Rep. Mike Simpson is doing something pretty unusual in Washington, D.C., these days.
He’s actually governing. You know, that thing where our elected representatives work together to make laws that benefit the country.
Congress passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill Friday last month on a bipartisan vote, and Simpson was the lone Idaho representative to support the bill. It is far from perfect — Democrats and Republicans alike have criticized it.
In fact, in what seems to be so common in the GOP today, Republicans were split on whether it was a good bill. It’s worth noting that House Speaker Paul Ryan supported the deal, but the split was predictable enough, with the hardline conservatives against and the moderates in favor.
The friction played out for all to see on Friday, when Simpson issued a statement lauding what the bill will do for Idaho. The same day, Simpson’s fellow Republican Sen. Mike Crapo issued a statement blasting the bill, outlining what it’ll do to harm Idaho.
We’ll concede the spending bill doesn’t accomplish everything. But what piece of legislation does?
The biggest problem in Washington these days is that politicians have forgotten how to govern. Deals must be struck, concessions made. Compromise, as the Founding Fathers knew, is the key to our republic.
Rep. Raul Labrador, Idaho’s only other House member, openly opposes this principle. As political columnist Randy Stapilus pointed out last week in an analysis of a New York Times piece on Labrador, the Idaho Republican seems more concerned about maintaining party power — even if it means a government shutdown — than going about the business of governing.
Based on their records, lump Sen. Jim Risch in with Labrador and Crapo in the obstructionist camp.
It’s easy for them to do nothing, especially on the spending bill. Not so for Simpson, who is chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development and is vice chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment. He actually has to interact with Democrats to set spending.
Political analysts say the bipartisan deal struck on the spending bill could foreshadow more compromise in 2016 and finally signal an end to the do-nothing Congresses that have triggered endless showdowns over spending and government shutdowns.
If that’s the case, we’ll need lawmakers like Simpson, who have the political will to compromise, and fewer obstructionists like the rest of the Idaho delegation.
It’s likely Simpson will face a far-right primary challenger in the spring. And there will be plenty of criticism that he isn’t conservative enough.
But remember this moment next spring when the mud starts to fly. In the case of the spending bill, Simpson was the only Idaho representative doing the job tasked to him by voters.
He governed. It’s a shame he had to stand alone.