Cory Gardner talks Coronavirus Aid, Confederate Base Names During Ivanka Trump Event In Colorado

Bente Birkeland/CPR News
Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner and presidential advisor Ivanka Trump tour the Bright Beginnings Childcare Center in Greenwood Village, July 24, 2020.

Republican Sen. Cory Gardner joined presidential advisor and First Daughter Ivanka Trump at an early childhood care facility and preschool in Greenwood Village on Friday morning as part of her two day swing through Colorado.

The event was focused on how the pandemic is affecting early childcare centers. But afterward, Gardner took questions on a wider range of issues, including what he’d like to see in the next coronavirus relief package Congress is still negotiating, his thoughts on the possibility of federal law enforcement being deployed to Colorado, and his reasons for supporting an effort to remove the confederate names of U.S military bases and forts. 

On Thursday the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate overwhelmingly voted to approve the National Defense Authorization Act. The final version of the massive annual military spending bill requires the Pentagon to rename military bases. The President has threatened to veto the measure. 

In a break with the President, Sen. Gardner said Confederate names should be removed. 

“If it's something that we can do to heal this country, bring people together, let's do it. It's something we should do,” he said. “Let's learn from the last several months of division and let's put the country together. And this is part of that answer.” 

On another hot button issue, Gardner took a cautious tone toward “Operation Legend,” which the Trump administration has billed as a coordinated federal law enforcement initiative to help local police deal with disruptive protests and recent increases in violent crime.   

Democrats in Colorado have expressed concern that the effort is an unwarranted  overreach by the president. In Portland, OR, some protesters were detained by federal agents in unmarked vehicles and then later released.  Gardner said he agrees with Democratic Gov. Polis, who said on Thursday that he wouldn’t hesitate to ask President Trump for federal help if he felt it was necessary, but that the situation in Denver is not at that point. Gardner said right now state and local governments, governors and mayors should be working together to deal with any issues. 

“They need to protect people's rights to free speech,” Gardner said. “They need to protect our public places and private businesses from vandalism and harm. And we need to respect each other's rights to have differences of opinions without resulting in violence.” 

Gov. Polis later said in a statement that what was allegedly happening in Oregon could potentially raise constitutional concerns and clarified: “We do not want federal law enforcement in Colorado.”

In Washington, Congress is working on the next federal coronavirus relief package. Senate Republicans have said they’ll unveil their proposals Monday. Gardner said he'd like to see more money for COVID-19 testing either as part of the overall measure or in a stand-alone bill. He also supports another round of direct stimulus payments to Americans and an extension of the expanded unemployment insurance benefits, but did not specify a dollar amount. Republicans have worried that the current $600-a-week benefit is more than some low income people made at their jobs.

“Let's not create a disincentive to work, but let's make sure that we're taking care of people.” 

During Friday’s event, Ivanka Trump and Gardner talked to parents who were dropping their children off at the Bright Beginnings Childcare Center and then participated in an hour long panel outside the building with teachers, parents and advocates to discuss the role of childcare and preschools especially during the pandemic. 

Bente Birkeland/CPR News
Presidential advisor, and First Daughter, Ivanka Trump with Colorado Senator Cory Gardner at an event at an early childhood education center in Greenwood Village, July 24, 2020.

“We need to provide the best for all of our nation's children and ensure that at the youngest age, not only are we supporting working parents, but we're supporting their development and growth, which is, so, so, so critical,” Trump said. 

This is Trump’s second day in the state. On Thursday, she and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt visited Rocky Mountain National Park to praise the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, which was sponsored by Gardner.

Gardner is running in a competitive U.S Senate race against former Democratic governor John Hickenlooper, whose campaign referenced the events in a fundraising email on Thursday.

“Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, Cory Gardner, and other GOP extremists know that John Hickenlooper is a real threat to their power and that our campaign is gaining momentum every day,” said the email. “That’s why they’ll be pulling out all the stops over the next few months, starting this week with Ivanka’s visit.”