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Eye On Boise

Posts tagged: Mike Simpson

Simpson to Forest Service: Don’t restrict news-gathering, observe 1st Amendment in wilderness

Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson has sent a letter to U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell expressing strong concerns about proposed rules for commercial filming in wilderness areas, asking the Forest Service to make sure the final rule doesn’t place an undue burden on journalists, TV programs, outfitters and guides and other media-related activities that have traditionally enjoyed access to wilderness areas for filming or photography.

“These are people who appreciate wilderness, want to share its values with others, or may want to use their photographs or videos to help promote their business. These are not individuals who are looking to film feature length action movies that would do harm to wilderness areas or involve multiple cameras with large crews and extensive sets,” Simpson wrote.

He also raised First Amendment concerns about the proposed rule, saying it suggests the Forest Service could restrict filming or photography based on content. You can read Simpson’s full letter here. He notes Tidwell’s recent comments, suggesting the rule will be modified so it doesn’t restrict news-gathering. “I am hopeful the final rule will reflect your reasonable interpretation and clearly articulate that legitimate news gathering activities will not require permits in the future,” the 2nd District GOP congressman wrote.

Congressman, former congressman face off in debate tonight…

The last time 2nd District GOP Congressman Mike Simpson and Democratic challenger Richard Stallings - himself a former four-term 2nd District congressman from Idaho - faced off in a debate, it was a lively one. I haven't closely followed this race because my newspaper is based up north, which is 1st Congressional District territory rather than 2nd, but you can click below for a full report from Idaho Falls Post Register reporter Bryan Clark via the Associated Press; Clark covered the pair's debate last Friday at the City Club of Idaho Falls. Tonight, the two will debate on KTVB at 7 p.m.; they'll face off again on Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. on Idaho Public TV as part of the “Idaho Debates,” which will be broadcast statewide.

House GOP - including Simpson and Labrador - votes to condemn Obama for Bergdahl swap

The Republican-controlled U.S. House voted today to condemn President Barack Obama for failing to give 30 days notice to Congress about the exchange in May of American prisoner Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban leaders held at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the AP reports. Idaho Congressmen Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador both joined with the majority in the 249-163 vote, though Bergdahl, who was held prisoner by the Taliban for five years, is from Hailey, Idaho.

No Republicans voted no, according to congressional voting records, though five missed the vote; Democrats split with 22 in favor and 163 against, with 14 not voting. The vote came at a crucial moment for the administration as it sought to rally international and congressional support for steps to combat the rising threat of Islamic state militants in Iraq and Syria; click below for a full report from AP reporter Donna Cassata in Washington, D.C.

Suction dredging protest contrasts with Boise River agreement in Idaho’s ‘EPA divide’

Idaho Statesman reporter Rocky Barker has a report today on why the Fourth of July holiday protest at which hobby miners ran their suction dredges illegally in the Salmon River east of Riggins to decry EPA regulations didn’t turn into anything like the Cliven Bundy standoff in Nevada. Part of the reason: Idaho County Commissioner Jim Chmelik and other officials worked to make sure there was no confrontation, and the event drew no uniformed federal agents, armed militia members or national news media.

But Barker reports that event was in great contrast to another in Boise at which longtime EPA critic Rep. Mike Simpson praised the federal agency for “looking outside their rulebook” in developing the Dixie Drain Phosphorous Offset Project, a program to clean phosphorus pollution from the Boise River while also saving money for Boise residents and farmers. You can read his full report here, which is headed, “Idaho’s EPA Divide.”

Simpson, Smith spar in TV debate

Congressman Mike Simpson and his GOP challenger Bryan Smith had a lively debate on Idaho Public TV tonight, as part of the “Idaho Debates,” sponsored by the Idaho Press Club and the League of Women Voters of Idaho. “Our country has seriously gotten off on the wrong track,” declared Smith, a lawyer from Idaho Falls and a political newcomer who’s backed by the Club for Growth. “Sadly, career politicians in Washington like Congressman Simpson have become part of the problem. … I am a true conservative who is not afraid to stand up for us.”

Simpson said the people backing Smith are opposed to funding for the Idaho National Laboratory, one of the biggest employers in eastern Idaho. “They’re opposed to the ag bill, they’re opposed to everything,” he said. Simpson said it didn’t work to shut down the government in an effort to force the repeal of Obamacare. “We didn’t accomplish what we set out to accomplish,” he said. “Shutting down the government doesn’t work. What you’ve got to do is elect Republicans to the Senate so that we have somebody to work with, so that we can actually get this budget balanced again and get it on a path toward balance.”

Simpson said, “We might not like it but there are Democrats actually in Congress, and they control the Senate and they control the White House. If you’re going to get anything done, it’s going to be done by working together both within your party and across party lines.” Failing that, he said, “You’ll just be howling at the moon.”

Smith said, “Washington doesn’t have a tax problem, they have a spending problem. … We need to focus on cutting the budget,” saying he’d first go after “redundant spending” and that he’d cut the Department of Education, saying, “The word education does not appear in the Constitution.” You can watch the full debate online here.

Labrador, Simpson split in budget vote

Idaho's two congressmen split in last night's 332-94 House vote on a bipartisan budget deal, with 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson voting in favor, and 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador voting against. 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, adds new fees on airline passengers and increases federal workers’ pension contributions; it’s expected to pass the Senate next week. 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.

Labrador called it “a bad deal, plain and simple,” while Simpson said it “preserves dozens, perhaps hundreds of jobs at Idaho National Laboratory, lays the groundwork for extending PILT payments, achieves greater savings for taxpayers than those contained in sequestration, and does all of it without raising taxes.”

Here’s Labrador’s statement, and more online here:

“This is a bad deal, plain and simple.  Once again, Congress is making promises of future spending decreases in exchange for actual spending increases today.  Republicans should keep the promise they made to the American people that they would use the sequester to address the true drivers of our debt and fight for real entitlement reform.  We had a historic opportunity to find common ground in order to save Medicare and Social Security.  Once again, we kicked the can down the road while making empty promises to the American people.”

From Simpson, whose full statement is online here:

“My Republican colleagues and I have been seeking reforms to sequestration that lessen the pain on the military, allow Congress to budget in a more orderly process, and maintain or enhance the long-term savings achieved by the Budget Control Act. The bill we passed today accomplishes all three of those goals and is a positive step in the right direction. I am especially relieved that the agreement short circuits some of the devastating sequester-based cuts to Idaho National Laboratory – including cuts to its core nuclear energy research programs, the guard force that secures the facility against terrorism or sabotage, and ongoing cleanup activities that are so important to the protection of the environment and human health.  The agreement also provides room in the budget to continue funding for PILT.”

U.S. Chamber of Commerce launches pro-Simpson ads in Idaho

Idaho's 2nd District congressional race is back in the national news this morning, as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launches ads backing Congressman Mike Simpson and two West Virginia Republicans; the AP reports that business groups are increasingly stepping up to back pro-business Republicans against tea party backed challengers. Simpson faces a challenge from Idaho Falls attorney Bryan Smith, who's being backed by the Club for Growth, the same national group that promoted former GOP Idaho Congressman Bill Sali when he won a multi-way primary before serving a single term in Idaho's 1st District congressional seat.

In response to the news of the Chamber's pro-Simpson ad, the Club For Growth sent out a press release this morning headed, “Mike Simpson's Pro-Bailout, Pro-Obama Stimulus Pro-Debt Allies Try to Save His Flailing Candidacy,” sharply criticizing the Chamber. Simpson is an eighth-term Republican congressman, a dentist, and the former speaker of the Idaho House; click below for the national AP story about the U.S Chamber's move.

Simpson unveils bill to add third Idaho federal judge

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson has introduced a bill designed to add a third federal judge in Idaho to help offset an expanding and cumbersome caseload. The Republican says it's past time for Idaho to get a third federal judge. The federal court system in Idaho is now overseen by two federal district judges — B. Lynn Winmill and Edward J. Lodge. As Idaho's population has ballooned in the last decade, so too has the pressure on the federal courts. For example, Simpson says total filings increased 26 percent between 2007 and 2013, and pending caseloads have increased during the same span by 30 percent. Simpson also says Idaho now has a heavier caseload than other rural states with three judges — including Alaska, Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Mitt Romney endorses Mike Simpson

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson's bid for a ninth term got an assist Monday when former presidential candidate Mitt Romney released an endorsement letter. Simpson faces challenger Bryan Smith in next May's Republican primary election. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, lauded Simpson as a “stalwart conservative leader,” accusing what he called “outside” groups of interfering in the race by backing Smith. Smith has won the conservative group Club for Growth's support in his bid to unseat Simpson. Like Romney, Smith and Simpson come from Mormon backgrounds. One flashpoint in this internal GOP duel has centered on which candidate likes President Obama's health care overhaul the least. Smith accuses Simpson of not trying hard enough to repeal it, while Romney described Simpson as a lawmaker who has “fought to repeal Obamacare.”

Simpson shifts subcommittee chairmanships, takes role key to INL

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson is shifting Appropriations Committee assignments, taking on new chairmanship that puts him a key position to help determine funding for facilities including the Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory. Simpson's move Wednesday to become chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development was precipitated by the death of Rep. Bill Young of Florida. Young's passing caused a reshuffling of leadership assignments among majority House Republicans. Previously, Simpson headed the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee. In addition to helping set funding for the Department of Energy, Simpson's new committee also helps control the purse strings for the National Nuclear Security Administration and dam managers at the Army Corps of Engineers. Next May, Simpson faces a challenge from GOP rival Bryan Smith in Idaho's Republican primary.

Louise McClure on Simpson vote: ‘Jim would be proud’

Louise McClure, widow of the late Idaho Sen. Jim McClure, has penned an op-ed piece about the recent government shutdown and “flirtation with default on our debts.” In it, she  bemoans the breakdown in civility and constructive problem-solving in the House and Senate from the days when McClure served, from 1967 to 1991, and lauds 2nd District Congressman Mike Simpson – the only member of Idaho’s all-GOP four-member congressional delegation who voted for the deal to end the shutdown and avoid default.

“It’s rare in Washington today to find someone willing to consider another’s point of view,” Mrs. McClure writes. “As Jim used to say, compromise is not a dirty word. Our leaders must have the courage to cast a tough vote when the nation’s greater good demands it. Thankfully for Idaho, Mike Simpson has demonstrated the courage to do that.”

She writes, “We have huge problems as a nation and partisan bickering and one-upmanship can’t solve them. We desperately need leaders who will do the hard thing when it is the right thing. Sinking the ship of state for the sake of principle is still sinking the ship of state, after all.”

Of Simpson’s stand, she writes, “Jim would be proud.” You can read her full opinion piece here. Jim McClure, a Republican who chaired the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and made his name as a western conservative, died in 2011.

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.

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.

Simpson, Labrador aligned on Syria strike

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — It took potential military action against Syria to get Republican U.S. Reps. Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador on the same side. The feuding Idaho lawmakers signed a letter to President Barack Obama, urging him to seek authorization from Congress before ordering a strike against Syria after its government allegedly used chemical weapons against its own people. Simpson and Labrador, who have traded barbs this year including over whether House Speaker John Boehner should be leading the chamber's majority, joined Boehner in the letter on Wednesday. In the document, they argue that Obama is required by the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973 to consult with lawmakers before authorizing a strike. Many Democrats are also urging Obama not to take action without first seeking proper authority to do so.

Boehner in Boise, predicts ‘whale of a fight’ over debt limit in the fall

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner raised more than $95,000 for 2nd District Congressman Mike Simpson in Boise yesterday, reports Dan Popkey of the Idaho Statesman, speaking at a $50 a plate luncheon at the Boise Centre that drew 430 and a roundtable for 36 high-dollar contributors.  The speaker, a close ally and friend of Simpson, was on the 22nd day of a 35-day cross-country bus tour supporting GOP House members seeking re-election. Simpson faces a challenge from Idaho Falls attorney Bryan Smith as he seeks a ninth term. Boehner said, “I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that he is re-elected.”

In his address to the luncheon crowd, Boehner predicted “a whale of a fight” over the debt limit in the fall, Popkey reported. “I’ve made it clear that we’re not going to increase the debt limit without cuts and reforms that are greater than the increase in the debt limit,” he said. “The president doesn’t think this is fair, thinks I’m being difficult to deal with. But I’ll say this: It may be unfair but what I’m trying to do here is to leverage the political process to produce more change than what it would produce if left to its own devices. We’re going to have a whale of a fight.”

Popkey reports that 1st District GOP Congressman Raul Labrador, who has said he’s remaining neutral in the primary race, attended the luncheon; read Popkey’s full report here.

Boehner headed to Boise for Simpson fundraiser lunch next Monday

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is headed to Idaho for a campaign fundraiser for 2nd District Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson on Aug. 26, reports Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey, with plans calling for a $50-a-person lunch at the Boise Centre. The event will begin at 11:30 a.m. and tickets are being sold through Simpson’s campaign; Boehner, Simpson and Idaho Gov. Butch Otter are scheduled to speak. Simpson faces a GOP primary challenge from Idaho Falls attorney Bryan Smith, who's being backed by the national group the Club for Growth. You can read Popkey’s full post here.

Idaho ‘ground zero’ as rift in GOP moves from Congress to campaign trail

Idaho’s not only getting national attention for the gripping back-country manhunt that rescued a 16-year-old California girl from her kidnapper over the weekend, and for the wildly spreading wildfires now threatening hundreds of homes. It’s our politics, too. Politico today called Idaho “ground zero” for what it describes as a proxy fight for a rift in the national GOP, writing, “The tensions dividing Republicans in Congress are now spilling onto the campaign trail.” The article highlights 2nd District GOP Rep. Mike Simpson’s primary challenge from Idaho Falls attorney Bryan Smith, who the Club for Growth is claiming credit for recruiting to run. It notes that House Speaker John Boehner will visit Boise later this month to headline a fundraiser for Simpson; you can read the article here.

Politico says the 2014 midterm elections “will likely feature a long list of primaries in which House and Senate incumbents will encounter significant threats from insurgent challengers,” though it predicts the vast majority of the incumbents will win.

Of politics, an all-in challenger, and ‘rhetorical sloppiness’

Idaho Statesman political columnist Dan Popkey reports today that 2nd District Congressman Mike Simpson’s GOP challenger, Bryan Smith, is going “all in” on his challenge against the eight-term congressman, taking a sabbatical from his Idaho Falls law practice from this month through next May and donating, not loaning, $50,000 to kick-start his campaign; you can read Popkey’s full report here. Popkey also notes some “rhetorical sloppiness” on Smith’s part, however, including Smith’s much-repeated claim that Simpson was “one of only three Republicans who voted in favor of funding ACORN with your tax dollars.”

Actually, Popkey notes, the group that went out of business in 2010 after a YouTube video in 2009 showed employees advising clients how to hide prostitution and not pay taxes was the target of a de-funding bill of which Simpson was an original co-sponsor in September 2009, after which Simpson authored his own ban on funding for ACORN in his appropriations subcommittee; in all, Simpson voted 28 times against funding the group.

“Smith, however, has cherry-picked a symbolic House vote on a June 2011 amendment brought by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, to bar spending on more than 100 groups,” Popkey writes. “King said during floor debate he could not provide information on why some groups were on his list, prompting Simpson to join 165 Democrats in voting no. Simpson’s aim was not to fund the already-defunct ACORN, but to protest King’s lack of preparation. An hour later, Simpson voted for the Homeland Security spending bill on final passage, including the successful amendment.“

Popkey reports that Smith wouldn’t talk to him about this, but his campaign manager, Carrie Brown, sent this statement: “No amount of spinning by Congressman Simpson or his allies in the liberal press can change that Simpson was one of only three Republicans to oppose defunding ACORN and similar groups.” Wrote Popkey, “Idahoans know Mike Simpson too well to buy such distortion. For Smith to give Simpson a real fight, he may wish to take more time vetting his talking points before most primary voters start paying close attention.”

Simpson moves to slash EPA budget by 35% to pre-1978 levels

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson put forth an appropriations bill today that would slash the EPA’s budget by $2.9 billion next year, a 35 percent cut that would drop the agency to a funding level below what it had in 1978 and block the Obama Administration’s climate change agenda. The Interior and Environment Appropriations bill includes a total of more than $5 billion in cuts, including major cuts to the Forest Service, BLM, national parks and more, but EPA would bear the biggest brunt.

“This Administration’s appetite for new regulations and disregard for the will of Congress have left us with little choice but to block his climate change agenda in this bill,” said Simpson, who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment. “The actions we’ve taken to address the EPA’s overreach and reduce its budget not only help us meet the tight spending constraints under which we’re operating, they help our struggling economy and encourage job creators to invest and expand.”

Simpson brought his bill to his subcommittee for mark up today, no amendments were offered, and it was approved on a 7-5 party-line vote. It now moves to the full House Appropriations Committee, where it is expected to be taken up next week. Simpson warned that until Congress gets serious about making big changes in the larger, mandatory spending portion of the federal budget – including entitlements – big cuts like these in the discretionary portion of the budget will be required.

“One thing I didn’t hear in all of the comments that were made [from the other side of the aisle] is the fact that we are $17 trillion in debt.  $17 trillion,” Simpson said during the subcommittee meeting. “Now, if you want to talk about leaving a legacy for future generations, let that continue to grow and grow and grow and not have the courage to do anything about it. … We are not doing anything different [in this bill] than state legislatures have been doing for about the last four or five years in trying to address their budget problems.  They’ve made tough and ugly decisions all across the board, but we act here like because we’ve got a printing press we are exempt from making those tough decisions.  We’re not exempt; we’re $17 trillion in debt.” You can read his full news release here on the appropriations bill and what's in it.

Historical odds against Smith beating Simpson in primary: 23-1

The odds are against 2nd District Congressman Mike Simpson being defeated by GOP primary challenger Bryan Smith – by 23 to 1, reports Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey. That’s based on a review of Idaho election history by a University of Minnesota political scientist, who found that in the 61 congressional elections since Idaho became a state, 96 percent of incumbent congressmen have won their party’s nomination. Only one Idaho incumbent has lost his party’s nomination in the modern era, with three of the four upsets coming between 1908 and 1918. Since 1918, the incumbent renomination success rate is almost 99 percent, 81 out of 82, and the one exception was when well-known Idaho politician George Hansen made his comeback run. You can read Popkey’s full post here.

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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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