JEERS ... to U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho.
Six months into his tenure as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he continues to disappoint.
This time, it involves the Trump administration’s intent to rush an $8.1 billion arms sales package to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
It’s provoking a bipartisan congressional revolt — with good reason.
Using American offensive weapons, Saudi and UAE coalition forces have targeted civilians in Yemen’s civil war.
American intelligence services have concluded Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi on Oct. 2 after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
And the administration has bypassed the 1976 Arms Export Control Act — a law that requires the White House to notify Congress of proposed arms sales and allow it 30 days to sign off. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared an emergency to circumvent AECA, even though some of the weaponry won’t be ready for delivery for another year.
Next week, the Senate will take up 22 resolutions of disapproval. With at least three Republicans voting yes, the measures will pass.
As the Hill newspaper reported, however, the Idaho Republican has been mute when it comes to the resolutions of disapproval.
A comment at this time, he says, would not be “appropriate.”
Risch inherited the gavel once held by such giants as William Borah, R-Idaho, William Fulbright, D- Ark., Frank Church, D-Idaho, Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and even Bob Corker, R-Tenn. They would not be so accommodating in the face of this affront to congressional authority.
Would any of them call Risch’s behavior leadership?
If Risch is so eager to follow Trump now, when will he stop?
CHEERS ... to Idaho state Controller Brandon Woolf.
Last week, his upgraded Transparent.Idaho.gov went live, enabling 1.7 million Idahoans to, as Woolf put it, serve as their own state auditors.
Fifteen months in development, the program improves upon what had a static source of data by making it interactive.
Want to know who makes more than Gov. Brad Little’s $138,302 salary?
Answer: Almost 300, including 79 at Boise State University and 74 at the University of Idaho.
Curious to know how much spending on state prisons has grown in the past five years?
Answer: Today, running the prison system costs $240.9 million, up from $214.3 million.
How much does the state spend flying on Alaska Airlines?
Answer: About $45,000, led by the Department of Lands ($13,970) and the State Department of Education ($12,957).
How about McDonalds?
Answer: About $1,000 was spent at the fast-food restaurant. The most frequent state customer is the Correctional Industries, which paid $363.
All of this is at your fingertips. There’s no need to call anyone or file a public records request. And since everyone in state government knows these records are accessible, it keeps them on their toes.
CHEERS ... to Teresa Little, Idaho’s first lady.
Last week, she issued a newsletter promoting Idaho Public Television as a viewer and financial supporter.
“I highly encourage you to explore Idaho Public Television in all its dimensions,” Little wrote. “It will enhance your life and the lives of those you care about. It does ours.”
Little served on the Friends Board of Directors in the 1980s and participated in public TV’s on-air festival fundraising drives.
“The mission statement of Idaho Public Television is: ‘We harness the power of public media to encourage lifelong learning, connect our communities and enrich the lives of all Idahoans. We tell Idaho’s stories,’ ” she wrote. “Idaho PTV does this very well.”
While private donations provide about two-thirds of Idaho Public TV’s resources, it depends on the state for about 24 percent — which makes it a frequent political target.
Nine years ago, then-Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter sought to eliminate state support. A decade earlier, Republicans such as then-state Sen. Mel Richardson, R-Idaho Falls, wanted to privatize the operation.
So Little’s statement is a breath of fresh air.
Good for her.
CHEERS ... to Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot of Idaho Falls.
True to his word, he’s making life a little better for people who have been victimized by aggressive medical debt collectors.
As the Post Register’s Nathan Brown reported Thursday, the $500,000 legal fund VanderSloot established toward that end has taken on 102 cases.
They will have a lawyer present when debt collectors — primarily Medical Recovery Services — try to stick them with excessive legal fees.
VanderSloot took that step after East Idaho News, an online service he founded, reported about one of his employees whose $294 medical bill mushroomed into a $5,864 legal fee.
It’s rarely been a fair fight. Small medical debts escalate into huge legal fees because there’s nobody in court to counter a “default judgment.”
At the helm of this endeavor are two adamant opponents to expanding Medicaid to some 62,000 low-income Idaho adults:
l Bryan Smith, a former congressional candidate and the state Republican Party’s second vice chairman, represented the Idaho Freedom Foundation in its unsuccessful attempt to get the Medicaid expansion initiative declared unconstitutional.
l Rep. Bryan Zollinger, R-Idaho Falls, voted to repeal the initiative, saddle more individuals with more medical debt, impose obstacles in the path of people getting the Medicaid coverage voters provided for them and then tried to make certain voters never again have the opportunity to pass another initiative.
Of course, as more people can pay for their medical care, the tougher it gets for Smith and Zollinger to make a living.
Sounds like VanderSloot doesn’t intend to make it any easier for Smith and Zollinger, either. — M.T.