Idaho congressmen hear from both sides over budget gridlock

Protesters in Boise march to get Congress to reopen government and pay its debts.

rbarker@idahostatesman.comOctober 16, 2013 

As the government sits on the edge of default, the calls into Idaho's congressional delegation have balanced out a little.

Sen. Jim Risch's office reported a 50-50 split since the weekend from concerned Idahoans opposing the shutdown or urging the senator not to give in. Rep. Mike Simpson's staff also said calls are coming in roughly evenly split.

The calls coming into Sen. Mike Crapo's office are running more than 3-1 against compromising to end the shutdown, his office reported.

Meanwhile, about 120 protesters marched with signs in Boise on Tuesday from the Ann Frank Memorial to the steps of the Capitol, telling the delegation to reopen the government.

"The message is this is hurting a lot of people," said Edwina Allen, one of the marchers. "We're telling them the need to reopen the government and honor our nation's debts."

"While we have heard from Idahoans across the state who are in favor of the government shutdown, we have also heard from many Idaho businesses that the shutdown and debt ceiling uncertainty are hurting their bottom line and putting their livelihoods at risk," Simpson said. "Whether it's an outfitter, a government contractor, or a small business reliant on the INL, small and large businesses alike are telling us this uncertainty is hurting the economy and it only gets worse the longer it goes on."

Rep. Raul Labrador's office was still compiling the number of calls it's received, Press Secretary Todd Winer said. He did not respond by press time.

All of the offices acknowledged that their numbers may not be a total reflection of calls since their voicemails overloaded on the weekend and through the Columbus Day holiday Monday. Labrador's Meridian telephone system allowed some people through and not others, Winer said.

"It was a glitch in the voicemail system," Winer said, adding that the problem has been fixed.

Though economists predict dire consequences if the U.S. can't borrow money to pay its existing debt and despite the threats to Idaho businesses and people who already aren't getting a paycheck, there is not a huge outcry here.

Crapo's Facebook page gives a good quick look at the competing views Idaho's delegation is hearing.

"Please don't cave in we have the money to pay our bills this is just smoke and mirrors," wrote Anna Fata of Shoshone. "Both sides play this game. There are entire departments we don't need."

Some posters complained about Obamacare and government spending, but worried about the effects of the shutdown on them. Others just wanted it to end.

"We need to put an end to this standoff," wrote Pat K Marquardt Jacobi of Idaho Falls. "I am sure you are aware that on Thursday if the government (doesn't go) back up, 2,600 workers at the INL are furloughed without pay.

"What is this going to do for you the next time you run?"

Perhaps the most telling is the call volume, which is low - not even in the hundreds daily for the lawmakers' individual offices.

"I'm guessing when we were doing Obamacare and gun control we were fielding a thousand calls a day," said John Sandy, Risch's chief of staff.

Rocky Barker: 377-6484

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