Colorado Capital Conference
I recently had the opportunity to participate in the Colorado Capitol Conference, presented by Senator Mark Udall, Colorado Mesa University and the University of Colorado. It was a fascinating look into The Hill. There were approximately 100 bi-partisan participants from across Colorado who applied through Senator Udall’s office, or through Mesa University or the University of Colorado. It ultimately was a great mix of folks. The conference was very well put together and coordinated.
Tuesday, June 5, we had a welcome reception in the Mansfield Room in the Capitol. It was beautiful. All of the Colorado delegation were in attendance and spoke with the group, although many had to leave quickly as voting was still occurring on the House Floor. It was great to hear from all of Colorado’s Senators and Congresspeople.
Wednesday, June 6 we met in one of the Senate Meeting rooms in the Capitol Visitor Center. The agenda was stellar. We heard first from Senator Udall, then Representative Perlmutter. After the Colorado Delegation we heard from Mr. Stephen T. Ayers, the Architect of the Capitol. His office is in charge of maintaining the Capitol and all of the Senate and House Buildings. Interestingly, there have been only 12 Architects of the Capitol in the history of the Capitol and the Capitol Complex.
We then met with Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah, who is a young conservative ( he said he is the second most conservative Representative in the House), my impression of him is that he is not very sincere.
Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz followed Representative Chaffetz. She was amazing. What a powerhouse. Despite the fact that she is Chair of the DNC, she was not partisan in much of her commentary and talked mostly about the current dysfunction in Washington DC.
Dr. Alice Rivlin, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of the Rivlin/Domenici Budget proposal, was fascinating. She gave her perspective on the budget impasse and what needs to happen, which includes both looking decreasing liabilities and increasing revenue. I totally agree with her.
We ended the morning with Representative Cory Gardner of Colorado’s 4th Congressional District. I know Representative Gardner and think overall he is a great person. I am disappointed in how conservative he has become and in some of the bills he is running. He smiled broadly during the entire conversation with us, which ultimately presented as insincere. It was interesting to me that both Representatve Chaffetz and Gardner, both young Representatives, came off as insincere.
Lunch was at the Members room in the Library of Congress. Really a beautiful room. Our speaker was Secretary Ken Salazar, Department of the Interior. Secretary Salazar spoke of the work he is doing with the DOI, including the energy policy “All of the Above” which looks into energy development in the US, including investigating drilling in the Arctic Ocean, and wind development. Renewables are of great interest to me. I found the conversation fascinating. He also talked of the work DOI is doing with Native American tribes, America’s Rivers, and Veterans. I have had different opinions of Secretary Salazar in his different opinions. He is now a hero of mine and I really admire the work he is doing at DOI.
The afternoon was full of really amazing speakers, including Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Senator John McCain and Senator Rob Portman of Ohio.
Senator Conrad did a great presentation on the budget. Senators Collins and Murkowski mostly talked about bipartisanship and the current dysfunction paralyzing Congress. They were very interesting to listen to. Senator McCain is a hoot and very opinionated on many things. He doesn’t hold back. I didn’t always agree with him, but he was interesting. Senator McCain was followed by Colorado’s Representative Scott Tipton. I was disappointed in his presentation and I spoke with him after about the Border Bill, HR 1505, and although he is being heavily lobbied on this by Utah’s Bishop, he denied knowledge of the bill and then asked if I was a constituent, like I cannot talk to one of my delegation about issues. Senator Rob Portman is a conservative on the budget and one of the top two names among pundits for consideration as Romney’s running mate.
That evening’s dinner speaker was Senator Carl Levin, and the Undersecretary of the Department of Labor as Secretary Solis got called out of town by the President.
Thursday we met in the Hart building. Speakers included Senator Dr. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. He was very interesting and made sense on the budget impasse. He was followed by Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina. We finished the morning with Dr. Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute and Mr. Charles Cook, the Editor and Publisher of the Cook Political Report. Both men were fascinating. Dr. Ornstein talked about the Presidential campaign and the campaigns in the Senate and House. For a political wonk, he was particularly interesting. Then, speaking of the very wonky, Charles Cook presented a tons of stats on the federal campaigns. Fascinating.
We finished off the program in the historic Kennedy Caucus room for lunch, where the Titatanic and Watergate hearings occurred, with the speaker being the entertaining and witty Gene B. Sperling, the Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy. He also served in this position with President Clinton, in addition to being a consultant to the television show “The West Wing.” It was almost as if he were channeling Josh Lyman. He gave a compelling argument on the President’s plans to re-energize the economy. It was a great way to finish off an amazing 36 hours.
After this experience, I have a lot of respect and honor for Senator Mark Udall. He is not only knowledgeable and engaged, but compassionate and well-respected amongst his peers. Thanks to Senator Udall and his staff for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It brought me back to Denver determined to live up to my expectations and make a difference in this state for future generations.