By ERNEST LUNING
Both the Senate and House were out of session this week for scheduled work periods back home and in committees. That didn't slow down Colorado's D.C. delegation.
BASHING BIG TECH ... Rep. Ken Buck tore into the May 5 decision by a quasi-independent outside board established by Facebook to extend banning former President Donald Trump from the social media platform for up to six months.
"The American people should fear any company that sees itself as so powerful it establishes a biased, quasi-judicial entity to adjudicate our First Amendment rights," said the Windsor Republican and ranking member on House Judiciary's Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law.
The Oversight Board said it agreed with a ruling Facebook made in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and attempt to overturn the presidential election, saying Trump posed an ongoing risk of inciting violence, but also told Facebook that an "indefinite" ban was unreasonable.
Buck was having none of it.
In a statement, he pointed to a busy Facebook page for fans of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, which Buck said "has repeatedly promoted falsehoods about the pro-democracy movement in Syria" and downplayed the Assad regime's human rights abuses during the country's civil war.
Added Buck, who led the charge to reign in large tech companies he alleges have been silencing conservative voices: "Facebook’s status as a monopoly has led its leaders to believe it can silence and censor Americans’ speech with no repercussions. Now more than ever we need aggressive antitrust reform to break up Facebook’s monopoly,"
Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican, made a point similar to Buck's that Facebook is banning Trump while allowing other world leaders with far worse reputations to have a platform.
"Twitter and Facebook allow (Chinese Communist Party) officials who are actively participating in genocide to have accounts," Lamborn tweeted. "Twitter even allows the Iranian mullahs to have an account. The insanity must stop. #BigTech must stop going after conservatives."
Silt Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert echoed Buck's call to dismantle the tech giant.
"The Facebook Oversight Board acted as the judge, jury, prosecutor, appellate court and executioner," she tweeted. "Big Tech needs to be broken up."
THANK YOU ... That's what first lady Jill Biden told military spouses during a visit to Fort Carson in El Paso County on May 6, the day before Military Spouse Appreciation Day.
“We cannot expect to retain even our most dedicated service members if they are forced to choose between their love of country and their love of family,” Biden said in a speech. “The president knows that there is no greater honor than serving those who serve our country. And that means everyone who serves, all of you.”
Colorado's two senators, Democrats Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, and Lamborn, whose district includes the base, were on hand for the USO's Military Spouse Connections event.
Said Bennet: "The first lady understands firsthand that military spouses and families are the unsung heroes of our national defense. Military families make personal sacrifices for our country alongside their active duty spouses or parents. We need to do everything we can to provide them with greater economic security and opportunity."
THE PLOT THICKENS ... Bennet and Hickenlooper on May 7 announced that they were joining Lamborn in formally supporting the Government Accountability Office’s probe into the decision made in the closing days of the Trump Administration to locate U.S. Space Command's headquarters in Huntsville, Alabama, instead of Colorado Springs. The review, under way since March 19, is looking into the Air Force's scoring and how the selection was ultimately made.
“We’ve long believed that Colorado is the best location for U.S. Space Command to remain permanently," the two senators said in a joint statement.
"This review will determine whether politics superseded national security. There is bipartisan consensus in Colorado that the methodology used for this basing decision was flawed, and we will continue working with the GAO and the Colorado delegation to keep Space Command in Colorado Springs — where it belongs.”
THE AYES HAVE IT ... Rep. Jason Crow, an Aurora Democrat, cheered passage out of the House Ways and Means Committee on May 5 of the Securing a Strong Retirement Act of 2021, which includes bipartisan legislation authored by Crow and Ohio Republican Brad Wenstrup.
The Crow-Wenstrup bill, incorporated into the larger retirement package, is meant to expand access to employer-sponsored retirement plans to help spouses of active duty military save for retirement.
“When someone takes the oath to serve, the whole family serves," said Crow, a decorated Army Ranger combat veteran with a young family.
"Deployments and frequent relocations can take a real toll on military families, especially military spouses that are often forced to put their own careers on hold to support their partners’ service. Our bipartisan legislation would encourage small business employers to provide military spouses with a retirement plan, providing needed financial security and stability to military families."
The larger package advances to the House floor.
• Boebert celebrated a House committee's unanimous adoption of two amendments she proposed.
On May 5, Boebert said, the House Natural Resources Committee approved her suggested language amending HR 1506, to require additional reporting from companies leasing federal lands for renewable energy and fossil fuel production.
"These amendments will help the people in my district by requiring the government to study the risk that wildfires pose to critical energy infrastructure and note the harmful environmental impacts of shifting over to renewable energy too quickly," she said in a statement. "These amendments are steps in the right direction for energy independence and for active forest management based on scientific wildfire mitigation strategies.”
IN THE HOPPER ... Colorado's congressional delegation kept up the pace introducing legislation this week.
• Buck introduced a bill on May 4 to clamp down on countries that violate U.S. law and steal intellectual property, part of a raft of legislation the Republican Study Committee aimed at countering China and its ruling communist party, his office said.
Costing the U.S. economy an estimated $600 billion a year, international intellectual property theft largely involves China, according to the Justice Department's National Security Division, with 80% of economic espionage cases linked to China and 60% of trade secret cases involving the country.
“What Americans innovate, China steals," Buck said in a statement. "China’s long history of intellectual property theft costs the United States billions of dollars each year. My bill combats China and other hostile nations’ ability to steal our intellectual property and do untold harm to our economy."
• Boebert introduced a bill she says will fully fund "real" infrastructure needs with money that hasn't been spent from massive pandemic relief bills passed in the last year.
Her America’s Infrastructure Modernization Act is meant as a substitute for the Biden administration's $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal, dubbed the American Jobs Plan, which Boebert calls a "trojan horse for Democrat spending." The Boebert bill would reallocate $650 billion from what she says are $2.2 billion in unspent COVID-19 funds to pay for roads, ports and airport improvements.
Said Boebert: “President Biden calls everything under the sun infrastructure, but only 6% of his $2.3 trillion so-called infrastructure plan goes to roads and bridges. The rest goes to climate change, increasing government bureaucracy, and unrelated liberal wish-list items.... There is no reason to increase taxes and waste trillions of dollars on a leftist slush fund when we have the ability to deliver real infratructure results for the American people without raising their taxes.”
The bill's initial co-sponsors include Republican Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas, Paul Gosar of Arizona and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania.
• Crow on May 7 introduced a bill to require states to mandate independent investigations after law enforcement uses deadly force resulting in death or injury.
The Use of Force Accountability Act, Crow said, was inspired by Aurora's independent review of the the death of Elijah McClain, an Aurora man who died in 2019 after police stopped him at a bus stop and paramedics administered ketamine, a powerful tranquilizer. The city recently determined that an initial investigation was "flawed" and recommended changing how officer-involved use of force is investigated.
“No legislation can bring back Elijah McClain or ease his family’s pain," Crow said in a statement. "We failed Elijah and his family, and the least we can do is learn from this injustice,” The bill, he said, would "hold police officers accountable for misconduct by requiring thorough, independent investigations after such incidents."
The legislation would also require review in all cases by internal affairs departments and establish grants to help states implement the statutes.
THE POWER OF THE PEN ... Colorado lawmakers issued multiple requests for funding and other government action this week.
• Most of the members of the state delegation signed a bipartisan letter led by Rep. Joe Neguse, a Lafayette Democrat, asking that $60 million be allocated to NASA Space Grant program, a competitive state and federal operation that helps prepare students for STEM careers, to fund the Colorado Space Grant Consortium, a 21-member organization including colleges, universities and nonprofits.
“The NASA Space Grant program is effective in providing talented students in Colorado who are ready to take on some of our most innovative high-tech jobs with an opportunity to learn more about the STEM field,” Neguse said in a statement. “As a federal-state partnership, this program not only addresses national needs but has proven to be very effective at fulfilling state and regional STEM goals.”
In addition to Neguse, the letter's signers included Rep. Diana DeGette, a Denver Democrat, Buck, Lamborn and Crow.
• Bennet was among 11 Democratic senators asking the Biden Administration to include in its infrastructure package funding for new water lines, connections and sanitation projects to serve tribal communities that currently lack access to clean drinking water.
“While the necessity of repairing existing water infrastructure is undeniable, for many rural tribal communities the investment in new water and sanitation connections is vital,” the senators wrote.
“We commend the inclusion of $600 million for Indian Health Service (IHS) related construction, leasing, and improvement projects in the American Rescue Plan. We urge you to include additional direct investments in new water and wastewater service lines for tribal communities through the IHS Sanitation Facilities Construction (SFC) account or other related programs in your economic plan.”
He added that a sole focus on repairing and replacing existing water lines leaves many tribal communities high and dry.
TWEET OF THE WEEK .. While the Force was with many of Colorado's D.C. contingent as they celebrated Star Wars Day on May 4, Bennet drew attention for an alarmingly accurate Yoda impression in a tweet replying to a light-sabre-wielding Cory Booker.
"Mmmm, Yoda," Bennet says in the attached video clip. "May the Force be with you!" He adds in the tweet that he's "partial to the original movies."
Two days later, Bennet posted another tweet featuring a photo of the senator standing in front of a statue of Yoda, noting that it was a "treat" for his "new followers" that he couldn't find on Star Wars Day.