Cory Gardner Has Only Voted Against One Major Trump Nominee in Two Years

Gardner during a testy constituent town hall in 2017.
Gardner during a testy constituent town hall in 2017. Brandon Marshall
Colorado's Cory Gardner is widely regarded as one of the most vulnerable Republican senators up for election in 2020 in part because of the blue Democratic wave that swept through the state last November.

Experts believe his strategy to beat the odds will involve trying to establish his independence from President Donald Trump, who's hardly Colorado's most popular politician, without alienating the chief executive's base — a process that's well under way. But maintaining this balance will be difficult given his established and lengthening record of enabling The Donald. Gardner has only weighed in against one major Trump nominee to date over the president's two years in office.

On a number of occasions, he was the deciding vote.

Of course, Gardner tends to back the vast majority of other Trump positions, too. According to FiveThirtyEight, he votes with the President 90.7 percent of the time — not the most often of any Republican (several, including Mississippi's Cindy Hyde-Smith, have notched perfect 100s), but far higher than several (the score for Kentucky's Rand Paul is 73.2 percent). And while Gardner's occasionally been critical of Trump's foreign policy moves (in December, he called for the President to cancel planned meetings with North Korea to increase pressure on leader Kim Jong Un), he's more apt to offer attaboys.

One recent example: Gardner issued a statement praising President Trump's weekend proposal to end the government shutdown, which asks for Democrats to give him $5.7 billion for his Mexico border wall/collection of steel slats in exchange for a three-year reprieve involving participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Gardner voted for it and the rival Democratic measure that would have ended the ongoing partial federal shutdown without funding the wall.

Talk about trying to have it both ways.

When it comes to nominees, though, Gardner tends to capitulate to President Trump no matter the controversy level of the individual in question. He blessed choices such as Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt (who subsequently resigned amid scandal) and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh (even though a complaint about the judge's alleged impropriety was sent to his office).

Indeed, the only Trump nominee to earn a thumbs-down was Robert Lighthizer, the president's pick to be United States Trade Representative. Circa May 2017, Gardner explained his reasoning like so: "I could not support Robert Lighthizer’s nomination to become the United States Trade Representative because I’m afraid his policies could hurt Colorado’s farmers and ranchers. In light of the current agricultural crisis facing much of rural America, if we are not open to new trade opportunities, farmers and ranchers in Colorado and across the country will continue to struggle to make ends meet. We have to allow our agricultural products to flow to markets around the world and negotiate fair deals that will boost agriculture exports. Although I did not support Lighthizer’s nomination today, I am committed to working with him to advance the interests of Colorado’s agriculture community."

Gardner paid no political price with the GOP for his move, since Lighthizer was overwhelmingly confirmed anyway. But voters in 2020 may be more critical.

Continue to see Gardner's votes on major Trump nominees, as tracked by VoteSmart.org.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts