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Posts tagged: Jim Risch

Risch: Cut off all U.S. funds to Iran until Abedini is released

Idaho Sen. Jim Risch today told the U.S. State Department’s Undersecretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman that the United States should cut off all funds to Iran until Idaho Pastor Saeed Abedini and two other Americans who are imprisoned in Iran are released. Abedini, of Boise, has been imprisoned in Iran since 2012 on charges related to Christian evangelizing. Risch said he’s sure the move would work.

At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing today on the topic “Iran: Status of the P-5+1,” Risch told Sherman, “I have urged that you do something about getting Pastor Abedini and the other two Americans released. As you know, I was incredibly critical of you guys because you cut billions loose without demanding this tiny, tiny little thing as far as Iran is concerned. I wanna ratchet that up again – you did it again.”

“You’ve cut billions loose without getting those guys released,” Risch said. “Do me a favor, do America a favor, do the Abedini family a favor, and tell ‘em next time you’re not going to give ‘em any more money unless they cut these three people loose. I can almost guarantee you they’re gonna do that. You’re talking about billions of dollars and you’re talking about three people that we really, really need out of prisons in Iran. Try it, just try it and see what happens. I’m willing to betcha they’re going to cut those three loose in return for the money that you have available to give ‘em.”

P-5+1 is a group of six world powers, consisting of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, that have been negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program since 2006. Risch has posted the exchange on YouTube here.

Nels Mitchell, Risch’s Democratic challenger, had this response to Risch’s comments:

“We all care deeply about securing the freedom of our loved ones who are being unjustly held prison by the Iranian government.  My sympathies are with Pastor Saeed Abedini and his family.  I sincerely hope that the United States is doing everything possible to obtain the release of Pastor Abedini and the others who are wrongly imprisoned.  That said, I am concerned to see Sen. Risch using his position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to berate a State Department officer.  I doubt that kind of grandstanding advances the mission.  I am also concerned that Sen. Risch may not have all of his facts right.  I am not aware that the United States is giving away billions of dollars to Iran, which is what Risch seems to be saying in his remarks.”

Idaho senators torn over deal that brought long-sought release of Idaho soldier

Idaho senators who have pushed for years for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from captivity in Afghanistan are now in the odd position of both objecting to the deal that bought Bergdahl’s freedom, and joyfully welcoming his return. “He needed to be released, but not at this price,” Sen. Jim Risch said Thursday, aiming sharp criticism at the Obama Administration over the release of five high-ranking Taliban officials held at the Guantanamo Bay detention center in exchange for Bergdahl. “The price that was paid was too high. Those five people are people that have a lot of blood on their hands.”

Sen. Mike Crapo told Eye on Boise, “I have problems with this specific trade. But I’m not about to say that I’m still not very glad that we have been able to recover Bowe.”

As the political rhetoric has escalated in Washington, D.C., congressional Republicans have faulted the administration for failing to inform Congress of the swap 30 days in advance, as required by law; for releasing the Guantanamo prisoners; and for statements supportive of Bergdahl amid questions about how he fell into his captors’ hands and whether he deserted his Army post.

“Unlike Benghazi, I’m not so sure this one’s going to go away on them,” Risch said. “It’s caught the attention of the American people, it’s caught the attention of the media, and they’re not letting go.” Both Risch and Crapo have been relentless for the past five years in pushing the administration to secure Bergdahl’s release; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Risch: ‘They look at you like you got three heads’

Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch are addressing the Senate and House today, and the two – both of whom are former Senate presidents pro-tem – entered the Senate chamber together, rather than separately. “It’s really an honor to be here today, although my remarks can be really short if I’m supposed to give you some of the wisdom from Washington, D.C.,” Crapo said.

He told the Senate, “There are those in Washington who say that because we’ve been able to bring down our deficit … that we have solved our problem. We have not solved our problem,” because the federal debt continues to grow, he said. “The bottom line here is we still need a comprehensive plan.” Crapo called for tax code reforms that broaden the base and reduce rates, “and then major entitlement reform that puts these programs that are now screaming toward insolvency on a pathway to solvency.”

Risch told the Senate, “The financial condition of the country is just awful. … The bad news is there’s really nothing on track to turn this around. I’ve been in public service all my life, and very few things shock me any more, but the cavalier attitude that people have about money back there is just absolutely staggering.” He said when anyone proposes less spending, “They look at you like you got three heads – the only way they’re willing to compromise is if you agree to spend more money to increase programs and what have you, but if you want to start rolling things back, you don’t get a seat at that table.” Risch said, “In the long haul, I am incredibly optimistic for this country. In the short haul, things don’t look very good.”

Crapo, Risch sponsor bill to make state concealed-gun permits valid in other states

Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch are co-sponsoring legislation to let those with a state concealed gun permit carry a concealed weapon in other states, too, as long at the state they’re in allows or doesn’t prohibit concealed carrying of firearms. “Idahoans and law-abiding citizens across the country should not be denied the fundamental right to self-defense while they are traveling or temporarily away from home,” said Crapo.  “This bill protects state sovereignty and does not establish national standards for a concealed carry, nor does it veto laws in those states that prohibit concealed carry permits.” Risch said, “Lawful gun owners should not have to face a labyrinth of gun laws the second they cross into another state.  This bill will ensure citizens who are able to carry concealed weapons can exercise that right in any state that has also passed a concealed carry law.”

The measure has three other co-sponsors, Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas; John Thune, R-S.D.; and David Vitter, R-La.; you can see the full Crapo-Risch statement here.

Risch: ‘Idahoans will have a clear choice’

GOP Sen. Jim Risch has posted the following statement on his campaign website, in response to the campaign announcement today from Democratic challenger Nels Mitchell:

“Senator Risch has been working diligently for over five years to reduce the size of the federal government and its intrusion into the daily lives of Idaho citizens. This year Idahoans will once again have a clear choice between Senator Risch’s conservative philosophies or another Democrat who will go to Washington DC to grow the government and help Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi push Obama’s far left agenda during the last 2 years of his presidency.”

Democratic challenger to Risch says he’d only serve one term

Here’s a link to my full story at spokesman.com on Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Nels Mitchell, who today launched his campaign against GOP Sen. Jim Risch. Mitchell said he’d make jobs his top priority, and pledged if elected to serve only one six-year term. “I am not a politician. I have had a successful career, and it is now my turn to step up.” He also said he’d work with Idaho GOP Rep. Mike Simpson on his wilderness proposal for the Boulder-White Clouds mountains, which Risch has opposed; and said like GOP Sen. Mike Crapo, he’d have co-sponsored the reauthorization of the two-decade-old Violence Against Women Act, which Risch voted against last February.

Former U.S. Attorney for Idaho Betty Richardson said she first met Mitchell in high school. He was the student body president at Boise High School and was running for a statewide student leadership position; she was a Lewiston High School student who was running his opponent’s successful campaign. “He impressed me then,” said Richardson, a Democratic activist who’s played a key role in recruiting candidates for the state’s minority party. “I just couldn’t see Risch running unopposed, and I didn’t want to recruit a token candidate,” she said. “Nels came to mind, and fortunately he said ‘yes.’”

Boise Democrat launches campaign against Sen. Risch

Boise attorney Nels Mitchell launched his campaign for the U.S. Senate against Idaho Sen. Jim Risch today, calling Risch an “out of touch” career politician and pledging if elected to serve just one six-year term. “Six years is a long time,” Mitchell said. “I will give the people of Idaho 110 percent for the next six years, and then I intend to return to private life.”

Mitchell, 60, is making his first run for public office. He noted that legendary Idaho Democratic Sen. Frank Church had only run once for the state Legislature before he successfully ran for the U.S. Senate. “When I was growing up here in Boise, Frank Church was my hero,” Mitchell said, noting that Church served as student body president at Boise High School 29 years before Mitchell did the same.

He said jobs will be his top priority, and decried Idaho’s fall to 50th on such measures as average wage and per-capita income. “Someone has not been minding the store, and that someone is Jim Risch,” Mitchell declared. “He’s been much too busy taking junkets and going to the theater.” He also faulted Risch for voting against funding for the Idaho National Laboratory, calling the INL “one of the best employers in the state.”

Former Democratic Gov. Cecil Andrus said, “The Democrats have got a good shot this time. Is it going to be easy? No. But when they’ve got the money and the organization, we ought to have the people. He’s an outstanding candidate – look at his resume. Now we’ve got to raise enough money to tell the story.”

Democratic activist and former U.S. Attorney for Idaho Betty Richardson said she first met Mitchell in high school. “He’s cut from the same cloth as Cece Andrus and Frank Church – we can’t do much better,” she said.

Risch, an attorney and former longtime state Senate leader who briefly served as governor, is nearing the end of his first term in the Senate; he announced last April that he’ll run for re-election.

Idaho senators both oppose budget deal, which clears Senate, 64-36

Idaho's two senators both were in the minority today, as the Senate voted 64-36 in favor of a bipartisan budget deal that President Barack Obama is expected to sign into law. The deal, brokered by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., sets federal spending on domestic and defense programs and averts the threat of a government shutdown for the next two years; it makes modest changes in spending levels, replaces about $63 billion in automatic sequester budget cuts, and adds new fees on airline passengers and increases federal workers’ pension contributions.

Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo called the deal “the wrong direction for our fiscal policy and our economy,” and Idaho Sen. Jim Risch called it “a step backward.” The deal leaves in place the bulk of the $1 trillion in sequester cuts through 2021, but eases an especially harsh set of cuts scheduled to hit in 2014 and 2015 on the Pentagon, domestic agencies and Medicare providers. All 53 Democrats in the Senate voted yes, along with two independents and nine Republicans; all 36 “no” votes came from Republicans. The pact earlier cleared the House overwhelmingly, with majorities from both parties supporting it. Here are Crapo and Risch’s full statements on their votes:

Crapo:

“This deal unfortunately falls into the same promises of future budget cuts that never materialize, and then raising new revenue to offset increasing spending.  The bottom line is that Americans end up paying more to justify bigger spending by Congress.  It is the wrong direction for fiscal policy and our economy; that is why I could not support the agreement.”

 

Risch:

“This deal raises federal spending at a time when we should be cutting spending. Under present law, with the sequester, the federal government is actually cutting its spending for the first time in decades. This deal reverses that with a promise it will cut spending later. The deal also provides for having to borrow about one-third of every dollar spent. This is all simply irresponsible. In addition, along with many other problems, this deal cuts retirement benefits previously promised to veterans. This is just wrong. The bill that passed the Senate today is a step backward and I could not support it.”

Click below for a look at the deal's likely impact on the U.S. economy, from AP economics writer Josh Boak in Washington, D.C.

Crapo, Risch say anti-discrimination laws best left to states

When the U.S. Senate voted 64-32 last week in favor of legislation to ban workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians, 10 Republicans joined 52 Democrats and two independents to support the bill, but Idaho’s two senators both voted against it. “Number one, this is a state’s rights issue,” Idaho Sen. Jim Risch said. “Number two, this bill made insufficient provisions for employers who have First Amendment constitutional protections to exercise their religious beliefs.”

The bill, which would ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, included an exemption for religious organizations. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., proposed an amendment to sharply expand that exemption to include a wide array of entities with some religious affiliation, but it was voted down, 55-43. Toomey still voted in favor of the bill, however.

Sen. Mike Crapo’s spokesman, Lindsay Nothern, said, “Sen. Crapo voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, on the basis that he has long been opposed to the expansion of the federal government’s power to handle such matters when states have a better handle on how to rightfully handle these issues, just as several local municipalities in Idaho have begun to do.”

Earlier in the week, Crapo said he supports allowing local ordinances to ban such discrimination, which conflicts with a resolution passed by the Idaho Republican Party Central Committee over the summer urging the state Legislature to overturn local anti-discrimination ordinances in seven Idaho cities.

“Moreover, a sweeping federal statute would not offer proper protections for religious liberties,” Nothern said. “Sen. Crapo believes all Americans should be treated with respect and dignity. … Workers should be hired and their employment maintained on the basis of their skills, abilities and how they accomplish their appointed tasks.”

The bill may not get a vote in the House, where Speaker John Boehner opposes it; you can read my full column here from Sunday’s Spokesman-Review.

Risch, Crapo both set ‘tele-town hall’ meetings next week

Both of Idaho’s senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, have scheduled “tele-town hall” meetings in the coming week; Risch’s will be on Monday, and Crapo’s on Wednesday, both starting at 7 p.m. MT, 6 p.m. Pacific time. Any Idahoan who wants to can participate, but you need to sign up online in advance. Crapo says he’ll take questions and offer insights on issues Congress must deal with this fall, including potential military intervention in Syria; Risch says he’ll give a brief update on issues being discussed in Congress and take questions for the bulk of the hour-long session. Risch also will ask participants to respond to poll questions on various issues.

To sign up for Crapo’s tele-town hall, go to his website here, and click on the tele-townhall icon on the right side under “Action Center.” That’ll take you to a townhall page, where the signup box is located in the middle of the page; there’s more info here.

To sign up for Risch’s tele-town hall, click this link.

Risch: Better to do nothing than launch strike against Syria

Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, in a Boise news conference today, said he believes the nation is better off doing nothing than launching a military strike against Syria in the wake of that country’s chemical weapons attack against its own citizens. “Nothing I say today should be taken as minimizing this attack that was done by the Assad regime on his own country,” Risch said. But, he said, “There are no good answers here. … My judgment is the risk of doing something is worse than the risk of doing nothing.”

Risch, who was in the minority on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voting against a resolution yesterday authorizing limited use of force by President Obama, said he wanted Idahoans to know his thinking on the issue; the resolution cleared the panel on 10-7 vote. He’s posted the full video of the news conference on YouTube; you can watch it here.

“There’s tons of nerve gas and other weapons of mass destruction in Syria,” Risch said. “We know where some of those are. Unfortunately, we don’t know where all of those are.” He said, “If this attack unseats the Assad regime, it puts radicals in control of those weapons of mass destruction. Now this is the problem I’ve got with that: I have asked over and over again in Washington, D.C., what are you going to do if that happens? What is the plan to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of some very, very, very bad people? I’m not getting answers to that that are adequate, other than it’ll be right. And I’m not satisfied with that.”

Risch said, “The bottom line here is I cannot support a military attack on Syria at this time. I don’t deny that what he’s done on Aug. 21 is very, very bad. What he did before Aug. 21 was even worse, where he’s killed tens of thousands of people through conventional means.” Risch said if the Assad regime had used weapons of mass destruction against Americans or American interests, “This would have been an absolute no-brainer for me and I would have come down differently on this.” But he said the Syrian conflict is a civil war, and at this point, he doesn’t believe Assad has attacked American interests or allies.

Risch predicted the resolution would pass the Senate over his opposition, but said he can't predict what will happen in the House.

Senate panel passes Syria force resolution 10-7, Risch votes no

Idaho GOP Sen. Jim Risch was among the minority in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee just now opposing a bipartisan resolution giving President Obama authority to use limited military force against Syria in response to a deadly chemical weapons attack; the resolution, crafted by the panel’s Democratic chairman and GOP ranking member, passed on a 10-7 vote. Five Republicans and two Democrats opposed it; seven Democrats and three Republicans supported it; while one Democat, Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., voted “present.” The measure now moves to the full Senate for a vote next week.

It would permit the president to order a limited military mission against Syria, as long as it doesn't exceed 90 days and involves no American troops on the ground for combat operations; you can read the full resolution here. Among Republicans voting in favor of the measure were Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake. CBSNews has a full report here on the debate and vote; the New York Times has one here.

Idaho congressional delegation wary of strike against Syria

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho lawmakers in Washington, D.C., were deeply skeptical of President Obama's plan for a strike against Syria's chemical weapons infrastructure. In responses this week, Republican U.S. Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo and Reps. Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador all expressed wariness such a strike would enhance U.S. power or bring a swifter end to Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime. Risch committed to opposing a strike. Obama says Assad's government was responsible for numerous gas attacks, including one Aug. 21 said to have killed 1,429 people. In Tuesday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, however, Risch worried a post-strike Assad would emerge stronger. Republicans including House Speaker John Boehner support a strike. Though Simpson is usually a Boehner ally, the Idaho Republican's spokeswoman said he's “strongly leaning against supporting military action.”

Read a report here from S-R reporter Kip Hill, including comments from Idaho and Washington senators; click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.

Senators say nation’s wildfire prevention system needs ‘bold reforms’

Idaho's two GOP senators joined with Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden today to launch a new bipartisan push to use the fall budget negotiations in Congress to reform the way the nation funds wildfire prevention. “In my view, the fires that are ripping their way through Oregon, Idaho, California and much of the West are proof that the federal government’s policy for fire prevention is broken,” Wyden declared in a visit to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise. That’s because it taps fire prevention funds to fight raging fires, landing the nation in a vicious circle as it does less prevention, he said.

“And I say that given the heroic efforts that have been made by our firefighters,” Wyden said. “The reality is simple: For western members of Congress in the House and the Senate, there is no higher priority this fall than fixing this broken system.”

Wyden is the chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, on which Risch also serves; Crapo and Wyden both serve on the budget committee. Wyden quipped that 3 percent of the U.S. Senate is already on board with the new push – the three of them – and said they’ve also gotten enthusiastic  support from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has been working to make sure the Forest Service is first in line for seven tanker plans that should become available from the military this month to boost firefighting efforts.

Wyden said there’s “no better time to bring about these changes than this fall,” as Congress grapples with the budget sequester, the need to raise the debt ceiling and the end of the fiscal year. “This brings front and center the debate about what our priorities are and what our choices are,” he said; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com. 

Senators decry sequestration-forced cuts in fire prevention as fire season hits

A bipartisan group of Western U.S. senators, including Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, on Friday urged the Obama administration to focus more on preventing wildfires rather than taking money from programs that clear potentially hazardous dead trees and brush to fund efforts to fight the increasingly destructive blazes, the AP reports. The administration is proposing a 31 percent cut in funding for the government's central fire prevention program one year after record blazes burned 9.3 million acres. The federal government routinely spends so much money fighting wildfires that it uses money meant to be spent on clearing potential fuels like dead trees and underbrush in national forests.

In a letter to Obama's budget director and the secretaries of agriculture and the Interior, four senators contended that approach is “nonsensical and further increases wildfire costs.” Both those secretaries, Tom Vilsack and Sally Jewell, warned of the impact of the cuts as they toured the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise last month; Risch accompanied them. The cuts are being forced by sequestration, the congressionally mandated across-the-board budget cuts.”It’s actually a less efficient use of government money,” Jewell warned then. “It’ll cost us more in the end.” Click below for a full report on the senators' letter from the Associated Press.

Idaho’s dairy industry lauds Senate immigration bill passage

Idaho's dairy industry is applauding the Senate passage of bipartisan immigration reform legislation - and scolding Idaho's two senators for voting against it. “This legislation, should it become law, will greatly assist the largest industry in Idaho with the ability to grow and increase productivity,” said Brent Olmstead, director of Milk Producers of Idaho. “We are disappointed that Idaho’s two senators chose to not join in the bipartisan effort to fix the current immigration system. We have been and will continue to work with the Idaho delegation in the House to keep the current momentum on immigration reform going.”

Tena Petter, the group's chair, said, “There is no issue more important to the Idaho dairy industry than this legislation.” Click below for the Milk Producers' full statement. 

Senate passes immigration reform, 68-32, Risch, Crapo both oppose

The U.S. Senate has voted 68-32 in favor of the bipartisan immigration reform bill, sending the measure to the House. Both Idaho Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo were among the 32 Republicans who voted no; Risch tweeted, “Our country needs immigration reform. But, this bill overreaches and I did not support it.”

Fourteen Senate Republicans voted in favor of the bill, along with every Senate Democrat. The Hill reported, “Senators took the rare step of voting from their desks to mark the occasion while Vice President Biden (D-Del.) presided from the dais. The Senate used the same formal procedure to pass ObamaCare three years ago. The bill’s authors fell just short of their goal to win 70 votes for the legislation but said the robust bipartisan vote creates a strong mandate for the House to act next month on the issue.” Read The Hill’s full report here.

Crapo issued a statement, saying in part, “It is clear that reforms are past due.  However, S. 744, the Border Security, Stabilization and Modernization Act, would not provide the types of reform to stop illegal immigration at the border while ensuring fairness for both current Americans and immigrants alike.  Unfortunately, the current Senate bill bears striking resemblance to laws passed in 1965, 1968 and 1986.  Americans need and deserve better, and we cannot afford to repeat the same mistakes of the past.” You can read his full statement here.
  

Crapo, Risch on why they’re opposing bipartisan immigration reform bill

Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch both voted against ending debate and moving to a final vote on the immigration reform legislation in the Senate today. “The triggers in this bill with regard to border security are not strong enough,” Crapo said. Risch said immigration reform is needed, but called the bipartisan reform bill “just a political Band-Aid” that he said “commits U.S. taxpayers to turn over their hard-earned money to someone who is not a citizen.” You can read the two senators’ full statement here.

The vote to invoke cloture, ending debate, passed 68-32, and a vote on final passage is expected later today.

Second Senate vote advances immigration reform bill; Risch, Crapo again vote no

The second procedural vote to clear the way for debate in the U.S. Senate on a bipartisan immigration reform bill passed just like the first earlier today, and the debate can now start. The vote was 84-15, little different from the earlier 82-15 vote; again, both Idaho senators, Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, were in the minority. Crapo said in a tweet, “#Senate is officially on the #immigration bill. We need an open amendment process & significant changes before I can support the bill.” Click below for a full report from AP reporter David Espo in Washington, D.C.

Senate advances immigration reform bill on 82-15 vote; Risch, Crapo both oppose

The U.S. Senate voted 82-15 today to clear the way for debate on a comprehensive immigration reform bill, turning back an attempted filibuster. The 15 “no” votes all came from Republicans, including both of Idaho’s senators, Jim Risch and Mike Crapo. A second procedural vote also is scheduled today; if that goes like the first, several weeks of debate are then expected before the Senate takes final votes on the bill, proposed by a bipartisan “Gang of Eight,” but likely to see various amendments. Click below for a full report from the AP in Washington, D.C.

The “Gang of Eight” includes Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida, and John McCain and Jeff Flake, both of Arizona; and Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Dick Durban of Illinois, Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado.

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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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