It’s Almost 2020. What’s On Rep. Scott Tipton’s Mind?

November 22, 2019
Financial StabilityFinancial StabilityAndrew Harnik/AP Photo
Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., as Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 17, 2015, before a House Financial Services committee hearing on the annual report of the Financial Stability Oversight Council.

Republican Rep. Scott Tipton saw his role in Congress change in 2019.

He had been a member of both the Natural Resources and Financial Services committees the year before. But the switch from a GOP-controlled U.S. House of Representatives to one ruled by a Democratic majority following the 2018 midterms saw Tipton dropped from the former panel.

That change in power dynamics has also affected some of his goals for Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, Tipton told Colorado Matters as part of a year-end review with all members of the state's Congressional delegation.

Tipton cited the failure of an agreement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada (USMCA) — which was signed a year ago — to pass through Congress. The agreement, he said, would be good for the citizens in his district, but has been bogged down by partisan politics.

"We've got the importance of being able to actually have good trade agreements to be able to support our farmers, our ranchers, our businesses in the state of Colorado," Tipton said. "Let's pass USMCA. If (Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi) puts it on the floor, it will pass. We'll get Republican and Democrat support. It is being held up right now. So we'd encourage the speaker — let's have a good balanced approach to that legislation."

Asked about the numerous bills that have passed through the House, only to be bogged down in the Republican-controlled Senate, Tipton said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, "certainly has a very big role."

"I think he's probably looking at it through some of the same prism that we're seeing that's coming out of the House," Tipton said.

Interview Highlights

On breaking the partisan morass in Washington:

"I think probably one of the more frustrating things that many of us have at home and certainly in Washington is we've got to be able to look at the bigger picture to make sure that we're working on behalf of all of our constituencies. And you don't have to drive points that may not be able to pass through both houses. We have pretty much great unanimity in terms of our approach to making sure that we're standing up for Colorado. We'd like to be able to see that replicated on the national level."

On his accomplishments in 2019:

"Working very hard obviously on veteran's issues. We have one of the highest per capita veteran populations in the United States in the third congressional district. I've introduced legislation to be able to give them better access to ambulance care and also dental care to be able to help our veterans and those people that have been willing to stand up for this country.

We're also continuing to focus on the opioid crisis. I was very pleased my bill, the Alto Act was passed, signed into law and we're now starting to see some real positive movements in terms of addressing and creating awareness of the opioid crisis in the country."

On the impeachment inquiry currently in the House:

"Have we had anything that rises to the level of high crime and misdemeanor? I do not see that. And we've seen a moving bar in terms of some of the investigations to where first it was going to be a Russian collusion, that did not work out. Then all ultimately it started move to quid pro quo. Now that's being moved to bribery. And we have yet to see anyone come forward and say with direct firsthand knowledge, this was a demand that was made."

Answers have been edited lightly for length and clarity.

Read The Transcript

Avery Lill:
This is Colorado Matters from CPR News. I'm Avery Lill. With the impeachment inquiry in full throat it might be hard to focus on anything else happening in politics, but as 2019 comes to an end, CPR news is reaching out to the members of the Colorado congressional delegation to get their thoughts on this session as well as the ramp up to 2020. It promises to be an eventful year both locally and nationally. Scott Tipton is a Republican Congressman representing the state's third district. Representative Tipton, welcome to the program.

Scott Tipton:
Avery. Good to be with you.

AL:
Before we get into the subject of the impeachment inquiry, and it may be hard to separate this from the inquiry, I'd like to begin with how 2019 changed for you as a Congressman. Before this year, you had been a member of the Republican controlled House, that changed after the 2018 midterm elections when Democrats seize the majority. What did that mean for you specifically, say in areas like committee work and getting bills passed?

ST:
You know, we certainly saw that Speaker Pelosi had reduced the number of members on various committees and we're staying focused generally in terms of the issues that are going to be important to our district. We've been very proud on the legislation, when we were in the majority, that we were able to pass through the House through committees and ultimately to be able to get not only President Obama's signature but President Trump's as well. On legislation that we've been able to pass we've had bipartisan support. And so that's something that we continue to work on and to be able to advocate for. And we hope that the leadership out of the Democrat party will actually do what they said they would like to do and that's to be able to have bipartisan legislation to be able to work on behalf of our communities, our states and our country.

AL:
And one of the talking points surrounding Congress this year is the idea that the Democratic controlled House has passed hundreds of bills that have stalled in the Republican controlled Senate. Do you agree with that assessment and how frustrating has it been for you?

ST:
Let me give you one good example. I think something that impacts an awful lot of our seniors and just general family members as well are prescription drug prices. We had legislation which came out of the energy and commerce committee with broad bipartisan support, Speaker Pelosi then before the bill got to the floor, amended that bill, putting in some poison pills that they were able to pass through the House, but it will go nowhere in the Senate. We had bipartisan support. Just put that bill on the floor, let's allow it to be able to move forward.

We've got the importance of being able to actually have good trade agreements to be able to support our farmers, our ranchers, our businesses in the state of Colorado. Let's pass USMCA. If she puts it on the floor, it will pass. We'll get Republican and Democrat support. It is being held up right now. So we'd encourage the speaker, let's have a good balanced approach to that legislation. Be able to get it not only through the House, but through the Senate and on the president's desk for signatures.

AL:
Now I want to get into one of those areas that you mentioned. It's an area that's been pushed to the background as it were because of impeachment, the tariff war in China. You represent a very rural area of Colorado, which includes farming and agricultural interests that have been hurt by the machinations between Washington and Beijing. I know you would like China to be held accountable and areas like human rights and intellectual property theft, but how do you reconcile that with the troubles people in your district may be going through?

ST:
You know, and that's bipartisan. I think Republicans and Democrats point to those specific issues you just mentioned in regards to dealing with China. We need to make sure that we have good trade agreements to be able to address them. We just had an agreement that was signed with Japan, which is going to be able to benefit the Colorado cattle industry. To be able to work with Australia. We've had Mexico pass the approval of USMCA. Canada is waiting on the United States to be able to pass it before they move. It will pass the House of Representatives and I believe go through the Senate and get a presidential signature if it's just going to be brought to the floor. So this is taking a look in legislation that can and will pass if it's simply put on the floor, we don't put in poison pills that are going to break us into the individual camps. Let's make sure we're working on behalf of the people, our communities and our jobs.

AL:
You mentioned the USMCA. It's been a year since that agreement was signed. The pact was regarded as a big win for farmers and ranchers along with other businesses, but it still hasn't been ratified by Congress. Why not?

ST:
Simply put, it cannot be ratified until such time as Speaker Pelosi is willing to be able to put the bill on the floor. We'll vote for the bill. We've put in a lot of commentary into Secretary Ross in regards to the reciprocal agreement that we've had, which impacts our district directly in the San Luis Valley for potato exports going down into Mexico. We hope that'll be included, but we will vote for that legislation.

We've supported also the agreements to be able to make sure that steel operations that are in Pueblo, Colorado are not going to be impacted by some of the tariffs that were going to be put into place. So we've made some good positive moves forward. The speaker just needs to put the bill on the floor. Let's vote on it. It will pass. It will go to the Senate and I believe it will pass as well and the president will sign it.

AL:
Now a lot of what you're talking about is bipartisan work. Where is the solution in your opinion to breaking through the current morass in DC?

ST:
I think probably one of the more frustrating things that many of us have at home and certainly in Washington is we've got to be able to look at the bigger picture to make sure that we're working on behalf of all of our constituencies. And you don't have to drive points that may not be able to pass through both houses. And so I'll speak on behalf of our delegation in regards to Colorado issues. We have pretty much great unanimity in terms of our approach to making sure that we're standing up for Colorado. We'd like to be able to see that replicated on the national level.

AL:
How much responsibility does Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader have in all this?

ST:
Leader McConnell certainly has a very big role to be able to play and I think he's probably looking at it through some of the same prism that we're seeing that's coming out of the House. Just put forward legislation that we can agree on to be able to get it to the president's desk. We'd had the reverse experience with Harry Reed to where we'd passed bills came out of the House of Representative that were dead on arrival in the Senate, so it's making sure we've got that good moderated approach to be able to make sure that those bills can move through both houses. I think everyone understands you aren't going to get 100% of what you want.

AL:
Now as you look back on 2019, where are your successes? I can think of things like broadband for rural areas.

ST:
Yeah, that's certainly something that's very important for our areas. When we get down into the San Luis Valley, we have counties that still don't have adequate probably dial up service. This is something that used to be a luxury. It is now become a necessity for not only economic development but also for healthcare, for our communities to be able to grow. We put forward legislation to be able to eliminate some of the barriers on the federal land in terms of making sure that broadband is going to be able to be expanded throughout all of our rural areas and to be able to get that connectivity.

ST:
Working very hard obviously on veteran's issues. We have one of the highest per capita veteran populations in the United States in the third congressional district. Do a lot of case work, I've introduced legislation to be able to give them better access to ambulance care and also dental care to be able to help our veterans and those people that have been willing to stand up for this country. We're forward looking in terms of some of the new challenges that our veterans are facing coming back from the wars in Iraq and Iran that we're dealing with right now. Burn pit legislation, which is certainly impacting them and making sure that we're fulfilling the commitments that we've made to people willing to put their lives on the line for this country.

ST:
We're also continuing to focus on the opioid crisis. Originally the two hotspots in Colorado happened to be in our district. In terms of some of the opioid crisis in the country, we've held over 30 round tables trying to be able to address it and to be able to seek local solutions. Was very pleased my bill, the Alto Act was passed, signed into law and we're now starting to see some real positive movements in terms of addressing and creating awareness of the opioid crisis in the country.

ST:
And we continue to focus a lot on our access to our public lands, making sure that all voices are being heard on something that we cherish and want to be able to protect.

AL:
Now, as we said earlier, it's clear the impeachment inquiry is dominating the headlines these days, so I certainly don't want to overlook that. What are your thoughts on what's transpired so far?

ST:
At this point I just listened and the hearing with Ambassador Sondland. we are dealing with second hand information as he ultimately testified. Have we had anything that rises to the level of high crime and misdemeanor? I do not see that.

ST:
The focus of this Congress ought to be on making sure that we're keeping this economy moving, keeping jobs being created for our local communities, making sure that we're trying to be able to address and be able to lower healthcare costs for individuals in our country as well as prescription drugs. Dealing with some of the challenges that we have as I noted in regards to opioids, fulfilling those commitments to our veterans.

ST:
And we've seen a moving bar in terms of some of the investigations to where first it was going to be a Russian collusion, that did not work out. Then all ultimately it started move to quid pro quo. Now that's being moved to bribery. And we have yet to see anyone come forward and say with direct firsthand knowledge, this was a demand that was made. And I think when ultimately we look at Ukraine, they did receive the aid. There were no investigations that were conducted on either former Vice President Biden or his son that are currently even taking place. So my opinion right now is is they've not reached that high crime and misdemeanor level for an investigation or an impeachment of the president.

AL:
Now, hypothetically speaking, is it wrong for a president to ask a foreign country to investigate a political rival?

ST:
I think if you're putting it in a rival standpoint, we need to look at it also from the standpoint if there was a crime that was being committed or pressure that was being applied, is that also worthy of investigation irregardless of whether somebody chooses to or not run for the highest office in the land? When we look at Barisma, this was actually being looked into prior to any of the hearings that are going on right now. And the vice president's son was obviously in business with and was director for Barisma and receiving a significant amount of money for going.

So I think there are two ways that you can certainly look at that. And I think what we're seeing probably right now in the country is depending on which political party you're in, you're going to take a stand on that side. But when we do look simply at the facts, we do have a legal obligation to make sure that we are rooting out corruption, particularly when we're going to be using American taxpayer dollars when it comes to aid.

AL:
In closing, I am wondering what is the most important thing that you want to accomplish in 2020?

ST:
A lot of our goal is to be able to make sure that we're getting our economy really working and moving within the third congressional district. I've often commented, we've had a tale of two economies in Colorado where a lot of our resort areas, metropolitan areas have done very well. We are now seeing recovery. We are seeing some economic growth throughout the third congressional district, which is good news. We need to keep that moving and we're going to continue to be able to work on issues that are going to be able to benefit our small businesses, our farmers, our ranchers.

To be able to address that, to be able to protect our water in the third congressional district, to continue to work on the opioid crisis and to make sure that we have the tools available and where it's appropriate for the federal government to participate, that those are going to be available not just in Denver, but down into Pueblo and the San Luis Valley on the west slope of Colorado, to be able to have those resources. And working on the veterans as well. We're currently in the process of continuing to work on something that's important in our district of good Samaritan legislation in terms of abandoned mine to cleanup, to be able to address those issues as well.

AL:
Representative Tipton, thank you very much.

ST:
Appreciate it, Avery. Good to visit with you