting Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in 2010. Therefore, the GOP is optimistic and several names have already surfaced. The Republican who strikes the most fear in the hearts of Colorado Democrats is Rep. Cory Gardner.

Other possible challengers include 2008 Senate candidate Bob Schaffer, former Rep. Bob Beauprez and state Attorney General John Suthers.

Nothing new there (at least not to readers of Colorado Pols). Republican Rep. Cory Gardner is mentioned as the “scariest” potential GOP candidate, and also picked up a mention in a similar story on The National Journal (subscription required).

Is Gardner really “The Republican who strikes the most fear in the hearts of Colorado Democrats?” On the whole, of course not. But this is all relative to other potential GOP candidates, and with that background Gardner is definitely the one that would be most worrisome for Udall.

Gardner’s relative strength is key in this discussion, because Udall would still be a heavy favorite for re-election if Gardner was the GOP candidate. And that is exactly why Gardner won’t run for Senate in 2014. He’s doing the smart thing by letting his name float out there for 2014, because any discussion of Gardner as a Senate candidate only enhances his name ID and perceived strength among Republicans.

Gardner won’t run against Udall because it is too big of a political risk. He can hold his current House seat for as long as he wants, so there’s no rush to move up. If he did decide to run against Udall and lost, Gardner would be out of elected office without having had time to grow his political network (a Republican would likely replace Gardner in CD-4, which would preclude him from trying to retake his old seat in 2016).

Gardner is in a great position to be mentioned as a top Senate challenger, which is only happening because the GOP has no bench in Colorado. He won’t run, but for now there’s no benefit to officially removing his name from the rumor mill.

Suthers and Senate: Conflicting Rumors

Republican Attorney General John Suthers is apparently giving (semi) serious thought to running for U.S. Senate against incumbent Democrat Mark Udall.

We really don’t believe that Suthers will end up as a candidate for Senate, but it makes sense that he would have early discussions about the possibility. In 2010 Suthers was heavily recruited by Texas Sen. John Cornyn (Cornyn was the head of the NRSC in 2010 and 2012) to run against Democrat Michael Bennet. Suthers declined and instead ran for re-election as Attorney General. Two years later, Suthers remains one of the few remaining high-profile Republicans in Colorado, but running against Udall would seem to be much tougher than challenging Bennet in 2010; Bennet was a top-tier pickup opportunity for Republicans in 2010, but Udall is lower on the list in 2012 for a number of reasons (name ID and the fact that he is a true elected incumbent, to name two reasons).

As we discussed last week, Republicans can count the number of top GOP names on one hand, which means someone like Suthers will be wooed early. But while Suthers has at least expressed some interest in the Senate in years past, we’d be very surprised if he actually decided to jump in the race for 2014.

Want To Filibuster? Sure, But Keep It Real

Huffington Post:

Use of the filibuster to stall legislation — when the minority party refuses to end debate on a bill unless 60 senators vote to do so — has escalated in recent years, rising from a rarity to the norm. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has been signaling his readiness to curb the tactic, often noting that he has faced 385 filibusters during his leadership while Lyndon Johnson had to deal with only one when he ran the Senate.

A number of proposals are under consideration, including a bill sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and others that would essentially require an old-fashioned “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”-style filibuster: Minority opponents of a measure would actually have to take the floor and hold forth for hours, rather than simply signal their intent to obstruct.

Making such a rule change in the Senate would normally require a 67-vote majority. But when the Senate comes back into session in January, Democrats could use a set of procedural rules often called the “nuclear option” and pass the changes with a simple 51-vote majority.

Two years ago, a similar proposal for reforming the filibuster from Colorado Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet was defeated. Under that proposal, like the one from Sen. Jeff Merkley described above, would not ban filibusters, but would require that Senators engaging in a filibuster to actually occupy the podium in the Senate–not merely threaten to do so.

The partisan posturing you’re seeing around this debate is no accident, as the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent writes:

The extent of GOP filibustering is unprecedented. This chart shows that cloture motions (a rough measure of filibustering) suddenly spiked during the Obama years. Yes, they also spiked in 2007-2008, but according to Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein, the vast majority of those filibusters were mounted by Republicans, presumably to block legislation designed to embarrass George W. Bush. (Indeed, the motions to end filibusters during that period were filed mostly by Dems.)

The nature of GOP filibustering is unprecedented. Ornstein says this is true in two ways: First, in the extensive blockading of what used to be considered routine Senate business. And second, much of the filibustering is part of a concerted party strategy. “You’re not just looking at filibusters done by rogue senators or factions, like southern Democrats in the 1950s,” says Ornstein. “It’s the first time we’ve had a wide range of filibustering by a whole party.”

Desire by Democrats to reform the filibuster, to break the logjam caused by a GOP minority determined to obstruct, is of course tempered by the knowledge that Democrats will themselves someday find themselves in the minority. When that happens, they will surely want minority rights preserved. With that said, there’s an objective case to be made that Senate Republicans have taken the filibuster to an extreme Democrats have never even considered; which has resulted in a serious breakdown in the ability of that chamber to function.

Since it’s politically not easy to defend the current filibuster practice in the Senate, which requires only the threat of a filibuster to stall legislation, Republicans are expected to fight the use of Senate procedure to pass filibuster reform without the usually required two-thirds in favor. Democrats objected when a Republican-controlled Senate considered this option, the story goes, so to employ it now would be hypocrisy. Talking about this battle over Senate procedure and rules is preferable to explaining why Republicans are unwilling to filibuster in the manner the public expects them to, by actually holding the floor and speaking.

Democrats will win this battle if they can make it about Republicans’ unwillingness to make simple and sensible changes to reduce gridlock in the Senate. The debate shouldn’t be about the “nuclear option,” but rather why it’s necessary. If Mitch McConnell is upset about rule changes made by simple majority, he should be made to explain why there aren’t 60 votes to pass them. There is no proposal we know of that would “end” the filibuster, and the compromise measure likely to be introduced in January is certain to fall well short of the hyperbole coming from the GOP. As we said, Democrats are mindful of their own future as they look at this.

Are we wrong? Is there a poll we missed that says gridlock is cool by voters now?