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Posts tagged: Jim Risch

Risch on background checks: ‘It’s just ineffective’

Idaho Sen. Jim Risch defended a planned filibuster against allowing a vote on the president's gun legislation to Anderson Cooper tonight, but also said it won't work. “It is a procedural method by which if you're successful you can stop passage of a bill,” Risch told Cooper. But, he said, “I think there's clearly 60 votes to override a filibuster. There's going to be debate on this.”

On the same program, Cooper interviewed former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the mother of a slain 6-year-old Sandy Hook Elementary School student; both spoke out in favor of the proposal for universal background checks for gun purchasers. Pressed by Cooper, Risch said, “No. 1, it doesn't work, and No. 2, it's placing a burden on a law-abiding citizen.” He said, “It isn't that it goes too far - it's just ineffective.”

Risch said, “We need to enforce the laws we have. … We ought to focus on keeping the guns out of the hands of convicted felons and people who have mental illness.”

Cooper said Risch was the only one of the 14 senators who have threatened to filibuster who agreed to appear on the program.

Risch, Crapo both threaten to filibuster Obama gun legislation; Risch to discuss on national TV tonight

Idaho Sen. Jim Risch will appear on two national news shows tonight, CBS News with Scott Pelley at 6:30 eastern time (4:30 MT) and Anderson Cooper 360 at 8 eastern (6 p.m. MT), to discuss his threat to filibuster against gun legislation in the Senate. Risch is one of 13 senators, who also include Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo, who have signed on to a letter led by Sen. Rand Paul threatening to filibuster any gun control legislation, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid prepares to bring up President Barack Obama’s gun control legislative package. Yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell joined the group, bringing it up to 14 GOP senators.

The letter, which Risch signed onto on March 22, says, “We the undersigned intend to oppose any legislation that would infringe on the American people’s constitutional right to bear arms, or on their ability to exercise this right without being subjected to government surveillance. … We will oppose the motion to proceed to any legislation that will serve as a vehicle for any additional gun restrictions.”

The president’s package includes universal background checks for gun purchasers and new laws against gun trafficking; amendments could address assault weapons or high-capacity magazines.

Risch says he’ll run for re-election to U.S. Senate in 2014

It's more than a year before the primary election, but Idaho Sen. Jim Risch announced today that he'll seek re-election in 2014. “When I ran for this office just over four years ago, I said our country was facing many challenges,” Risch said in a statement. “Those challenges not only remain, they have gotten worse.” Click below for Risch's full announcement.

Risch: 9th Circuit considering Idaho’s roadless plan

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held a hearing today in Portland on Idaho's state roadless plan; Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, who attended the hearing, said a decision will follow in the coming months. Risch wrote the Idaho plan in 2006 when he was the state's governor; it was the only state-created roadless plan, with the rest of the nation falling under a national rule. The plan, developed through a collaborative process involving various interests, lays out differing management plans for specific tracts within the 9.3 million acres of inventoried roadless areas in Idaho.

The plan was upheld by a federal district judge in 2011, but that decision was appealed to the 9th Circuit. Click below for Risch's full news release.

Risch hires new press secretary, from office of outgoing Sen. Dick Lugar

Idaho Sen. Jim Risch has announced the hiring of a new press secretary, Suzanne Bottorff, who previously worked for Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., as an assistant press secretary and interim press secretary. Bottorff replaces Kyle Hines, who left Risch's office for graduate school at the University of Texas. In her new position, Bottorff will be Risch's media contact in Washington, D.C., and also will work with constituent communications through the office's website, electronic newsletter and telephone town halls. Risch said, “I am very pleased to have Suzanne join my staff to handle communications in my Washington, D.C. office. Her experience will be an asset in communicating with Idahoans about my work on their behalf.”

Lugar, the senior senator from Indiana, lost his bid for a seventh term in the GOP primary this year.

Number-crunching website: Labrador a ‘centrist-GOP follower’ who misses votes; Risch on ‘lonely far-right’

According to an open-government website that crunches numbers on members of Congress, the member of Idaho's delegation who's most likely to miss a recorded vote in Congress is 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador. reported that Labrador missed 4.7 percent of recorded or roll-call votes, nearly double the median of 2.5 percent, from January of 2011 to September of 2012. That's 72 of 1,518 votes. By comparison, the site showed that 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson has missed 2.9 percent of the votes during his time in Congress, from January of 1999 to September of 2012; Sen. Mike Crapo has missed 2.2 percent, from January of 1993 to the present; and Sen. Jim Risch has missed just 1.5 percent, from January of 2009 to the present.

The site also offers an interesting take on ideology and leadership, based on number-crunching, that assigns each member a political spectrum score and a leader-follower score, based on which bills they co-sponsor and who co-sponsors their bills. The results don't necessarily match the conventional wisdom. Here's how Idaho's delegation fared:

Labrador was ranked a “centrist-Republican follower.” Simpson came out as a “rank-and-file Republican.” Crapo's scores made him a “moderate Republican leader.” And Risch's scores ranked him as a “lonely far-right Republican follower.”

You can check out the site here. It focuses on finding new ways, through algorithms and statistics, to arrange and present raw data about Congress so the public can access it; it was created by Joshua Tauberer, a software engineer, author and open government activist.

Risch drops from 15th- to 16th-richest member of Congress

Idaho Sen. Jim Risch has dropped one spot on Roll Call's list of the 50 richest members of Congress - from 15th last year to 16th this year. The Capitol Hill newspaper analyzes congressional financial disclosures, adding up the minimum value reported for assets and subtracting the minimum value listed for liabilities. It reported that Risch is worth $19.78 million, up just half a percent from last year's $19.69 million. Meanwhile, No. 1-ranking Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, saw his wealth balloon by nearly 300 percent to $294.21 million, largely because of the holdings of his heiress wife; McCaul ranked fifth last year. Second-ranked was Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., whose $220.4 million net worth was up 37.7 percent since last year, when he also ranked second. Risch was the only lawmaker from Oregon, Washington or Idaho to make the top-50 richest list; you can see the full report here.

Sen. Risch called for jury duty, excused

Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey reports that Idaho Sen. Jim Risch spent Monday morning at the Ada County courthouse after being called for jury duty - but was excused after he explained his schedule to 4th District Judge Darla Williamson. Risch told Popkey that the Senate reconvenes next week, and “I have to cast a vote and if I'm not there, there's a chance a U.S. marshal will be looking for you or me.” He said the judge replied, “I think I will excuse you.” You can read Popkey's full post here.

Crapo, Risch sponsor bipartisan forest management bill

Idaho GOP Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch have joined with Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Begich of Alaska to introduce legislation today designed to overturn a 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that the four say would subject logging roads in public and private forests “to some of the most stringent environmental protection laws in the United States,” by declaring logging road runoff a point source pollution subject to Clean Water Act permitting requirements. Since 1976, such runoff has been regulated under the EPA's silviculture rule as non-point source pollution. You can read the senators' full statement about the legislation here.

Risch: Keep Guantanamo open, hold detainees indefinitely

Idaho Sen. Jim Risch visited the Guantanamo Bay detention facility on Monday, and he said today that he believes it should stay open indefinitely, and the detainees there should be held indefinitely - though President Barack Obama pledged shortly after he was elected to shut the facility down; you can read my full story here at “It's been a matter of constant debate in Washington, D.C., constant debate in the media and constant debate in the international community,” said Risch, who serves on the Senate foreign relations and intelligence committees. Risch said conditions at the detention camp are far better than they were shortly after the 9/11 attacks, when they caused international outrage. “The orange jumpsuits are gone. Camp X-Ray is closed,” Risch said. “The pendulum has swung way back the other way.”

Detainees at Guantanamo now “get very nourishing meals,” Risch said, and “the sensitivity toward their cultural and religious practices is very high.” Risch said, “When I was there it was 106 degrees and humidity was higher, but once you entered the facility, it was air-conditioned and kept at a very moderate temperature. … It's a whole different ballgame than it was 10 years ago.”

The initial facility there, opened shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks, was open-air and tin-roofed. It's now a modern prison facility. Guantanamo now houses 171 men, mostly from Yemen, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia; at its height, it had more than 700. “They're people who were taken on the battle field and have important information,” Risch said. “In fact, they are prisoners of war - they were picked up during a war.” They may not have been uniformed soldiers, Risch said, but he said the war on terrorism is a different kind of war. “We have to defend ourselves,” he said. “The hostilities are ongoing.”

Mason Clutter, counsel to the Rule of Law program at the Constitution Project, a bipartisan Washington, D.C. think tank that tracks issues related to Guantanamo, said for her organization, “It's not a matter of closing the facility or keeping it open - it's more of a matter of ending the harmful policies that have come out of Guantanamo, the policies of using military commissions to try these individuals, as well as the policy of detention without charge. … There may be room to hold, pursuant to the laws of war, some of the individuals who are at Guantanamo Bay, but certainly not all of them.”

Clutter said the administration in 2010 identified 36 of the detainees as appropriate for prosecution either in military commissions or civilian federal court, while it identified 47 for indefinite detention without charge. But in December, Congress voted to ban transfers of Guantanamo detainees to U.S. locations or to third countries, except under very narrow circumstances. The Constitution Project maintains that detainees at Guantanamo aren't receiving appropriate due process. “It's against the rule of law,” she said. “It also damages the U.S. reputation abroad.”

Risch said Obama has offered no appropriate alternative to Guantanamo. “There is no alternative on the table of what they're going to do,” he said.

Risch meets with Netanyahu in Jerusalem, praises his ‘vision of peace’

Idaho Sen. Jim Risch met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem today; here's a photo of the two before the meeting. Afterward, Risch praised Netanyahu, saying, “Prime Minister Netanyahu provided a very thoughtful and convincing framework for acceptable borders between a safe and secure Israel and a peaceful Palestine.  Both parties will need to agree on borders, among other final status issues, but Israel should not have to rewind history or sacrifice its security for a hollow agreement.” He also praised Netanyahu's “vision of peace and economic development for the Jewish and Palestinian people,” and said, “I remain convinced that if the political leaders in the Palestinian Authority and Hamas reject violence and accept Israel’s right to exist as the national homeland of the Jewish people, the Palestinian people could prosper and see a dramatic improvement in their quality of life.”

Risch is in Israel with Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Penn., as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee that oversees U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa. The two senators also are scheduled to meet with the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority and the head of Israel's opposition party, and to receive briefings on border, security and trade issues.

Senate passes spending cuts bill 81-19, both Idaho senators vote ‘no’

The U.S. Senate has voted 81-19 in favor of H.R. 1493, the spending cuts bill that passed the House earlier today, sending the bill to President Obama. Among those 19 “no” votes: Both of Idaho's senators. Lindsay Nothern, press secretary for Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, said, “He didn't think the cuts went far enough.” Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, has expressed a similar view.

The bill is identical to the one that passed the House - so it includes Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson's rider lifting endangered species protections from wolves.

Crapo, Risch: Wolf legislation fails, won’t come up again this year

Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch said today that legislation to remove wolves from endangered species protection likely won't be considered again this year, after an effort they joined today failed. The two joined senators from Wyoming and Utah to offer a bill for unanimous consent of the Senate, but Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Maryland, objected. That, the two Idaho senators said in a joint statement, “ended consideration of the bill, likely for the rest of this session.” Click below to read their full statement.

Risch collects on bet over BSU football

Idaho Sen. Jim Risch won his bet with Virginia Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia when the BSU Broncos defeated Virginia Tech on the football field, 33-30, so today, Warner had to pay up by posing on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in a Boise State jersey. Here’s the photo. Interestingly, Risch has long been an outspoken opponent of gambling, and led the fight in the state Senate in 2001 to reject then-Gov. Dirk Kempthorne’s negotiated tribal gaming compacts with Idaho’s Indian tribes; Risch said then that the move would “sell our beautiful Idaho into the harlotry of casino gambling.”

NYU/GWU study: Idaho’s digital edge in U.S. Senate slips to ‘challenged’ and ‘feeble’

There was a time when then-Idaho Sen. Larry Craig was dubbed the “cybersenator” because he was the first U.S. senator to send out podcasts. Now, it seems, our digital edge in the U.S. Senate has slipped. George Washington University and New York University’s Stern School of Business have completed a joint study that evaluated and ranked every senator for what it dubbed their “digital I.Q.,” or “online competence” based on presence on websites, social media following and sentiment, digital marketing aptitude and search engine optimization skills. Idaho’s results? Sen. Mike Crapo ranked 64th among the 100 senators, and Sen. Jim Risch ranked 93rd.

The top seven senators were dubbed “digital geniuses,” and were led by none other than Sen. John McCain, who famously said “I don’t email” during the 2008 presidential campaign. According to the study, he got his first Blackberry in January 2009 and “took to the Twittersphere,” and he now has 1.7 million Twitter followers and 630,000 Facebook “likes.” The other senators who got the “digital genius” designation were Sens. Jim DeMint, Scott Brown, Al Franken, John Cornyn, Harry Reid and Barbara Boxer. Republicans led Democrats in the study, with an average digital I.Q. 5.5 percent higher than their colleagues across the aisle. “Our thesis is that digital competence provides an opportunity for senators to authentically engage and mobilize voters and constituents,” wrote the two authors of the study, Scott Galloway, clinical associate professor of marketing at NYU Stern, and Doug Guthrie, dean of the George Washington School of Business.

So what’s the designation for our guys? Crapo’s score of 89 (McCain’s was 156) designates his digital I.Q. as “challenged.” And Risch? At a score of 68, he’s dubbed “feeble.”

Risch: EPA would tax alarm clock’s ring

Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo issued a statement today expressing disappointment at the failure of resolution they backed, which failed today on a 47-53 vote, aimed at stopping the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases. Risch said, “The EPA rule is nothing more than another power grab by a federal agency and an erosion of the Constitution of this great country.  It would lead to a massive tax on every aspect of American life from the ringing alarm clock in the morning to the last light switch turned off at night and it would be levied by bureaucrats who are not held accountable to the voice of the people.” Click below to read the full statement.

Risch: Afghanistan puzzle is a ‘Rubik’s cube on steroids’

Idaho Sen. Jim Risch described the situation in Afghanistan as “a Rubik’s cube on steroids” this morning while participating in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in which committee members questioned Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen about the Obama Administration’s new Afghanistan strategy. “As polarized as this country is … this is an issue that we all really, really need to pull together on,” Risch said. “There are no good choices. There are only choices to be made that are in the best interest of the American people.”

Risch asked whether the officials had considered speeding up the troop withdrawal from Iraq beyond the schedule the president already has announced; they said no. “I’d encourage that we keep an eye on that,” Risch said. He also questioned whether the July 2011 date the administration has set for beginning to pull troops back out of Afghanistan, after a 2010 buildup of 30,000 additional troops, is a “hard date” rather than a target. Gates responded that it’s a “firm date that the president has established” for beginning troop withdrawals, but said, “The pace of that withdrawal … will be conditions-based.”

Mullen noted, “This date has also been described as arbitrary - it’s not arbitrary at all.” The date marks the third summer that Marines will be in the Helmand province, he said. At that point, “We will have a clear indication which way this is going.”

He’s THAT rich…

Freshman Idaho Sen. Jim Risch is the 13th wealthiest member of Congress, according to a new analysis by Roll Call newspaper, and is richer than the late Ted Kennedy, Sen. John McCain or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Risch doesn’t dispute the report, but declined to comment on it. He’s well-known in Idaho as a self-made millionaire, who built a fortune as one of the state’s most successful trial lawyers while also building a political career as a longtime state senator from Boise, and bankrolled his first run for statewide office from his own pocket. Still, longtime Idaho political observers who have followed Risch’s career said his ranking was unexpectedly high; Roll Call put his minimum net worth at $19.29 million. “I’m really surprised,” said Jim Weatherby, political scientist emeritus at Boise State University. “Jim Risch does not come off as a man of that kind of wealth, which I guess is to his credit.”

Weatherby also noted that extreme wealth can sometimes be an advantage for a politician. Kennedy, for example, was known for supplementing top staff members’ salaries out of his own pocket, to keep key people, including future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, working on his Senate staff. You can read my full story here, and see the Roll Call report here.

Idaho only state exempt from new roadless directive

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called a one-year halt today to any road construction or timber removal on national forests under the roadless area conservation rule without his personal approval - but the new directive exempts Idaho. That’s because Idaho already has a plan for roadless forests, though it’s being challenged in court. “What they’re saying is, ‘Well, Idaho has their plan and we’re accepting their plan, but everybody else, we’re going to do this one-year deal,’” said Brad Hoaglun, spokesman for U.S. Sen. Jim Risch. “Idaho is the only state.” Hoaglun said Colorado has been working on a roadless plan, but unlike Idaho, didn’t get it all the way through the federal rules process. Risch made the roadless plan a priority when he served briefly as governor of Idaho in 2006.

Vilsack said in a press release, “This interim directive will provide consistency and clarity that will help protect our national forests until a long-term roadless policy reflecting President Obama’s commitment is developed.” The directive applies to all inventories roadless areas in national forests and grasslands - except those in Idaho. It lasts for a year, but could then be renewed for another year. Click below to read the full statement from Risch and Sen. Mike Crapo applauding the treatment of Idaho in the move.

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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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