Around the world of politics in 87 hours…
House Democrats wrapped up their first “100 hours” in congress yesterday, although it only actually took 87 hours. Hey, who needs to be able to do math when you can legislate so quickly? More from The Associated Press:
House Democrats, eager to get going after 12 years in the minority, wrapped up their two-week, must-do agenda Thursday by voting to recoup billions of dollars in lost royalties from oil and gas companies and roll back some industry tax breaks.
The bill, passed 264-163, also sets a conservation fee on oil and gas from the Gulf of Mexico. Also finished in the “100 hour” stretch, which took 87 hours in real legislative time, were bills to raise the federal minimum wage, implement port security measures and other recommendations of the 9/11 commission, expand embryonic stem cell research, give Medicare authority to negotiate lower prescription drug costs and cut interest rates on student loans.
“Today, Democrats stood united to say that we have kept our promise to the American people,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Governor Bill Ritter will tour Southeastern Colorado today to discuss what help is needed in the aftermath of last month’s blizzards, which were costly to many in the agricultural sector. Ritter will fly around the state throughout the weekend, making stops in 12 counties before finishing up in Eagle and Centennial on Sunday.
Ritter is getting bashed on all sides for his cabinet picks, reports Mark Couch of The Denver Post:
State Rep. Alice Borodkin, D-Denver, is nudging Gov. Bill Ritter to pick more women for top state government posts. The four he has picked are not enough to build a bench of talented female candidates who could run for statewide office.
House Republican Leader Mike May of Parker on Thursday jabbed Ritter for failing to pick any officials from the Western Slope to serve in his Cabinet.
And Denver City Councilwoman Rosemary Rodriguez said she wished Ritter had chosen more “women of color” for high-level roles in state government. There are none.
The chorus of geographic-, gender- and ethnicity-based criticism reflects the competing demands on Ritter: running state government and satisfying the people who helped elect him.
There’s no truth to the rumor that Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen is upset that Ritter didn’t pick more former football players, or that the Sierra Club is angry that Ritter didn’t tap more trees and shrubs for top jobs.
There’s a long article in Time magazine today about how Democrats in the West can teach the rest of the Party how to be successful. I didn’t actually read the piece because it’s, like, eight pages long, but Democratic Rep. Buffie McFadyen and Gov. Ritter show up in the first couple of paragraphs:
A week before the 2006 elections, I found myself in a holding room with a posse of prominent Colorado Democrats waiting to stage a rally in the city of Pueblo. Almost all of them were in full western regalia–cowboy hats and boots, blue jeans, western shirts and jackets, string ties or no ties at all. These were large people, as Westerners tend to be, and they were not shy. Several noted my rumpled, Eastern aspect and took pity on me. “We’ve got to get you some boots,” said Bill Ritter, the Democratic candidate for Governor, who was about to be elected in a landslide.
“Feeling out of place?” asked a local state rep, a tall blond woman named Buffie McFayden, who greeted me with a black-power handshake and two Sammy Sosa heart kisses.
“Bet you never thought you’d find a politician named Buffie out in Colorado. I tell folks it’s short for buffalo.” McFayden, a force of nature, explained that her district had 12 prisons and a solid Republican majority that voted for her because “the right’s gone so far to the right, you can’t recognize them anymore. When the wingers accuse me of being a liberal, I say, Sure, if you mean that I’m in favor of staying out of people’s private lives and balancing the budget and I’m against stealing.”
And on it went as, one by one, I met the exuberant and slightly eccentric Democrats of Colorado–the hosts of the next Democratic National Convention, to be held in Denver in 2008. Each had a big personality and a distinctive personal history. Ritter, for example, was one of 12 children who grew up poor on a wheat farm; in 1986 he and his wife made a midlife decision to spend three years as Catholic missionaries in Africa, working at a nutrition center in Zambia. Then there were the “Salazar Boys.” U.S. Senator Ken Salazar and his brother John, a member of Congress, were raised on a ranch without a telephone or electricity. Senator Salazar was the only freshman Democrat elected to the Senate from a red state during George W. Bush’s 2004 victory. He is a moonfaced fellow whose modest demeanor belies his reputation as an ecumenical annoyer of special-interest groups. He once called Jim Dobson of Focus on the Family, a Colorado-based conservative Christian group, “the antichrist.” But he was also one of the very few Democrats to stick with pro-war Senator Joe Lieberman after Lieberman lost the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont in Connecticut last summer.
I asked Barbara O’Brien, the candidate for Lieutenant Governor, about the rampant individuality in the room, and she said, “I doubt you’d find a Democratic ticket like us anywhere else in the country. Bill [Ritter] is pro-life, and I’m not even a politician. I ran a children’s advocacy group and took positions that upset Democrats in the past–like, I testified in favor of a limited, targeted school-voucher program. But that’s the way it is out here in the West. People like their politicians independent.”
Hank Brown announced yesterday that he would resign as the President of the University of Colorado in one year. The Denver Post has more on the announcement.
Karen Crummy of The Denver Post runs down the list of Democrats looking to run in CD-2 when Rep. Mark Udall leaves to take a shot at the U.S. Senate:
State Senate President Joan Fitz- Gerald and millionaire philanthropist Jared Polis are publicly showing interest in Udall’s 2nd Congressional District. House Majority Leader Alice Madden and Will Shafroth, head of the Colorado Conservation Trust, each said they are mulling a potential run.
“Yes, I’m interested,” said Fitz- Gerald, a Democrat from Golden. “I recognize Mark Udall has a decision to make. When he does, I’ll be ready.”
Udall hasn’t officially announced he is running for Sen. Wayne Allard’s seat, although on numerous occasions he has said he would. Allard, a Republican from Loveland, announced this week that he wouldn’t run for re-election after his second term ends.
Democrats have held the 2nd Congressional District seat for more than three decades. The district includes Boulder, Westminster and Thornton, as well as the University of Colorado, ski areas such as Winter Park and several biotech, high tech and aerospace companies.
The area is 26 percent Republican, 33 percent Democratic and 39 percent unaffiliated, according to the secretary of state’s office. Most political observers believe if the seat opens, Udall’s successor will emerge from the primary.
Republicans say that they will run a serious candidate for the seat, but the chance of a Republican winning in CD-2 is about as strong as Jake Plummer making it on the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame.
Some Colorado businesses are worried that a pro-union bill in the legislature will cause the downfall of man. As David Mistead of the Rocky Mountain News reports:
A pro-union bill hurtling toward the governor’s desk is causing the corporate community to worry – already – about Bill Ritter’s business bona fides.
House Bill 1072 essentially repeals the Colorado Labor Peace Act, a 64-year-old law that puts Colorado somewhere between an anti-union right-to-work state and a state where unions can easily force the firing of workers who don’t become members. The bill repeals election rules that make it harder for unions to turn a workplace into a “closed shop,” where union membership is mandatory.
Rep. Michael Garcia, D-Aurora, the bill’s sponsor, said the idea for the bill dates to 2001, when he and then-Rep. Dan Grossman, a fellow Democrat, “were dreaming about what we’d do if we had all three components of the legislative process.”
He’s referring to the House, Senate and governor’s office, and with Ritter’s inauguration this month, Garcia’s dreams are coming true.
Evan Dreyer, Ritter’s spokesman, said, “During the campaign, he said he was supportive of the concept, and he’s still inclined to support the legislation. His support shouldn’t come as a surprise. He was asked about it in the campaign and stated his position.”
But the business community is shocked nonetheless.
“It’s not a conversation he had with this organization,” said Tamra Ward, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce’s senior vice president for public affairs and communications.
We’ve moved on to the punishment phase of those involved in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. As The Associated Press reports, a former Republican congressman will be trying not to drop the soap for a few years:
Former Rep. Bob Ney was sentenced Friday to 2 1/2 years in federal prison for trading political favors for gifts and campaign donations from lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Ney, the first congressman ensnared in the lobbying scandal, pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy and making false statements. He admitted being corrupted by golf trips, tickets, meals and campaign donations from Abramoff.
“You violated a host of laws that you as a congressman are sworn to enforce and uphold,” said U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle, who recommended that Ney serve his time at a federal prison in Morgantown, W.Va…
…The sentence was harsher than recommended by prosecutors or Ney’s lawyers, Huvelle said, because Ney had violated the trust placed on him as a public official. “Both your constituents and the public trusted you to represent them honestly,” she said.
After all those years screwing the public, it’s about time that…oh, never mind.
Enjoy the weekend and the snow.