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Asked how things are going on finding a replacement for U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge, who took senior status July 3 but has been in a just-concluded terrorism trial ever since, with no replacement in sight, Sen. Mike Crapo told Eye on Boise, “They are proceeding.”
Crapo said he’s heard the speculation that he and fellow Republican Sen. Jim Risch are stalling the process to wait until a newly elected Republican president can make the appointment. “That’s simply not true,” Crapo said. “We are working very aggressively and trying to move forward the process. The Senate advises and consents, the president nominates. We are in that process of advising and working with the White House.”
Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo is in the midst of an unprecedented series of open town-hall meetings across the state of Idaho, hitting towns large and small, talking about the national debt and taking questions. “We started last October,” Crapo said. “It really lends itself, I think, to a more intimate discussion.” He’s held the sessions in towns as small as Moyie Springs, Craigmont and Ucon; and as large as Boise, Meridian, Hayden and Coeur d’Alene. He’s been to Iona, Ammon, Kuna, Elk River and Athol.
In April, Legistorm announced that Crapo had held more town meetings in 2015 than any member of Congress, with the tally then at 38 for the calendar year; he’s now held more than 115 since October, with a total of 154 scheduled through September.
Crapo said he used to just hold a few town meetings a year in larger population centers, which often drew 300 to 500 people. At the small-town gatherings, he more typically draws around 30. Both types are valuable, Crapo said. “I’ve had a tremendous amount of positive feedback from the people.” As a side benefit, the longtime GOP senator from Idaho Falls said he’s even gotten to some small communities he’d never visited before. “I actually thought I’d been everywhere in Idaho,” he said. “I’m meeting a lot of new people and having a tremendous opportunity to learn.”
The seed for the effort germinated at a staff meeting last fall. “I said to staff, ‘Well, why don’t we have a town meeting in every town in Idaho?’” he recalled. Staffers quickly checked and determined there were some 200 incorporated towns in the state. He’s hit more than half now, but he’s also held meetings in some unincorporated towns.
“We give an hour to each meeting,” Crapo said, and he sometimes holds as many as half a dozen in a day. On Tuesday, for example, he hit Filer, Hollister, Castleford, Buhl, Hagerman and Bliss, which marked his 115th town meeting in the series.
Today, Crapo had five town meetings scheduled, but three had to be canceled – in Homedale, Marsing and Murphy – due to the fast-growing Soda fire, which has forced evacuations in the area. All will be rescheduled, his office said. He’s holding one in New Plymouth this afternoon, and was in Middleton this morning.
Crapo, a Republican who is seeking a fourth six-year term in the Senate, has no announced opposition. His communications director, Lindsay Nothern, said the town meetings have largely been exchanges about issues, with most questions about national issues and the senator’s take, but others focusing on local issues, like refugee resettlement issues raised earlier this week in the Magic Valley. “People are generally receptive,” Nothern said. “There’s disagreement in the room, but also a lot of give and take that’s really sincere.”
Some wondered if Crapo would seek a fourth term after an uncharacteristic drunken driving arrest in December of 2012; he’s long been known as a teetotaler and his Mormon faith forbids drinking. Crapo apologized after the arrest, pleaded guilty, said he’d been wrong to begin drinking occasionally to relieve stress and had sworn off alcohol. The incident, now nearly three years in the past, appears to have blown over; no one’s asked about it at the town meetings. Nothern, who’s attended “just about all of ‘em,” said, “It has never come up.”
As wildfire costs continue to rise, Crapo, Wyden, Risch say it’s time to change how firefighting is funded
Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo, along with Sen. Jim Risch and Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, visited the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise today to hear the latest, troubling news about this year’s difficult fire season, and speak out for legislation Crapo and Wyden have introduced in Congress to change how wildfire suppression is funded. Under the bill, once fire suppression costs in any year exceed 70 percent of the 10-year average, they'd be covered from a wildfire disaster account separate from the Forest Service and Interior budgets, tapping the same funding sources FEMA taps for hurricanes, floods and other national disasters.
The idea is to eliminate so-called “fire borrowing,” in which, when firefighting costs rise above budgeted levels, land-management agencies like the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management have to dip into all their other programs – including those aimed at preventing future fires. The result is more and worse fires, and ever-climbing costs. “This problem just gets worse and worse,” Wyden said.
Will Whelan of the Nature Conservancy, who joined the three senators at NIFC today to tout the legislation, said in 1995, the Forest Service spent 16 percent of its budget on fire suppression. Today, it’s 52 percent, and in 10 years it’s projected to rise to 67 percent. “That means that annually, over time, the agency will be shifting $700 million from programs that support recreation, wildlife, water quality, forest jobs, to fire suppression,” Whelan said. “This has an impact on real people and real places. … Everybody who depends on the national forests needs to care about the broken system for fighting fires.”
Whelan said no other federal agencies are required to bear the costs of natural disasters from within their regular operating budgets.
Risch said, “This is not a partisan issue. This is an issue that those of us who live out west have wrestled with for a long, long time.” With wildfires, he said, “Every year is different. The cost of these can really wreak havoc on the budget in a given year.” The bill, he said, “Will take this and put it where it belongs, and that is with all other types of disaster spending.”
Wyden said he’s hoping to push hard for the bill when Congress reconvenes in September. “The entire federal budget is on the table,” he said. “We are well positioned.” In the closing days before the August congressional recess, 11 western senators submitted a statement to the Congressional Record pledging strong support for the bill. They included Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.; Energy & Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington; and more. “This is the time,” Wyden said.
“It’s an emergency,” Crapo said. “In this Congress, virtually every spending issue is coming to a head in September. Because of that, it’s the time we’ve got to get this spending issue into the mix and resolved with all the rest of it.”
Crapo noted that both the White House and the Congressional Budget Office have now scored the bill, S. 235 in the Senate and HR 167 in the House, as revenue-neutral, saying it wouldn’t create any increase in federal spending. “We’re going to have to fight these fires anyway,” Crapo said. “What our bill allows us to do is to utilize the emergency funding that Congress already has and has appropriated, to fight those emergency disaster fires.”
The bill, the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, has 16 Senate cosponsors from both parties and support from 250 organizations; an identical version in the House, sponsored by Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson, has 124 co-sponsors from both parties, including lead co-sponsor Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore.
Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo is flush with campaign cash as he seeks a fourth six-year term, with more than $4.2 million in the bank and a record fundraising haul in the past quarter that eclipsed any reporting period since he was first elected to the Senate in 1998. “It is a privilege to serve the people of this great state and very humbling to see the tremendous support we have received,” Crapo said in a statement. “I have always put Idaho first and will continue fighting in Washington, D.C. for our conservative values.”
But the folks filling Crapo’s campaign coffers for the record fundraising quarter largely weren’t from Idaho – only 8 percent of the money he raised came from individuals in Idaho. Just over half came from PACs, with financial services and insurance interests dominating, and 84% of his individual donations came from out-of-state residents, many of them in the financial services industry.
Crapo got almost as much from Arkansas residents as from Idaho residents, because 19 top executives of a single privately held investment bank in Little Rock all donated generously. The senator serves on the Banking and Finance committees.
“The banking committee is a highly sought-after committee for a variety of reasons, many of which have to do with access to major donors,” said Boise State University political scientist emeritus Jim Weatherby. He said it should matter to citizens who funds their lawmakers’ campaigns. “It raises the questions about who the member of Congress is representing – the special interests and lobbies in Washington, or the residents of the state of Idaho,” he said.
Among the PACs that gave Crapo maximum $10,000 donations were the American Bankers Association PAC; Consumer Bankers Association PAC; American Institute of CPAs AICPA; TIAA-CREF PAC, Liberty Mutual Insurance PAC; LPL Financial Corp. PAC; Investment Company Institute PAC; Metlife Inc. PAC; and MORPAC, the Mortgage Bankers Association PAC. You can read my full story here from Saturday’s Spokesman-Review.
In response to my requests for comment, Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch issued a five-paragraph statement today about the declaration of a “judicial emergency” in Idaho by the federal court system yesterday due to the lack of a replacement for U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge, who took senior status July 3, leaving Idaho with just one federal district judge. “This is an appropriate designation and all of us involved in the selection process are well aware of the urgency,” the two senators said. Here is their full statement:
“In response to your inquiry: since Judge Lodge announced retirement we have aggressively pursued his replacement following the clear pathway set out in the constitution which mandates that the president shall nominate and appoint federal judgeships with the advice and consent of the Senate. This is a three step process: the Senate advises, the President nominates and appoints, and the Senate consents or withholds its consent. We take this clear constitutional mandate most seriously.
We are well into the process which started early on when we met with White House counsel and developed understandings of each party’s goals in filling this important lifetime appointment. All agreed the search would be to find the best person to serve Idaho who was acceptable to the three persons who must agree to the choice, namely the president and the two of us. We would note that the initial meeting was cordial, respectful, cooperative and productive. Those circumstances have only improved during our several meetings, discussions and negotiations as we have pursued our common goal of filling this important vacancy. We want to stress that we have nothing but high praise for the people we are dealing with at the White House and we are confident that we will reach an appropriate conclusion.
Due to its importance all parties are taking the time necessary to reach the best conclusion. Many people asked us to consider them and we have been doing so. That type of vetting does take time.
With Judge Lodge’s move to senior status, Idaho joins 27 other federal judicial districts which have been declared by the Judicial Conference of US Courts to have a judicial emergency. This is an appropriate designation and all of us involved in the selection process are well aware of the urgency. This underscores what the current Idaho congressional delegation and several predecessor Idaho delegations have been pressing for years and that is a third U.S. District Judge for Idaho. The caseload in Idaho per judge demonstrates such a need. Due to the precarious financial condition of the country (2 billion dollars borrowed per day) Congress is not doing much in the way of expanding current programs and thus the difficulty of adding a third judge.
Thank you for your inquiry. We will continue to pursue the process as quickly and efficiently as possible but with appropriated deliberation and circumspection to see that all applicants receive due consideration and the result is the best for Idaho. When the process is complete we will of course advise publicly.”
Law prof: Delay in replacing federal judge not fair to Lodge, bad for system; says senators at fault
A law professor at the University of Richmond who watches federal judicial appointments says U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge gave plenty of notice that he planned to take senior status on July 3 – he announced it last Sept. 24. Carl Tobias, Williams Professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, said Idaho’s two GOP senators are at fault for taking so long to recommend possible replacements to the White House, resulting in today’s declaration of a judicial emergency in Idaho, which now has only one full-time federal district judge.
“Judge Lodge is really well respected and he gave them plenty of time, and they just frittered it away, they didn’t take advantage of it,” Tobias said. “If they’d moved quickly when he announced and formed a committee or whatever the vetting process was, we wouldn’t be where we are now. That’s the proper way to do it. Judge Lodge isn’t the one at fault. He gave plenty of notice.”
Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch began interviewing potential nominees over the winter, and reportedly have just recently submitted four names to the White House for consideration, but they’re not commenting. They’ve said all along they planned a secret process in which only they would review the potential nominees.
“If they want to wait for 2017 for some Republican president to appoint, I think it’ll get ugly,” Tobias said. “I think at some point the Idaho Bar is going to get up on its hind legs and say, ‘This has got to stop.’ … It’s not fair to people who are litigating cases and companies that are litigating cases in federal court.” The civil docket will suffer the most, he said, because criminal cases take precedent.
Idaho has no senior district judges other than Lodge, because all of its past ones have died; the last one, Judge Harold Ryan, died in 1995. The only other alternative for handling the court’s caseload, Tobias said, is bringing in judges from other jurisdictions, which parties typically don’t like. “You’d rather have your own judges,” he said. “And you can’t run a court very long in that way.”
At this point, Tobias said, if the senators and the White House were to agree on a nominee, there still would be many months of delay ahead. “It takes three to five months after submission of a name to the White House for a name to come out, because you need the FBI check, you need the ABA evaluation,” along with other steps, he said. “The quickest I’ve seen that move is like maybe two months.” And the Senate’s August recess is looming. “The senators could move it,” he said. “They could work with the White House and get somebody people could agree on and then push the leadership in the Senate because of the extreme situation.”
“I think the pressure will really build with the emergency vacancy and the lawyers in the state not being able to get trial dates,” Tobias said. “It’s not good for the courts, it’s not good for the people who need to get their cases resolved, not good for the lawyers, not good for judges.”
Plus, he said, the situation is unfair to Lodge, 81. “It means he doesn’t get senior status,” Tobias said. “The whole point of senior status is to get a half-load and bring on new blood and help refresh the court. … He’s such a devoted public servant, I’m sure he’ll just bear up and continue to do it. But that’s just not fair to him or for the system, really.”
Federal courts declare ‘judicial emergency’ in Idaho due to lack of second district judge appointment
The nation’s federal courts have declared a “judicial emergency” in Idaho due to the vacancy in one of the state’s two U.S. district judge positions, created when U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge took senior status on July 3 – and no replacement has been named. It’s one of 28 judicial emergencies currently in effect across the nation; it was declared today by the Judicial Conference of the U.S. Courts. Because Idaho has only two federal district judges, Lodge’s move leaves it with just one, Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Lodge hasn’t gone far since taking senior status – he’s now presiding over the six-week terrorism trial of Fazliddin Kurbanov, which began with jury selection yesterday in Boise and has opening arguments scheduled to start today. But his move to senior status suggests a decreasing caseload, shifting the burden to Winmill and visiting judges from other jurisdictions; Idaho currently has no other senior judges.
Idaho is one of just three states with only two U.S. district judges; it hasn’t gotten an additional judgeship in 60 years, though its caseloads have soared. Last fall, Idaho GOP Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch announced they’d be screening potential candidates for Lodge’s seat to recommend to the White House for possible appointment. Their process has been entirely secret, and they’ve refused to comment on its status, though it’s been widely rumored in Idaho’s legal community that they’ve now submitted four names to the president for consideration. Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, who is among the state’s highest-ranking elected officials who is of the same party as President Barack Obama, has confirmed he’s submitted three names of his own to the White House. The White House press office, contacted last week, had no comment on the pending appointment.
Federal district judges are lifetime appointees; they are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
With Idaho now down to just one U.S. district judge, Bieter has submitted three names to White House, senators remain mum
Five days after U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge took senior status on July 3, there’s still no word on a possible replacement. But rumor has it that Idaho GOP Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch have submitted four names for consideration to the White House, and separately, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter’s office confirms that Bieter has submitted three names for consideration.
The replacement judge will be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Crapo and Risch have been conducting a secret screening process for possible nominees to recommend, and have said little about it. Today, Lindsay Nothern, Crapo’s press secretary, said in an email, “The process is proceeding properly, but we are not at liberty to release details at this point.”
Bieter’s office had no comment beyond confirming that he had submitted three names; as the mayor of the state’s largest city, he’s among Idaho’s highest-ranking elected officials who is of the same party as the president, a Democrat, who will select the nominee.
The process is being closely watched in Idaho, in part because Idaho is one of just three states with only two full-time U.S. district judges; now, with Lodge’s retirement, it has just one, Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill. The state hasn’t gotten an additional judgeship in 60 years, though its caseloads have soared. Just last year, Crapo and Risch introduced legislation calling for a third judgeship for Idaho, but it hasn’t passed. At that time, Risch said, “It is unfair that Idaho is at such a great disadvantage compared to other states of our size. A third judgeship would help in the administration of efficient and effective justice in our state.”
Idaho also is the only state in the 9th Circuit that’s never had a woman U.S. district judge, and one of just two in the nation. When word spread around the state in April that Crapo and Risch had interviewed only four men for the post, the resulting outcry prompted the two to break their silence with a statement, in which they said, “Men and women, sitting judges and attorneys, are being interviewed. The process is ongoing.” They also repeated that they intend their process to be entirely confidential, and that the two senators, both attorneys, were reviewing the potential nominee recommendations personally.
An inquiry today to the White House press office hasn’t yet brought any response.
The last time Idaho got a new federal district judge, in 1995, then-Sens. Larry Craig and Dirk Kempthorne, both Republicans, convened a bipartisan commission, including five Democrats and four Republicans, to vet 38 candidates and make recommendations on a new federal judge. It included Idaho attorneys from both parties, a former U.S. Attorney for Idaho, and the chairs of the House and Senate judiciary committees. The three finalists were then-state 6th District Judge B. Lynn Winmill; Idaho Attorney General Larry EchoHawk; and U.S. Magistrate Judge Larry Boyle of Boise.
Winmill was the commission’s unanimous choice; he was nominated by then-President Bill Clinton and confirmed in late 1995 amid praise from both Craig and Kempthorne.
All four members of Idaho’s all-GOP congressional delegation have now issued statements on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in King v. Burwell, which upheld the tax credit subsidies for consumers who buy their health insurance on the federal insurance exchange in states that didn’t set up state exchanges; Idaho has a state exchange, so wasn’t affected by the case. Here are their statements:
1st District Rep. Raul Labrador:
“I am stunned that the Supreme Court expanded the power of the executive branch to rewrite law it doesn’t like. Not only does this decision prop up a failed policy, it enshrines the principle that the president can trump Congress. One of my first votes as your congressman was to repeal this massive government takeover of our nation’s health care. The challenge now before Congress is to unequivocally repeal Obamacare and replace it with patient-centered, market-based care. The president’s misguided policy has limited access and increased health care costs. It’s our job to expand access to quality care and restore incentives for innovations that improve and save lives.”
Sen. Mike Crapo:
“Today’s ruling is disappointing and in no way validates the President’s health care law as some are claiming. The court did not rule on the merits of Obamacare, but, rather, on a one-sentence provision in a 2,700-page ill-advised law. Obamacare is broken—plain and simple. Millions of Americans, including thousands of Idahoans, have been pushed from their preferred health plans and doctors and continue to see their premiums rise. In some cases, by as much as fifty percent in just two years—contrary to the President’s many oft-repeated promises. Though this particular window of what many have viewed as an opportunity to swiftly replace the law with reforms may be closed, I will continue to work with my colleagues to push for nothing short of a full repeal of Obamacare. Only when we address the real drivers of the cost of health care in this country and put in place market-oriented solutions, such as allowing states flexibility to regulate the insurance market and prioritizing the doctor-patient relationship over federal mandates, will Americans have access to the truly affordable, quality health care they want and deserve.”
2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson:
“While the Supreme Court made their ruling, it doesn’t change the fact that Obamacare is severely flawed. The House acted earlier this week to roll back two of the most onerous provisions of the Act. My colleagues and I will continue to look for ways to protect Americans from the harmful consequences and focus on finding patient driven solutions to healthcare.”
Sen. Jim Risch:
“I am disappointed but not particularly surprised by the Supreme Court’s ruling. Because of the disaster that Obamacare has visited on most Americans, we have worked to try to repeal it and replace it with a system that is patient- and provider-driven, provides substantially more patient choice and is substantially less expensive than Obamacare. Since it is obvious that Obamacare is going to need at least substantial change, and more appropriately, full replacement, we will continue to pursue that over the next 574 days.”
Fulcher said in a statement, “For America to survive and prosper, there must be leadership in Washington, D.C. to eliminate debt, thwart terrorism, advance the free market, protect the traditional American family, and establish energy independence through wise localized resource management. I support Sen. Mike Crapo because he is one leader that agrees, and he acts accordingly.” More here. Betsy Russell, EOB
Former state Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, who ran unsuccessfully against Gov. Butch Otter in the GOP primary last year as Otter sought his third term as governor, has endorsed GOP U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo for re-election. Fulcher said in a statement, “For America to survive and prosper, there must be leadership in Washington, D.C. to eliminate debt, thwart terrorism, advance the free market, protect the traditional American family, and establish energy independence through wise localized resource management. I support Sen. Mike Crapo because he is one leader that agrees, and he acts accordingly.”
Crapo, in a campaign news release, said, “I’m truly grateful for Russ’s support. Russ knows how critical it is that our national government recognize and follow the sound, time-tested conservative principles by which the people of Idaho expect to be governed.”
Fulcher mounted his challenge against Otter from the right, reaching out to tea party factions within the Idaho GOP. He drew 43.6 percent of the primary vote to Otter’s 51.4 percent, with two fringe candidates, Harley Brown and Walter Bayes, trailing with 3.3 and 1.8 percent respectively. Otter went on to win with 53.5 percent of the vote in the general election.
This seems to be “Say Nice Things About Mike Crapo day” at the Idaho GOP summer meeting in Idaho Falls, reports Melissa Davlin of Idaho Public TV. Davlin reports from Idaho Falls that Crapo, the luncheon speaker today, received a friendly welcome from the party faithful, a warm introduction from fellow Sen. Jim Risch and an all-out endorsement from 1st District Congressman Raul Labrador.
Labrador took the stage before Crapo, Davlin reports, and moved to shut down rumors that apparently have been rampant in D.C. that he’d challenge Crapo in the 2015 GOP primary. “There’s no way I would treat a gentleman like that in that way,” Labrador declared. “He’s a good, decent man.”
After Risch’s equally positive introduction, Crapo quipped, “I didn’t realize this was going to be Say Nice Things About Mike Crapo Day.”
Crapo’s remarks focused on criticisms of federal regulations and their effect on the economy, and concerns about data collection by the NSA. You can read Davlin’s full post here at her Idaho Reports blog.
Here’s an interesting contrast: While Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch pursue a secret process to name a recommended replacement for longtime U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge, who will take senior status July 3, a much different and more open process is under way to replace the retiring state Court of Appeals Judge Karen Lansing.
The Idaho Judicial Council issued a notice and call for applications to be received by March 4, and on March 10, published the names of 12 applicants on its website, including state district and magistrate judges, prosecutors, and attorneys from around the state, and solicited comments on the applicants from all members of Idaho’s state bar.
On May 19, 10 of those candidates were interviewed by the Judicial Council. And on May 20, four names were forwarded to Gov. Butch Otter: Dennis Benjamin, a Boise attorney; Molly J. Huskey, a 3rd District judge and former state appellate public defender; Christine M. Salmi, a Boise attorney; and Jayme B. Sullivan, a magistrate judge in Nampa.
Otter will select the new Court of Appeals judge from among those four finalists, who include three women and one man. Lansing, who is retiring June 30 after 22 years on the bench, is currently the only woman serving on either Idaho’s Court of Appeals or its Supreme Court. After her retirement, she will continue to serve the courts part-time as a senior judge.
I reported on April 27 on Risch and Crapo’s secret process for naming a replacement for Lodge; at the time, multiple sources said just four candidates had been interviewed, all of them men, though at least five prominent female Idaho attorneys had applied. Idaho is the only state in the federal 9th Circuit that has never had a woman judge on the U.S. District Court bench; it’s one of just two in the nation. After my article appeared, Risch and Crapo issued a statement saying that both “men and women” were being interviewed and that the process was “ongoing.” “We want a confidential process,” the two senators said in their statement. The word is that now at least two women have been interviewed, but I've received no confirmation of that as yet from the senators.
Idaho GOP Sen. Mike Crapo announced today that he’ll run for re-election in 2016, seeking a fourth six-year term in the Senate. Crapo named Gov. Butch Otter, Sen. Jim Risch and Reps. Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador as his campaign co-chairs. In a statement from Washington, D.C., Crapo said, “It’s an honor to have the support of these tremendous Idaho leaders who I have worked closely with over the years as we have served the people of Idaho and together fought for conservative values and policies.”
There had been some speculation that Crapo might not run again, after his DUI arrest in December of 2012, to which he pleaded guilty and apologized. Crapo had long been known as a teetotaler due to his strict Mormon faith; the arrest shocked his supporters. He told police he had consumed several shots of vodka before going for a drive; he later told reporters he had been drinking vodka with tonic water at his apartment, then went for a drive to “try to wind down.” He was arrested after making a U-turn at a red light; he registered a 0.11 blood-alcohol level at the scene and a higher 0.14 level in a test taken later at the jail. He was sentenced to a $250 fine, a suspended 180-day jail sentence, an alcohol awareness program and a one-year license suspension.
Crapo, 63, also is a survivor of prostate cancer, for which he’s been treated twice during his Senate career. A Harvard-educated lawyer, Brigham Young University graduate and Idaho Falls native, he served eight years in the state Senate, including serving as Senate president pro-tem, and three terms in Congress before winning his first U.S. Senate term in 1998.
In a rarity, Crapo was unopposed but for a write-in candidate when he won his second term in 2004; he won his third term in 2010 with 71.2 percent of the vote. Crapo has a campaign website up here, but doesn't yet have a campaign office. According to Federal Election Commission records, Crapo had $3.7 million in cash in his campaign warchest as of March 31. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Bipartisan panel picked Idaho’s last federal judge; Otter reluctant on transferring IEN out of Admin Dept.
With all the questions being raised about the secret selection process Idaho Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo are using to vet candidates for the state’s next U.S. District judge, it’s worth looking at how Idaho did it the last time around; I do so in my Sunday column, noting that Idaho last got a new federal district judge in 1995. The late U.S. District Judge Harold Ryan, who had served since 1981, took senior status on Dec. 30, 1992, and died of cancer on April 10, 1995.
Then-Rep. Larry LaRocco, the only member of Idaho’s congressional delegation who was of the same party as Democratic President Bill Clinton, proposed the nomination of Lewiston attorney John Tait. In August 1994, Clinton nominated Tait, but the nomination languished, with opposition from then-GOP Sens. Larry Craig and Dirk Kempthorne. Tait was one of 45 Clinton judicial nominees who weren’t confirmed by the Senate during Clinton’s presidency.
After LaRocco lost his re-election bid in 1994 to Republican Helen Chenoweth, Craig and Kempthorne got the Clinton administration to withdraw the nomination and turned instead to a bipartisan nominee review commission the two had set up under guidelines of the American Judicature Society. The nine-member panel, which included five Democrats and four Republicans, in recognition that the appointment would be made by a Democratic president, considered 38 applicants, narrowed the field to six, then circulated the names of three finalists: then-state 6th District Judge B. Lynn Winmill; Idaho Attorney General Larry EchoHawk, and U.S. Magistrate Larry Boyle of Boise. Winmill ended up as the unanimous choice of the commission, and drew support from all sides, despite clear Democratic credentials.
You can read my full Sunday column here. It also includes Gov. Butch Otter’s explanation of why he allowed the budget bill for the state Department of Administration – the final bill he acted on from this year’s regular legislative session – to become law without his signature. Otter went along only reluctantly with moving the defunct Idaho Education Network school broadband serve out of the department, he said.
Here’s a link to my full story at spokesman.com on how Idaho Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo issued a statement today saying they're interviewing both "men and women" for a U.S. District Judge opening, and that the process is "ongoing," but not saying whether or not they've actually interviewed any women, or anything else about their secret selection process.
Idaho is the only district in the 9th Circuit, and one of just two in the nation, with no female federal district judge. Crapo said in his statement, “We both have legal backgrounds and are vetting the candidates appropriately to make the best recommendation for Idaho.”
But other lawyers and experts said input from current practitioners in Idaho would benefit the process – and would more closely match not only the process that 20 states including Washington now follow, but the way Idaho handled its last selection of a federal district judge.
Interestingly, the joint statement I posted a few minutes ago from Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo on federal judicial selection was the one I received from Risch’s office; the one I’ve received from Crapo’s office is slightly different. Here’s the statement sent out from Crapo’s office:
“Several news outlets have inquired about the selection of a U.S. District Judge for Idaho. We want a confidential process and applicants have also requested a confidential process, so we are honoring that request. Men and women, sitting judges and attorneys, are being interviewed. The process is ongoing. The White House will make the final selection with the Senate confirming the nomination. We both have legal backgrounds and are vetting the candidates appropriately to make the best recommendation for Idaho.”
There are two differences between the two versions of the statement. After saying both the two senators and the applicants want a confidential process, Crapo’s adds, “so we are honoring that request.” And Crapo's adds the final sentence, “We both have legal backgrounds and are vetting the candidates appropriately to make the best recommendation for Idaho.”
Both Crapo and Risch are attorneys.
The last time Idaho got a new federal district judge, here’s how the selection process worked: The late U.S. District Judge Harold Ryan, who had served since 1981, took senior status on Dec. 30, 1992, and died of cancer on April 10, 1995. Then-Rep. Larry LaRocco, the only member of Idaho’s congressional delegation who was of the same party as Democratic President Bill Clinton, proposed the nomination of Lewiston attorney John Tait. In August of 1994, Clinton nominated Tait, but the nomination languished, with opposition from then-GOP Sens. Larry Craig and Dirk Kempthorne. Tait was one of 45 Clinton judicial nominees who weren’t confirmed by the Senate during Clinton’s presidency.
After LaRocco lost his re-election bid in 1995, Craig and Kempthorne got the Clinton Administration to withdraw the nomination, and turned instead to a bipartisan nominee review commission the two had set up under guidelines of the American Judicature Society. The nine-member panel, which included five Democrats and four Republicans, in recognition that the appointment would be made by a Democratic president, considered 38 applicants, narrowed the field to six, then circulated the names of three finalists: Then-state 6th District Judge B. Lynn Winmill; Idaho Attorney General Larry EchoHawk, and U.S. Magistrate Larry Boyle of Boise.
Craig told the Senate that the panel was “an extremely well-qualified and respected bipartisan commission,” which included a retired chief justice of the Idaho Supreme Court; a former U.S. Attorney; senior members of the bar from both parties; current members of the Idaho Judicial Council; and the chairs of the judiciary committees in the Idaho House and Senate.
“It was the unanimous decision of the commission that Judge B. Lynn Winmill is extremely well qualified for the position,” Craig told the Senate. Winmill’s selection was hailed by all sides, though his background as a Democrat was unquestioned – he was a former county Democratic Party chairman before he became a judge. Craig called him a “long-needed federal judge who is exceptionally well-qualified, honest, hard-working and a community leader,” and told senators, “Although he has an unquestionable Democratic credential, the Republican governor of Idaho also sends his full and unqualified support for this judge.” That was then-Gov. Phil Batt.
Kempthorne called Winmill “an outstanding nominee,” and told the Senate, “Judge Winmill is a judge Idaho and the nation need.” By the time Winmill was confirmed by the Senate in August of 1995, the judgeship had been vacant for two and a half years.
Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, who have repeatedly declined to comment on the secret selection process they now have under way for a successor to U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge, who is taking senior status on July 3, have just issued this statement:
“Several news outlets have inquired about the selection of a U.S. District Judge for Idaho. We want a confidential process and applicants have also requested a confidential process. Men and women, sitting judges and attorneys, are being interviewed. The process is ongoing. The White House will make the final selection with the Senate voting on confirmation of the nomination.”
The Spokesman-Review reported on Tuesday that while Crapo and Risch wouldn't comment, multiple sources say four finalists have been interviewed for the position - all men - while at least five prominent female Idaho attorneys, including the current U.S. Attorney for Idaho and a current U.S. magistrate judge - say they've applied but not been interviewed. Idaho is the only district in the 9th Circuit, and one of just two in the nation, with no female district judge. After the article appeared, I again requested information from Sen. Crapo's office about the selection process, including whether additional finalists have been interviewed, how many applications have been received, and why the senators chose a secret process, in contrast to Idaho's last federal judicial selection process in 1996. This is the first response I've received.
Idaho senators’ secret selection process for new federal judge raises questions, no women interviewed
Idaho is the only state in the 9th Circuit that’s never had a woman U.S. district judge, and members of Idaho’s legal community say a secretive selection process that Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch have launched to find a replacement for U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge appears to be ignoring female candidates. “We are extremely concerned,” said Peg Dougherty, co-chair of the Judicial Recruitment Committee for Idaho Women Lawyers. Multiple sources say the two senators have interviewed just four candidates – all males. Lodge announced last September that he will take senior status on July 3.
“Are the senators even aware that Idaho is the only state without a woman on the federal court bench at the district level?” Dougherty asked. “If they are aware, do they care?” Neither Crapo nor Risch would comment. “The judgeship application process is entirely confidential and remains ongoing,” said Risch’s press secretary, Suzanne Wrasse. “The senators are working through their confidential process,” said Crapo’s press secretary, Lindsay Nothern. “That’s all I have.”
At least five prominent female Idaho attorneys, including at least one sitting judge and two high-ranking prosecutors, have applied for the position, but not been interviewed, or even heard back from the senators for months. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Chobani, which operates one of the world’s largest yogurt factories in Twin Falls, is welcoming news that Greek-style yogurt has now been approved for school lunch menus nationwide starting this fall, the Twin Falls Times-News reports. Robert Post, Chobani’s senior director of nutrition and regulatory affairs, told Times-News reporter Nathan Brown he was “thrilled.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees school lunch programs nationwide, started a pilot program offering Greek yogurt as a protein option in the 2013-2014 school year in four states, including Idaho and New York, Chobani’s headquarters, Brown writes; eight more states were added for 2014-2015. Now, based on a positive response from those 12 states, which ordered more than 700,000 pounds of Greek yogurt in 2014-2015, the agency is making the option available nationwide. You can read Brown’s full report here.
Members of Idaho’s congressional delegation were among those urging the USDA to make the pilot project permanent. “It is now obvious the proof was in the yogurt,” Crapo told the Times-News. “We appreciate that Chobani was able to successfully demonstrate the quality of their product.” Chobani already is providing the yogurt for seven of the states that are part of the pilot.
Crapo, Risch join 92-8 vote in Senate to pass same Secure Rural Schools bill that divided Simpson and Labrador
Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch both joined the majority in a 92-8 vote in the Senate last night to pass H.R. 2, legislation to permanently take care of the “doc fix” Congress has annually been passing on Medicare reimbursement rates, and also provide a two-year extension to the Secure Rural Schools program, which provides millions in payments to rural, timber-dependent Idaho counties for roads and schools. It’s the same bill that earlier overwhelmingly passed the House, but kicked off an open war of words between Idaho 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson, who proudly supported the bill and joined the majority, and Idaho 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador, who voted “no” and blasted Simpson not only for supporting the bill, but also for everything from his integrity to his personal habits.
Labrador maintained he supported the SRS extension and it would have passed as a stand-alone bill, but opposed the “doc fix” legislation as too costly.
Here’s what Crapo and Risch said about the bill in a joint statement:
“For decades, Congress has struggled over two competing issues that are part of this legislation: repealing the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, and meaningfully and fully addressing our national debt. The bill contains needed entitlement reforms and protections of our rural communities. Conservatives have long lobbied for this much-needed entitlement reform. But there is legitimate concern that the bill is not fully offset.
“One of our overriding concerns has been that the bill was not fully paid for. In the ensuing weeks since the House passed the legislation, commitments have been made regarding reductions in the upcoming Senate-House budget conference to reduce the budgeted spending to account for the need to fully offset this bill. Although this does not adopt the necessary offsets immediately, it does establish in our federal budget the recognition that our work on this legislation is not done. We must assure that this legislation does not add to our mounting national debt.
“This bill contained needed adjustments and reforms to our Medicare system and protections for our rural communities in states with high federal property ownership. We voted in favor of this bill tonight and give our commitment to work until the necessary spending offsets to be incorporated into our federal budget are realized so that Congress follows through on both: entitlement reform and federal spending reduction.”
You can read their full news release here.
Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo has been named chief deputy majority whip in the Senate for its upcoming session, a position similar to one he held in the last Congress, except that this time, his Republican Party is in the majority. Crapo said in a statement that he welcomes the chance to take the leadership role in the majority, which involves wrangling votes on legislation and serving as a liaison between leadership and rank-and-file members. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who is majority whip, said, “I’m grateful to have a strong team of friends and colleagues working with me as Republicans get the Senate back to work and address the top priorities of the American people.” You can read Crapo’s full announcement here.
It’s the sixth time in 12 years that this has happened, but somehow it still sounds funny: Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo has been selected for the prestigious post of chairman of the Committee on Committees for the Senate Republicans. That’s the panel that’s in charge of committee assignments for the upcoming Congress; Crapo’s been selected for the once-every-two-years post five times before. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said, “Mike is a trusted advisor and has the respect of his colleagues. He has a proven track record and the entire Republican conference is honored to have him once again leading our negotiations on committee assignments.”
The U.S. Senate has voted 78-22 in favor of President Obama's plan for the U.S. military to train and equip Syrian rebels for a war against Islamic state militants. Like yesterday's 273-156 House vote, support for the president's plan was bipartisan - but both Idaho's senators voted no, as did both of Idaho's congressmen yesterday. Idaho Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo issued these statements on their votes:
“I have real reservations about choosing from over 200 different ethnic and religious groups within Syria and arming those that are labeled ‘moderate’ by some in our government. I am not convinced there is a group of ‘moderate’ rebels in Syria. There is no easy choice here, but President Obama has not laid out a clear strategy, instead the strategy I have seen is not in my opinion destined to succeed, but drag us further into the mire. I want to support a winning strategy, but I cannot support his $500 million proposal without a better plan.”
“ISIS poses a very real threat to the United States and our national security. The President’s announced action leaves many questions for the American people and Congress. Unless the Administration provides more details about a comprehensive strategy, I cannot support it.”
Click below for a full report from the AP in Washington, D.C.
Firefighting costs continue to eat into Forest Service management budget, while disaster funding bill languishes…
A new report out today from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that costs allocated to fighting wildfires have grown from 16 percent of the U.S. Forest Service’s overall budget in 1995 to 42 percent today. “This has led to substantial cuts in other areas of the Forest Service budget, including efforts to keep forests healthy, reduce fire risk, and strengthen local economies,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement today as he released the report.
Those percentage figures don’t include so-called “fire borrowing,” he noted, in which the Forest Service borrows from other areas of its budget once it’s used up its allocated amount for firefighting but blazes are still going. Vilsack renewed his request to Congress to allow an existing disaster funds to cover firefighting costs in years when they exceed allocated amounts.
A year ago, Idaho GOP Sen. Mike Crapo and Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, along with Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, gathered at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise to kick off a push to end the borrowing and instead tap disaster funds when firefighting costs balloon over allocated amounts. Their bipartisan legislation had been picking up support in both houses – Idaho GOP Rep. Mike Simpson is among the House sponsors, along with Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Oregon – but paradoxically suffered a setback earlier this year after President Barack Obama not only endorsed it but included it in his budget.
“That spurred some folks to be cautious about it,” said Lindsay Nothern, Crapo’s press secretary. “Honestly, it’s been kind of bottled up. It’s been affected by politics.” The House version of the bill has 131 co-sponsors, including Idaho 1st District GOP Rep. Raul Labrador. The Senate version has 18 co-sponsors including Risch.
In the House, “Some folks are concerned about changing the spending matrix, primarily Paul Ryan, head of the budget committee,” Nothern said. “We did go out and get a CBO report that showed it is budget neutral, because we already spend disaster money on disasters such as this.”
He added, “There is support for it among leadership in both the Senate and the House, on both sides of the aisle.” But on its first attempt at passage, Nothern said, the proposal got lumped in with other issues including the president’s border proposal, and it didn’t pass. “We are hoping for a stand-alone bill, and then the only opposition we have is Ryan.” He said backers of the measure are hoping they can persuade Ryan to drop his opposition by showing it won’t spend new money.
Vilsack strongly agreed. “Bipartisan proposals to fund catastrophic fire like other natural disasters could help ensure that efforts to make forests more healthy and resilient and support local tourism economies aren’t impacted as significantly as they have been in recent years,” the secretary said. “These proposals don’t increase the deficit, they just budget smarter by allowing existing natural disaster funding to be used in cases of catastrophic wildfires.”
Nothern said there’s a slim chance the bill could be brought up in the September session, but it’s more likely that it won’t get considered until the “lame-duck” session that follows the November election. He’s confident, though, that it will pass. “It’s a question of when,” Nothern said. “We’re out of money again this year. It shows the need to do this.”
The new USDA report shows that staffing for managing national Forest Service lands has dropped by 35 percent since 1998, while fire staffing has increased 110 percent. Even before fire borrowing is taken into account, funding to support recreation has dropped 13 percent; funding for wildlife and fisheries habitat management is down 17 percent; and research funding is down by more than $36 million. Funding for maintenance and capital improvements has been cut by two-thirds since 2001, showing the impact of the shift of resources to wildfire suppression. The full report is online here.
LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo says he will seek re-election in 2016. In making the announcement Friday in Lewiston, the 63-year-old Republican says he's committed to resolving a number of critical issues to the country. The Lewiston Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/XqzcMO ) that Crapo was elected to the Senate in 1998 to succeed Sen. Dirk Kempthorne. He is serving the fourth year of his third term and is ranked 39th in seniority in the Senate. A member of the minority party in the Senate, Crapo is the ranking member of the Senate's Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, and serves on the Budget and Environment, Public Works, Indian Affairs and Finance committees. There had been speculation by some political observers that Crapo would retire from the Senate after his current term.
- Mike Crapo
Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo says he will seek re-election in 2016. In making the announcement Friday in Lewiston, the 63-year-old Republican says he's committed to resolving a number of critical issues to the country. The Lewiston Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/XqzcMO ) that Crapo was elected to the Senate in 1998 to succeed Sen. Dirk Kempthorne. He is serving the fourth year of his third term and is ranked 39th in seniority in the Senate. A member of the minority party in the Senate, Crapo is the ranking member of the Senate's Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, and serves on the Budget and Environment, Public Works, Indian Affairs and Finance committees. There had been speculation by some political observers that Crapo would retire from the Senate after his current term.
The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly confirmed Salvador Mendoza Jr. for the federal district court in Eastern Washington.
Mendoza is currently a Benton and Franklin County Superior Court judge. The son of migrant farm workers, he will be the first Latino federal judge for the Washington's Eastern District.
The nomination first survived a filibuster attempt when the Senate voted 55-37 to cut off debate through a cloture vote. He was then approved on a 92-4 vote, with Washington Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell voting yes after both spoke strongly in favor of his appointment. Idaho Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch provided half of the no votes against the appointment.
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.