According to a recent front-page story in The Denver Post, there are eight Republican state senators among the slim 18-17 Republican majority who have been obstructing the Republican Party leadership’s legislative agenda. We are told this presents a “threat” to the Republican Party and a crisis that had gone undetected until The Post crunched some numbers.
What is this mushrooming threat? In the 2015 session of the General Assembly, eight Republican senators voted “no” from 11 percent to 24 percent of the time on 367 final, third-reading roll call votes, while Senate President Cadman voted no only 2 percent of the time.
Supposedly, voting “no” on that many bills shows disloyalty and disunity. By contrast, all 34 House Democrats vote together 99 percent of the time and are a model of party amity. We “dissident eight” are voting differently from our caucus leader about 10 times more often than Democrats in the House majority do. As The Post sees it, only good bills get voted out of committees and sent to the floor for consideration, so a “no” vote on any bill contributes to “stalemate.”
The Post’s interpretation tells us more about its political agenda than how Republicans set policy priorities. Democrats in the House vote in lockstep 99 percent of the time and that is wonderful, and it is Senate Republicans who have a problem. Really? Eighteen Republicans from all four corners of the state are voting together only 80-90 percent of the time, and this is evidence of incipient insurrection?
This is laughable to every Republican in the Legislature and anyone who doesn’t live in the Denver cocoon. The Post has it backwards. What the Post’s numbers show is that Senate Republicans are ten times more likely than House Democrats to vote independently to better represent their constituents, their diverse districts and their convictions — in other words, to find principled solutions to real problems.
We might be alarmed if The Post’s numbers revealed a rebellion over top priorities or major legislation, but that is not the story here. The only specific legislation identified as victims of raging negativism were relatively minor bills, not major bills supported and enacted by the Republican controlled Senate — all of which passed on near-unanimous Republican votes.
The most important bill of the entire session, SB-234, the state budget “Long Bill,” recommended by a unanimous vote of the bipartisan Joint Budget Committee, passed the Senate with unanimous Republican support. All 14 “no” votes were by Democrats. Neither did The Post mention the numerous bipartisan accomplishments from last session supported by near-unanimous Republican votes — bills like making repeated DUI’s a felony, improvements in school safety, landmark reforms in urban renewal financing and a budget that respected the constitutional TABOR requirement for taxpayer rebates.
The Post’s numbers are based entirely on bills that passed by both chambers and were signed into law. Why not compare Republican-sponsored bills passed by the Senate and killed in a House kill committee to Democrat-sponsored bills passed in the House and killed in a Senate committee? Maybe The Post story doesn’t do that because that comparison would show Republican unity in opposing “the worst of the worst.”
All across the country, voters are rebelling against politics-as-usual and government by elites, where powerful leaders cut deals behind closed doors and everyone else is expected to fall into line. Republicans in Colorado don’t operate that way. Yet, to the media guardians of political correctness in Denver, a city where Democrats control every single state legislative district, lockstep partisan voting is heralded as the model of good government.
Now tell me: which party has a problem and who has a finger on the voters’ pulse?
State Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, represents Senate District 23, including parts of Larimer, Weld and Broomfield counties. She chairs the Senate Republican caucus and the Senate Local Government Committee and is a member of the Senate Education Committee and the Legislative Council.