Simpson only member of Idaho's delegation to vote to end shutdown, default

Idaho’s other three congressmen said they would oppose the compromise; Labrador says he wasn’t pushing to defund Obamacare, only delay it.

rbarker@idahostatesman.comOctober 16, 2013 

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Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, chairs a key Appropriations subcommittee.

MCT FILE

Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson was the only member of the Idaho delegation to vote Wednesday to re-open the federal government and avoid a crushing default on our nation’s debt that economists said would send the struggling economy back into recession.

Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch voted against the compromise plan that gave Republicans little for their support of a 16-day government shutdown, which put thousands of Idahoans out of work, cut off veterans’ benefits and closed off monuments and other public lands.

“The easiest, most politically expedient thing for me to do would have been to vote no and protect my political right flank,” said Simpson. “My vote today was about the thousands of people facing layoffs at INL, the multitude of businesses across Idaho that have told me their livelihoods are at stake, and the millions of folks across the country who can’t afford the devastating impacts of default on their investments and retirements.”

Rep. Raul Labrador, one of a group who called on House leaders to tack onto the government funding bill a provision to defund the Affordable Care Act, told reporters a different story Wednesday. He said they only wanted a one-year delay, and viewed the attempt to defund the controversial program as a negotiating position.

“We have never asked for a full repeal of Obamacare because we knew we would not get it,” Labrador said.

Labrador signed a letter to the House leadership Aug. 21 urging them to remove funding for Obamacare from any appropriations bill in the current Congress — including the type of continuing appropriation needed to restart the government.

In an appearance on ‘Meet the Press” Sept. 29, he said: “Our first request was to completely defund the program. And we knew we were going to lose on that. Now we’re asking for a delay, which, again, I don’t think is an unreasonable thing to do.”

Speaking with other House conservatives on Wednesday, Labrador said he was “really proud” of Speaker John Boehner who he said faced no challenge from the right. “I’m more upset with my Republican conference,” he said.

“If anybody should be kicked out it's probably those Republicans — and not Speaker Boehner — who were unwilling to keep their promises to the American people.”

Labrador’s office did not answer repeated requests Wednesday for an interview.

State Rep. Shirley Ringo of Moscow, a Democrat running against Labrador for the congressional job, said Idahoans are tired of politicians playing political games with their lives.

“This has just caused an extreme disruption in people’s lives and as far as I can see, Raul and the people he’s working with are completely indifferent to that,” Ringo said.

Brad Jensen, a sawmill owner in southeast Idaho’s Ovid, had to pull 12 loggers off a salvage timber sale Monday under orders from the Forest Service because of the shutdown. Even with the vote Wednesday, he’s not sure when they will be able to go back into the woods.

“It cost us money,” Jensen said. “It’s a hardship.”

Crapo supported defunding the Affordable Care Act and repeatedly voted against bills that did not include defunding as the shutdown went forward. He tried to put the best face on the final deal, which he also opposed, pointing to the lower federal funding levels that Democrats had accepted back in July.

“We will actually be spending less this year than we did last year,” he said.

But he acknowledged that his main effort to reform entitlements and taxes was lost in the health care defunding debate.

“Clearly we have not been able to achieve either of our major objectives or major fiscal reforms,” Crapo said, referring to the entitlement and tax reforms. “That’s extremely disappointing.”

Alex LaBeau, president of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, also was disappointed that balancing the budget wasn’t even on the table Wednesday.

“They didn’t solve the problem, they kicked the can down the road,” LaBeau said. “I’m glad they made a good decision to avert a financial crisis worldwide.”

Risch, who called the strategy of defunding or delaying Obamacare “folly” in September, said he couldn’t support the compromise. He said he hoped the standoff wouldn’t be repeated in January.

“I hope the President and my Democrat colleagues will offer serious proposals to find a solution instead of turning this situation into another crisis in January,” Risch said.

Rocky Barker: 377-6484

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