WASHINGTON — Three decades ago, a congressional caucus helped establish Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday as a federal holiday and convinced the U.S. government to impose sanctions against apartheid-era South Africa. Rep. Scott Tipton hopes his new congressional caucus will blaze its own path.
The Cortez Republican announced he will serve as the co-chair of the Congressional Small Business Caucus, the latest group among the hundreds of “congressional member organizations” on the Hill.
Tipton indicated that, like the better-known Congressional Black Caucus and Republican Study Committee, its members will craft and organize a legislative agenda to bolster their cause. “This bipartisan partnership will provide small businesses and entrepreneurs with a new platform for their voices to be heard in Washington,” he said in a statement.
The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is perhaps the best known and most controversial of the groups. It sponsored legislation to make Dr. King’s birthday a federal holiday and impose economic sanctions against South Africa for its policy of racial apartheid in the 1980s, according to a congressional historian. The CBC has also come under fire for refusing to admit white members in recent years.
Most congressional caucuses have lower profiles, though. The Congressional Soils Caucus works to “expand the fundamental knowledge of soils,” while the Congressional Buy American Caucus seeks to strengthen Buy-American laws, according to their websites.
Tipton comes to his new organization with experience; he started an Indian pottery business with his brother in Cortez after graduating from Fort Lewis College in 1978. Although the company remains in business today, it is not as large as some small businesses, which can have as many as 500 employees.
Tipton and his co-chair, Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), wrote that the organization will seek expand small businesses’ access to capital and technology as well as help members arrange job fairs and business roundtable events.
Nineteen representatives have signed on as members of the bipartisan group; nine are Democrats and ten are Republicans, including Rep. Cory Gardner of Yuma. Tipton’s staff members will work for the organization without additional pay, and the group plans to boast a website later this year.
The timing of the caucus is propitious. The Affordable Care Act, which will require businesses with 50 or more full-time employees to pay a tax if any of them lack affordable health insurance, kicks in next year.