Tennessee's Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper hosted many visitors from Alabama to his Washington, D.C., office last fall and winter.
It seems the state's top lawmakers had been told by the Pentagon that they were falling well behind in the race to house U.S. Space Command and wanted help. Cooper, whose district is just a short jaunt up Interstate 65 from Hunstville's Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, was willing to listen. As chairman of a House subcommittee that oversees space, Cooper, who visited Colorado Springs in recent days, was an important friend for any town that wanted the command to foster.
So, on Jan. 13., Cooper was shocked when Alabama was announced as Space Command's new home. And at the time, he also talked with his Alabama colleagues.
"They were as surprised as the rest of us," he said at a downtown Colorado Springs restaurant Wednesday.
For Cooper, the scenario he saw ahead of the Trump administration's pick for Alabama was a sign one sees in Congress from time to time: The fix was on.
Cooper said he's still going to wait for the Pentagon's Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office to release findings of investigations into how Alabama won.
But the lawmaker, who has served in the House since 1983, said he believed President Donald Trump when he told a radio show in August that he "single-handedly" made the choice.
Cooper is a key friend now for Colorado Springs as lawmakers work to upend the Alabama decision to move Space Command and its 1,400 troops from the Pikes Peak region to Huntsville. He toured Colorado's space bases in recent days alongside Colorado Springs Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, who has found himself building a bipartisan coalition to make this city the command's permanent home.
Space Command was re-created by Congress in 2019 amid rising threats to American military missions in orbit from rivals including Russia and China. The Pentagon provisionally put the command in Colorado Springs, which its earlier version had called home from 1987 until 2001, when it was shuttered amid budget cuts.
The January Alabama decision by Trump was initially met here with shock and anger in Colorado. That anger quickly turned to action that's now bearing fruit. Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers in August went to Washington where he twisted arms and met key congressional staffers, the experts who help lawmakers find the truth.
That's part of a lobbying campaign that has banded together civic and business leaders to keep the command here.
"I can only say it's not over until it's over," Suthers told a crowd gathered at The Broadmoor on Friday for his State of the City address.
So far, Lamborn successfully pushed for Congress to block money for Space Command's move until the two investigations now underway are completed. Colorado's U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet is leading a push by intelligence agencies, which worry the move would endanger efforts in Colorado to more closely integrate intelligence and military missions in orbit.
Suthers plans to keep up the pressure.
"We will continue to aggressively press our case in Congress and the White House because the decision was not in the national interest and must be reversed," he said.