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Labrador, Simpson split on USA Freedom Act, which extends, revises Patriot Act

The U.S. House has passed HR 2048, the USA Freedom Act, on a 338-88 vote, with Idaho’s members splitting – 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson voted with the majority in favor, and 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador voted in the minority against the bill. The measure, which extends many parts of the 2001 USA Patriot Act, also ends the mass collection of Americans’ phone data, which backers touted as its biggest selling point. But Labrador said it didn’t go far enough, particularly after a 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling last week ruled the mass collection illegal.

“While supporters of HR 2048 claimed that it made necessary reforms to protect privacy and security, the changes did not sufficiently protect Americans’ civil liberties,” Labrador said in a statement. “I offered amendments to strengthen civil liberties protections in the Judiciary Committee, but they were rejected. Later, the Rules Committee refused to consider these amendments on the House floor. Ultimately, I could not support the bill in its current form. Now, I urge my colleagues in the Senate to continue fighting for privacy rights and national security when they take up the bill in the coming days.”

The bill faces an uncertain fate in the Senate; a version of it passed the House last year, but was rejected by the Senate. The National Security Agency’s authority to obtain phone metadata, which was granted by Section 215 of the Patriot Act, expires with the rest of the act on June 1 if Congress doesn’t extend it. HR 2048 specifies that telephone companies would keep the data, rather than turning it over, unless they receive a court order naming a specific person or account. It also lifts some of the secrecy around NSA requests. The Patriot Act was last renewed in 2011, when President Barack Obama signed the extension bill just before the act was to expire at midnight.

Labrador, Luker and deleted emails

: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — U.S. Republican Congressman Raul Labrador involved himself in the fallout of failed Idaho legislation that would have brought the state into compliance with federal child support rules and an international treaty. Labrador says he doesn't have a position on the issue. However, the tea party-favorite told The Associated Press that he reviewed an April 12 editorial sent out by a key lawmaker after the vote. State Rep. Lynn Luker of Boise says Labrador offered suggestions and edits to his opinion piece via email. Luker turned over more than 700 pages of emails and other documents to the AP in response to a records request, but the emails between Luker and Labrador were not included. Luker says he had deleted those emails because they were sent from a private account. The editorial defended the decision by Luker and eight other lawmakers to kill the bill, arguing that the federal government was bullying Idaho.


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.

Labrador, Simpson clash, criticize each other

Idaho GOP Congressman Raul Labrador is sharply criticizing fellow Idaho GOP Congressman Mike Simpson, after Simpson said a congressman would “have to look long and hard to find a reason to vote no” on legislation that passed the House late last week to reauthorize the Secure Rural Schools program, which was tucked into a larger bill on Medicare payments. Simpson voted for the measure; timber-dependent Idaho counties receive millions under the SRS program. Labrador voted no.

“Mike Simpson has been part of the establishment in Washington D.C. for 12 years,” Labrador told Boise State Public Radio in an interview. “He loves to go out drinking and smoking with the Speaker [John Boehner]. He loves to have these relationships where it’s all about making false promises to his constituents and then going back there to Washington D.C. to compromise.”

You can read an Associated Press account of the clash between the two Idaho Republicans online here; and find the full Boise State Public Radio report online here, including audio from the interview. Labrador told the radio station SRS reauthorization would have passed on its own later. “There was never any danger of this legislation not passing,” he said.

"We're different kinds of politicians," Labrador said. "I will not lie to my constituents.” Simpson’s communications director, Nikki Wallace, told the radio station in a statement, “This isn't the first time Congressman Labrador has uttered this nonsense and I'm sure it won't be the last."

Labrador votes against Secure Rural Schools funding

Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador cast one of just 37 “no” votes in the House this week on a measure that included funding for reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools program, which provides millions to rural, timber-dependent Idaho counties for schools and roads. The bill passed, 392-37; Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson was among its backers. “This kind of bill represents exactly what the American people want to see out of their elected representatives,” Simpson said in a statement. “They want us to fix problems, not shout across the aisle and point fingers.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Labrador statement welcomes Obama to state, says he ‘could benefit from listening to Idahoans’

Idaho GOP Rep. Raul Labrador has issued a statement welcoming President Obama to Boise, saying he thinks the president “could benefit from listening to Idahoans.” Here’s his full statement:

“I welcome President Obama to our great state today. I wish him well as he speaks this afternoon at Boise State University, where his 2008 campaign rally was a memorable event for Idaho Democrats. After last night’s State of the Union, I think the president could benefit from listening to Idahoans. He would do well to reflect on how the venue where he speaks today, the Caven-Williams Sports Complex, was built.  He could reflect on the journey of two Idaho families, and many others, who worked hard, played by the rules, became successful and generously shared their success with our community. Idaho families work hard and value individual responsibility. Idaho businesses are built on innovation and self-reliance. Idaho governments balance their budgets. During his short visit, I hope the president absorbs some Idaho common sense.”

Labrador sent out a tweet at 11:54 a.m. today saying, “Welcome to Idaho @BarackObama, home of hard work, self-reliance and balanced budgets”

An unusual split in NW delegation

When congressional votes are close, they usually break down on partisan lines with Republicans in Washington and Idaho voting one way and Democrats the other.

Not the case with yesterday's House vote on the omnibus spending bill, technically known as the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers voted yes, along with other Republicans from Washington, but Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, voted no.

That put Labrador, one of the House's more prominent tea party conservatives, on the same side as Washington Democrats, including Seattle's Rep. Jim McDermott, who regularly ranks up there with the House's most liberal. But not all liberal Ds voted no; for example Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is also the head of the Democratic National Committee, voted yes.

As might be expected, McMorris Rodgers, Labrador and McDermott all had different things to say about the "Cromnibus" as it is being called.To see their different takes, continue inside the blog.

Why Labrador voted ‘present’

When the U.S. House voted 219-197 late last week to disapprove of President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration, Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador didn’t vote “yes.” He didn’t vote “no” either. Instead, Labrador voted “present,” mystifying the folks back home.

A request for comment to his office Friday yielded a referral today to this Roll Call article, which reports that three of Obama’s biggest GOP critics in the House – Labrador, Rep. Steve King of Iowa and Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona – all voted “present,” because they were sending a message. The message: While liking the substance of the measure, they thought it was a sop to them, a move, Roll Call reported, “brought to the floor only to pacify lawmakers like themselves, who don’t want to vote to fund the government past Dec. 11, when current federal spending expires, unless it includes a policy rider explicitly defunding the immigration policy changes.”

“I believe in the principle; I also want to make sure this isn’t a cover,” Gosar told Roll Call. Labrador said, “The language is OK, but as a standalone bill, it was a meaningless action.”

Link to Labrador campaign donations page removed from Idaho’s state website

An article on the website Daily Kos today charges that Idaho’s official state website is being improperly used to drum up donations to GOP Rep. Raul Labrador. The article notes that a list of links to news for various government officials, including Idaho’s congressional delegation, links to their official page of press releases – except for Labrador’s, which links to his campaign site. The page that pops up has a prominent red button saying, “DONATE TODAY.”

Jon Hanian, press secretary for Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, when informed of the link by a reporter this morning, said, “I would imagine it’s probably just a mistake,” but clicking on the link on his computer, he said, “That’s definitely a campaign site.” Hanian immediately contacted the state Department of Administration, and within less than half an hour, the link had been corrected; it now goes to Labrador’s press release site.

“We made a mistake,” said Bill Farnsworth, manager of the Access Idaho contract for the Department of Administration. “We have thousands and thousands of links, obviously, on the state home page.” The congressional delegation doesn’t send the links to the state for posting, he said; contractors search out the links. “Obviously it’s not the right one,” he said. “Obviously it shouldn’t be there. I’ve been going through the rest of the links out there, making sure they’re all the right links.”

Farnsworth initially estimated it’d take an hour to correct the link; just a few minutes later, he called back to say it’s been fixed. Farnsworth, who’s been managing the project since 1999, said he can’t remember a mistaken link to a campaign site before. “Normally what happens is we have broken links – one of the people changes their URL,” he said. “We have made a mistake, and I wish I could say that I’ll never make another mistake.” He encouraged anyone who sees a broken link or another problem on the state website to contact the department.

Farnsworth said he didn’t know how long the incorrect link was up on the state’s website; it appears to have been active for at least the past six months.

Labrador suggests GOP should cut off all hearings on appointments in response to president’s immigration action

Idaho GOP Rep. Raul Labrador, in an interview airing now on NPR, says he thinks the president’s planned executive action on immigration is illegal, and while shying away from talk of impeachment, had these suggestions on how congressional Republicans might respond:

“Well one of the things, I think, is Mitch McConnell should say first thing tomorrow morning that he will not allow any appointments that this administration has made. So there will be no hearings on the new attorney general, there will be no hearing on judges, there will be no hearing on anything this president wants and that he needs. I think that would be one action that we can take immediately.”

“I think we can look at funding, different agencies, different things, we could look at that. We can do something procedural. We can ask the president to have a comment a period before something like this major change happens. I think we can do that through asking for an administrative procedures act, put that in some sort of funding bill. That would have nothing to do with funding, that wouldn't shut down the government.”

You can see, and hear, the full interview online here.

Labrador’s Idaho County shooting range bill passes the House

Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador's bill to transfer 31 acres in the Riggins area from federal to Idaho County ownership for a shooting range passed the House late Tuesday on a voice vote. To become law, it still needs Senate passage and the president's signature; click below for Labrador's full news release on the bill's passage. Labrador, who said the federal Bureau of Land Management backs the move, said, “Given the broad support, I’m hoping the Senate will move quickly to pass this bill.” It's the third Labrador bill to pass the House.

Labrador calls for ban on commercial travel from West Africa, Ringo says that’s ‘bordering on panic’

Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador is calling for a ban on commercial travel from West Africa, a call his Democratic challenger, state Rep. Shirley Ringo, criticized as “bordering on panic.” S-R reporter Jim Camden writes that Labrador, in his weekly newsletter late last week, said, “Halting travel will help contain the disease, dispel fear among Americans and give the government and health care providers time to take additional steps to prevent any further spread of the (Ebola) virus.”

Labrador went further than Washington GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers, Camden noted, who is calling for the Obama administration to consider “immediate travel restrictions” from Liberia and other countries with the Ebola outrbreak, with a temporary ban on visas to people in areas most affected by the virus. Her Democratic challenger, Joe Pakootas, also disagreed with her position, saying the decision should be left to medical professionals.

Ringo said she thought the United States was “a long way” from considering travel restrictions, and said she doubted such restrictions would work for practical reasons, as people travel by indirect routes.  It makes more sense to stress protocols that identify people who might be ill and deal with them, she said. “Congressman Labrador’s suggestion really borders on panic.” You can read Camden’s full report here at his “Spin Control” blog.

GOP incumbents want Ebola travel restrictions, challengers say no

Republican House members from the Inland Northwest say the United States should consider travel restrictions for West African countries to guard against the spread of Ebola, but their Democratic challengers say that’s the wrong course of action. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to continue inside the blog.


Candidates clash in congressional debate…

A combative Rep. Raul Labrador has interjected repeatedly in tonight’s KTVB debate to give his view of Democratic challenger Shirley Ringo’s positions. He said she supports a single-payer system for health care, like those in Canada or Europe. She said she doesn’t. He said it was on her website; a check of her “Health Care and Retirement Security” issues page shows mention of a “public insurance option” but not a single-payer system.

Labrador interjected again after Ringo was quizzed on what she’d cut and whether she’d raise taxes to reduce the national debt – she said she might support some increased taxes on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans, but would prefer a combination of measures including closing tax loopholes.

“Her answer was yes she will raise taxes, and no there’s nothing she would want to cut,” Labrador said. “She doesn’t think that spending in Washington, D.C. is a problem. … She thinks that the way to grow the economy is actually to spend more money.”

Ringo responded, “I keep having my answers defined by the congressman here. And I did not say that I would not make any cuts. There may be some that are appropriate. But I wouldn’t make cuts just indiscriminately no matter where or who it would hurt.”

On immigration reform:

Labrador said the American people are clamoring for piece-by-piece immigration reform that focuses first on border security, rather than the comprehensive, bipartisan bill that passed the Senate. “If we pass the Senate bill today, what we will have is an amnesty today. … That was exactly what was wrong when Reagan passed his amnesty, is that they promised enforcement later, and we never got the enforcement,” he said.

Ringo responded, “The bill that the Senate brought forward did have a path to citizenship, which shouldn’t be considered amnesty.” She said she’s visited with many in Idaho’s Latino community who support the Senate bill.

On war against the Islamic State, or ISIL:

“I think we can only declare war on nations, on groups, but not on an ideology,” Labrador said. “If ISIL is a threat to the United States, then we need to declare war on them.” And if so, he said, we should go in with “full force.”

Ringo said she’d oppose “boots on the ground." “If ISIL gets more purchase in Iraq or anyplace else I think we need to make sure we have all the intelligence we need, and that we do give those folks the support that they need, but I would not send people, no,” she said. “These things, eventually they become our war. And too often … once we leave the whole situation disintegrates.”

How to judge the effectiveness of a member of Congress…

Asked how people should judge the effectiveness of a member of Congress, 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador said during tonight’s KTVB debate, “I think the most effective way that we can judge a member of Congress is whether he or she has kept the promises that they have made. I made certain promises to the people of my district when I was running for Congress.” He said those includes reducing federal spending. “The debt today is less than it was, or it’s grown at a lower rate than it was when I went to Washington, D.C.,” Labrador said. “The deficit is half of what it was. … The unemployment rate is lower. … So sometimes we judge people by the bills that they pass, but the reality as a legislator, some of the most important work that you do is the bills that you stop.”

State Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, Labrador’s Democratic challenger, said, “I think that the effectiveness of a congressperson depends on two or three main things. One would be how well we define the needs of the nation and Idahoans, how well we engage with our constituents, if a constituent comes back to visit with us I think that we should make ourselves available as much as possible and be able to interact with them and hear their concerns. We need to be able to work with everybody there, and we don’t accomplish that when we’re always accusing the other side of doing things that are not productive.”

1st CD candidates go up against ‘The Voice’

Moderator Dee Sarton opened the 1st Congressional District debate tonight at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa with a quote from a listener, who sent in this message: “So sad primetime line-up is being interrupted for the same-old, it’s someone else’s fault campaign crud.” Sarton urged the two candidates, Congressman Raul Labrador and Democratic challenger Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, to keep that viewer in mind as they delivered their opening comments – and try to persuade voters not to switch to the 24/7 cable channel for the regularly scheduled program, “The Voice.”

“I know The Voice is important - my family loves it and my family loves watching the show,” Labrador said mid-way through his opening statement.

Labrador, Ringo outline starkly differing positions in debate

Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador and his Democratic challenger, Shirley Ringo, outlined starkly differing positions on issues ranging from same-sex marriage to taxes and spending, as the two faced off in a debate on Idaho Public Television tonight. Labrador, a Republican who is seeking a third term in the district that represents North Idaho, said Idahoans voted in favor of banning same-sex marriage in 2006. “We have to look first at the Constitution. There’s nothing in the Constitution about gay marriage, there’s nothing in the Constitution about traditional marriage,” he said. “So you need to decide whether that’s something that courts should be deciding, or the people should be deciding.”

Ringo, a longtime state representative from Moscow and a retired math teacher, said, “We certainly can’t put ourselves in a situation where the vote of the people overrides the Constitution.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Labrador, Ringo face off on statewide TV tonight

Idaho 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador, who is seeking a third term, will face off with Democratic challenger Shirley Ringo tonight on Idaho Public Television as part of the "Idaho Debates." The debate starts at 7 p.m. Labrador is an immigration lawyer, former two-term Idaho state lawmaker and tea party favorite; Ringo is a longtime Democratic state representative from Moscow and a retired math teacher. After it airs, the debate will be available to view online at Idaho Public TV. The Idaho Debates are co-sponsored by the Idaho Press Club and the League of Women Voters of Idaho.

Rep. Labrador: ‘Marriage is an issue that should be decided by the states’

1st Congressional District GOP Rep. Raul Labrador, in response to the 9th Circuit ruling against Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage, said, "Marriage is an issue that should be decided by the states. Marriage should not be redefined by unelected judges who continue to trump the will of the people of the various states." Click below for his full statement.

Labrador faces challenge from Ringo as he seeks third House term

In his two terms in the House, Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador says he’s been pushing big ideas like immigration and sentencing reform and has become the “go-to” person on immigration issues among House Republicans. Nothing Labrador’s sponsored has become law, but a couple of his measures on other issues – extending grazing leases, easing regulations on geothermal test wells, and authorizing community forest management projects on federal land – have passed the House once or even twice. Among the 291 bills he’s co-sponsored, the largest number by far were to repeal all or part of the national health care reform law.

“That’s been the issue that has been most pressing in Congress,” Labrador said. He noted that his community forest project bill and his grazing bill both passed the House this year. “If you look at the record, that’s pretty good in the House,” he said. “As you know, not a lot of things are passing. To actually have two bills pass is actually a positive thing.”

Labrador’s Democratic challenger, state Rep. Shirley Ringo of Moscow, doesn’t think Labrador’s record amounts to much.

As an immigration lawyer who made immigration reform a top issue when he ran for office, “One would think he could provide all kinds of leadership, but he’s been there for four years,” she said. “I don’t believe that he has much to show for it.” You can read my full story here from Sunday's Spokesman-Review; Labrador is facing off with Ringo in his bid for a third term.

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.

EOB: Labrador: At least I tried to fix it

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.” Betsy Russell, EOB Read more.


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.”