U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton said Wednesday that he wants to see Congress get back into the rule-making business.
The Republican from Colorado District 3 spoke to 30 spectators at a 6 p.m. town hall meeting at the Montezuma County Annex building in Cortez. People were invited to ask questions and voice their concerns during the 90-minute meeting.
Tipton said too many regulations were being handed down via executive orders or decrees from bureaucratic agencies.
“Every president has tried to expand executive reach,” he said. “Far too many powers are centralized in the executive branch.”
But the culture in Congress is changing, he said. More representatives and senators want to take control back from those agencies and put the rule-making authority back in the hands of elected officials on Capitol Hill.
Tipton has spoken out against federal agencies consistently in the past few years. Wednesday, he again scolded the Environmental Protection Agency for its role in the Gold King Mine disaster, saying someone from the agency should be fired.
Too often, agencies operate under a “what more can we do” model, instead of allowing free enterprise to run its course, Tipton said.
“The constituency we need to speak to is common sense,” he said.
He repeatedly stressed, though, that many regulations are practical and necessary.
The Congressional Review Act allows Congress to take a vote to disapprove a rule that’s been mandated from the executive branch. Congress used that provision to disapprove the EPA’s Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) decree – which Tipton dubbed “woe to us” – but President Barack Obama vetoed it. Tipton said it made more sense for Congress to vote to approve mandates instead of retroactively disapprove them.
More than $2 trillion is being spent on regulatory compliance in the U.S., and those costs get passed on, he said.
The country’s economy isn’t on the right track, the congressman said. Coal jobs in Colorado’s 3rd District are disappearing, and wages are stagnant. Developers can still pursue oil, gas and coal resources and promote renewable energy at the same time, he said.
“Let’s get America back to work again,” Tipton said. “Government should be a stepping stone, but it’s become a stumbling block. We need fertile ground for private-sector businesses to grow.”
If the economy gets moving again, wages will go up, he said. Businesses in the third district aren’t hiring new people because of costly regulations such as the Affordable Care Act, he said. Elected officials need to look at the sources of those decrees and the outcomes of those mandates, Tipton said.
The congressman also emphasized the need to improve the efficiency of financial institutions. Interest rates are high, and people in Southwest Colorado can’t afford homes because they can’t get a loan, he said.
Tipton’s Taking Account of Institutions with Low Operational Risk (TAILOR) act would require federal financial oversight agencies to fine-tune regulations on banks and credit unions. The act has cleared the House Financial Services Committee and is making its way through Congress.
“We’re seeing more empty storefronts in Southwest Colorado,” Tipton said. “We have to keep the economy moving.”
Several veterans attended the town hall, and some said the Veterans’ Choice Program doesn’t work. The act added more cumbersome steps veterans have to take to get care, and some service providers enrolled in the program haven’t been paid, they said.
Tipton admitted that the Department of Veterans Affairs still needs a lot of work. He said instituting the Choice Program was just the first step in reforming the VA.
“We have to be able to hear those comments and see what works and what doesn’t (in the Choice Program),” he said. “There are good, caring people in the VA, but we need oversight.”
One man asked Tipton to give him some hope for the country, noting the “chaos” at the top of the Republican presidential ticket.
Tipton remained hopeful, that a clear choice would emerge in the presidential race. He said once everyone gets the chance to participate, the process will work out.
“I’m never willing to give up on this country,” Tipton said. “We give people great opportunities. ... The strength of America isn’t in Washington. It’s not in Denver. It’s with the people in this room.”