With the House and Senate both back in session this week, two Republican members of Colorado's congressional delegation found themselves near the center of a power shuffle atop the House GOP caucus, while the third landed in the national spotlight when an ex-staffer sued over his office's alleged negligent approach to COVID-19. Meanwhile, the entire delegation produced bills and called for action on a number of items.
CANCEL CULTURE? Rep. Ken Buck stood by his neighbor to the north Liz Cheney this week as the House Republican caucus stripped the outspoken Wyoming congresswoman of the No. 3 leadership position the morning of May 12 after Cheney refused to stop criticizing former President Donald Trump's insistence that the 2020 election wasn't safe and secure.
The night before Republicans voted to remove Cheney in a voice vote — by a roughly two-to-one margin, Buck told reporters — Buck emceed an hour's worth of complaints about "cancel culture" on the House floor.
After several House Republicans railed against the phenomenon, Buck turned the floor over to Cheney, who delivered a stinging rebuke of Trump and what she called the former president's "aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him."
The next morning Buck voted to keep Cheney as the GOP's conference chair and Rep. Lauren Boebert voted to oust her. Rep. Doug Lamborn wouldn't say how he voted but blamed the media for stoking divisions among Republicans.
Ahead of the May 14 vote to replace Cheney, Buck announced he would nominate ultra-conservative Texan Rep. Chip Roy, a fellow member of the House Freedom Caucus, as an alternative to moderate New Yorker Rep. Elise Stefanik, who was backed by Trump and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Boebert, another Freedom Caucuser, was on hand to second Roy's nomination. Stefanik prevailed in a 134-46 secret ballot vote. Again, Lamborn didn't say how he voted.
YOU'VE BEEN SERVED ... Lamborn faces a lawsuit filed May 13 by ex-staffer Brandon Pope, who alleges the eight-term Republican failed to take measures to protect his staff from COVID-19 last year, including during coronavirus outbreaks in his D.C. and Colorado Springs offices, and then retaliated against Pope by firing him when he kept raising his concerns.
The lawsuit, filed in D.C. District Court, also charges Lamborn with making his staff run personal errands for the congressman and his wife, compelled employees to buy Christmas and birthday presents for the boss and allowed his son to live in the basement of the U.S. Capitol for weeks and had congressional employees help the lad find a job.
Lamborn's office denied the lawsuit's claims, calling the "workplace safety allegations ... unsubstantiated" and asserting they "did not result in the termination of his employment," adding that the lawmaker "looks forward to full vindication as all facts come to light."
THE AYES HAVE IT ... The Senate voted 59-38 on May 14 to confirm the nomination of Colorado's election integrity advocate Amber McReynolds, who ran Denver's elections operations and heads the nonprofit National Vote at Home Institute, for the U.S. Postal Service's Board of Governors.
On May 12, Sen. Michael Bennet orated in favor of her nomination on the Senate floor, praising McReynolds for helping put the state's vote-by-mail system in place. Said Bennet: "We are proud of the model we built in a collaborative, nonpartisan way, and Ms. McReynolds deserves a lot of credit for that." Watch Bennet's speech here.
• A Senate committee on May 13 passed a bipartisan bill sponsored by Democratic Sen. John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi to reduce reliance on telecommunications equipment manufactured by Chinese companies.
The Telecommunications Supply Chain Diversity Promotion Act, passed as an amendment to the Endless Frontier Act, funds a $20 million research program at Boulder's Institute of Telecommunication Sciences to develop new technology that doesn't carry security risks posed by equipment from Chinese firms.
IN THE HOPPER ... Members of Colorado's delegation kept up their busy pace introducing legislation this week. Among the bills submitted for lawmakers' consideration:
• Rep. Joe Neguse, a Boulder Democrat, on May 13 led a bill co-sponsored by all six other members of the state House delegation to name the post office in downtown Boulder after Eric Talley, the Boulder police officer killed in March when he responded to the mass shooting at a Boulder King Soopers.
• Boebert introduced legislation on May 7 to block the Biden administration's 30 x 30 proposal, calling the plan to preserve at least 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030 a "dangerous land grab put forth by extremist environmentalist groups." The bill debuted with 22 Republican co-sponsors, including Buck.
• Buck on May 10 introduced a resolution to reaffirm U.S. commitment to Taiwan’s "continued peace and autonomy," recognizing the two countries' "beneficial partnership and mutual strategic interests." It was part of a group of bills from the Republican Study Committee meant to "counter China," Buck's office said.
• Bennet joined with Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley to introduce the Accelerating Kids’ Access to Care Act, aimed at helping families get health care for children with complex medical conditions. The bill follows 2019 legislation from the two senators that was signed into law that allows children on Medicaid with certain conditions to receive care across state lines. The new bill lets states use a streamlined enrollment process for out-of-state pediatric patients enrolled in other states' Medicaid program. A companion bipartisan bill was introduced in the House.
• Buck on May 12 introduced a "Back the Blue" resolution expressing support for law enforcement agencies to coincide with National Police Week. Lamborn was one of four co-sponsors.
• Bennet and Neguse were among the chief sponsors of bipartisan legislation introduced in both chambers May 13 to authorize the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support forest and grassland restoration projects across property boundaries on public and private land.
• Neguse and Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader introduced a bill on May 13 to encourage utility companies to do more to protect against power outages and wildfires in the face of extreme weather events. The Disaster Safe Power Grid Act would provide incentives through a matching grant program for system upgrades, fire and disaster safety equipment and vegetation management around power lines to better protect against wildfires. A companion bill was also introduced in the Senate.
• Rep. Jason Crow, an Aurora Democrat, stood with lawmakers from both parties on May 13 to re-introduce the I am Vanessa Guillén Act, legislation that would drastically change how sexual harassment and sexual assault claims are handled in the military.
Named in honor of an Army specialist who was murdered at Fort Hood after the chain of command ignored ongoing sexual harassment by her platoon sergeant, the bill would move prosecution decisions on sexual assault and sexual harassment cases out of the chain of command. It also establishes a process to compensate service members victimized by sexual violence when the military was found to be negligent and reforms the Army's response and prevention program. The bill was also introduced in the Senate.
BULLY PULPIT ... Congress provides a ready megaphone and Colorado's members wielded it this week:
• Denver Democrat Rep. Diana DeGette joined with Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey and Anna G. Eshoo of California on a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra calling for him to reverse a Trump administration policy that revoked the Food and Drug Administration’s power to review the accuracy of some COVID-19 tests before they are used by the public.
• Bennet, who sits on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and the committee's chairman, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, called on Biden to weigh how the Trump administration's decision to move the seat of U.S. Space Command from Colorado to Alabama can affect intelligence concerns. It's the latest salvo in an attempt by Colorado lawmakers to reverse the decision to relocate the headquarters.
• Crow on May 12 pressured the Biden administration to protect Afghan interpreters and contractors as the U.S. nears a Sept. 11 deadline to withdraw forces from Afghanistan. During the first House Armed Services Committee hearing on the withdrawal, Crow, a decorated Army Ranger combat veteran who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, said it's a matter of life and death.
Crow related the gripping story of an Afghani who helped Americans for a dozen years but was killed in January by assassins who taunted him about the Americans' inability to protect him after years of his Special Immigrant Visa application being delayed. Watch Crow's remarks here.
TRANSITIONS ... Neguse was named on May 12 to the powerful House Rules Committee, where he joins fellow delegation member Rep. Ed Perlmutter. The panel considers virtually all legislation before it heads to the House floor, giving members the chance to tweak bills and set the rules for debate.
• Neguse was re-appointed on May 11 to a second term as one of five vice-chairs of the Majority Leader Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity, which brings attention to "comprehensive efforts to eradicate poverty," his office said.
TWEET OF THE WEEK ... Andrea Rael Neguse wished her husband, Joe, a happy 37th birthday on May 13 with a quip about the many candles on the youngster's cake.
Please join me in wishing a very happy birthday to my husband @JoeNeguse ! I don't know that this year's cake can fit your candles anymore, but luckily it's cake, so who really cares? Happy birthday!! 🎂— Andrea Rael Neguse (@AndreaRael) May 13, 2021
"Please join me in wishing a very happy birthday to my husband @JoeNeguse!," she tweeted. "I don't know that this year's cake can fit your candles anymore, but luckily it's cake, so who really cares? Happy birthday!!"