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Eye on the 5th

By Daniel Smith

Hard to keep pace with the astounding events surrounding the Trump administration these days. Many of them leave Americans’ heads swimming, such as the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the naming of a Special Counsel to further probe the involvement of Russia in seeking to affect the U.S. presidential election. Reaction, as in many levels of the government, also did manifest in the Fifth Congressional District.

I saw a video of reporters approaching Fifth District Congressman Doug Lamborn and asking whether he thought Trump might be in trouble over the firing of Comey, and then whether there was a need for a special counsel to look into the Russian controversy. To both questions, he delivered a curt “no.”

Earlier, Lamborn was absolutely celebratory over the U.S. House Republicans managing to piece together (cobble together, more like) after a couple of less-than-consensus-building tries, a semblance of a health care plan. It provides a way to lay claim to having helped carry the water for Donald Trump’s campaign braggadocio about “repealing and replacing” Obamacare, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act.

Shortly after the passage (with no Democratic support) of the measure, The American Health Care Act, which, from now on bears the prestigious label of Trumpcare, I asked Lamborn’s district office communications director, Jarred Rego, for a comment. He responded very promptly.

Here is the Congressman’s statement:

[InContentAdTwo] “I have kept my promise to replace Obamacare with a patient-centered plan that reduces government control, lowers costs and increases the health care choices available to the American people. The AHCA has improved over the last month. The Freedom Caucus has worked with the moderate Tuesday Group to forge a compromise that will lower premiums and increase the flexibility of individual states to manage their health care decisions. Additionally, I personally negotiated with House leadership to fix an error that locked veterans into the VA health system and prevented them from accessing the benefits of the AHCA. Securing this important victory for our veterans allowed me to support the bill.

With this vote, we have ended the individual mandate, blocked federal funding from going to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers, phased out Medicaid expansion, reduced regulations and taxes and gutted Obamacare. I hope that the Senate is able to build upon the good work done by the House and deliver a strong bill to the President. By standing with President Trump, Vice President Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Price, I have voted to move us forward to a future of improved health care access and affordability for all Americans.”

Quite an accomplishment, especially after all the work across seven years and – how many? – symbolic, fruitless but time-consuming vote attempts from the conservative right to repeal the ACA.

Trumpcare (do you suppose he’s going to charge the government and taxpayers for licensing his name to use on this bill?) took a lot of persuasion with the Freedom Caucus, the Tea Party, mainstream Republicans (all three) and other members of the GOP to pass this monument to the strategy of “whatever they’ll agree to, it’ll be part of our version of a comprehensive healthcare bill.”

After seven years of kvetching and voting over Obamacare with not a paragraph or concept of replacement legislation, when they had to produce something real, well – voilà – a smorgasbord of provisions shuffled like dominos. By most nonpartisan accounts, it will place 14 million people immediately in jeopardy by taking away any affordable health plan; an estimated 24 million in ten years.

There are even more colorful aspects to this legislation, according to analysts, such as pre-existing conditions allowing denial of coverage, or extreme cost shifts that benefit the insurance providers, the rich and healthy, and shaft the poor and/or sick, but you can track the details on your own.

Suffice it to say the slightly grandiose language in his statement did go over the top on “blocked federal funding from going to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers, …” Fact is, no federal dollars, to PP or anyone for abortion services, though it sounds like a good sales pitch.

Whether the Senate will view this legislative abortion … er, sorry, abomination – as anything but a hastily thrown together term paper the teacher finds unacceptable remains to be seen. It may not see the light of day there for months, but it looks and smells like victory to those who Ed Quillen called “right thinkers.” Enough said.

I had earlier asked Rego for examples of legislation pertaining specifically to the Fifth District for which Lamborn was a sponsor or co-sponsor, and I would be remiss if I did not cite one of those that he provided, again promptly – which every reporter can appreciate:

“Recently, Congressman Lamborn has introduced H.R.835 – To update the map of, and modify the maximum acreage available for inclusion in, the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. This bill revises the map depicting the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument in Colorado and increases from 6,000 to 6,300 the maximum number of acres that may be made available for inclusion in the monument.

The National Park Service received a proposal from an adjacent private land owner to acquire an additional 280 acres via donation along Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument’s northwest boundary. This 280 acre parcel of land would provide critical access to the park’s western boundary for wildland fire protection and opportunities for completing future hazardous fuel mitigation projects, and provide additional wildlife habitat to the park.

There is a legislative ceiling of 6,000 acres, and the current acreage is 5,992, leaving the NPS unable to accept the 280-acre donation outside of legislative approval. The additional acreage exceeds the legislative ceiling balance.

The park has received local support to expand the park boundary from Sanborn Western Camps, Teller Historic and Environmental Coalition, The Friends of the Florissant Fossil Beds, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Palmer Land Trust, Coalition for the Upper South Platte and the Pikes Peak Historical Society. The Palmer Land Trust and Coalition for the Upper South Platte have both offered to hold the 280-acre parcel until the National Park Service is able to accept ownership of the property.”

H.R.835, Introduced on Feb. 2, was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources, on which Lamborn sits, and then sent to the Subcommittee on Federal Lands about mid-February. No word on any further action since then.

Daniel Smith is a former Denver newspaper and broadcast journalist who retired to Salida for freelance writing, photography, relaxation and finding time to lie about fly fishing.