Welcome to DC Doings, a weekly look at the Colorado congressional delegation's activity.
The Senate was in session last week while the House was on a district work week. Both chambers will be in session through the end of the month starting on Tuesday.
TAKING ON BIG TECH ... Rep. Ken Buck on July 16 announced the formation of a new House caucus made up of some of the chamber's most conservative members dedicated to reining in the "big tech" companies the Windsor Republican has been lashing all year both rhetorically and with proposed legislation.
Along with co-founder and inaugural co-chair Rep. Lance Gooden, a Texas Republican, Buck said the Freedom from Big Tech Caucus includes Reps. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, Burgess Owens of Utah and Paul Gossar of Arizona.
Marking a sharp turn from Republicans' usual approach to big business, its founders said the caucus is based on the premise that enormous tech companies — including Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon — "rig the free market, crush competitors, stifle innovation, cozy up to China, and censor Americans."
Said Buck: “Big Tech has abused its market power for decades, and Congress must act to hold these companies accountable and preserve the free market, promote competition and innovation, protect the freedom of speech, and foster a thriving digital economy.”
AMACHE HISTORIC SITE BILL ADVANCES ... A bipartisan bill to designate the site of the Amache internment camp in southeastern Colorado as a national historical site passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee on July 14.
Sponsored by Buck and Rep. Joe Neguse, a Lafayette Democrat, the Amache National Historic Site Act would help preserve and highlight the camp, where more than 7,000 Japanese Americans were held during World War II
“The Amache incarceration site is a profound reminder of the injustices that Japanese Americans have faced within our state and our nation,” Neguse said in a statement.
“This bill is an important step towards preserving, telling, and reckoning with the stories of those who suffered at Amache, and I am proud to send it to the House floor for a vote. I urge my colleagues to pass this bill so that we may educate future generations, and provide dignity and healing to those who were forced to experience the Amache story firsthand.”
Buck, whose district encompasses the Bent County site, said he anticipates swift passage in the full House.
“Our nation is better today because of the lessons we have learned from our past," Buck said in a statement. "Amache National Historic Site Act is important because it recognizes the horrible injustices committed against Japanese Americans and preserves the site for people throughout Colorado and the United States.”
THE BULLY PULPIT ... Sen. Michael Bennet helped lead a full-court press promoting the arrival of the expanded tax credit, a program the Denver Democrat has pushed for years as a silver bullet with the potential to slash child poverty nationwide.
The temporary expansion — in place for the 2021 tax year — was approved in pandemic relief legislation signed in March by President Joe Biden. It increases an existing $2,000-per-child tax credit for parents to $3,000 for children age 6-17 and $3,600 for children younger than 6, and it makes the credit fully refundable, meaning families who haven't had to pay federal income tax can receive it.
Starting July 15, half of the annual credit will be paid out in monthly advance payments of $300 or $250, depending on the child's age, with the remainder available next year at tax time.
Bennet and fellow Senate Democrats have been calling for the expanded credit to be made permanent. On July 14, he took to the Senate floor to make the case.
"We don't have to accept chronic childhood poverty as a chronic feature of our economy or our democracy," he said.
"The poorest population in America are children. And we have some of the lowest economic mobility of any country in the industrialized world. We tell ourselves we're the land of opportunity, but we haven't looked like that for a very long time, and the policies that have been passed here haven't helped. And that's where the Child Tax Credit comes into being."
Negotiators have included a five-year extension in a $3.5 trillion legislative package that could be voted on later this summer under the Senate's reconciliation rules, though Bennet and his allies are urging lawmakers to figure out a way to make the credit a permanent fixture in the tax code.
THE AYES HAVE IT ... A bill sponsored by Sen. John Hickenlooper that could lower the rates consumers pay for charging electric vehicles passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on July 14.
The Denver Democrat's RECHARGE Act — that's short for Responsibly and Equitably Change How Auto-charging Rates Get Evaluated — would require states to review utility rates for vehicle charging and will be included in the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill making its way toward the Senate floor.
“Electric vehicles are essential to beat climate change,” Hickenlooper, a member of the committee, said in a statement. “Our bill makes it easier — and cheaper! — to choose electric and drive clean.”
Hickenlooper is one of 22 Democrats and Republicans who negotiated the outline of the massive infrastructure bill.
BRINGING HOME THE BACON ... Hickenlooper announced on July 13 that almost $500 million in a recent round of COVID-19 relief funding went to Colorado restaurants, bars and other businesses purveying food and drink.
Part of the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund established in the pandemic relief package passed in March, grants totaling $481 million went to 1,762 Colorado establishments, said Hickenlooper, who helped launch Colorado's brewpub industry and cobbled together a restaurant empire before he entered politics.
“Restaurants are the heart of our communities and many in Colorado were in dire straits during the pandemic,” the former barkeep said in a statement. “These grants will help keep many doors open and restaurant workers on the job.”
Peruse the list of recipients here.
IN THE HOPPER ... Bennet joined with fellow Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico to introduce a bill on July 16 to improve tribal access to clean water.
The Tribal Access to Clean Water Act would increase funding through a variety of federal agencies to help break the logjam encountered by water infrastructure projects in tribal communities — preventing what the senators said could be as much as half of Native American households from access to reliable, clean water.
“Clean water is a fundamental necessity for every community, ” Bennet said in a statement. “The unacceptable reality is that many of our tribal communities and Alaska Native villages still do not have access to clean drinking water. Our bill would take much-needed steps to reduce this disparity to ensure that tribal communities, regardless of where they live, have access to safe, clean water.”
Manuel Heart, chairman of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe of Colorado and of the Ten Tribes Partnership, said in a statement: "Our country's investment in infrastructure must at a minimum include the funding necessary to provide basic water service to Native Americans. The funding provided in this bill is an essential element of the federal trust responsibility to sovereign tribal Nations and communities and a step in the direction of a more racially just and equitable nation."
NEITHER SNOW NOR RAIN NOR GLOOM OF NIGHT ... Rep. Diana DeGette, a Denver Democrat, joined Gov. Jared Polis and other luminaries — including Hickenlooper via remote audio — on July 16 to welcome Denver's new postmaster, Lora McLucas, the first woman to hold the position.
The Gulf War veteran has worked for the U.S. Postal Service since 1995, starting as a letter carrier in Trinidad and advancing to positions including postmaster in Wheat Ridge, Arvada and Littleton Most recently, she served as manager of customer service operations in Denver.
TWEET OF THE WEEK ... DeGette on July 17 marked the one-year anniversary of the death of civil rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis with a tweet punctuated by the Georgia Democrat's trademark slogan, "good trouble."
One year ago, today, we lost my good friend John Lewis. His legacy of standing up and fighting for what he truly believed in will never be forgotten. It’s now up to all of us to carry on the fight for justice that he dedicated his life to leading. #GoodTrouble pic.twitter.com/X4tKULkFes— Rep. Diana DeGette (@RepDianaDeGette) July 17, 2021
"One year ago, today, we lost my good friend John Lewis," DeGette tweeted.
"His legacy of standing up and fighting for what he truly believed in will never be forgotten.
"It’s now up to all of us to carry on the fight for justice that he dedicated his life to leading. #GoodTrouble."
DeGette attached a photo from the first Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage to Alabama in 1999, organized by Lewis.
The photo depicts Lewis leading a reenactment of the famous 1965 walk across Selma, Alabama's Edmund Pettus Bridge with a coterie of politicians and officials who accompanied him on the tour — including DeGette, former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer and Colorado Republican Jim Nicholson, who was chairman of the Republican National Committee at the time.
DeGette told the story of the tour a year ago, shortly after Lewis died, in a Colorado Politics op-ed, concluding with an extraordinary account of a meeting with George Wallace, the former Alabama governor who had renounced his segregationist past near the end of his life and become friends with Lewis.
"John showed no bitterness or anger at the governor," DeGette wrote a year ago. "In fact, there seemed to be a genuine bond between these one-time adversaries. And that’s the reason John Lewis was an extraordinary American. ...
"John would remind us how he had survived the most difficult days of the civil rights movement and engaged in 'good trouble, necessary trouble.' And he would exhort us, 'Never give up; never give in.' "