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Eye On Boise

Posts tagged: government shutdown

Simpson announces he got wildfire suppression funding restored in shutdown-ending bill

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson announced today that he successfully got “critical wildfire suppression funding” included in the legislation that ended the government shutdown and avoided default on the nation’s debts; Simpson, who chairs the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, has been pushing for the funding since last summer to restore wildfire suppression accounts that were empted during this year’s destructive fire season. The bill, H.R. 2775, includes $600 million for the Forest Service and $36 million for the Department of the Interior to restore the firefighting funds.

“Funding to restore budgets that have been drained through fire borrowing is a critical piece of this legislation,” Simpson said in a news release.  “Not only does this bill reopen all operations at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise and ensure that land managers can contain catastrophic fires that would otherwise put lives and property in peril, but it means that they can do the restoration work and hazardous fuels removal needed to reduce the risk of catastrophic fires next year.”

Simpson was the only member of Idaho’s congressional delegation to vote in favor of the shutdown-ending deal, which passed both houses with large majorities and was signed into law by the president last night, clearing the way for the government to reopen this morning, from NIFC to the national parks.

Shutdown ends, default averted, but three of four in Idaho delegation oppose deal

Now comes the news that after 16 days of partial government shutdown, both houses of Congress have approved a deal to end the shutdown and avoid a default on the nation’s debts, and President Barack Obama has signed it into law. Among Idaho’s four-member all-GOP congressional delegation, one voted with the majority to approve the deal – 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson – while all three others were with the minority opposing it. Here are their full statements:

SIMPSON:  “The easiest, most politically expedient thing for me to do would have been to vote NO and protect my political right flank. Doing so, however, would have been the wrong thing to do for my constituents and our economy. 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. There has to be a way to address our nation’s fiscal problems without making them worse in the process. That is the result I will continue working toward during the time we’ve afforded ourselves with today’s agreement.”

“The fight over Obamacare may now move to another venue, but the fight is far from over. While I strongly believe we should continue working to delay the entire law for one year, I also tend to believe that Obamacare may collapse of its own weight. I don’t think it will work. I don’t believe it will contain costs. I don’t believe it will improve access. And I certainly don’t believe that it can survive the scrutiny it is sure to receive once it is fully implemented and its impacts are fully realized. At that point, Republicans may have a much stronger hand.”

 “This bill, while far from perfect, preserves the progress Republicans have made in reducing spending and moving toward a balanced budget. This bill, while far from perfect, ensures thousands of people in eastern Idaho won’t lose their jobs at INL. This bill, while far from perfect, ends the uncertainty for Idaho businesses that have been impacted by the shutdown and are terrified of default. This bill, while far from perfect, gives Congress the time to approach our budget challenges in an honest, collaborative, comprehensive, and enduring way over the next few months. I am deeply hopeful that we will now look toward a grand bargain, or ‘big’ solution that includes spending cuts, tax reform, and entitlement reform. The American people understand that doing so will require tough decisions, difficult sacrifices, and political courage. I am ready to face those tough decisions and I hope a majority of my colleagues in the House and Senate are ready to do so as well.”

1st DISTRICT REP. RAUL LABRADOR: “Like nearly all of my colleagues, I promised my constituents in 2010 and 2012 that I would fight ObamaCare - not just cast symbolic, meaningless votes – but work hard to roll it back whenever and wherever possible.  I also promised that I would oppose raising the debt ceiling without meaningful cuts to government spending. During the past month, Republicans in Congress have been united on the issue of ‘fairness’ for the American people on health care.  We also stood strong on the debt ceiling, insisting we would not raise it without reducing the debt.  Unfortunately, what Congress is passing today gets us out of the immediate political mess engulfing Washington D.C. without making any substantial changes for the American people.”

Sen. Mike Crapo: “Americans are justifiably angry with Congress for its failure to come together to provide real solutions to our growing debt crisis. While this measure does some good by preventing a default on the debt, ending the government shutdown, preserving the spending restraints put in place by the Budget Control Act and requiring both houses of Congress to move forward with the long-overdue budget process, it does almost nothing to address our long-term mandatory spending and debt problems or correct the still-unfolding problems with the president’s health care law. Congress established debt ceilings to provide the opportunity to debate the government’s spending habits. Unfortunately, continuing resolutions perpetuate the problem of keeping almost half the spending for the government on autopilot. We cannot continue this unrestrained spending. It is time to make the hard decisions regarding our dire fiscal situation, and I am going to keep the pressure on to get it done.”

Sen. Jim Risch: “The United States faces serious long-term debt and spending challenges that we must confront now. Sadly this deal kicks the can down the road for three months and I could not support it. The federal government continues to borrow too much, spend too much, and intrude into the lives of Americans too much. 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.”

The Senate passed the bill on an 81-18 vote, with 27 Republicans voting yes, and the House passed it on a 285-144 vote, with 87 Republicans voting in favor.

Otter: ‘Federal dysfunction and mismanagement hurting Idahoans’

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter says Idahoans are being hurt by “federal dysfunction and mismanagement,” and he’s plenty mad about it.“Many thousands of Idahoans woke up today desperately uncertain about the future, much less their next paycheck,” Otter said in a statement. “Congress and the President are so focused on the political battle inside the Beltway that they’re ignoring the very real problems they’re creating on Main Street.”

Otter said states like Idaho are trying to do “what we can to backfill such programs as highway construction and repairs, but for the most part we aren’t even allowed to step into the breach.” Said Otter, “Our pleas are falling on deaf ears, and our patience is spent.” He announced he’ll head to Washington, D.C. next week to “speak directly with Cabinet members about Idaho’s biggest on-the-ground challenges,” but said he’s “less than optimistic about the response.” Click below for Otter’s full statement.

ITD board votes to tap state funds to keep fed road projects in Idaho going in shutdown

The Idaho Transportation Board voted today to use state funds to pay contractors working on federal highway projects in Idaho if the federal government shutdown continues beyond Thursday. The alternative would be to shut down $30 million a month in federal highway projects under way in Idaho, along with another $875,000 in transit services; ITD will seek reimbursement from the feds after the shutdown ends. “We want to honor the contracts that have already been awarded and keep people working,” said Idaho Transportation Board Chairman Jerry Whitehead; click below for ITD’s full announcement.

Under lawsuit threat from N.D. guv, feds agree to reopen certain wildlife refuges to hunting despite shutdown

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: WASHINGTON (AP) — The Fish and Wildlife Service says it is reopening 3 million acres in wildlife refuges to allow hunting of pheasants and waterfowl. The sites, in 10 states, have been closed since Oct. 1 because of the partial government shutdown. The agency said Friday that despite limited staffing, allowing public access to Waterfowl Production Areas on wildlife refuges will not cost any money or jeopardize public safety. North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple had threatened to sue unless lands in his state were opened. Dalrymple says pheasant hunting should begin as scheduled this month. He says a government shutdown is not legal justification to close unstaffed, public lands. The decision opens hunting areas in 10 states: North and South Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nebraska, Idaho and Maine.

Most furloughed Idaho National Guard employees to return to work this week

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Most Idaho National Guard members furloughed due to the government shutdown will return to work this week. Col. Tim Marsano in a statement on Sunday says some members will return to work Monday, and most will return on Tuesday. The move comes after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered nearly all 350,000 furloughed Defense Department civilian employees back on the job. Hagel says he based his decision on a Pentagon interpretation of a law called the Pay Our Military Act, which was passed shortly before the partial government shutdown began. About 850 Idaho National Guard employees were placed on furlough.

WIC gets contingency funds to keep going through end of month, despite shutdown

The Idaho Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, has received contingency and reallocation funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture so it can continue to honor vouchers and offer clinical services through the end of October. The program, which serves about 43,000 pregnant women, infants and young children in Idaho with supplemental nutrition including milk, had been poised to run out of money by Monday due to the government shutdown. If the shutdown were to last beyond this month, service again would be disrupted; click below for the full announcement from Idaho Health & Welfare.

Special exception lets Craters of Moon rangers restart search for missing hiker

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: ARCO, Idaho (AP) — Employees at Craters of the Moon National Monument in south-central Idaho have received an exemption from federal furlough requirements so rangers can continue to search for a Boise woman who has been missing for nearly two weeks. Sixteen of the monument's 19 employees were to be furloughed during the federal government shutdown that started Tuesday, but the park received permission Wednesday to keep 10 additional workers under “excepted” status during the search for 63-year-old Jo Elliott-Blakeslee. Elliott-Blakeslee's hiking partner, 69-year-old Amy Linkert, was found dead on Sept. 25. The women were last seen near Arco on Sept. 19. On Monday, Elliott-Blakeslee's family members asked for experienced hikers to help with the search. Park spokesman Ted Stout says the 10 rangers working the search are in top physical condition.

Shutdown’s hit magnified for tribes

American Indian tribes have more than access to national parks on the line with the government shutdown, the AP reports, as federal funding has been cut off for crucial services including foster care payments, nutrition programs and financial assistance for the needy. Some tribes intend to fill the gap themselves, risking deficits of their own to cushion communities with chronic high unemployment and poverty against the effects of the budget battle in Washington, D.C. But for others, basic services heavily subsidized by federal payments stand to take a direct hit. Click below for the full report from AP reporter Matthew Brown.

Yellowstone, Grand Teton close to visitors due to government shutdown

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) — Thousands of visitors to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national park are grumbling and making alternate plans after being told to leave or denied entry because of the budget impasse in Washington. The neighboring parks attract visitors from around the world, but both parks were forced to furlough hundreds of employees and close. Zach Gertsch, of Las Vegas, says he has decided to cut his trip to northwest Wyoming short and return home. At the Irma Hotel in Cody, host Steve Franklin says travelers are livid over being forced out of the parks or denied access. Gateway communities are seeing rooms fill with displaced tourists on the one hand and cancellations on the other. They expect to lose money if the impasse goes on much longer.

Fed shutdown hits Idaho campgrounds, courts, National Guard, WIC program…

Federal campgrounds and picnic areas have shut down across Idaho, the AP reports, due to the government shutdown forced by Congress' inability to pass a spending bill by a midnight deadline to keep the government functioning. Court cases are slowing down, 850 Idaho National Guard employees are being furloughed and banned from reporting for duty until the shutdown is lifted, and 16 of the 19 workers at Craters of the Moon National Monument - where a search is under way for a missing hiker - were put on furlough today. Meanwhile, 42,500 pregnant women, infants and children stand to lose supplemental nutrition benefits as the WIC program runs out of money; it has enough carry-over fund to last only about a week. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

Labrador co-sponsors bill to avert government shutdown only if health reform defunded, delayed

1st District GOP Congressman Raul Labrador announced today that he is co-sponsoring a resolution introduced today by Rep. Tom Graves, R-Georgia, to avert a government shutdown Oct. 1 only if President Obama's health care law is both de-funded and its individual mandate to purchase insurance delayed for a year. “If there’s any single issue that can unite House Republicans and has the strong support of the American people, it’s getting rid of ObamaCare,” Labrador declared. “The resolution I’m cosponsoring will keep the government open while keeping overall spending at the same rate the Senate has already agreed to through the sequester.  House Leadership should bring it to the floor for a vote.  If the House passes it and the Senate rejects it, it will be the Senate that’s responsible for shutting down the government.  Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, but House Republicans must seize this opportunity to keep our promises to the American people on ObamaCare.” 

Click below for Labrador's full news release. Meanwhile, President Obama, in a White House speech yesterday, blasted House Republicans who are taking that position, saying, “I cannot remember a time when one faction of one party promises economic chaos if it can't get 100% of what it wants.” In his speech, which House GOP leaders criticized as partisan, Obama asked, “Are some of these folks so beholden to one extreme wing of their party that they're willing to tank our whole economy?”

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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