Our View: Hickenlooper’s Overtime Overreach

May 15, 2012
jkarsh / Foter

Statehouse Speaker Frank McNulty has had better weeks.  Since the end of the regular session, the Highlands Ranch Republican has been the target of round-the-clock rhetorical shelling from liberal pressure groups, their cheerleading co-conspirators in the Denver press corps, and a tongue lashing from MSNBC’s little-known and even less-watched gasbag-in-chief Rachel Maddow.

McNulty’s crime:  Refusing to fast-track a controversial same-sex union proposal (one Colorado voters already rejected once at the ballot box) through the House of Representatives in the waning hours of the Legislature’s regular session.

Smelling a political opportunity (and no doubt hoping to capitalize on President Obama’s high-profile flip-flop on same-sex marriage), Democrat Governor John Hickenlooper immediately held a press conference to announce that he was reconvening the legislature for a do-over on the divisive measure.

Liberal elites cheered Mr. Hickenlooper’s decision to up the ante.  And the conventional wisdom was that the beleaguered McNulty would simply buckle in the face of a popular governor and a relentless media onslaught, and dutifully move the controversial gay marriage plan through the legislature post haste.

But as is so often the case in politics, the conventional wisdom was wrong.

Instead of quietly capitulating, Mr. McNulty and his House colleagues called the Democrats’ bluff, promptly defeating the legislation on the opening day of the Hickenlooper-induced special session, teaching the governor and his admirers in the Fourth Estate an important civics lesson.

At a price tag of roughly $1,000 per hour, however, it was an expensive lesson – one whose cost will, of course, be borne by Colorado taxpayers, who have the privilege of picking up the tab for Mr. Hickenlooper’s three day exercise in political pandering.

Like many hardworking Coloradans, we believe that Mr. McNulty made the right call in beating back the governor’s attempt to bully the legislature for political gain.  Mr. Hickenlooper is a governor, not a king.  And the legislature is an independent branch of government, not some rubber-stamp parliament whose sole responsibility is to do the bidding of some banana republic strongman.

We are especially pleased that Mr. McNulty and his GOP colleagues resisted getting drawn into the culture war that Mr. Hickenlooper was attempting to start.

Instead of quoting Leviticus, or making references to bestiality, as some idiotic Republican legislators have done in the past, McNulty’s caucus held their ground while remaining conscientious and respectful.  And rather than preaching, House Republicans simply pointed out the obvious:  That Messrs. Hickenlooper, Obama and their allies were simply trying to change the subject in the hopes that they could spend a few more weeks talking about same-sex marriage – instead of the sputtering economy, the anemic job market, skyrocketing fuel prices, and the spiraling national debt.

But perhaps the most important question raised by Mr. McNulty’s camp is one of timing.  If approving same-sex unions in Colorado is such an emergency, why didn’t Democrats pass it during the four years they controlled both houses of the legislature and the Governor’s Mansion?  Why wait until now, six months before a presidential election?  Call us cynical, but could it be that Democrats from the White House to the Statehouse – who are watching their poll numbers drop as fast as gas prices are rising – are looking for something, anything, to create a little misdirection?

Whatever the case, we’re confident that when the smoke clears, Coloradans on both sides of the same-sex union debate will see Mr. Hickenlooper’s special session overreach for what it is:  A desperate attempt to use a divisive social issue to distract voters’ attention from the Democrats’ failed economic policies in a critical election year.

We aren’t saying Mr. McNulty necessarily won the overtime period.  But in miscalculating the electorate’s appetite for gratuitous political theater, we feel fairly certain that Mr. Hickenlooper lost.

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