BOISE – Three of the four members of Idaho’s congressional delegation are touting millions in North Idaho projects included in a defense spending bill in Congress – all but North Idaho’s representative.
Rep. Bill Sali voted against the bill, despite having supported some of the funding for research at Bayview and the University of Idaho.
“The reason he voted against the bill was because it contained $33 billion in new spending, had 1,200 earmarks, and he had only a short time in which to review it,” said Wayne Hoffman, spokesman for the 1st District Republican.
Idaho Sens. Larry Craig and Mike Crapo and 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson, all Republicans, worked together to get eight North Idaho projects included in the national security funding package. That package is included in a giant appropriations bill, H.R. 2638, that also contains hurricane and flood relief; the 2009 funding for the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, military construction and veterans affairs; and emergency appropriations for home heating help for the low-income and loans for the manufacture of advanced-technology vehicles.
“That’s why this process is messed up,” Hoffman said, “because you’ve got a bill that’s 1,100 pages long … you have no time to review it, and your constituents expect you to cast an informed vote.”
Craig and Simpson serve on the appropriations committees in the Senate and House, and helped steer the Idaho projects to funding.
“It takes a lot of cooperation between the offices,” said Kyle Hines, an aide to Craig. “That’s one thing that the senator always has stressed: he tries to work well with the rest of the delegation.”
The measure passed the House on a 370-58 vote; a vote in the Senate is expected today.
Craig, Crapo and Simpson said in a joint statement that they’re proud of the projects garnering the funding.
Hoffman said Sali “thinks that he owes it to the taxpayers to do some deliberating on this stuff, not just pass it just because it contains Idaho projects that he supported.”
Hoffman said the lengthy bill was filed at midnight. The House vote took place Wednesday afternoon at 3:47 p.m.
“There’s $33 billion in new spending. Somebody’s going to ask him why, and he needs to be able to answer the question: Why did you vote for it? Why did you vote to increase spending?” Hoffman said. “He can’t answer, ‘I don’t know, I didn’t have a chance to read the bill.’ ”
John Foster, campaign spokesman for Walt Minnick, the Democrat who is challenging Sali’s re-election bid, said, “Once again, Bill Sali’s ineffectiveness speaks for itself.”
The projects funded in the bill include $4.58 million for three research projects at the U.S. Navy research site at Bayview; nearly $5 million for three high-tech research projects at the University of Idaho; $1 million for an ammunition research project in Lewiston designed to develop lighter weapons and ammunition for the Army; and $2 million for a project in Hayden to use advanced materials in parts for army helicopters.