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Eye On Boise

Idaho reaction to Risch’s anti-Andrus holdup of Senate budget vote: ‘An insult to the people of Idaho and the nation’

Here’s some of the reaction in Idaho today to Sen. Jim Risch’s move last night to try to strip out the renaming of the White Clouds Wilderness in Idaho for the late Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus – which delayed the Senate’s vote on the must-pass budget bill until after midnight, forcing some senators to be rousted from bed for the vote and throwing into disarray the travel plans of other senators who had official overseas congressional delegation trips scheduled to depart on Thursday night. A government shutdown hung in the balance if the bill didn’t pass by today; President Trump has now signed it into law, with the Andrus naming of the White Clouds intact:

Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise: “I am incensed by that. He knows the legacy of this man throughout the state of Idaho. He’s made a critical error in judgment. Even if he thought it, he shouldn’t have voiced it – and to hold up the budget? What an insult to the people of Idaho and the people of the nation.”

Boise Mayor David Bieter: “Governor Andrus’ mark upon this state is indelible and he served his country and Idaho with foresight, integrity and charm. It’s unfortunate that Senator Risch’s vision is too narrow to recognize Governor Andrus’ stature and contributions to our state. History will show which of them will be remembered as a great Idahoan and which will not.”

Gov. Butch Otter: “I’m not going to comment, because they were both great friends of mine, they were both great friends.” But he did note that Risch’s move, while partly successful in removing the naming from the Senate version of the budget bill, couldn’t fly without a sign-off from the House – where Idaho GOP Congressman Mike Simpson was the sponsor of the measure. “Simpson indicated he was pretty insistent that it was going to be in the bill,” Otter said.

House Speaker Scott Bedke: “I don’t know all the history between the two men. It’s a federal issue, not a state issue – I assume they’ll get it worked out.”

House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, who spoke out in the House yesterday afternoon to praise Simpson’s bipartisanship in sponsoring the naming bill: “My take on it is I pledge this: Twenty years from now, when Idaho’s longest consecutive serving governor comes up for some memorialization, whether it be a mountain or a building, I pledge never to block an appropriation because of a grudge.” Erpelding added, “Once again, we’ve made the national news, and we look silly because of a longstanding political feud that Risch nine times out of 10 ended up on the losing end. … His disparaging attempts on Andrus’ name are only frosting on a career that trashed our school system and left teachers underpaid and underfunded.”

Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, who was driving home to Rexburg today for his father’s funeral on Monday, said he hadn’t had a chance to read up on what happened. “I have no idea why he did it,” Hill said. “It sounds a little strange, but beyond that, I just can’t comment until I’ve studied it a little more.”

Though Rep. Mike Simpson was traveling today and couldn't be reached for comment, in mid-February, when his renaming bill cleared a House committee, he said in a statement: “Governor Andrus meant so much, to so many in Idaho. So do the White Clouds. It is only fitting that this iconic land in Idaho is forever tied to the man who dedicated his public service to protecting it.” Simpson worked for a decade and a half to get the Boulder-White Clouds wilderness designation bill through Congress; it passed last year, with Risch’s support. Simpson’s press secretary, Nikki Wallace, said today, “Congressman Simpson is truly pleased that his language to name the White Clouds after Gov. Andrus was signed into law today. Former Gov. Cecil Andrus is extremely deserving of such honor and distinction.”

A request to Risch’s office for comment has gone unanswered thus far. Here’s what Risch told reporters outside the Senate chamber early this morning who were covering the late vote on the bill: “What part of ‘No’ don’t you understand? Do I have a problem with my English? I don’t have any comment.”

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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