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Jessica MachettaNovember 9, 20177min142
Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) questioned former Equifax CEO Richard Smith and Equifax interim-CEO Paulino do Rego Barros, Jr., about the company’s massive data breach at a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing. Equifax said in September that hackers breached a flaw in their system, stealing names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver’s […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchOctober 5, 201711min10980

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet asked Congress to do its job on gun violence Thursday morning in a sometimes-somber, sometimes-impassioned speech on the Senate floor.

He cited the massacre in Las Vegas Sunday night and how sadly familiar mass shootings have become on the American landscape. Bennet said it’s a shame that some, referring indirectly to conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly, call such devastating gun violence “the price of freedom.”

“I’m not sure if it was two mass shootings ago, or three, when we started to accept this as a normal condition of American life,” Bennet said. “When we lost our belief that it was within our power to protect our fellow Americans at a country music concert, or a night club, a movie theater, or at a school.

“I know there are strong beliefs about guns in America – principled beliefs — but there are also steps that the overwhelming majority of Americans want us to take.”

Colorado, of course, is the tragic home of the Aurora theater shooting in 2012, where 12 people were killed and at least 70 were wounded by James Holmes. The Columbine High School shooting in 1999 when 12 students and a teacher were killed and 20 were wounded before gunmen Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed themselves.

Bennet cited the laws Democrats in the Colorado legislature passed in 2013 and 2000 in response.

“Unlike Washington, in Colorado our legislators rose to the occasion after we suffered two of the worst mass shootings in our nation’s history,” Bennet said. “After the massacre in Columbine, we closed the gun show loophole. After the tragedy in Aurora, we strengthened our background checks in a Western state.”

Bennet is co-sponsoring a bill to outlaw “bump stock” modifications to rifles that make them fully automatic, capable of firing multiple bullets in rapid succession. The Las Vegas gunman, Stephen Paddock, used bump stocks on his weapons to rain down bullets from a hotel window onto a crowd of thousands of concertgoers at the country music festival in Las Vegas.

Unlike Washington, in Colorado our legislators rose to the occasion after we suffered two of the worst mass shootings in our nation’s history. After the massacre in Columbine, we closed the gun show loophole. After the tragedy in Aurora, we strengthened our background checks in a Western state.

This is not about taking guns away from people who have them. It is about keeping guns out of the hands of people who nearly everyone agrees shouldn’t have them,” Bennet said. “It is about stopping people like the Las Vegas killer from modifying his rifles to become almost fully automatic and far more deadly.”

Here is a full transcript of Bennet’s speech provided by his office:

Last weekend a man camped out on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel. He stockpiled 23 weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. He set up bipods and scopes. He brought a hammer to knock out the window.

Then on Sunday, he opened fire. And he kept firing for 15 minutes, stopping only to reload and switch weapons. And over fifteen minutes, he murdered 58 Americans and injured more than 500.

The day after the shooting, I was in Washington. I had seven or eight meetings, and not a single person brought up the worst shooting in modern American history. Not one.

I’m not sure if it was two mass shootings ago, or three, when we started to accept this as a normal condition of American life. When we lost our belief that it was within our power to protect our fellow Americans at a country music concert, or a night club, or a movie theater, or a school.

I know there are strong beliefs about guns in America – principled beliefs — but there are also steps that the overwhelming majority of Americans want us to take.

Ninety percent of Americans think we need background checks for every gun sale – including 74 percent of NRA members. Eighty nine percent of Americans think we should prevent the mentally ill from purchasing guns. Eighty two percent of Republicans want us to bar gun purchases for people on the no-fly or terrorist watch lists.

Yet Congress has done nothing to respond to the American people. We did nothing after Aurora. After Newtown. After Orlando. Nothing.

Unlike Washington, in Colorado our legislators rose to the occasion and made tough choices after we suffered two of the worst mass shootings in our nation’s history. After the massacre in Columbine, we closed the gun show loophole. After the tragedy in Aurora, we strengthened our background checks.

Last year, those background checks blocked 8,704 people from buying guns. That may sound like a lot, but 380,000 people applied for guns in Colorado last year. That means just two percent of those folks who applied were blocked, and 98 percent were able to buy a gun without a problem.

Who were in that two percent that Colorado blocked but that this Congress fails to block? Murderers, rapists, kidnappers, domestic abusers.

No one can come down here and tell me Colorado is worse off because we kept guns out of the hands of those people. And the average wait time for those background checks was 12 minutes. That strikes me as a fair trade-off to keep guns out of the hands of murderers and kidnappers and rapists.

But here in Washington, despite tragedy after tragedy, Congress has done nothing. We haven’t even done simple things, like close the gun show loophole or stop people on the terrorist watch list from buying weapons.

This is not about taking guns away from people who have them. It is about keeping guns out of the hands of people who nearly everyone agrees shouldn’t have them. It is about stopping people like the Las Vegas killer from modifying his rifles to become almost fully automatic and far more deadly.

I’ve co-sponsored a bill to ban those modifications, and I’m encouraged that some of my Republican colleagues seem to be open to that idea.

I know we can’t stop every madman or random act of violence in this country. Just as we can’t stop every murder from happening. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make them less likely or take steps to limit their harm – steps that are backed by the overwhelming majority of Americans and that are fully consistent with the Constitution.

I remember the shooting at the Pulse nightclub. I was supposed to take my daughter to camp that day; she was going to be away with us for a month. I can remember I did everything that I could to keep her from hearing the news, as the number of fatalities continued to rise, because I didn’t want to leave her with a sense of fear, the fear that I felt and the country felt.

And I am so sorry that my children – and America’s children – have to grow up in a country where mass shootings are common. Where we’re beginning to see them just as part of our life.

I heard somebody the other day on the television say, “that’s the price of freedom.” What a shame somebody would say that. What a surrender that represents to our children and to the victims of these crimes.

I didn’t grow up in that America. But conditions have changed. And the result is that we now have an entire generation of Americans, of our sons and daughters, growing up with a reasonable fear that they could be a victim of a mass shooting, or that their mom or their dad might not come home one day.

I think our kids have enough to worry about, and they have every right to go see a movie with their parents, to go dancing with their friends, to see a concert on their one night off, without the fear of being shot down by people who have no business carrying such powerful weapons.

And they have every right to expect that Congress will finally do something about gun violence in our country. Violence far greater than anywhere else in the industrialized world.

In the wake of these horrific acts, as always, Americans spring into action. First responders secure the area and care for the wounded. Neighbors hold vigils to honor the victims and support grieving families. Journalists shed light on what happened and why. Citizens speak out to demand action from their elected officials.

They are doing their jobs.

It’s time for Congress to do ours.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 15, 20176min1434

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner sized up the crowd at his town hall meeting in in Colorado Springs.

“How many people here support single-payer” health care, he asked the a packed 400-seat auditorium at Pikes Peak Community College.

Maybe 80 percent of the hands in the room went up.

And the senator’s odds of getting his points across was defined in the instance. In sports, they’re called the boo birds, the songbirds of predictable disapproval.

“I’m trying to answer,” he said at one point. “But I don’t get the chance.”

Dressed in jeans with his shirt sleeves rolled up, Gardner gamed on, at one point asking the crowd to give him a chance to answer during one of several questions about he and his fellow Senate Republicans’ efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.

“This debate isn’t about taking something away from people that’s working,” Gardner said at the first of three town hall meetings Tuesday. “… This is about making this work.”

In a chat Tuesday morning with Colorado Politics before the 90-minute town hall meeting, he called socialized medicine a “$32 trillion disaster and will not work for our country and will not work for our treasury, and certainly will not work to improve healthcare.”

Gardner told his assembled critics he was willing to work on a bipartisan solution to stabilize the insurance markets, protect Medicaid and cover pre-existing conditions, but bipartisanship is a two-way street. Gardner noted that Democrats pushed through Obamacare in 2010 without a single Republican vote.

Gardner helped draft the original Senate bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, and he voted for it on the floor, only to see it go down to defeat when his friend, Sen, John McCain, cast  the decisive vote to kill it last month.

Gardner said before the meeting health care is a heavy legislative lift, “because this is a very personal issue,” recalling the heath struggles of his mother, father and daughter. “We all have a personal connection.”

Health care was the powder keg in Colorado Springs, but Gardner and the liberals who packed the event had agreement, at least partially, on the egregious occurrences, including one death and multiple injuries, from the melee in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday.

Gardner said Sunday on national TV that President Trump erred in not calling out white nationalist by name, failing to call evil by its name, he said.

The president amended his remarks Monday.

“I’m glad the president has said that there is no room in this country for hate, bigotry and racism, neo-Nazis, KKK, white supremacists, that he will not tolerate,” he told Colorado Politics. “I wish he had said that earlier.”

But when an audience member asked later if President Trump was fit to serve because of his original remarks, Gardner said Trump was duly elected.

“I believe he is fit,” Gardner began, bringing on boos.

He added, “I take it nobody here voted for President Trump.”

On energy and the environment, Gardner repeated President Obama’s earlier call for an “all of the above” energy policy, which includes coal and fracking.

“I believe we have to have a mix,” he said.

And the boo birds again took flight.

The town hall  meeting on the Centennial Campus of Pikes Peak Community College was the first of three Tuesday for the congressman on his August recess.

Liberal activists have used “Cardboard Cory,” a cutout of the senator, as a stand-in to note “the senator’s lengthy public absence and to keep pressure on him to hold open, in-person town halls and events,” according to the liberal Indivisible Front Range Resistance.

Gardner has met with smaller groups often across the state, but on Aug. 4 a traditional town hall in Durango, which was supposed to provide an update on the Gold King Mine spill cleanup, turned into a showcase for protesters on health care, as well.

The senator from Yuma has two more town halls Tuesday:

  • Greeley
    Noon to 1:30 p.m. (doors open at 11)
    University School Auditorium
    6519 18th St.
  • Lakewood
    3:30 to 5 p.m. (doors open at 2:30 p.m.)
    Colorado Christian University, CCU Event Center
    8787 W. Alameda Ave.

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Chris BianchiChris BianchiJune 22, 201721min2550

The quick answer: yes. The real answer: it's complicated. Helped by an influx of transplants drawn to Colorado's liberal marijuana laws, high-tech economy and overall high quality of life, the state, by most metrics, is in a considerable economic boom. That same associated population growth, by the way, likely means ...


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Joey BunchJoey BunchJune 16, 20175min550

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, Gov. John Hickenlooper and Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne will hold a private meeting Friday to talk about the Republican health care plan, which itself is shrouded in secrecy awaiting an unveiling and a vote in the Senate.

Democratic activists across the country, including in Denver, have staged marches and publicity around the potential for people losing insurance they gained under Obamacare and the expansion of Medicaid.

Colorado’s top three Democrats will meet with reporters in Pueblo after talking about what the changes might mean with healthcare leaders, advocates and patients at Pueblo Community Health Center. The governor’s office cited patient privacy at the center as a reason to keep out reporters and do a press conference outside afterward.

“The discussion will center on ideas to improve the health care system and the potential effects of the proposed law in the State of Colorado,” the governor’s office said in an advisory.

Jakob Rodgers of the Colorado Springs Gazette will pull double duty and report their remarks and his observations for Colorado Politics as soon after as possible.

For Colorado Politic’s online subscribers, who also receive the print edition of The Statesman this week, our Peter Marcus examines the toll  health care funding takes in Hugo, a town of 600 on the Eastern Plains that has one thing going for it, a local hospital. Check it out.

Colorado Politics’ Ernest Luning took close measure of Bennet’s thoughts on the Republican plan at a town hall meeting in Frisco last Friday:

“If you set out to design a bill less responsive to the criticisms I’ve heard of Obamacare — the critics, to say nothing of the people who have supported it — you couldn’t design a bill less responsive than the House bill,” he said. “It would be impossible.”

As members of the crowd chuckled, Bennet continued. “I’ve never heard people say, ‘Could you please give a $400 billion tax cut to the richest Americans? Very seldom have I heard somebody say, ‘It’d be a good idea to cut Medicaid by a quarter,’ which is what that bill does — that’s before an $800 billion cut to Medicaid that they haven’t just proposed, they’ve passed.”

Then, in a line that prompted a quick smile from Bennet before he delivered it — he knew it would draw some laughter, which it did — Bennet said, his voice rising, “I join the Freedom Caucus in their critique of the bill the House passed, because it really is just Obamacare Lite.”

Rather than rebuild the health care system, as Bennet said Republicans have promised for years — “after all this rhetoric about how Obamacare is destroying capitalism as we know it,” he said with a shake of his head — all the legislation does is provide a massive tax cut for wealthy Americans and strip a few key provisions from the Affordable Care Act, he maintained. “You don’t have to cover preexisting conditions, but being a woman is a preexisting condition,” he said, trailing off.

There are, he continued, “completely reasonable critiques of Obamacare,” such as how should the system encourage competition in rural Colorado. “But what the Senate is doing is trying to get 51 votes, not solve problems.” He added, “The level of economic insecurity that exists in this county because of our screwed up health care system shouldn’t be tolerable in the United States of America.”