Bennet for the Senate

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., responds to a question during a debate with Republican challenger Ken Buck at Centennial Hall in Colorado Springs, Colo

Voters who listen to the competing ads about the two Colorado candidates for the U.S. Senate might think their choice is between an ogre and a demon. In reality, neither Democrat Michael Bennet nor Republican Ken Buck is an extremist. Both are intelligent, thoughtful men with principled ideas for fixing our country. But they offer very different approaches.

Bennet, the current senator who was appointed to the job early in 2009, wins our support for a number of reasons.

First, he believes the government’s role on energy is “not to command and control,” but should be in encouraging things like natural gas use in vehicles. He likes T. Boone Pickens’ proposal — to provide more incentives for wind energy and replace gasoline with natural gas as our primary transportation fuel.

“We’ve got to look at our tax code to see if we’re doing enough to promote innovation,” Bennet added.

Buck said, “The government has a role in fostering new technology for the military and for food. But I think we make a big mistake when we go from developing technology to subsidizing energy.”

Even if one accepts Buck’s “let the markets decide” philosophy, traditional forms of energy, such as oil, already receive substantial subsidies through tax credits. Doing nothing means a transition to natural gas as a mainstream transportation fuel will remain a distant dream. And an entirely free-market system will keep us tied to foreign oil, sending money to countries that don’t like us much.

A second difference between the two is their approach to working in the Senate. Buck has stated he is not just a Republican, but a conservative, someone who will promote his values and work to block legislative efforts that fail to meet those values.

Bennet vows to work with members of both parties to “ensure we are not the first generation of Americans to leave less opportunity to our children than we had.”

Some may doubt that Democrat Bennet can work with Republicans, but a Washington Post examination of his voting record showed more than 50 votes during his 22 months in the Senate in which Bennet voted with Republicans and against the preferred Democratic position. Those votes ranged from procedural issues to major amendments aimed at cutting federal spending.

Bennet, like Buck, believes we must curtail our $13 trillion federal debt. He introduced a bill to roll back debt — through spending cuts initially — until it is no more than 3 percent of gross domestic product. It didn’t pass, but he plans to push it again.

The current budget and economic crisis demands cooperative solutions. We believe Bennet is better suited to work toward those solutions than Buck, with his strict ideological stance.

For instance, Buck says he will work toward repealing the health care legislation passed earlier this year. That’s a popular view that plays well on the campaign stump, but it doesn’t recognize political reality. Even if Republicans win control of the House and Senate this year, they won’t have enough votes to override a presidential veto. The health care law won’t be repealed soon.

But changes can be made to it. Bennet, who makes no apologies for voting for the legislation, suggests several areas where more work is needed. One is congressional oversight of the regulations that are being drafted to implement the bill.

He also wants better transparency, both for the government and insurance companies, and improvements to the Medicare reimbursement schedule. And he said the new 1099 reporting requirement that greatly expands business paperwork will be changed.

Buck deserves respect for telling voters, “If you elect me, you’ll get less.” His plan for dealing with Social Security — which isn’t about privatizing the system — is detailed, reasonable and bold.

We don’t think Ken Buck would be a bad senator. But we believe Michael Bennet is the better candidate right now.


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