Former Speaker of the Colorado House and Democratic candidate for Colorado’s 6th Congressional District Andrew Romanoff knows how to run for office. He turned the tables on Republicans, and is using the VA scandal against a vulnerable Republican incumbent.
Romanoff’s office sent out a clipping from a local paper which pointed out that Romanaff’s Republican opponent incumbent Congressman Mike Coffman, “one of the loudest critics of the VA” who called for Secretary of the VA Gen. Eric Shinseki to be fired, voted as recently as January against a bill that included $100 million to reduce the growing backlog of veterans waiting for care.
It gets worse. He also voted against two bills that included funding for the Aurora, Colorado VA hospital. Per the Aurora Sentinel:
Aurora U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican, as recently as January voted against a spending bill that would have set aside as much as $100 million for overtime and additional training for claims processors to reduce the growing backlog of veterans waiting for care. Coffman joined 66 other Republicans in the House, including Colorado congressmen Doug Lamborn, Cory Gardner and Scott Tipton, in voting against that appropriations bill. VA officials and the Obama Administration are embroiled in a nationwide controversy over shoddy medical care for veterans.
Locally, Coffman has been critical of the VA’s handling of a replacement hospital being built in Aurora, which is the focus of a controversy about being over budget. Hundreds of millions in funding for the maligned Aurora VA hospital have also been packaged in larger spending bills that have faced opposition by Coffman and other GOP lawmakers. Two large bills that provided nearly $200 million in funding for the hospital in Aurora were opposed by Coffman in the years leading up to this most recent spate of criticism for mismanagement. A funding bill in 2009 for $119 million and a funding bill in 2011 for $42 million set aside for the VA hospital in Aurora were both opposed by Coffman. The 2011 appropriations bill would have been drafted by Republicans in control of Congress.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is spending on the CD-6 race as if they think Romanoff could win. Obama took the area in 2012.
Mitt Romney has endorsed Coffman and will raise money for him. Naturally in his endorsement, Romney blamed Obama for the VA problems, “We will fight to reduce reckless spending and hold the Obama administration accountable for its many failures, from Obamacare to coverups at the VA.”
But the truth is that the wait problems at the VA are chronic. Republicans refused to give President Obama the funding he asked for (on average 2 billion less a year, per PolitiFact) on top of blocking multiple bills meant to help veterans. Studies show that due to the wars, the VA will need funding up to 1 trillion dollars. Yet Republicans keep insisting that wait times are not a funding problem.
The math isn’t hard. There’s a huge influx of veterans on an already taxed system, and additional paperwork requirements and lag times in getting info from other agencies. The VA is overburdened.
“The problems at the VA will be resolved not by words but by action. That means demanding accountability both from the administration and from Congress. Our veterans deserve no less,” Romanoff said, indicating that he seems to understand that what is needed here is action, not cheap shots at Shinseki or Obama because it’s an election year.
Coffman is the Republican Congressman who not only questioned if the President was born in America, but announced that Obama was not an American. Coffman told donors, “I don’t know whether Barack Obama was born in the United States of America. I don’t know that. But I do know this, that in his heart, he’s not an American. He’s just not an American.”
According to Romanoff’s campaign site he has a lifelong commitment to civil rights, “An early stint at the Southern Poverty Law Center fueled a lifelong commitment to civil rights. Andrew also served on the board of the Center for Women’s Employment and Education, a job-training agency for low-income women.”
Romanoff understands that voting against veterans over and over again, as Republicans have, is the issue. Republicans are taking cheap shots from glass houses, but at least one Democrat isn’t running scared from fighting Republicans over their craven, desperate framing of the problem. The real issue is taking care of our veterans, not scoring cheap political points.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.