BOISE — Three days into the new administration, Idaho Congressman Russ Fulcher says he’s “troubled” by what he’s seeing from President Joe Biden.
Biden, a Democrat, was sworn into office as the nation’s 46th president Wednesday. Fulcher didn’t attend the inauguration in person, but watched remotely from D.C.
“Most (members of Congress) did,” he said. “We weren’t exactly told not to attend, but it was discouraged. It started off where I could bring up to 40 guests, but by the end it was members only, with one guest. You also had to have a COVID test within 48 hours (of the event).”
Fulcher represents Idaho’s 1st Congressional District, which covers the northern and western half of the state. Overall, he said he was impressed by the inauguration itself and thought Biden gave a good speech.
“He certainly said the right things; unity was the theme,” he said.
Since then, however, the president has issued a number of executive orders that “don’t reflect the values of Idaho.”
Of particular concern, Fulcher said, were the president’s executive orders canceling the Keystone XL pipeline permit and placing a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
U.S. energy policy under the Trump administration “was the single biggest factor in shifting the balance of power in America’s favor,” he said. “We became the world’s top energy producer, prices dropped and it took OPEC out of the game. Frankly, they’re our enemies, and we stopped sending money for oil to our enemies.”
Even before the coronavirus pandemic began, total U.S. oil imports had declined by 9 percent, and imports from the Middle East and other OPEC nations were down more than 50 percent, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Because of Biden’s executive orders, “OPEC nations are high-fiving right now,” Fulcher said.
He also has concerns about the executive orders halting construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall and reversing the aggressive enforcement and deportation of illegal immigrants that had previously been ordered by President Donald Trump.
“Illegal or not, (immigrants) are going to be consuming entitlements, and they’ll be voting,” Fulcher said. “The only reason Democrats want to open our borders is because they’re not growing (the party) by having better ideas. They’re growing the party by offering free stuff to people.”
Democrats currently hold a slim majority in the House and even slimmer majority in the Senate. However, Fulcher said the margin is narrow enough that it will be hard for them to “ram bills through” either chamber over the next two years.
“There were a lot of members in swing districts that won their election by 1 or 2 percent,” he said. “It will be harder for either party to lock them down.”
As long as they’re in the majority, Fulcher said, Democrats will set the agenda and control what bills come up for consideration and Republicans will be playing defense.
Nevertheless, he’s hoping to find enough common ground across the aisle to get some things done for Idaho.
“I’ve told my staff, we need to find Democrats who have legislation on the same or similar subject matters as I do,” Fulcher said. “I want to see what they have, and maybe we can insert some critical components from our bills into theirs. That’s one way to get things done.”
He’s also planning to start a task force looking at data security protocols. Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo sits on a similar task force in the Senate, but there isn’t a corresponding body in the House.
The focus, Fulcher said, would be to recommend national standards for data protocols on commercial transactions. For example, “when someone uses a credit card to buy from Amazon, who owns that information, how can it be exchanged and who gets to use it? That’s something that really needs to be addressed at the federal level, or we’re going to end up with 50 different approaches.”
Despite his disappointment over the executive orders, Fulcher said a highlight of the inauguration for him was having a chance to meet the 280 Idaho National Guard troops who helped provide security for the event.
“You want to get pumped up, go talk to them,” he said. “What a great group of people. You can’t be sad after that.”
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