Reporter Jesse Paul of the Colorado Sun Gives his take.
Photo: Blue Mesa Reservoir in the Curecanti National Recreation Area, which is one of the parcels of land that would be protected by the CORE Act. Credit: Michael Kirsh/Wikimedia Commons.
KBUT: The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act has passed out of the U.S. House of Representatives. But what chances does the massive public land bill now have to pass the Senate? I caught up with political reporter Jesse Paul of the Colorado Sun to find out.
Jesse Paul: One of the biggest potential impediments to the future of the bill in the Senate is Colorado’s as junior Senator, Republican Corey Gardner, who’s not blocking the bill, but he’s not in favor of it as it stands. He really wants to see a lot of different changes made to the legislation. And some of those really revolve around clearing out the concerns that Scott Tipton has about the bill, considering that the bulk of the lands that will be affected are in Tipton’s district and Corey Gardner says that until there can be some kind of accord reached where the entire congressional delegation of Colorado can be on the same page. He’s really hesitant to be one of the Local active supporters.
KBUT: So what’s it going to take for this bill to become law?
Jesse Paul: I think a lot of negotiations between probably Michael Bennett, Joe Neguse and Corey Gardner to be able to get everybody on the same page – and probably Scott Tipton on there as well. I mean, remember now this piece of legislation, even if it does pass the Senate as is, by some really, really slim chance – would land on the desk of President Donald Trump and his advisors are already recommending that he veto it over the same concerns that Gardner and Tipton are voicing. So unless something pretty drastic, happens, I think that the CORE act is probably stalled at best.
KBUT: You mentioned senator Michael Bennett, he’s sponsoring it in the Senate. What kind of power does he have to garner some votes on this?
Jesse Paul: Well, I think the Senate is a lot different than the house in that senators tend to be islands and have their own base of support, have a little bit more complicated viewpoints then members of the House. [It’s] highly unlikely that Michael Bennett would be able to change a significant number of Republicans minds, especially when the Republican senator from the state is against it. But in terms of a broader political landscape, this bill is more problematic because both Corey Gardner and Scott Tipton are being attacked by Democrats and environmental groups in Colorado for not having a good enough record on public lands, for not supporting this bill, for not supporting policies and legislation that would improve the environment or cut down the pollution. So they’re kind of against the wall here. Their backs are against the wall. So you’re not just talking about policy differences. You’re talking about political differences. And these are two Republicans who have potentially a lot to lose if they continue to get attacked in a significant way. You’re talking lots of money pouring into Colorado to make that point that they aren’t doing enough on public lands. As we know, When when partisan political attack get in the way of things, you know, creating some kind of compromise or reaching an accord on something as complex as that probably just becomes infinitely more difficult.
KBUT: Sure, I think that’s a good point. So as I’ve seen it, this bill has been subject to a lot of like back and forth, where Republicans say that it doesn’t have enough local input and support. Scott Tipton pointed to the fact that the four bills that make up the CORE Act, he called them failed bills that never got off the ground to begin with, didn’t have enough community support. And then on the other hand, Democrats are saying, we’ve been shaping these bills for you know, more than a decade, they say that they have all the support that they need from local governments, and so on and so forth. In your reporting, which version of that do you find closer to be to the truth?
Jesse Paul: Well, it’s tough to say because this isn’t necessarily such a black and white issue. This piece of legislation would affect so many different communities and counties across Colorado. But I can say this. You know, there are counties, or at least one county, that that isn’t 100% on board with this, and that’s Montrose County, which hasn’t take a formal position, but at least one county commissioner has expressed a lot of concern about the CORE Act and the way it would affect the Curencanti area kind of between Gunnison and Montrose. But also, on the other hand, Republicans are trying to address things in this legislation, and bring up concerns of local leaders that are in counties that aren’t actually affected by the bill. They’re in adjacent counties or in other Western Slope communities that want to see things like, say wilderness study areas, the those designations be removed. So this is complicated. It’s a really kind of push-and-pull battle that’s going on between Republicans and Democrats and colors congressional delegation. And one of the interesting things I’ll say about this, is that you know, you’ll often see differences in the delegation, but what you don’t frequently see is differences where folks are actually kind of attacking each other within the delegation. And from the perspective of an observer, I’m kind of curious to see how this fares for future legislation that the delegation brings, because it’s frequent that, you know, those folks are working together. Corey Gardener and Michael Bennett friends and have a really long standing relationship and are known for kind of this bipartisan bro-mance, where they work on a lot of bills together, but in this case, you see them both kind of taking field shots at each other. Michael Bennett, for instance, the other day was talking about how he feels like every member of the delegation needs to be on board with this bill, and kind of suggesting that those who are asking for changes to the legislation don’t understand the complex workings of the negotiation that’s gone on and maybe aren’t asking for these changes and in such good faith. So this thing just keeps ramping up in terms of intensity and where folks stand.
KBUT: I wish that politics had more bipartisan romances. That sounds pretty nice. Great Jesse Paul, reporter for the Colorado Sun covering politics and many other things, thank you so much for covering this and for talking to us today about it.
Jesse Paul: Thanks so much for having me. Appreciate it.