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2013 Colorado Capital Conference


Posted: Friday, June 7, 2013

Last year, I hosted the second annual Colorado Capital Conference in Washington, D.C., with speakers ranging from then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to Senator John McCain, the conference was an opportunity for citizens from communities across Colorado to hear directly from decision-makers in Washington and offer our uniquely Western perspective. I am again hosting this year's conference with Colorado Mesa University and the University of Colorado. This year, 100 Coloradans will have the opportunity to join the conference in Washington, D.C., June 5 to June 7, to learn how to engage with and influence leaders in Washington.

Unfortunately, I could not invite all of Colorado to the conference, so I'm bringing the best parts to you. Watch this blog for updates from the conference and follow the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #COCapConf and following @COCapConf.

6/7/13 12:00 PM ET


After enjoying a lunch in the Kennedy Caucus room, participants went on a digital tour of the Capitol with Mr. Stephen T. Ayers, Architect of the Capitol. Mr. Ayers shared insights about the history and future of the Capitol building, and took time to answer questions about the Capitol’s green energy policies. Then, Colorado Mesa University President Tim Foster and University of Colorado at Boulder Chancellor Phil Distefano gave their closing remarks, thanking the participants for their engaging attitudes and for their commitment to both Colorado and national issues.

Senator Udall took to the podium one last time to thank his staff, the fantastic speakers, his fellow hosts President Foster and Chancellor DiStefano, and the participants of the Colorado Capital Conference. To conclude the conference, Senator Udall thanked the participants for bringing Colorado pragmatism and partnership to the Capitol and urged them to stay involved with these issues once they return to Colorado.

6/7/13 10:00 AM ET

Next up, Acting Under Secretary Darci Vetter from the Department of Agriculture spoke about the importance of export markets to Colorado’s agriculture industry. As the daughter of an organic farmer, she said she has a special appreciation for agricultural conservation.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus then talked about the importance of renewable energy to defense. Secretary Mabus discussed the Navy's efforts to develop alternative fuels and energy-saving technologies that will reduce costs and increase our nation’s strategic capabilities. He also spoke of his advocacy for a stronger naval presence around the world to protect American interests.

Following a quick break, Senator Warner of Virginia addressed sequestration and the large deficit from the perspective of a former businessman. Leaders, he said, need to be willing to compromise with each other in order to secure investment for the future of America. “There are good people of good will from both parties on the hill right now,” he said, which gives him confidence that Congress will be able to make necessary, tough decisions.

To wrap up the morning session, Assistant Secretary of Defense Sharon E. Burke spoke about a wide range of issues affecting the armed services today, including energy policy and sustainable resources. She pressed the importance of integrating an all-of-the-above energy policy into the military, while at the same time ensuring the success of its missions. She also asked the participants to continue to be “good neighbors” to the many servicemen and women living in Colorado as well as to continue leading the nation toward energy independence.


6/7/13 12 PM ET

The third session of the Colorado Capital Conference kicked off with a distinguished panel of higher education experts. Panelists include:

  • Under Secretary Martha J. Kanter, Department of Education
  • Andrew Kelly, Education Research Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
  • University of Colorado President Bruce Benson
  • Colorado Mesa University President Tim Foster

6/6/13 8 PM ET

Charles Cook, a highly regarded election analyst and editor of the Cook Political Report, closed out the night by providing Colorado Capital Conference attendees with detailed post-election results and predicted the future of both political parties. Mr. Cook stressed how difficult it was for parties to capture the moderate vote, saying, “Conservatives have passion, liberals have passion, moderates have lives.”

6/6/13 5 PM ET

Next, Congressman Cory Gardner of Colorado’s 4th Congressional District spoke to Coloradans about the economic diversity of the 4th Congressional District.

Later, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz discussed what it’s been like during his first 16 days on the job. He also talked about Colorado’s diverse, balanced energy portfolio and how the state is a good model for the nation.

After a short break, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski shared what it was like to be a Republican at odds with her party. Sen. Murkowski echoed Sen. Udall’s calls for bipartisanship and mentioned how ordinary Americans don’t introduce themselves as belonging to a political party, so why are members of Congress defined by party?

Up next, former Colorado Senator and current UN Foundation President Tim Wirth spoke about the need for improvements in women’s health care around the world. He also stressed the importance of a smart energy policy and discussed how we must focus on improving renewable energy.

Wrapping up the second session, Maine Senator Susan Collins mentioned the bipartisan work she has been able to accomplish with Sen. Udall. Sen. Collins has cosponsored more bills with Sen. Udall than with any other member of the Senate, on both sides of the aisle. Highlighting their recent bipartisan work on sequestration, Sen. Collins discussed her bill with Sen. Udall which has successfully reinstated furloughed air traffic controllers. Sen. Collins also talked about the negative effects of sequestration and the Udall-Collins plan to strategically allow the sequestration cuts to be implemented in the least-damaging way.

6/6/12 3:30 PM ET


Prior to attending the Colorado Capital Conference, attendees were asked to complete the so-called "Budget Hero" exercise, an electronic game designed to illustrate the challenges of creating and maintaining the national budget. The Wilson Center's David Rejeski first explained the exercise and then listened as to attendees as they broke into small groups to describe their first experience with federal budgeting. Attendees then discussed both the difficulties they faced as well as the creative solutions that they were able to employ to help meet national budgeting demands.

Try Budget Hero for yourself: click here.

6/6/13 1 PM ET

Colorado Capital Conference attendees headed to lunch in the Members of Congress Room in the Library of Congress. Over lunch, the group listened to a keynote speech from U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

Secretary Jewell focused her speech on the need for smarter use of our natural resources. She also reflected on her time living in Colorado, and the need to create the next generation of stewards. Secretary Jewell compared herself to her predecessor, former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar saying, “I don’t have a hat, I don’t have a bolo tie, but I do have the same shared commitment to the West.”

6/6/13 12 PM ET

As the first session of the Colorado Capital Conference came to a close, conference attendees have already heard from a diverse, bipartisan group of policy experts and elected representatives - with more to come.

After posing for a quick photo on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, conference attendees entered the Capitol Visitor Center meeting rooms to hear U.S. Sen. Mark Udall give his opening remarks. After Sen. Udall welcomed the attendees, Congressman Ed Perlmutter of Colorado's 7th Congressional District spoke to Coloradans about a day in the life of a U.S. congressman and how he enjoys working with all members of the Colorado delegation saying, "We're Coloradans first."

Next, Sen. Heitkamp of North Dakota talked about many of the similar policy interests between North Dakota and Colorado, from developing new energy to aviation to water policy. She shared her sense of Western camaraderie with Sen. Udall saying, "our state is only as strong as the economic region we live in."

Later on, Maya MacGuineas from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, spoke about the need to work on solving the fiscal challenges the country faces. She explained the need for flexibility in our federal budget when the economy is weak and discipline when the economy is strong. The problem, she said, is we have not focused on getting the budget on track when the economy is strong. She said, "Political agreement will only work if we put everything on the table."

Sen. Michael Bennet next spoke to the group about how Congress needs to keep up with the changes in America. He likened it to his experience as Denver Pubic Schools superintendent. He said then he never imagined trying to incorporate tablets into the classroom, but now tablets are essential tools for students. He extended this argument to immigration reform saying that Congress must keep up with the needs of our changing country, we can't keep operating on old rules.

Following Sen. Bennet's remarks, Sen. Udall's cousin, Utah Sen. Mike Lee took the podium and talked about the difficulties of being one of the newest and youngest members in the Senate, including not being recognized by U.S. Capitol Police. Sen. Lee also discussed his approach to working on a balanced budget and applauded Sen. Udall's work on this issue.

Arizona Sen. John McCain then addressed the conference about the upcoming comprehensive immigration reform saying, "we need to do it." If democrats and republicans can agree on comprehensive immigration reform, he has hopes for a grand bargain on the fiscal issues. When asked by a Coloradan about the future of the Republican Party, Sen. McCain responded that comprehensive immigration reform will not win votes for Republicans, but it will allow them to compete. He said if the Republican party does not embrace the reform, the party is doomed.

Concluding session one of the conference, Colorado Congressman Scott Tipton discussed how smart wildfire policy is critical for Colorado and talked about his latest bill with Congressman Polis which will help with wildfire prevention.

6/6/13 8:30 AM ET

Sen. Mark Udall and attendees of the 2013 Colorado Capital Conference posed for a photo on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building before the first session of the conference.

2013 Colorado Capital Conference attendees

6/5/13 8:30 PM ET

Sen. Mark Udall kicked off the 2013 Colorado Capital Conference at a welcome reception for conference attendees that featured a bipartisan group of Colorado representatives: Sen. Michael Bennet, Rep. Jared Polis and Rep. Scott Tipton.

5/31/13 2 PM ET

And with less than a week to go until this year's Colorado Capital Conference, I am proud to announce an impressive list of speakers. On Wednesday, June 5, 100 Coloradans will be greeted by the entire Colorado delegation at a reception; they also will be able to hear from Sen. Michael Bennet and Reps. Scott Tipton, Cory Gardner and Ed Perlmutter during the conference.


This year's speakers include:

  • Interior Secretary Sally Jewell
  • Treasury Secretary Jack Lew
  • Navy Secretary Ray Mabus
  • Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz
  • Undersecretary of Education Martha J. Kanter
  • Undersecretary of Agriculture Darci Vetter
  • Assistant Defense Secretary Sharon Burke
  • Charlie Cook, editor of the Cook Political Report
  • Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers
  • Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget
  • David Rejeski, director of the Science and Technology Innovation Program at the Wilson Center
  • Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)
  • Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.)
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)
  • Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah)
  • Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona)
  • Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota)
  • Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia)
  • Former Sen. Timothy E. Wirth (D-Colo.)




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