With the House on a committee work week, most of the action was in the Senate, which fell short of approving the creation of a bipartisan commission to study the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol in the face of a Republican filibuster.
Legislation authorizing the commission went down on a 54-35 vote, with all Democrats voting in favor along with six Republicans, failing to reach the 60 votes required to get past the GOP's first filibuster of the year. The House approved the measure a week earlier, mostly along party lines.
On May 27, Colorado's Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet "implore[d]" his colleagues in a floor speech to look beyond the partisan battles of the day and support the commission.
“The people around the world who watched Jan. 6 are watching us today, and they want to know if democracy is up to the challenges of the 21st century. I believe it is," Bennet said.
"I think at a moment like this it is important for us not to stand for a party or for a president, but for the truth and for common sense and for our exercise in self-government."
THE AYES HAVE IT ... A bill to name Boulder's downtown Post Office after Boulder Police Officer Eric H. Talley, who was killed responding to the March 22 mass shooting at a Boulder King Soopers, passed out of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on May 25.
H.R. 3210 is sponsored by Rep. Joe Neguse, a Lafayette Democrat, and co-sponsored by the other six members of Colorado's House delegation.
"We hope in a small way this effort may honor Officer Talley’s memory, his family, and ensure future generations know of his service to our community," Neguse said in a statement as the bill heads to the House floor.
IN THE HOPPER ... Rep. Ed Perlmutter, an Arvada Democrat, introduced legislation on May 21 to study the mental health effects of active shooter drills in K-12 schools.
The School Safety Drill Research Act of 2021 would authorize $1 million for the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine to study whether the near-ubiquitous school safety drills are doing more harm than good by traumatizing school staff and students, particularly younger students and students with disabilities.
"We must ensure school safety drills don’t trigger these anxieties and instead give students the knowledge to respond appropriately to threatening situations and potentially help save lives,” Perlmutter said in a statement. “This research will help inform school administrators as they balance school preparedness with the mental health of students and staff.”
• Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican, introduced a pair of bills to cut off federal funding for public TV and radio, measures he's pushed nearly every year since taking office in 2007.
Lamborn argues that the federal government shouldn't be spending hundreds of millions of dollars annually to support the Public Broadcasting System and National Public Radio, entities that get the vast bulk of their support from member dues, licensing and corporate sponsors.
He also doesn't want taxpayers funding the organizations' news operations, which he maintains report the news from a liberal perspective.
• Rep. Jason Crow, an Aurora Democrat, introduced legislation with California Republican Rep. Young Kim to bolster the Small Business Administration’s cybersecurity capabilities so the agency can better handle and report cyber threats that affect small businesses.
The SBA Cyber Awareness Act would require the SBA to issue a report assessing its ability to combat cyber threats within six months and also require the SBA to notify Congress about future data breaches.
• Bennet joined with three other Democratic senators to introduce a bill to help state and local governments update their technology and replace outdated digital systems that keep track of health care, housing, unemployment and other services.
The State and Local Digital Service Act would authorize $100 million to fund tech "strike teams" — modeled in part on the Colorado Digital Service — to help the entities modernize government websites.
“When Americans visited government websites over the past year to file for unemployment or schedule a vaccine shot, it was like going back in time to the first days of the internet," Bennet said in a statement. "These outdated systems waste people's time, obstruct access to vital services, and erode confidence in government."
Tech teams funded by the proposed legislation, he added, will "help bring government services into the 21st century — reducing costs, improving access to vital services, and helping government run more efficiently and transparently.”
• Crow and Bennet introduced legislation on May 24 in both chambers to halt Immigration and Customs Enforcement from transferring immigrant detainees between facilities during the pandemic, citing recent outbreaks at a privately run ICE facility in Aurora. The bill would also require ICE to release detainees from facilities where social distancing can't be maintained.
The End Transfer of Detained Immigrants Act is similar to legislation both Colorado Democrats introduced last year. It's also sponsored by Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Democratic Reps. Sylvia Garcia and Veronica Escobar, both of Texas.
• Bennet introduced three amendments on May 26 to the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, an omnibus bill focused on emerging tech, critical supply chains and American competitiveness that's making its way through the Senate.
The first, introduced with fellow Senate Intelligence Committee member Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, establishes a single federal entity responsible for driving far-reaching planning across emerging technologies. A Technology Competitiveness Council within the White House would be responsible for helming a National Technology Strategy, along with a component to steer investments in leading-edge tech.
The second and third amendments are meant to increase available tech talent in the federal government. A civilian National Reserve Digital Corps, modeled on the military's reserves, would let Americans provide critical expertise on federal projects on a part-time basis, while the other proposal would create civil service and military career tracks devoted to software development and engineering, data management and artificial intelligence.
• Sen. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, introduced a bill May 28 intended to help states prevent child abuse by clarifying how states can use existing grant money.
The Strengthening Families Act would make clear which state programs qualify for funding from Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention grants. The bill would also promote coordination between local programs, public agencies and private service providers with a goal of developing and expanding programs that prevent abuse.
SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED ... Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Silt Republican, delivered a letter on May 24 to the director of the National Weather Service calling on the agency to hurry up and integrate data from a new radar system in the San Luis Valley that has been operational for more than a year. Boebert also asked for an explanation for the delay.
Community groups and local governments came together to raise $1.8 million to build the radar system in hopes of improving weather data for the region, but what Boebert describes as bureaucratic red tape has kept its data from being incorporated into the National Weather Service system.
The new radar system fills a longstanding blind spot in weather data that has made forecasts in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico less accurate, its backers say. Bringing it into the existing system will help improve water management, assist farmers and ranchers, improve emergency response and keep things safer all around, they say.
Said Boebert: "The people in the San Luis Valley deserve to have accurate storm forecasting that will improve local economies and potentially save lives.”
• All three GOP members of Colorado's congressional delegation — Lamborn, Boebert and Rep. Ken Buck of Windsor — signed on with more than 200 other Republicans to a May 28 letter written by House Republican Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana asking Speaker Nancy Pelosi to get on board with an investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Despite Republicans asking over and over for congressional investigations into claims the pandemic started in a laboratory in the Wuhan Province in China, Scalise, the ranking member on the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, says Pelosi and House Democrats haven't held a single hearing on the question.
Released on the heels of President Joe Biden ordering an inquiry into the theory the virus emerged from a lab, the letter rebukes Pelosi for downplaying suspicions that the Chinese Communist Party could have covered up its origins.
“These questions about the CCP’s liability are not a diversion, as you falsely claimed," Scalise wrote. "To the contrary, every American family that lost someone deserves answers about the origin of this terrible virus, and House Democrats’ ongoing refusal to allocate investigative resources to get those answers is an affront to them.”
THE ENVELOPE PLEASE ... Neguse on May 27 announced the winners of the 2021 Congressional Art Competition from Colorado's 2nd Congressional District, which will be displayed in Washington, D.C., and Colorado.
Due to the pandemic, the competition was held virtually this year, with students submitting artwork and judges considering the pieces online. Neguse, his wife, Andrea, and a panel of local artists served as judges to select the five winners:
- "Hannah," by Margaux Helson of Boulder High School
- "Mom’s Aspen," by Megan Hess of Nederland Middle Senior High School
- "Gus the Dog," by Ashley Campbell of Mountain View High School in Loveland
- "There Are So Many Holes in My Facade," by Grace Fuller of Peak to Peak Charter School in Lafayette
- "Flashy Lie: Vile Truth," by Madison Moyer of Middle Park High School in Granby
View the artwork here.
“It has been a particularly rough year for students across the country, and yet they were still able to create beauty through these incredible pieces of art,” Neguse said in a statment.
“In moments of crisis, we often look to the arts to bring us inspiration and hope for the future. I was thoroughly impressed by the passion and creativity displayed in each of this year’s art competition entries and am grateful to the many students throughout our district who chose to share their creative talents with our community by participating in the 2021 Congressional Art Competition virtually."
Helson's striking portrait "Hannah" will be displayed in the Cannon Tunnel in the U.S. Capitol Complex, Neguse said. The second-place work will hang in the Colorado School Board of Education’s board room, the third-place work will be displayed in Neguse’s Washington D.C. office, and the fourth- and fifth-place artwork will be displayed in Neguse’s district offices.
Since its launch in 1982, more than 650,000 high school students have participated in the Congressional Institute's annual art competition.
TWEET OF THE WEEK ... A video clip posted by Hickenlooper on May 25 starts out as a corny banjo version of "I'm Just a Bill," the iconic Schoolhouse Rock song about the congressional legislative process — and then goes sideways into a loosely melodic pitch for the Democrats' election reform bill, the For the People Act, which awaits action in the Senate.
"We’ve got to pass the #ForThePeopleAct," tweeted Hickenlooper, who jammed on stage with some of Colorado's most celebrated musicians when he was mayor of Denver and governor of Colorado.
Playing his storied banjo on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, Hickenlooper sings some adventurous lyrics in the 53-second tune, rhyming "For the People Act" with "corporate hacks," though the subtitled version goes with the more polite "corporate PACs."
The Twitterverse was divided over the production, with plenty of responses cheering the senator's playful take on a serious subject, while others responded with calls for Hickenlooper to talk to his moderate Democratic friends in the Senate into supporting filibuster reform.
"Besides the fact that this is an embarrassing video, it's sad that politicians now want millions of your tax dollars to go to their own campaigns," tweeted Joe Jackson, executive director of the Colorado GOP, who noted that one of the bill's provisions would have delivered more than $88 million in matching federal funds to Hickenlooper's Senate campaign last cycle. "#ForThePoliticiansAct," Jackson added.