Tipton: Reforms before debt-limit deal

Colo. delegation mirrors nation as default looms

DENVER – U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton maintained Wednesday that Democrats will have to offer concessions on the national health-care law in order for the government to reopen.

He also said Congress should enact spending reforms before it raises the debt limit. Without an increase in the debt limit, the country is projected to run out of money to pay its bills by Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Colorado’s Democratic senators say they will talk about negotiations only when the government is fully reopened and funded.

Tipton zeroed in on two aspects of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act – removing the employer contribution for employees of Congress and equal treatment for individuals and small businesses under the law, according to his spokesman, Josh Green. Although he didn’t specifically call for a delay in the health-care law, in the past Tipton has used the call for equal treatment to mean a one-year delay in the mandate for individuals to purchase health insurance because large businesses got a one-year delay of their obligations.

“Congressman Tipton believes that there should be no special treatment under the law for Congress, big business, or anybody else, and that all Americans should be treated fairly under Obamacare,” Green said in an email.

Leaders of the Democratic-controlled Senate say they already have made concessions to Republicans by including this year’s budget cuts in next year’s budget, and they are resisting GOP attempts to use the partial government shutdown to force negotiations over the health-care law.

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., has always said the Affordable Care Act would need changes now and then.

“That said, he would be willing to talk about constructive changes when we are not defunding other important government programs. That is not what Coloradans want,” said Mike Saccone, Udall’s spokesman.

Udall and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., support the Senate’s Democratic leaders in refusing to pass small bills to reopen popular government departments such as the National Park Service.

“Senator Bennet believes that rather than keeping most of the government shut down, we should open the entire government. The Senate passed a bill that would open the entire government,” said Bennet’s spokesman, Adam Bozzi.

However, Bennet wrote to the White House on Wednesday to urge the reopening of Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park. It is one of the only roads to the town of Estes Park that is open after the September floods.

Bennet, too, is willing to negotiate with Republicans, but, “He also believes it is reckless and irresponsible to shut the government down or default on our debt for political and ideological purposes,” Bozzi said.

Tipton’s stance is similar to that of House Republican leaders. However, Tipton was not among the 80 House Republicans who first pushed the idea of shutting down the government unless the Affordable Care Act is repealed.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner in August, urging him to use the yearly budget process to defund Obama’s health-care law. The House’s passage of a budget bill defunding the health law, and the Senate’s rejection of it, is what led to the partial government shutdown that’s now in its second week.

Congressional observers have pointed to the 80 signatories of the Meadows letter as the ones who drove the House GOP’s choice to force a showdown over the budget and health-care law. Only one of Colorado’s four Republican House members – Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs – signed the letter despite pressure from the right to add their names.

Conservative groups such as Freedomworks and Heritage Action have threatened to downgrade their evaluations of Republicans who don’t sign the letter, or to run online advertisements against them.

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, has gone farthest of Colorado’s Republicans in distancing himself from House Republican leaders. In an opinion piece published in several newspapers Tuesday, Coffman said he wants to reopen the government immediately, without any concessions from Democrats. He is one of fewer than two dozen Republicans to publicly take such a stance. Coffman’s seat also is near the top of the target list for Democrats. Former state Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff is running against him in the 2014 election.

Even if the question of the partial shutdown is settled, Congress faces another, more pressing question because the country will run out of money to pay its bills by Tuesday unless Congress raises the debt ceiling.

Tipton believes the country’s debt of $17 trillion makes it necessary to take “immediate action to prevent a full-on debt crisis like that which has occurred in Greece and in other European nations,” Green said via email.

Tipton wants the House and Senate to agree on spending cuts as part of a deal on the debt ceiling, Green said.

Obama and Senate Democrats have said they refuse to allow the debt ceiling to be used as a bargaining chip.

Green said Congress often uses the debt ceiling to force policy changes, and “given the severity of the nation’s spending crisis, this time should be no different.”

jhanel@durangoherald.com. Suzanne Gaber, the Herald’s Washington, D.C., intern, contributed to this report.

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