Democrats are hammering U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, for changing his vote at the last minute and opposing a Democratic idea about wildfire prevention.
Republicans said the amendment was meaningless and nothing but political smoke and mirrors.
It happened Tuesday in Washington, while back in Colorado firefighters were battling several major blazes, including the High Park Fire outside Fort Collins, which soon could grow into the second-largest fire in state history.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Golden, offered a brief amendment to a Republican public lands bill to give the federal government authority to contract with states to remove beetle-killed trees.
“We need to have that done to prevent forest fires in the future. It’s as simple as that,” Perlmutter said during debate in the House.
The amendment failed on a near party-line vote. Coverage of the 15-minute vote on C-Span showed a handful of Republicans initially voting yes and then voting no. The Congressional Record showed that Tipton, along with Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, and a California Republican switched their votes from yes to no with less than a minute left in the roll call.
Tipton, Coffman and Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, issued a joint statement deriding Perlmutter’s amendment as a “cheap political move” that would have no real-world effect.
“We are already working on measures in the House that, unlike this political stunt, would actually offer real solutions to the widespread bark beetle epidemic and catastrophic wildfires,” the statement said. “Trying to score political points off families who have lost their homes is shameful.”
Tipton’s Democratic opponent, Sal Pace, said Tipton still didn’t explain why he wavered on his vote.
“The blanket statement made by my opponent is yet another example of him having ‘gone Washington’ and does not explain why until the last second he was in favor of the motion,” Pace said in a prepared statement. “There is possibly no issue more timely and crucial than the subject matter of forest fires and fire prevention, and it’s completely reasonable to ask my opponent why he turned his back on his Colorado values.”
Perlmutter’s amendment also would have required gift shops in national parks to sell only goods made in the United States.
The second part hit especially close to home for Tipton. As the owner of Mesa Verde Pottery, he employs Native American crafters to create pottery for sale in national park gift shops.
Also on the House floor this week, Republicans passed an energy bill that included a provision sponsored by Tipton, called the Planning for American Energy Act.
Tipton’s bill tells the U.S. Department of Energy to predict the country’s energy needs for the next 30 years and then set four-year production plans for all types of energy.
“This legislation would establish production goals for a true all-of-the-above domestic energy plan that includes wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal, oil shale, oil, natural gas, coal and minerals needed for energy development,” Tipton said in a news release.
The bill now goes to the Senate. Republican legislation usually dies in the Democratic-controlled Senate and vice-versa.