The federal government shutdown came to pass over a policy disagreement between Republicans opposed to the Affordable Care Act and Democrats who insisted that the discussion not be coupled with the housekeeping business of funding the government. The shutdown has consequences far beyond the political finger-pointing our lawmakers are prioritizing. Not that certain of those lawmakers are paying attention, though. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, is among the contingent of House Republicans attempting to skirt blame for the shutdown, despite his votes linking government funding with a one-year delay or defunding of Obamacare. As he does so, though, his district is suffering more than political fallout.
Southwest Colorado, as anyone who lives here, or has ever visited, knows, is rich in public lands. Mesa Verde National Park serves as the region’s public land keystone, drawing close to 500,000 visitors annually. The park and all its resources are now closed, and rather than focusing on the implications that has for surrounding communities – such as Cortez, Tipton’s home town – and attempting to remedy the situation, the congressman and his comrades continue to obfuscate, blame and push for unrelated policy changes when their first priority ought to be reopening the federal government, post haste.
Since the shutdown began, Tipton has carried his party’s rhetorical water – though he was not among the core of House Republicans who envisioned a shutdown unless Obamacare was fully repealed – blaming Senate Democrats for the current debacle. “The House is listening to the concerns of our constituents and has done everything possible to effectively address Obamacare and keep the government open. It’s unfortunate that the Senate and president would rather force a government shutdown than listen to Americans, or even have a conversation on possible alternatives to Obamacare to create a truly affordable and accessible health-care system,” Tipton said in a statement on his website.
What is not appearing on Tipton’s radar, however, is the fact that Mesa Verde’s closure – and that of other public resources in the region including Chimney Rock National Monument – is hurting the community’s bottom line. Mesa Verde alone is estimated to bring $41 million annually to Southwest Colorado’s economy, and provides 575 jobs. those figures are significant to the region, and should be meaningful to Tipton. Instead, he is focusing on forcing a conversation over the Affordable Care Act in order to restore funding for the federal government. The two are unrelated and should be treated that way legislatively.
The political marching orders issued to House Republicans are clear and intractable. Too few among them are refusing to fall in line – Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Centennial, being a notable and refreshing exception – and the impasse continues. While the discussion in Washington, D.C., revolves around policy and ideology, local communities and their residents are suffering pragmatic consequences. That is not representation.