Lawmakers share views at Club 20 meeting

U.S. Representative 3rd District Congressman Scott Tipton
U.S. Representative 3rd District Congressman Scott Tipton
Michael Bennet
Michael Bennet

Kelly Sloan, The Business Times

Scott Tipton and Michael Bennet both emphasize their efforts to push for federal legislation that benefits business, whether its regulatory and tax reforms, trade promotion or transportation funding.

The two members of the Colorado congressional delegation disagreed, though, over an agreement with Iran to lift sanctions in exchange for constraints on nuclear weapons development.

U.S. Rep. Tipton, a Republican whose  3rd Congressional District includes Western Colorado, and U.S. Sen. Bennet, a Democrat, shared their views on a range of topics during separate presentations at the recent Club 20 fall meeting in Grand Junction.

Tipton said he wasn’t necessarily  “anti-regulation,” but policies are needed to provide “stability and sensibility” and “to set a bar that doesn’t continuously move.” He said government’s guiding philosophy concerning the way it does its business ought to be “if it’s broke, fix it; if you can’t, stop doing it.”

Tipton returned often in his speech to the theme of overregulation, decrying what he called the “incentivization of rulemaking” within federal agencies and citing particular bills aimed to curb the federal government’s regulatory reach. His mention of the Protection of Water Rights Act — which would prohibit implementation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recently promulgated Waters of the U.S. rule expanding federal authority over water bodies, including potentially some on private land — met with loud applause.

Tipton also mentioned his support for the REINS Act, or Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act, which would require any major rule or regulation developed by an executive agency that had an estimated annual fiscal effect of $100 million or more to be subject to approval by Congress before implementation.

Tipton dedicated most of the remainder of prepared remarks to outlining his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, an agreement he compared to “the fox guarding the hen house.” He said that even Secretary of State John Kerry is unaware of how inspections of nuclear facilities in Iran will take place.

Tipton also criticized the secrecy surrounding the agreement, pointing out that while many Democrats argued the Trade Promotion Authority bill was secretive, it was far more transparent than the Iran deal. “Congress should have at least had the right to collaborate on the agreement and receive updates,” he said.

In response to a question about the future of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, funding for which Club 20 supports, Tipton said he believed the private sector is better positioned to provide financing to support U.S. exports. “Boeing doesn’t need our help. We should let the private sector handle it.”

Later in an interview, Tipton also touched on the issue of tax reform, saying he’d been working with U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin who serves as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, on proposals that would include a reduction in the corporate income tax rate, which at 35 percent is among the highest in the industrialized world. Tipton said  it was unclear if any tax reform would be accomplished in the current Congress or be held over until 2016.

Sen. Bennet dedicated most of the time in his luncheon keynote address to outlining how he often works with Republicans in Congress to accomplish legislative goals important to business, such as immigration reform and trade promotion authority.

Bennet also talked about the need for a more permanent approach to federal transportation funding, describing how Congress had just passed its 34th short-term transportation bill. In highlighting the need for a secure federal transportation funding mechanism, Bennet said, “The only folks laying people off in Colorado right now are the people building roads.”

Bennet also touted his cooperation with the GOP in efforts to benefit Western Colorado. “When the White House tried to raise grazing fees on public lands, we pushed back,” he said.

He also spoke of working to pass legislation to speed up U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of certain drugs, and during the course of the day had visited in private with Courtney Grieger, a Grand Junction teen-ager battling cystic fibrosis taking medication whose approval was made possible by the bill.

In response to a question on the topic, Bennet offered an impassioned defense of the Iran nuclear agreement, arguing it would put the U.S. in a better position if  Iranians renege on the deal. “I believe they will cheat. When they do, we will be in a better position to use military force than had we gone it alone.”