GOP hopefuls differ on health care

Candidates for seat in Congress square off at conservative gathering

Bob McConnell

Scott Tipton

Two Republicans facing off for the right to oppose U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., in the 3rd Congressional District offered sharply different views of how to deal with the nation’s health-care issue in a forum Thursday.

Bob McConnell of Steamboat Springs, a self-described “recovering lawyer” and Vietnam-era Army Ranger, is challenging state Rep. Scott Tipton of Cortez. The two spoke to about 150 people at Grand Junction City Hall. The forum was sponsored by the Mesa County Republican Party and the Western Slope Conservative Alliance.

Both candidates attacked the health-care proposals that have worked their way through both houses of Congress, but McConnell, an emergency-medical technician, said he wanted to see medical malpractice issues changed to a system resembling the workers’ compensation system. Patients who suffer adverse outcomes would be given awards based on the level to which they were incapacitated and to the extent their earnings were reduced, he said.

More people with EMT skills like his should be used to deliver lower-cost health care under the supervision of physicians, reducing overall costs, McConnell said.

Tort reform is needed, Tipton said, and less congressional involvement.

“They can’t even manage the post office without cutting off weekend delivery,” he said.

McConnell said the nation’s borders remain unguarded and its safety left to luck.

“Luck is for Cripple Creek and not our national security,” McConnell said.

Both candidates also opposed any effort to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions and efforts to establish a cap-and-trade program.

The federal government is too large and active, McConnell said, advocating elimination of the Internal Revenue Service, as well as the Department of Education.

Tipton called for an immediate 10 percent cut in all federal bureaucracies except the military, and cutting the corporate income tax by 10 percent.

Both also supported implementing a consumption tax known as the Fair Tax to replace the current income-tax system.

Tipton, who blames his loss to Salazar in 2006 on advertising he said mischaracterized the Fair Tax, said he had the money and support to fend off those attacks this time around.  He also touted his 60 percent rate of name identification in the district and recent polling he said showed him neck and neck with Salazar.

McConnell conceded he was a complete unknown, but maintained he would travel the district and win over voters with ideas while learning from Tipton’s experience.

“I understand you got tripped up,” McConnell said. “I won’t let John Salazar trip me up, I promise.”

Tipton chastised McConnell for sending out e-mails criticizing Tipton for his support of a 25-cent fee motor-vehicle licensing fee to establish a fund to help EMTs such as McConnell purchase equipment.

McConnell said the fee violated the state’s Taxpayers Bill of Rights and declared, “No new taxes, no new fees, not now, not ever.”

McConnell has been endorsed by tea-party organizations in southern Colorado and Mesa County. Asked about why that happened, Tipton asked if anyone in the audience had voted on those endorsements. Two people raised their hands.

“I’m the tea-party candidate,” McConnell said. “I wear the badge and I’m proud of it.”

Both praised Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky, who filibustered the extension of unemployment benefits for five days, with McConnell calling him a “great man.”

Bunning wasn’t supported by fellow Republicans, Tipton said, vowing to go to Washington and “rattle their gilded cage.”


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