During Tuesday night’s U.S. Senate debate in Colorado, Republican challenger Joe O’Dea saved his sharpest attack on incumbent Democratic Senator Michael Bennet for his closing statement, after Bennet was given the ability to respond.
“Bennet has passed a bill – a bill – in the 13 years he’s written,” O’Dea said.
In one of the only tense moments in what was otherwise a night of civilian exchanges at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, a frustrated Bennet interrupted O’Dea: “That’s completely wrong.”
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Bennet was right. O’Dea’s false assertion – which is also propagated by his campaign staff and allies, and appears in a new television ad – is based on a misleading search result on a government website and a misunderstanding of how legislation is routinely passed in Congress.
Dozens of individual pieces of legislation sponsored by Bennet have been signed into law after being added via amendment to larger appropriations or omnibus bills, according to a Newsline review of the Congressional filing.
Many of the approved amendments are easily traceable using functions on Congress.gov, the official website maintained by the Library of Congress. Others are harder-to-follow cases in which legislation drafted by Bennet appeared in a larger bill when it was reintroduced, or was passed into a companion bill in the House of Representatives.
The bill includes the expanded child tax credit, first introduced by Bennet in 2017 as the American Family Act, and incorporated as a one-year benefit into the 2021 US bailout. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the bipartisan spending program of $550 billion passed by Congress later that year included at least seven major provisions from legislation sponsored by Bennet.
Sections of many of these bills, such as a measure to increase broadband access, were copied almost verbatim from the text of the bipartisan infrastructure law. Others, like a Bennett-sponsored proposal to regulate orphan oil and gas wells, underwent more extensive revisions before passage.
After Tuesday’s debate, the Bennet campaign said in a press release that the Democrat, who was nominated to his seat in 2009 and won re-election the following year, had passed at least 101 pieces of legislation, 82 of which had bipartisan support. Newsline had independently verified the passage of more than 40 such bills at the time of publication.
The O’Dea campaign did not respond to a request for comment. O’Dea’s director of communications, Kyle Kohli, continued to spread the false allegation as a result of the debate, as did the state and national republican parties.
“Once again, Joe O’Dea is lying to the people of Colorado to move forward,” Bennet spokeswoman Georgina Beven said in a statement. “Just this Congress alone, (Bennet) passed his legislation to dramatically reduce child poverty, expand high-speed Internet access for Colorados in rural and underserved areas, expand domestic jobs in the clean energy and fight climate pollution, protect our forests and watersheds to prevent forest fires and make Camp Amache a national historic site.
With less than two weeks to go until Election Day, O’Dea’s false claim also features prominently in a new campaign ad.
The ad features video from an Oct. 17 interview in which 9News anchor Kyle Clark repeated the claim while asking Bennet a question.
“When you think back to 13 years in the Senate and you have a bill in your name, does that disappoint you?” Clark asked.
“Your research is completely inaccurate,” Bennet replied, according to full video of the interview. “I suggest you go back and double check your research.”
To back up its claim, the O’Dea campaign cites a Result of the research on Congress.gov, which displays the number of Bennet-sponsored standalone bills that have passed and signed into law. The “sponsor” of a bill in the House or Senate refers only to the member who presents the bill on the floor and indicates little about its authorship; proposed legislation is often drafted collaboratively by multiple senators and representatives, who may join as co-sponsors.
Of the 28 sitting senators who took office between 2007 and 2011, more than half have sponsored fewer than eight bills, according to this metric. The senses. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut match Bennet with only one standalone bill passed, while Sen. Rand Paul’s total is zero.
Higher numbers, on the other hand, show little correlation with policy impact. Two of the 10 stand-alone invoices that are returned in a similar search for former GOP Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, who took office in 2015, involved renaming a post office and a Department of Veterans Affairs clinic in Denver.
Meanwhile, the Great American Outdoors Act – one of Gardner’s signature legislative achievements and the centerpiece of his 2020 re-election bid — does not appear in the search. This is because Gardner introduced his legislative text via amendmentand the vehicle for the final passage of the act was a Invoice from the house.
The Congress.gov measure also fails to capture another common route for bill passage – pegging a bill to sets of appropriations, as members seek to use the effect leverage unavoidable spending bills to force votes on their priorities. A bill drafted by Bennet to protect public lands in the San Juan National Forest, for example, was passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015, while forest fire mitigation the legislation he sponsored was incorporated in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018.
“I would put my record for bipartisanship and civility against any other member of the Senate,” Bennet said during Tuesday’s debate. “And if you send me back there, I will continue to do so.”
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