Advice and dissent are needed on Obama’s key three appointees

By Sean Paige

Ken Salazar’s pending exit at the Department of Interior now leaves open three key cabinet positions — Interior, Energy and EPA — with potentially enormous power to influence the economy, regulatory climate and quality of life in Colorado. President Barack Obama’s choices to fill those vacancies are worth closely watching for at least two reasons.

The first, most obvious reason is that we don’t want people appointed to those positions who bring with them even more radical agendas than the people they replace.

That may be hard for some of us to imagine, given the reign of error that marked the tenures of Lisa Jackson (EPA), Steven Chu (Energy) and Colorado’s own Ken Salazar (Interior).

But we’ve all heard the saying about the devil we know being preferable to the devil we don’t. And no one will be too surprised if this increasingly extreme president — who never retreats, never apologizes, never compromises and consistently “doubles-down” on past policy blunders — seizes on his political momentum to push the envelope even more, by replacing these “key three” Cabinet officers with people who actually make the incumbents look like centrists.

Appointing extremists to these posts will result in even more Washington mandates and regulatory burdens being heaped on Colorado. We’ll see even more energy jobs killed or preempted. We’ll see even greater access restrictions on federal lands. Our federal tax dollars will continue to be squandered on “green energy” schemes and “investments” that won’t work and don’t make market sense. An ever-expanding federal government, bolstered by ever-growing regulatory power, will loom even larger over Colorado, casting a long shadow on our economy, freedoms and quality of life.

The second reason, maybe less obvious, is that the appointments also will tell us something revealing about the philosophies, attitudes and political independence of Colorado’s still-slightly mysterious senators, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, both of whom have a say in approving the replacement players through their “advice and consent” powers.

The Senate’s “advice and consent” prerogative also can open the door to advice and dissent when White House appointees raise yellow or red flags, which they might for any number of reasons, including the policy objectives they’ll bring to their jobs.

Senators can and should object when nominees aren’t right for the jobs. We hope ours will if Obama attempts to plug extremists into these positions.

Each of these agencies — Interior, Energy, EPA — wields enormous regulatory clout in Colorado. The state will benefit if reasonable and responsible centrists fill the top jobs; it will suffer if the president appoints extremists, ideologues or well-connected incompetents.

The two Coloradans in the best position to influence that outcome, for good or ill, are Udall and Bennet, neither of whom has distinguished himself in terms of drawing a line in the sand against Washington’s regulatory excesses and abuses.

Will the two toe the party line and pay total deference to the president if Obama appoints someone to each of those jobs who has ideas or attitudes that are detrimental to Colorado’s best interests? Or will they have the character and courage to buck an out-of-the-mainstream nominee, at the risk of upsetting the president or alienating party colleagues?

Colorado has been too easy in rolling over for whatever Washington imposes on us. We at Americans for Prosperity-Colorado would like to see Udall and Bennet, along with Gov. John Hickenlooper, show a little more chutzpah in challenging Washington dictates that damage our economy, kill our jobs, restrict access to public lands and impose unreasonable regulatory burdens that dampen our business climate.

We see that streak of gutsy Western independence demonstrated by many other top regional officials, including Democrats, and we think Colorado would benefit if we saw a little more of that sagebrush rebel spirit in Udall, Bennet and Hickenloooper.

All three of these key Cabinet replacements will be subject to Senate scrutiny. How Udall and Bennet respond to Obama’s new appointees — whether they bring down the rubber stamp, push back, ask probing questions or actively resist a questionable appointee — will tell Coloradans almost as much about the senators as about this administration’s second-term agenda.

Sean Paige is deputy state director of Americans for Prosperity-Colorado. Americans for Prosperity is a conservative advocacy organization founded by David and Charles Koch.


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