One reason we like to have reporters on the job is so they can join those boring conference calls with politicians who don't say much.
Unless they are asked right questions.
The Denver Post's Allison Sherry dialed into a call with Rep. Cory Gardner Dec. 14, and asked a really good follow-up question raising doubts about Gardner's subsequent explanation that he opposed a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut because two months was too short.
The Colorado GOP organized the news conference call last week to tout passage of a House bill that extended the payroll tax cut, but the House bill also included riders, which would, among other things, have paved the way for the Keystone oil pipeline.
This House passed this bill before the Senate passed its bill this week extending the payroll tax cut for two months.
On the call, Sherry, along with 9News' Brandon Rittiman, wondered about the inclusion of the Keystone rider in the House bill. And the de-funding of some of Obamacare. Why was that stuff on the bill?
Sherry put the question to Gardner like this (at the 10-minute 40-second mark in the recording here):
Sherry: I think what one of the other Democratic members of the Colorado delegation said last night was, look, we do all agree on one thing, which is that we want the payroll tax cut to extend, and so why can't we focus on that, and why are these other policy riders lumped into the House bill. And I'm not even talking about the Keystone pipeline. I think they were talking about the EPA regulations, the defunding of some of the Obamacare stuff. Why would the House go and pass something that probably won't pass the Senate and the president would veto, if we all do agree on wanting to pass the payroll tax cut.
Gardner didn't answer the question.
So Sherry calmly put it another way, that got to the heart of the matter.
Sherry: And you said to me yesterday, and I want to make sure you still agree with this, that you don't believe that this is a make-or-break deal for you. If there is something that you had to vote on that didn't have the Keystone pipeline on it, that didn't have some of the EPA provisions, you would still likely vote yes, because you believe in extending the payroll tax cut.
Gardner: I believe in extending the payroll tax cut. But again I don't understand why there's opposition to putting job-creation measures along with the payroll tax cut, because the payroll tax holiday is about job creation as well. So, they go along well. So, yeah, I'm still in the same boat, but again, I simply don't understand the opposition, unless it's political opposition, and that's a shame.
And strangely enough, the Senate passed a bipartisan stop-gap measure that gave Gardner the chance to support a bill that would have done exactly what Gardner said he'd likely do. That is, vote for an extension of the payroll tax cut.
But Gardner opposed the Senate bill.
He justified this by saying he won't, no-how no-way, pass a mere two-month extension. He wants a year. The two-month part of the Senate legislation became a deal breaker for him and other Republicans.
But, if a year-long payroll tax cut was so important to Gardner, if he felt so passionately about it that he would risk passage of any bill, even one supported by Senate Republicans, why didn't we hear about it the week before the vote? He didn't say a word about it to reporters, when the Post gave him a clear shot to put it on the record.
But he did say it would be a "shame" if political opposition torpedoed the payroll tax cut that he and Democrats all support.