Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 15, 20176min194

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.


Chris BianchiChris BianchiJune 22, 201721min230

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 ...


Joey BunchJoey BunchJune 16, 20175min80

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.”


Adam McCoyAdam McCoyMay 2, 20178min10

Following his participation in a North Korea-focused U.S. Senate field trip to the White House April 26, Sen. Cory Gardner took the international limelight again, a place he has grown seemingly more comfortable. Gardner took the opportunity of the White House visit to call for broader sanctions against North Korea and implored the U.S. military to continue carrying out its “show of strength exercises,” countering the increasingly provocative actions of Kim Jong Un's regime. Gardner, who has continued to grow his influence in U.S. foreign policy on North Korea, underscored a need to shift away from the failed policy of “strategic patience” so that Pyongyang understands all options are on the table for the United States.