Colorado's newest U.S. senator will soon get his committee assignments. And if Democrat John Hickenlooper wants to help Colorado, he needs a seat he's requested on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Colorado hasn't had a senator on the Senate's military committee since Mark Udall lost his seat to the man Hickenlooper defeated, Republican Cory Gardner. While Gardner and Colorado Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet battled to keep U.S. Space Command in Colorado, Alabama had Sen. Doug Jones on Armed Services and Sen. Richard Shelby heading the Senate Appropriations Committee, controlling the flow of federal cash.
Alabama won that fight Wednesday, with Space Command ordered to Huntsville, leaving Colorado's lawmakers hoping they can overturn one of the Trump administration's final decisions.
Insiders say the political horsepower of Alabama and its lawmakers' direct line to President Donald Trump won Space Command over some howling objections from the military.
The Senate has now changed hands, with Democrats owning 50 seats and the vice presidency for a razor-thin 51-50 majority.
If Hickenlooper can gain a seat on the Armed Services Committee, he would be in a position to block the money that's required to complete Space Command's move to Alabama. A spokeswoman for the new senator confirmed that Hickenlooper has formally requested the Armed Services post.
It's the kind of leverage Colorado will need to keep the command.
If Hickenlooper is on the military committee, he can team with other Colorado colleagues in the House.
Colorado Springs Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn has amassed seniority and growing power on the House Armed Services Committee, and is the ranking member of the GOP on the Personnel and Readiness Subcommittee, overseeing military construction cash.
Aurora's Democratic U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, entering his second term, lacks Lamborn's seniority on the House military committee, but has shown himself to be an important voice in the majority caucus.
But it is harder to wield power in the House, with its 435 members and growing partisan rancor.
If Colorado has a seat on the Senate military panel, the state can speak in chorus on issues.
That's the winning combination Alabama has enjoyed. With Republican Reps. Mo Brooks and Mike Rogers in the House along with Alabama's horsepower in the Senate, it will be difficult to wrest Space Command from Huntsville.
But if the Colorado can marry congressional power with its legendary support for the military, unmatched space workforce and unrivaled space infrastructure, there's reason for hope.
Hickenlooper has pledged to fight to keep Space Command in Colorado Springs.
If he gets an Armed Services Committee seat, he could hold the key.