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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 22, 20175min497

In advance of a pending Trump administration 2018 budget proposal to slash U.S. Department of Energy research programs, Colorado Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner joined fellow Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and four other GOP members of the Senate in a letter to President Trump urging him to stay the course on the funding. The letter got some press in the nation’s capital last week.

Some key passages:

Government-sponsored research is one of the most important investments our country can make to encourage innovation, unleash our free enterprise system to create good-paying jobs, and ensure American competitiveness in a global economy.

The United States does many things well, but one thing we do better than any other country in the world is innovation through research.  The Department of Energy’s research programs have made the United States a world leader in science and technology, and will help the United States maintain its brainpower advantage and remain competitive with countries like China and India. …

… We cannot lose the technological advantages we have gained through our country’s investment in research and development.  Governing is about setting priorities, and the federal debt is not the result of Congress overspending on science and energy research each year. We urge you to continue to invest in the Department of Energy’s research and development programs in fiscal year 2018.

A call for continued research subsidies, to say nothing of a tribute to public-private partnerships, aren’t the usual fare of free-marketeering, budget-hawkish Republicans. Then again, federal spending isn’t only about political philosophy.

The letter’s policy merits aside, there are no doubt some hard-boiled political considerations behind it. Among them — for Gardner, at least: the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden.

A draft of the administration’s budget proposal included not only steep cuts to the Energy Department’s fossil fuels and nuclear programs but also a dramatic reduction in funding — on the order of 70 percent — to the department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. That’s the agency that, according the Washington Post in March, pretty much pays the federal portion of the Golden’s lab’s tab:

Several staffers said cuts of that magnitude would damage U.S. research and technological competitiveness. They suggested much of the brunt of the cuts could fall on the National Renewable Energy Laboratory at Golden, Colo., the country’s leading clean energy research facility. …

… Virtually all of the lab’s federal funding comes from the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy — $273 million out of its total federal budget of $292 million in 2016.

The lab, better known as NREL, has a total budget of over $350 million and nearly 1,700 employees, giving it a substantial economic impact on Golden and surrounding Jefferson and Boulder counties.

 


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 16, 20174min288

Demonstrating yet again that he aims to own North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un — if not in the slangier sense, then at least as an issue on Capitol Hill — Colorado U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner denounced the rogue ruler’s latest ballistic missile test and called on the Trump administration Monday to pressure China to help rein Kim in.

In a statement distributed via press release, Gardner is quoted saying the U.S. is not doing enough to hold China accountable for “enabling North Korea’s nuclear program,” and he called for sanctions.

North Korea carried out an apparent ballistic missile test over the weekend; media reports say it is the 10th such test this year. Although national security experts continue to cast doubt on North Korea’s ability to strike the continental United States with a nuclear warhead, they nonetheless say the tests show steady progress.

The Trump administration denounced the latest launch and labeled North Korea a “flagrant menace,” reinforcing the White House’s increasingly blunt and aggressive tone on the renegade country.

Gardner’s public statement, however, comes across as one-upping the Trump team, goading the administration to do more. From Monday’s press release:

“The most recent missile test by North Korea appears to be one of its most advanced yet, and proves that a policy of maximum pressure that fully enforces all sanctions against the regime is the only way to bring Kim Jong Un to his senses,” said Gardner. “It is clear that North Korea is learning from those tests and improving their capabilities, with the ultimate goal of reaching the U.S. homeland.”

…“The time for rhetoric is over — it is time for concerted action,” continued Gardner. “The situation on the Korean Peninsula is at the most unstable point since the armistice and the Administration must immediately ramp up the sanctions track, especially against the Chinese that are enabling North Korea’s nuclear program. I do not believe we are putting requisite pressure against China that is necessary to stop Pyongyang, and I’ll continue to urge the Administration to do so.”

Gardner, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on East Asia, seems to have found a foothold in foreign affairs — and a foil in North Korea. As his press release points out, he authored the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act, which passed the Senate and was signed into law last year. It gives the president a range of policy options to put pressure on North Korea and its supporters in other countries.

Gardner and the North Korean regime also have traded superheated barbs, with Gardner recently referring to the country’s strongman as a “whack job” and the country’s foreign ministry firing back, calling Gardner, “…a man mixed in with human dirt … who has lost basic judgment and body hair.”



Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 10, 20178min494

Colorado environmentalists cheered the nation’s Senate but jeered one of its members, Colorado Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, for their votes today regarding a proposed repeal of new curbs on methane emissions from oil and gas wells. Just reverse the order of those cheers and jeers, of course, to get the take of supporters of the state’s substantial oil and gas industry.

The U.S. Senate’s minority Democrats voted against the repeal, scuttling the proposal with the help of three maverick Republicans who broke from the GOP majority. Gardner, on the other hand, voted with the other 48 Republicans. The proposal was part of the GOP’s, and the Trump administration’s, agenda for easing what they contend is an excessive regulatory burden on energy development.

The Senate’s vote represented the first setback for that agenda since the new Congress was seated and Donald Trump was sworn in last January. And it ran counter to a vote in favor of repeal earlier this year by the GOP-majority U.S. House.

While the vote’s outcome caught Beltway observers off-guard, the reaction in Colorado was pretty much as expected. From a press release issued by green movement mainstay Conservation Colorado, here’s the group’s Pete Maysmith:

This is an incredible day for the environment and for citizens across the country who have been telling their members of Congress to vote for clean air. The vote should have been an easy one for the oil and gas lobby to win, but the power of citizen activism has broken through the political morass.

With that said, we are deeply disappointed in Senator Gardner’s vote. Despite more than 10,000 emails and calls from Coloradans and multiple protests at his offices on this issue, Senator Gardner managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by voting against Colorado’s clean air in what amounted to a futile vote for him.

The Denver-based, libertarian-leaning Independence Institute’s Executive V.P. Amy Oliver Cooke, who heads the institute’s Energy Policy Center, saw it the other way around:

What a disappointment that the U.S. Senate voted with the onerous regulatory state and against jobs, the economy and domestic energy production. At least, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner didn’t fall for the cynical either-or choice. Instead, he voted with the American people, who know that we can responsibly develop our own resources and keep the environment clean.

The rules, published by the federal government under the Obama administration just last November, would require oil and gas operations to capture methane they leak or vent. Environmentalists say that will rein in gases that contribute to climate change and that the escaped gas amounts to hundred of millions of dollars in lost mineral royalties that could support local governments.

The industry, however, maintains the new rules will backfire. As reported by ColoradoPolitics.com’s Joey Bunch earlier in the congressional debate, the Colorado Petroleum Council, a division of the American Petroleum Institute, says the cost of compliance could shut down 40 percent of wells on federal lands, cutting much deeper into government royalties than any gain from recaptured methane. A 1 percent loss could cut payments to the government by $14 million. The lost royalties to flaring are estimated at between $3 million and $10 million, according to the Petroleum Council.

How did Colorado’s two U.S. senators themselves feel about their votes?

The office of senior Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, who sided with other Democrats against the repeal, issued a statement quoting the senator on the vote:

“Today’s vote is a victory for Colorado and the country … Amid dysfunction in Washington, we were able to come together to prevent the rollback of a rule that protects families from harmful air pollution and ensures taxpayers receive a fair return on oil and gas resources. This win gives me some hope that Congress can make progress on addressing climate change and growing our clean energy economy in the future.”

As for Gardner — the man in the crosshairs of Environment Colorado and a host of other left-of-center Colorado groups at the moment — a spokesman for his office stressed that the vote was actually procedural, to continue debate on the repeal. The office released this statement from Gardner:

“The Senate rejected a procedural measure today to advance debate of the CRA involving the methane rule, and the Senate will not consider repealing the rule implemented by the Obama Administration. Colorado has one of the strictest regulations on methane emissions in the country. Our state is an example of what can be achieved when states work to find answers that best fit the needs of local interests, and the Colorado way will continue to be the standard.”

Make no mistake, Democrats as well as nonpartisan groups like Conservation Colorado that lean Democratic, are not about to let up the heat on Gardner — whatever issue happens to be in play. Some of Maysmith’s remarks in today’s press release come across  more like campaign talking points than an environmental manifesto:

It’s obvious from this vote that Senator Gardner is much more interested in joining the Washington, D.C. political club rather than representing the values of Coloradans. This is not the leadership that Colorado needs, and we will double down on our efforts to make sure that Coloradans of all stripes know what a threat Senator Gardner’s voting record poses to clean air and environment.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMarch 6, 20173min181

Whatever is motivating the Coloradans who for weeks now have been loudly demanding an audience with Colorado’s junior Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner — he has said some are paid activists backed by Democrats; they say they’re aggrieved constituents — it does seem to be having an effect. It’s hard to conclude otherwise.

One of the sore points for those clamoring to see Gardner is his support for repealing and replacing Obamacare with a national health-coverage system of GOP design. Gardner’s stance is hardly out of line with the rest of his party, but critics, led by congressional Democrats, charge the Republicans are on a fool’s errand. They say scrapping Obamacare stands to pull the rug out from under vulnerable segments of the population, including low-income households currently receiving federal Medicaid health coverage.

How better to illustrate concern for those same populations than to join with several Senate GOP colleagues in calling back a version of their own party’s Obamacare replacement authored by Republicans in the House of Representatives? Gardner signed onto a letter today to Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky doing just that. Then, Gardner’s office issued this press release:

Today, U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO), Rob Portman (R-OH), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) outlining concerns that the February 10th draft health care plan from the House does not adequately protect individuals and families in Medicaid expansion programs or provide necessary flexibility for states.

In the letter, the senators write: “While we support efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and make structural reforms to the Medicaid program, we are concerned that the February 10th draft proposal from the House of Representatives does not provide stability and certainty for individuals and families in Medicaid expansion programs or the necessary flexibility for states.”

A copy of the full letter to McConnell is provided in the press release. It includes passages that seem to speak directly to those who have been hounding Gardner and some other Republicans:

We believe Medicaid needs to be reformed, but reform should not come at the cost of disruption in access to health care for our country’s most vulnerable and sickest individuals. Any changes made to how Medicaid is financed through the state and federal governments should be coupled with significant new flexibility so they can efficiently and effectively manage their Medicaid programs to best meet their own needs.

None of which is to challenge the depth of Gardner’s commitment to that policy priority. But it also seems pretty clear he wanted to make sure his detractors got the message.


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Mike McKibbinMike McKibbinNovember 29, 20165min323

The U.S. Senate unanimously approved final passage of legislation, authored by U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), on Monday, Nov. 28, to require the federal government to measure the impact of the outdoor recreation on the economy. The bill now goes to President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature. The Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act of 2015, introduced by Gardner and Shaheen in October 2015, is bipartisan legislation that will help inform policymakers and business leaders on the jobs created - and consumer spending driven by - the outdoor recreation economy.


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Mike McKibbinMike McKibbinSeptember 28, 201613min326

Colorado U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and Republican colleagues Pat Roberts of Kansas and Tim Scott of South Carolina have asked the head of the Government Accountability Office for an opinion on whether the Department of Defense violated two federal laws by spending $25,909 in federal funds to survey potential sites to relocate Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United Sates.



Sen. Michael BennetJuly 8, 20155min204
Like most Coloradans, the Congressional delegation was shocked and appalled in March when the Department of Veterans Affairs first informed us the VA replacement medical center in Aurora would cost a staggering $1.73 billion. The delegation had worked together to support an $800 million facility and helped authorize funds accordingly. These cost overruns and the […]

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