3rd Congressional District: Incumbent Tipton proud of Western Slope roots

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, left, R-Colo., said the biggest surprise of his first term was tension between the Republican-controlled House and the Democratically controlled Senate, where legislation he backed has languished after he pushed it through the House.

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., is being challenged by state Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo for Tipton’s seat in the House. Tipton, however, in many ways is running against the U.S. Senate.

Much of the legislation he has pushed through the House is languishing and will die if the Senate takes no action before the end of the year. If that happens, Tipton will lose the momentum he’s built because he’ll have to start them anew in a second term when the next Congress convenes in January, assuming he emerges victorious in November.

“Let’s get the process to actually work and encourage the Senate to take up legislation,” Tipton said in an interview from his home in Cortez, one of the rare times he has spent the night there.

“I’ve actually spent more nights in Grand Junction than I have in Cortez,” he said.

He’s quick to point out that he is the only federal elected official in Colorado who hails from the Western Slope, noting that all the others come out of the Interstate 25 corridor that goes up and down the Front Range.

Tipton, 55, was elected in 2010 in a wave of Republicans swept into office on a tea-party tide of dissatisfaction with incumbent Democrats, giving the GOP control of the House.

Now, like 86 other freshman GOP representatives, he’s defending his first victory. In Pace, he’s running against a former colleague in the state Legislature and a staffer to U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., whom Tipton defeated two years ago.

Though an avowed opponent of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act championed by President Barack Obama and supported by Salazar, Tipton fashioned his first term around more provincial issues for the sprawling 3rd Congressional District, which encompasses much of southern Colorado and nearly all of the West Slope.

The biggest surprise to him on arriving in Washington, D.C., Tipton said, was the tension between the House, run by Republicans, and the Senate, dominated by Democrats.

Those tensions have stymied work not only on his bills, but on the federal budget and on tax reform, Tipton said.

There seems to be legislative consensus for tax reform, “and yet it’s sitting there awaiting action in the Senate,” he said.

Republicans in the House aren’t without fault, Tipton said. As Colorado’s only member of the House Agriculture Committee, Tipton said he was disappointed this year’s farm bill has been bottled up by his own House leadership.

“We should move the farm bill to the floor and let’s bring it to a floor vote,” he said.

Speaker of the House John Boehner has said a House vote will be taken in November, after the election.

Boehner is scheduled to appear at a fundraiser for Tipton on Tuesday in Durango.

Tipton said he hoped the Senate would take votes on his measures, as well as others that have passed the House.

“I’d just like to change some of the inactivity that we’ve seen out of the Senate,” he said. “If you don’t like a bill, kill it legitimately, don’t just table it. And if you find something of redeeming value in it,” the Senate should vote on it, and send it back to the House, he said. “But we cannot work in a vacuum where the Senate refuses to act.”

After he got a bill to establish the Chimney Rock National Monument in southern Colorado through the House, it too stalled in the Senate.

Several Republican senators, including John Barasso, R-Wyo., voiced no objection to Chimney Rock, Tipton said, but the measure went nowhere until President Obama used the Antiquities Act to establish the monument.

“This is just a reality that is there,” Tipton said of the slowdown in the Senate.

Tipton did get a hearing before a Senate committee for his Hydropower and Rural Jobs Act, H.R. 2842, courtesy of Utah Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican, but another measure remains stalled. The Planning for American Energy Act, H.R. 4381, passed the House as part of the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act, and is awaiting action in the Senate.

Two measures sponsored by Tipton have gained President Obama’s signature: a measure to name the Veterans Affairs tele-health clinic for U.S. Army Maj. William Edward Adams, who was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously after he died in Vietnam; and the Blue Star Mother Act with Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., to expand the membership of the congressionally chartered Blue Star Mothers organization.

Although partisanship and House-Senate bickering have played dominant roles in his first term, Tipton said he found two Democrats particularly open to working with him: Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., and Rep. Mark Critz, D-Pa.

“We rarely agree on a lot of issues, but they’re very congenial and we get along fine,” Tipton said.

Tipton said he’s making plans to pursue his stalled bills should he win a second term, as well as continue his pursuit of another measure, the Healthy Forest Management and Wildfire Act, which would give state officials greater authority to deal with dangerous conditions on national forest land.

Despite the political and partisan disagreements that permeate the nation’s capital, Tipton said he also has grown to appreciate the opportunity to discuss aspects of the 3rd Congressional District with people from other parts of the country.

“There are a lot of good-hearted people working to do the right thing,” he said, noting that part of working with other legislators involved acquainting them with issues in western Colorado. In the process,  he said, “You learn a lot about their issues, too.”


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