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Posts tagged: Raul Labrador

House backs president on Syria, but both Idaho reps vote no; Senate votes today

The U.S. House voted 273-156 in favor of President Obama’s plan to train and arm Syrian rebels to fight Islamic State militants yesterday, but both Idaho GOP representatives, 1st District Congressman Raul Labrador and 2nd District Congressman Mike Simpson, voted no. The Senate votes today. Click below for a full report from the AP in Washington, D.C. There was both bipartisan support and bipartisan opposition to the move; The Hill has a full report here

Labrador, in a statement, said he’d support a “targeted operation” to go after the killers of two Americans murdered by ISIS, but not a broader move to support rebels who want to remove Syrian President Bashar Assad. Here’s Labrador’s statement:

“Like all Americans, I am outraged and saddened by the murder of two Americans by ISIS. I would support a targeted operation to hunt down the killers and win justice for the victims and their families. Instead, the president has engaged in a broad intervention without congressional approval and sought authority to arm Syrian rebels whose primary interest is removing President Assad.

“As I warned last year, regime change could lead to a worse outcome for America. While Assad is a brutal dictator, I still believe backing rebels allied with al-Qaeda and on the same side as ISIS in this civil war likely would bring to power even worse elements in Syria. Our focus should not be on resolving an age-old religious civil war, but on bringing to justice those who took the lives of our citizens.”

Labrador introduces bipartisan police de-militarization bill

Idaho 1st District GOP Congressman Raul Labrador introduced bipartisan legislation today to restrict surplus military equipment from going to state and local law enforcement agencies, saying local police shouldn't be militarized. “Our nation was founded on the principle of a clear line between the military and civilian policing,” Labrador said in a news release. “The Pentagon’s current surplus property program blurs that line by introducing a military model of overwhelming force in our cities and towns. Our bill would restore the focus of local law enforcement on protecting citizens and providing due process for the accused.”

In 2011, Labrador co-sponsored a bill to require 10 percent of military equipment being returned from Iraq that's suitable for law enforcement work, including drones, humvees and night-vision goggles, to be sent to federal and state agencies with a preference for using it for southern border security. Labrador’s spokesman, Dan Popkey, says that was “apples and oranges” and nothing like the program he's targeting today. “The 2011 bill was specifically for border security,” Popkey said. “Also, the items had to be suitable for local policing.”

The 2011 bill, dubbed the SEND Act, didn’t pass. SEND stood for “Send Equipment for National Defense” Act. It directed the Secretary of Defense, within one year after eligible equipment returns to the United States from Iraq, to transfer at least 10 percent of that equipment to federal and state agencies, “with a preference to agencies that will use the equipment primarily for U.S. southern border security purposes.” It did not limit the equipment exclusively to that use, however.

The bill defined as “eligible equipment” any equipment determined to be suitable for use in law enforcement activities, “including surveillance unmanned aerial vehicles, night-vision goggles, and high mobility multi-purpose wheeled vehicles (humvees).” The 2011 bill had 18 co-sponsors, all Republicans.

The new bill, dubbed the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act of 2014, targets the Pentagon’s surplus property program that’s provided $4.2 billion in surplus military equipment to local and state law enforcement agencies without charge. That’s included everything from Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected Vehicles, or MRAPs, to grenade launchers and high-caliber assault rifles. The program’s come under scrutiny since local police in Ferguson, Mo. used tank-like vehicles and military-style weapons for crowd control during demonstrations following the police shooting of a young unarmed man.

Labrador’s bill, which he introduced with Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., and a bipartisan group of four other original co-sponsors, would exclude certain equipment including high-caliber weapons, long-range acoustic devices, grenade launchers, weaponized drones, armored vehicles and explosives from the program. It also would remove a requirement that police agencies use the equipment they get within a year, which Labrador said has been giving local police an incentive to use the military gear in inappropriate circumstances.

The bill also requires agencies to certify they can account for all equipment. In 2012, one Arizona sheriff was barred from the program after he couldn’t account for weapons and other equipment he’d received; and another Arizona county turned out to have transferred some of the equipment to non-police agencies like fire and ambulance units, in violation of the program’s rules.

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.

Labrador on this summer’s GOP convention: ‘At least I tried to fix the problem’

Looking back on this summer’s tumultuous Idaho Republican Party convention, which he chaired, 1st District GOP Congressman Raul Labrador says he’s not sorry he stepped in, even though the confab ended in chaos, without any votes on leaders, resolutions or the party platform as two wings of the party fiercely opposed each other. “I think what I keep reminding people is that at least I tried to fix the problem that we had,” Labrador said. “One of my favorite quotes is from Teddy Roosevelt about the man in the arena. I think sometimes politicians are afraid of getting right in the middle of something because they’re so worried about what happens to them politically. I actually wanted to solve the divide that existed in the party.”

Labrador noted that he spent five hours the night before the convention reached its climax trying to bring both sides to a compromise. “It was rejected, and I still don’t understand why it was rejected, but there’s nothing I could do about that,” he said. “The easy thing for me would have been to say, ‘Hey, I’m running for majority leader of the House, I should walk away from this so I don’t have anything fall on me.’ I think that would be the chicken way out, and I don’t do that.”

Now that the party, after a failed lawsuit from the former party chairman, has chosen a new chairman in newcomer Steve Yates, Labrador said, “I’m very impressed with him. Maybe he’s exactly what we needed – somebody who wasn’t really part of either camp so he can try to unify. I know that’s been his message, and I’m wholly supportive of him. And I want to help him in any way I can. But I would’ve been supportive of anybody who came out of that process.”

Here’s the quote Labrador referenced, from a speech Roosevelt gave at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1910:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” 

Labrador on Popkey: ‘He knows what’s happened here in Idaho, what has been tried, what hasn’t’

Idaho 1st District Congressman Raul Labrador, asked today why he decided to recruit and hire longtime Idaho Statesman political reporter Dan Popkey to be his new press secretary, said, “The main reason is I wanted to have a better relationship with the Idaho media. I think I’ve always had a pretty good relationship, but it seemed like we could always improve. And I just, when I thought about who would be the best person to actually have a relationship with the Idaho media, somebody like Dan Popkey came to mind.” He added, “I think he was pretty shocked. And then he thought about it, and he thought it wasn’t a bad idea.”

Said Labrador, “I thought it was a pretty good move. … I respect the knowledge – he’s almost like an encyclopedia, and I’ve always respected that about him. He knows what’s happened here in Idaho, what has been tried and what hasn’t been tried.”

Popkey wasn’t with the congressman when I spoke with him today, incidentally, as he’s on vacation. Asked how that could be when he just started his new job two weeks ago, Labrador said it was a long-planned family commitment that was taken into account when he hired Popkey. “It’s how I would treat any employee,” he said.

Dan Popkey to become Rep. Labrador’s new press secretary

Dan Popkey, longtime political reporter and columnist for the Idaho Statesman, is leaving journalism to become the Meridian-based press secretary for 1st District Congressman Raul Labrador, Labrador announced today. “I’ve learned that one has to have an exceptional communications strategy to effectively represent Idaho in Congress,” Labrador said in a statement. “I know that Dan will help me better communicate my message to constituents and the media.”

Click below for Labrador's full announcement. The Statesman announced today that Popkey's resignation, after nearly three decades with the newspaper, is effective immediately; he starts his new job Monday.

Labrador bill to ease ‘80s-era federal drug sentencing laws gaining support in D.C.

Bipartisan legislation introduced last year by Idaho 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador and a bipartisan group of senators and representatives aimed at relaxing harsh 1980s-era federal drug sentencing laws is gaining support in Washington, D.C. The Washington Post editorialized strongly in favor of the measure today, and Labrador reported today that Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., chairman of the House Budget Committee, endorsed the bill today in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute.

The measure already is backed by a diverse array of groups ranging from Heritage Action to the ACLU to the American Correctional Association and the NAACP. It would give federal judges more discretion on how they sentence drug offenders who otherwise would be subject to mandatory minimum sentences; and allow inmates already serving the harsh sentences to petition for reductions.

Today’s Washington Post editorial said under current laws, a defendant convicted of possessing just 10 grams of certain drugs who has one prior felony drug offense must receive at least 20 years in prison.  “The drug war’s foremost legacy is a skyrocketing prison population,” the Post wrote. It touted both Labrador’s bill, the Smarter Sentencing Act, and a second measure on prisoner reintegration and recidivism reduction; sponsors of the two are considering combining them. Either way, “both bills should pass,” the Post wrote.

Labrador and Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., introduced the sentencing bill last October; it is companion legislation to a Senate measure sponsored by a bipartisan group including Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. “We must be strict, but also smart, when it comes to federal criminal sentencing,” Labrador said then. “The ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach Congress put on the books has tied the hands of judges without improving public safety. Nearly half of the inmates filling our federal prisons are incarcerated for drug offenses. Many of them do not need overly harsh penalties. And yet judges are forced to impose these penalties, even if they don’t want to.”

The bill, HR 3382, has 47 cosponsors; the Senate version, which already has cleared the Judiciary Committee, has 28 cosponsors.

Irony: Labrador’s biggest donation in past reporting period came from Eric Cantor’s PAC

A look through 1st District GOP Congressman Raul Labrador’s latest campaign finance report turns up an a bit of irony: Labrador’s biggest donation - $5,000 for the reporting period and $10,000 for the election cycle to date – came from the Every Republican is Crucial PAC – ERIC-PAC, the PAC operated by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Cantor was defeated in the Virginia Republican primary last month; Labrador mounted an unsuccessful challenge to his successor in his leadership post, losing to House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy.

Overall, Labrador raised a surprisingly paltry $48,145 for his re-election campaign during the two-month reporting period that ended June 30, while his Democratic challenger, state Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, wasn’t far behind at $42,838. Labrador’s total seems small for a second-term congressional incumbent seeking a third term – his campaign expenses for the period were $53,147, more than he raised – but he carried over big sums from earlier, allowing him to close out the quarter with $416,522 in cash in his campaign warchest.

Based on his spending, Labrador also clearly didn’t feel financially pinched in his campaign during the quarter: He continued to pay wife Rebecca a $2,022 monthly salary for working on the campaign, and he made $1,000 donations to three other congressional hopefuls’ campaigns, two from Alabama and one from Georgia: Dr. Chad Mathis, a conservative Christian and surgeon who lost a GOP primary in Alabama; Gary Palmer, longtime head of the Alabama Policy Institute who is running for Congress there; and Dr. Bob Johnson, another physician and Christian conservative seeking a GOP nomination in Georgia. Labrador reported no debt.

Ringo’s campaign finance report filed with the Federal Election Commission shows some contrasts with Labrador’s. While $19,000 of the congressman’s donations during the period came from PACs, including the Comcast Corp. PAC at $2,000 and New York Life Insurance PAC at $2,600, Ringo got just one PAC donation, $2,000 from the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education.

Labrador’s individual contributions of $29,045 included donations of $1,000 or more from 13 individuals in Idaho; nine in-state donors who gave less than $1,000; and five out-of-state individuals, all of whom gave less than $1,000.

Ringo received more than 80 donations of less than $1,000 from individuals in Idaho; two for $1,000 or more from Idaho individuals; and nearly 70 donations of less than $1,000 either from out-of-state individuals or from individuals who donated through the Democratic Party’s “Act Blue” online fundraising site. Ringo ran up $19,500 in debt, all in loans to her own campaign; and reported $13,877 in the bank at the end of the reporting period.

Chmelik on BLM: ‘They want to help us’

Here’s a link to my full story at spokesman.com on Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador introducing legislation today to transfer 31 acres of U.S. Bureau of Land Management land in Idaho County to the county for a gun range – a move the BLM supports. Idaho County Commissioner Jim Chmelik said the county has been pushing for the range for at least six years, since before he took office. “I think it’s a good thing for the county,” he said. “I don’t always see eye-to-eye with the BLM on a lot of issues, but when we do see eye-to-eye, I’m going to try to work together with them and work things out. They want to help us.”

BLM is ‘supportive’ of Labrador move to transfer land to Idaho County for gun range

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is backing Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador’s move to transfer 31 acres of its land in Idaho County to the county for a gun range. “We’re supportive of the effort,” said Suzanne Endsley, public affairs officer for the BLM’s Coeur d’Alene and Spokane districts. “There is no designated range in that area, and people are using this location anyway. From an environmental standpoint, it would be nice if it was managed a little bit better. We just don’t have the resources to go there on a weekly basis and pick up all the shells, and there is interest in the county to do a really bang-up management job.”

Endsley said the BLM has been working with the county since 2010 on the issue, initially trying to arrange a low-cost “recreation and public purpose lease” from the BLM to the county for the land. But that’s been complicated by the site’s former use for a long-ago trash dump and the detritus of its longtime use for shooting, which moved the property out of the category of lands BLM can lease.

The site, about 10 miles north of the Time Zone Bridge at Riggins off Highway 95 on a hillside with a bench, is ideal for shooting, Endsley said. “It’s away from the beaten path … it’s not endangering anyone.” Asked if any stray bullets could reach Highway 95, she said, “Because of the topography and location, the chances of that would be probably slim to none.”

Labrador began working with the county and the agency on the issue in 2011, Endsley said. “The bureau is not in the business of developing gun ranges, and that’s the use that is kind of happening there. That’s why the county said, ‘Hey, if we can basically lease this parcel of land from you, we will put up a gun range and we will manage it.’”

 She said, “Sometimes it just takes us a long time to work through things, and I think some of the patience expired with the county. And I know that they approached the congressman and he has kind of spearheaded this.”

Labrador introduces bill to transfer 31 acres of BLM land to Idaho County for gun range

Idaho 1st District GOP Congressman Raul Labrador announced today that he's introduced legislation that would transfer 31 acres of federal Bureau of Land Management property in Idaho County to the county for use as a gun range.  “For years, the Idaho County Commission has been ready to install a gun range in the Riggins Area, but they’ve been prevented from building it because of cumbersome BLM regulations,” Labrador said in a statement.

He said under federal law, the BLM can't sell or give the parcel to Idaho County; and under agency policies, it can't lease it to the county. “Therefore, a legislative solution is necessary,” Labrador said in a press release; click below for his full release.

Ringo: Hobby Lobby ruling ‘extremely disturbing,’ saw no corporations at church on Sunday

Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, who is running against 1st District GOP Congressman Raul Labrador, had this statement today on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, which Labrador praised:

“Today’s Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby is extremely disturbing.  The message to women from the majority on the court is that their boss can have a say in their personal family planning decisions.  Today’s decision allows corporations to deny contraception coverage to female employees because of the corporation’s religious objections.  I saw many people from my community in church last Sunday, but I didn’t see a corporation there.

The administration and Congress need to fix this. We know Congressman Labrador won’t be part of the solution, but I'm confident that enough members of Congress care about women's rights to do what the majority of Americans want and protect contraception coverage.”

Labrador: Hobby Lobby ruling ‘tremendous victory for religious freedom’

1st District Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador is calling the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision today a “tremendous victory for religious freedom in America.” In a statement, Labrador, a Republican who's seeking a third term, said, “No American should be forced to choose between following their faith and submitting to unlawful and unnecessary government mandates.  The HHS mandate, by violating freedom of conscience, needed to be overturned and repudiated.  The Supreme Court’s decision breathes new life into one of our most important freedoms and eliminates one of the most destructive aspects of Obamacare.”

Labrador says he had ‘an amazing time’ running for House majority leader

Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador issued this statement after using the race for U.S. House majority leader to Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif: “I want to congratulate Kevin on his election as Majority Leader and I wish him the best.  I had an amazing time running for this position.  It was one of the best experiences I’ve had in Congress.  I really enjoyed talking with my colleagues one-on-one about the future of our conference and the direction of our party.  Everyone I spoke to, whether they voted for Kevin or me, agrees that we can do better.  The process needs to be improved, the committees need to work their will, and our members need to feel more relevant.  We have a terrific conference – filled with talented, impressive leaders – and I deeply believe that the dialogue we’ve sparked over the past week will lead to a stronger, more successful future for House Republicans and America.”

Labrador falls short in U.S. House leadership bid

Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador lost to Kevin McCarthy in the race to be the next U.S. House majority leader today; a USA Today story posted on KTVB-TV’s website here terms Labrador’s effort just “token” opposition to McCarthy, R-California; click below for a full report from the Associated Press in Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, Labrador’s Democratic opponent, Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, issued this statement:

“That’s the second time in a week that a room full of Republicans has refused to pretend that Raúl Labrador’s ready to lead,” Ringo said. “If Congressman Labrador can’t work with people who sometimes disagree with him, we can’t expect him to get anything done. Today’s vote showed that his House colleagues understand that, too.” 

Labrador makes majority leader pitch to GOP colleagues

Idaho 1st District Congressman Raul Labrador made his pitch to fellow House Republicans today in his bid for House majority leader. “Remember, we regained control of the House in 2010 because Americans believed that Washington was not listening,” Labrador said. “If you vote for the status quo tomorrow, you will prove that we are still not listening.  We will break our pledge, and with that we may lose the ability to regain control of the Senate and eventually win the Presidency.” You can read his full remarks here; he’s considered an underdog in his bid for the majority leader post against California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the current majority whip. The position is opening because of Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s defeat in the Virginia GOP primary by an underfunded tea party challenger; the vote is scheduled for Thursday.

Labrador seeks House Republicans’ backing for leadership, calls for uniting party

Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador today sent a letter to House Republicans, urging them to support his bid for Majority Leader after Eric Cantor’s defeat in the Virginia GOP primary, instead of the leading candidate, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy. “Promoting, by acclamation, a member of the very Washington leadership that has failed to bridge the divide with Republicans outside Washington struck me as exactly the wrong response,” Labrador told his colleagues. “And so, I have decided to stand for Majority Leader – running not against anyone, but for everyone. The simple fact is, Republicans will never again unite the country until we first unite our Party.” You can read his full letter here.

Labrador steps into the political spotlight, both nationally and in Idaho…

Here’s a link to my full story at spokesman.com on Raul Labrador becoming a candidate today for majority leader of the U.S. House. Meanwhile, in Idaho, Labrador is chairing the state GOP convention this weekend, where a deep split between establishment Republicans and the tea party wing has resulted in nasty rules fights; on Friday afternoon, the party’s credentials committee voted to bar the entire delegations from Ada, Bannock and Power counties – which would remove more than a sixth of the delegates from voting on the party platform and state chairman.

Some in the party are calling on Labrador to be the healer and find a way to unite the party’s two wings, though he’s closely allied with the tea party wing. The full convention, under Labrador’s leadership, could accept or reject the committee’s ruling.

Ringo dings Labrador for ‘hobby of partisan in-fighting’

First District Congressman Raul Labrador’s Democratic opponent, state Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, had strong words today about Labrador’s announcement that he’ll run for U.S. House majority leader. “I have to admire Congressman Labrador’s consistency,” Ringo said. “First, he tried to divide Idaho Republicans by backing Russ Fulcher against Gov. Otter and opposing Mike Simpson in his primary. Now he’s trying to divide his party in Washington by running for a post he has no chance of winning and no business holding.”

Labrador actually was neutral in the 2nd District congressional primary race, declining to endorse either candidate, but he made a high-profile endorsement of Fulcher over Otter and campaigned with Fulcher in the final stretch before the election.

Ringo said, “We need a representative who understands the virtue of cooperation, and who would rather get a job done than throw up roadblocks. Far be it from me to complain when Washington, D.C. Republicans want to fight each other, but Idaho needs Congress to get back to work, and Congressman Labrador’s hobby of partisan in-fighting is really getting in the way.”

Rep. Labrador announces he’s running for U.S. House Majority Leader

Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador is running for Majority Leader in Congress, he announced to reporters in Boise today, after the defeat of GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a primary election. “I’m in it to win it,” Labrador said. “I didn’t get into it to send a message.”

Labrador said he’s spent the last three days trying to convince two other members of Congress to make the run, but when they wouldn’t, he decided to do it. “The reality is that there is a large segment of our conference that wants change,” he said. “What we need is somebody that can … grow the Republican Party, can get people to actually want to be Republicans again.”

Labrador spoke briefly with reporters in Boise as he and Sen. Rand Paul stopped off on their way to the Idaho GOP convention in Moscow, where Paul will give the keynote address tonight. Asked if he thought Labrador had a chance at winning the majority leader post, Paul said, “There really is a question what is the message that’s sent when the voters replace someone in leadership. They want someone different. I think Raul brings that.”

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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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