John Colson: Scott Tipton, Cory Gardner not happy about CORE
Hit & Run
Well, well, well, Colorado’s U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton has come out from under his rock and is displaying for all the world to see just how deeply he is buried in the pockets of his corporate sponsors.
This past week, as the U.S. House of Representatives debated the CORE Act (the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act), Tipton stood up and complained that the act should go back to a house committee for further tweaks and other reductive legislative treatment, probably hoping to water the thing down to such a degree that even its initial sponsors (Colorado’s Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Joe Neguse) wouldn’t vote for it.
In his speech toward that end, Tipton trotted out an old bit of political gaslighting about there being a lack of support among political subdivisions in his district, although Bennet has been working on this bill for a decade or so and it has basic support from most elected officials throughout Western Colorado.
Tipton also claimed that the provisions of the act would unnecessarily endanger members of the Colorado National Guard with a requirement that Guardsmen not fly aircraft any lower than 2,000 feet above the ground during high-altitude flight training exercises.
But another congressman, according to radio news reports, jumped into the fray waving a letter he said came from the Colorado National Guard itself, offering praise for the act’s stated aim of preserving Colorado’s wild and scenic places and not mentioning any fears about high-altitude aviation training under the act’s provisions.
No word, in the reports I’ve seen, about Tipton’s reaction to the apparent evidence that he was lying through his teeth to scuttle a bill that has been angrily opposed by oil and gas interests.
But the bill was passed along party lines and now goes to the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate, where its fate is decidedly up in the air.
While Tipton’s brother in arms, Colorado’s Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, has been cagey about whether he will vote for the CORE Act, he has been quoted in the Colorado Sun online news site as worrying about the passage of the act by the House despite Tipton’s opposition.
Citing a supposed unwritten rule in Colorado politics, Gardner claimed, “It is important for the member of Congress who is in the district where the land is located to be supportive of the bill. That’s the way it’s always been done in Colorado,” as if our state has a history of non-combative politics in which we all agree what laws to pass either in the statehouse or in Congress.
I’m not exactly sure which alternative universe Gardner is referring to, but it’s kind of funny to hear a proven supporter of industry over humanity, Trumpism and the status quo talk about “collaboration, cooperation and bipartisanship,” values that until recently were not a big part of his world view, as far as I can see. He was a beneficiary of the state’s redistricting effort in 2010, when he won his first seat in Congress, and has been a reliable voice in the Republican chorus ever since.
After Colorado went for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, and the Republican Party lost control of the House in 2018 (much to Donald Trump’s and probably Gardner’s dismay), Gardner seems to have suddenly converted to the “collaboration” ethic. He has been reaching across the aisle to Democrats on several rather minor pieces of legislation as evidence of his nonpartisan spirit, but whenever a truly big and important question comes up, he is in lock-step with his party leadership and the president.
Tellingly, he parrots Trump’s line on many issues, and has yet to break silence on his views regarding the Ukrainegate mess, in which Trump has been caught trying to bribe or blackmail Ukrainian officials to dig up political dirt against Trump’s rival in the 2020 presidential race, Joe Biden and Biden’s son, Hunter.
And now, faced with a serious political challenge of his own in 2020, Gardner seems determined to walk as narrow a line as he can regarding issues that mean a lot to Coloradans, such as the CORE Act, but which are opposed in principle by the Republican Party as being unacceptably pro-public and anti-corporate.
As for Trump’s declaration last week that he would likely veto the CORE Act if it gets past the Senate, I guess Tipton and Gardner are breathing sighs of relief.
What both seem to have forgotten, though, is that Trump did not carry Colorado in 2016, and his acolytes are not viewed with much favor by our state’s electorate.
At this point, the most often mentioned challenger facing Gardner in 2020 is former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who dropped out of the national presidential scramble. Still, while Hick leads the pack, a total of eight people are still formally in the running for the June Democratic primary, according to the Ballotpedia website. This list includes the former Speaker of the Colorado House, Rep. Andrew Romanoff, who has the highest name recognition after Hick.
News reports indicate that Gardner has a significant lead in what experts say is the most critical aspect of running a statewide race, raising money. Some reports have Gardner with more than $6.6 million in his war chest, while Hick has roughly a quarter of that, according to the Open Secrets.org website and the Center for Responsive Politics.
But it’s early days yet, and presuming that Hick maintains his edge over other Dems in the primary, it is likely that his fundraising will pick up after that.
And at that point, we’ll have us a horse race.
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