News values are used by reporters and editors to determine which events to cover and how much prominence to give them. They include things like impact, timeliness, proximity and the element of surprise. But in politics, there’s one news value that dominates: Conflict.
On Sept. 13, President Trump met with the minority leaders of their respective houses, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, over a meal of Chinese food. Reportedly, they agreed to a deal on DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which included more border security without building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. Though there were immediate disputes as to what was agreed to, the session offered some hope for a resolution to an immigration problem that has dogged the federal government for at least half a decade. More than 800,000 individuals are affected by a program started in the Obama administration in 2013 to protect mostly young illegal immigrants. DACA took form as it became clear that broader immigration reform was not possible.
Republican junior U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, that’s who. In fact, the first-termer from Yuma is the 12th-most-effective Republican in the entire Senate.
That’s according to the Center for Effective Lawmaking — and, no, that’s not some GOP front that gins up rave reviews for swing-state party members with an eye toward the next election. Indeed, 2nd Congressional District Democratic U.S. Rep. (and gubernatorial contender) Jared Polis of Boulder does almost as well by the center’s standards.
The center, co-directed by Craig Volden, professor of public policy and politics and associate dean for academic affairs at Batten, and Alan Wiseman, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt, utilizes a data-driven approach to study the causes and consequences of each Congress member’s ability to advance agenda items through the legislative process and into law.
In other words, it looks at how good a given lawmaker is at getting his or her bills through the twists and turns of the entrenched system on Capitol Hill. Without regard to party or political views, it uses a complex formula you’d expect of guys with Volden and Wiseman’s credentials (no doubt backed by a team of researchers). They employ, among other devices, mathematical symbols we ordinary folk vaguely associate with calculus though they could be ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics for all we know. Heavy stuff.
The rankings, by the way, are for the latest Congress for which a full set of stats is available, i.e., the one that concluded last year.
So, how does the rest of Colorado’s D.C. delegation stack up? Check it out:
The most meaningful numbers for most of us are in the column on the right — each lawmaker’s ranking relative to the rest of the members of his/her party in that chamber. Gardner is 12th out of the 54 Republican senators seated in the 114th Congress. Polis ranks 47th out of the 193 Democrats in the House at that time. Arithmetically, that puts Gardner in a slightly higher percentile than Polis.
Without delving too deeply into the numbers crunching by the researchers, it’s worth looking at the data in the middle column. That’s where the analysis assigns lawmakers a raw score for their “legislative effectiveness.” If the number in that column is between a half and one and a half the number in the next column over — that’s the “benchmark” for where members of the same party with similar tenure and duties are expected to be — then that member is deemed by the analysis to meet expectations. If the number is more than one and a half of the benchmark, the member is said to be above expectations. And if the number is less than half of the benchmark, the member falls below expectations.
OK, so we did delve a bit deeply into the numbers crunching, but the upshot is only two members of Colorado’s delegation — Gardner and Polis — are above expectations. Four meet expectations, and three — Democratic senior U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet as well as 5th Congressional District Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, of Colorado Springs, and 1st Congressional District Democratic U.S. Rep. Dianna DeGette, of Denver, are below expectations. Well below, it seems.
The analysis is neutral to ideology and party, and it offsets whether a lawmaker’s party is in the majority or minority because it assesses their work only against that of their fellow party members. So it moots the advantage typically enjoyed by majority party members in getting their work through the legislative pipeline.
Yet, there’s another kind of skew — one sure to be perceived on the political right — that the analysis can’t offset: a bias in favor of lawmakers who, well, make more laws. By definition, that’s how a senator or representative scores well by the reckoning of the Center for Effective Lawmaking. Which is why some on the right may be tempted to dismiss the ratings outright. After all, any conservative Mr./Ms. Smith who goes to Washington with the aim of drawing the line at government’s growth is more likely to vote no than to ask his/her peers to vote yes. By that measure, the less “effective” a lawmaker on the Center’s scale, the more commendably conservative the lawmaker is by the lights of some on the political right.
Could that conceivably make Cory Gardner a lib … a liber … naw, we can’t even say it. But might it at least suggest he’s not quite the unyielding conservative some might make him out to be?
And, by some stretch of alternative reasoning, could the unrelentingly liberal DeGette’s low effectiveness rating maker her — a conservative?
…So, now, the prominent Denver attorney and former Colorado solicitor general just has to win confirmation from the U.S. Senate. Republican junior U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner will have his back. Here’s Gardner’s statement, issued the same day as the White House announcement nominating Domenico for a slot on the U.S. District Court in Denver:
“Dan Domenico is an excellent choice to serve on Colorado’s U.S. District Court,”said Gardner. “Dan’s dedication to the rule of law and time as Colorado’s Solicitor General make him an extremely qualified candidate that will make Colorado proud. I look forward to supporting Dan throughout his confirmation process.”
And here’s more on Domenico from the White House announcement itself:
Dan Domenico currently serves as managing partner of Kittredge LLC. From 2006 to 2015, Mr. Domenico served as the Solicitor General of Colorado, where he oversaw major litigation for the State and represented governors from both political parties. During his time as Solicitor General, he argued in State and Federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court, and received the Supreme Court Best Brief Award from the National Association of Attorneys General. At the time of his appointment, he was the youngest state solicitor general in the country, and his nine years of service made him the longest serving solicitor general in Colorado history. He has also served as an adjunct professor of natural resources and advanced constitutional law at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law. Earlier in his career, Mr. Domenico was a law clerk to Judge Timothy M. Tymkovich of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and an associate at Hogan & Hartson LLP. A native of Boulder, he earned his B.A., magna cum laude, from Georgetown University and his J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law, where he was inducted into the Order of the Coif and served as an editor of the Virginia Law Review.
Now that Colorado Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner has been wielding the mic and fielding bruising questions from a roving rabble of activists at town hall-style meetings around the state, it seems the months-long drumbeat for him to meet with the masses is dying down. Enough so for him to take some time for a kind of constituent outreach that takes him back to his rural roots.
Gardner’s office announced Monday he had just wrapped up “day one of his annual Colorado Farm Tour” on Colorado’s eastern plains. The weeklong event will take him to farms, ranches and rural towns to help him determine — as he puts it in Monday’s press release — how “to best serve our farmers, ranchers, and small businesses involved in agriculture.”
The press statement sketched out the first day’s whirlwind itinerary:
Gardner started off the day in Kit Carson County at Eastern Colorado Seeds in Burlington. He then went to Cheyenne County to meet with some local farm bureau members before stopping at Nan’s in Cheyenne Wells for a lunch meeting with county officials and additional farmers from the community. Gardner’s next stop of the day was in Kiowa County at a Milo farm a few miles outside of Eads. Also included in the day was a separate stop away from the farm tour. Gardner visited Camp Amache, a Japanese Internment Camp that was near Granada during WWII and met with local high school students, as well as Granada city and Prowers County officials.
Arguably, as tiring as a town hall. What has he learned from the people he is meeting? He’s quoted in the statement:
“Two of the issues that seem to come up at every stop are government regulations and trade … I will continue to support efforts to eliminate burdensome and duplicative government regulations that hamper Colorado’s agriculture community, and I’m going to keep pushing back on the Administration regarding any changes in trade policies that limit Colorado farmers access to new export markets across the world.”
As we’ve noted before, Gardner has sought to temper the Trump administration’s populist penchant for protectionism. After all, free trade not only is an article of faith in the GOP; it’s also good for business down on the farm.
Overheard in line at a Denver supermarket: “Yeah, I’m seeing them all the time on the TV news — the ladies dressed like Little Red Riding Hood.”
They are indeed becoming a staple of Colorado news coverage — on TV, in print, online — though, of course, they’re not going for Little Red Riding Hood. They are depicting characters from the 1985 Margaret Atwood novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which later was made into a movie, an opera and most recently, a critically acclaimed TV series on Hulu. One part futuristic dystopian drama, one part cautionary tale, the story involves a male-dominated theocracy that has overthrown the government and subjugated women.
And now, it has become the visual meme of the moment in American politics, as well, with women in the requisite red robes turning up at assorted events across Middle America to register their solemn, silent protest. It was only a matter of time, really, given what liberal critics of the Trump administration and the GOP Congress see as eery similarities between the Atwood storyline and the Republican right’s reputed war on women.
Which is why they were on hand in Colorado Springs last week to greet Vice President Mike Pence when he stopped by to visit the Springs-based, influential conservative ministry, Focus on the Family. And this week, the handmaids were back in Colorado’s second city protesting the pending GOP rewrite of Obamacare outside the Colorado Springs office of Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner. Now that’s a gimmick with staying power.
It’s a maxim of politics: If a message seems to work, use it early and often.
But where did it all start? We rummaged around the Web and found a recent Boston Globe story that shed some light; it turns out the phenomenon’s origin was a promotional event rather than a political one:
“Please tell me they’re going to walk around inside the Capitol,” Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, joked on her Facebook page, where she posted a photo of the handmaids Hulu recruited for its guerrilla marketing effort. “It would be such a missed opportunity if they don’t. Related: Who wants to make a bunch of handmaid costumes for use this session?”
Thus, a movement was born.
The Globe recounts the movement’s first steps:
At first, the Texas activists rented costumes. Then, they began stitching — as others had months earlier, crafting pink “pussy hats” for the Women’s March on Washington. (Emily) Morgan — the executive director of Action Together New Hampshire, a political group that was formed after the November election — began networking with chapters from other states. Recently, she created a private Facebook page, called the Handmaid Coalition, to share patterns for stitching and strategies for protest with women across the country.
… In most states, women are using the costumes to protest individual bills on reproductive rights — creating a funhouse mirror image of what women’s lives might look like if their rights were stripped away.
If art imitates life, politics sometimes imitates art. Over and over again, as needed.
We’ll just cut to the chase on the results of a new poll commissioned by Children’s Hospital Colorado — and, please, be sure you are seated. From the hospital’s press release highlighting the findings:
A recent poll conducted by a leading Republican pollster finds a “universal belief” among Colorado voters across the political spectrum that regardless of what happens with the proposed healthcare bill, longstanding Medicaid benefits for children should be protected.
The most significant of the survey’s specific findings:
85% agree that “regardless of whether Obamacare [the Affordable Care Act (ACA)] is ultimately repealed or changed, Congress should maintain the longstanding benefits that Medicaid has guaranteed children since 1965”…
Wow, keep health coverage for the poorest kids as it has been — since 1965? Who could argue with that? Presumably — though it’s not part of the survey — a similar percentage wants to maintain crossing guards in school zones. And wants to see all stray puppies and kittens adopted by loving homes.
OK, so why bother to poll on the obvious? Well, it has to do with politics — more specifically, with the ongoing debate in the U.S. Senate over its pending version of legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare. And more specifically still — like just about everything else in the news these days, it seems — it has to do with Colorado’s Republican junior U.S. Sen Cory Gardner. The press release explains:
“Senator Gardner has been a staunch advocate in this debate for kids,” said Jena Hausmann, president and CEO of Children’s Hospital Colorado. “We’ve asked Senator Gardner to step up and fight to protect Medicaid as a safety net for children in important ways. He has, and we are counting on him.”
Children’s Colorado publicly has expressed strong opposition to the House-passed version of the bill, and also opposes the Senate’s discussion draft. The hospital is urging Colorado’s U.S. Senators to make tangible improvements to the bill in order to reduce its negative impact on children. Senator Cory Gardner has started to get traction in the Senate with provisions that would limit the Medicaid cuts to children.
Sounds like the good folks at Children’s are employing a bit of positive reinforcement on the senator, kind of wishfully implying he is right where the hospital is on Medicaid. It’s a safe bet even he doesn’t know yet where his own threshold is on reconfiguring Medicaid.
Alongside that, it also sounds like the hospital is engaging in a bit of spin. Notice how that key polling question blurs the line between “the longstanding benefits that Medicaid has guaranteed children since 1965” and what’s really on the table in the pending GOP redo on Obamacare: the Affordable Care Act’s significant expansion of Medicaid. That’s the focus of the current, intense debate in Washington and across the country; no one is talking about eliminating the children’s benefit itself — just about where to set the bar for income eligibility. It’s a bar Obamacare set a lot lower.
Whether Medicaid’s expansion was warranted or not is of course a philosophical question; whether Congress should change that standard again is a matter of politics. And the Children’s survey findings don’t seem to offer much substantive guidance in that regard.
So, maybe all us Coloradans at last can stop our worrying, OK?
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s office even provided a video clip of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke confirming for Gardner in a committee hearing Tuesday what Gov. John Hickenlooper had concluded earlier this year: that Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Southwest Colorado isn’t going to lose its designation.
President Trump directed the Interior Department in late April to begin reviewing designations of national monuments created since 1996 that are greater than 100,000 acres. Trump has challenged what he maintains was an “egregious abuse of power” by the Obama administration in designating some of the monuments. Ancients, however, was designated by the Clinton administration in 2000.
Western Republicans like Colorado’s junior U.S. senator from Yuma seem to have been saddled with the responsibility for assuring the public that our treasured natural wonders aren’t in peril in the era of Donald Trump. After all, he is their party’s standard bearer, and his push to revisit a host of environmental and public lands policies of the Obama administration — while generally cheered on by the GOP — has left some Republicans like Gardner in a ticklish position. They have to walk the line between their broad support for the administration’s initiatives and their need to stand up for the likes of parks and monuments, treasured by Coloradans of every political stripe.
A press release from Gardner’s office Tuesday makes that clear:
Gardner has been a strong advocate for protecting Colorado’s public lands, and recently received the Outdoor Industry Association’s 2017 Friend of the Outdoor Industry Award. In May, Gardner and Congressman Scott Tipton (CO-3) sent a letter to Secretary Zinke requesting “any review of Canyons should conclude that no changes to the designation are necessary.”
Democrats have very publicly wrung their hands over the administration’s policy pronouncements on public lands and other environmental issues, knowing it’s ultimately up to the Republicans to dispel fears. Of course, the Dems have been eating it up. (“Hey, don’t blame us. He’s your president!”)
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner issued a statement today welcoming the end of a 13-year Chinese ban on U.S. beef imports — reminding voters he’s all in for international trade that benefits his home state even if his fellow Republican in the White House is a trade hawk:
“As Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity, I am continuing to urge the Trump Administration to explore new trade opportunities for America’s agriculture community in Asia, and this is an important step forward … Colorado’s farmers and ranchers will see positive economic gains from this decision, and everyone involved with finally getting the ban removed should be applauded.”
Gardner’s office also noted in the news release:
Gardner has long been a supporter of opening up new trade opportunities for Colorado’s farmers and ranchers. He recently spoke on the Senate floor about the agriculture crisis in America and explained how an increase in trade will benefit Colorado’s agriculture community.
While everyone welcomes a new market for selling American goods abroad, free trade of course is a two-way street. Its supporters, like Gardner, generally advocate keeping U.S. markets open, too, so U.S. consumers can benefit from cheaper goods. Yes, even Chinese goods. That’s probably where Gardner and the administration don’t always see eye to eye.
The administration has been more antagonist than enthusiast on free trade in general, and Perdue and other administration officials chalked up this week’s breakthrough to the Trump team’s get-tough, “fair trade” stance. That was Lighthizer’s spin:
“The President’s firm commitment to fair trade that benefits the United States has made this new U.S. beef export opportunity possible. I encourage China and all countries to base their requirements on international standards and science. America’s ranchers are the best producers of beef in the global economy, and they can compete and succeed wherever there is a level playing field.”
According to a spokesman with the Colorado Department of Agriculture, the top four current markets for Colorado beef exports are Canada, Mexico, Japan and South Korea. In 2016, he said, Colorado totaled $423 million in beef exports outside the U.S.