Bill Sali says he arrived in Congress to find a system that's "goofy." Congressmen debate bills in an empty chamber. Testimony at committee hearings is by invitation only. Votes are noisy, messy affairs. Bills have multiple issues tucked into them, and the only choices are all or nothing.
"Things do not make sense," said the freshman Idaho Republican, whose seven months in office so far have been marked by "no" votes on an array of popular bills. He voted against economic development funding for Indian tribes, because he objected to the bill including native Hawaiians. He opposed reauthorizing Head Start because it didn't include "faith-based" programs. He turned thumbs-down on scientific research funding, small-business loans and incentives, rural housing money and community policing grants.
Sali said he's "trying to keep us from spending our grandkids into bankruptcy." He added, "People like the way I'm voting, and I'm getting encouragement all the time, saying, 'You're doing a great job, keep it up.' " He hasn't opposed all spending. Sali introduced legislation to continue federal timber payments to counties, pushed for earmarks for road projects and hospital programs in Idaho and even was taken to task by a free-market blogger for backing federal funding for a Boise detox center.
About 85 percent of the time, Sali has voted with the majority of Republicans in the House. The other 15 percent of the time, he's tended to vote "no," often as part of a small minority that doesn't include Idaho's other congressman, 2nd District Republican Mike Simpson. Read my full story here in Sunday’s Spokesman-Review.