All four members of Idaho’s congressional delegation last week voted for a spending bill that averted another government shutdown.
What’s new about that?
Quite a lot, actually.
Typically, most of the all-Republican Idaho delegation have been inclined to vote no and take the dough.
With the exception of 2nd District Congressman Mike Simpson — a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee — Idaho’s voice in Washington, D.C., typically has taken the safe course on must-pass budget bills.
It’s happened time after time.
After the shutdown of 2013, Simpson voted to reopen the government while then-Congressman Raul Labrador and Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, voted no.
The same pattern played out with budget bills in 2017 and 2018.
Nobody ever lost re-election playing that cynical game.
Voting against “wasteful” spending plays well with the ideological base.
Meanwhile the vast majority of Idahoans who rely upon the departments of Energy, Defense and Interior, farm programs, highway funding, rural school support, Payment in Lieu of Taxes as well as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid never know the difference.
Lawmakers from other states, such as Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., have joined Simpson in making the responsible votes.
What changed this year?
For starters, Labrador has left Congress and his replacement, Rep. Russ Fulcher, opted to work with Simpson.
That in and of itself is a stark contrast to the combative relationship between Labrador and his fellow Idaohan.
Both Simpson and Fulcher remained among a minority of 87 House Republicans who voted to keep the government open; 109 voted no. For Fulcher, that meant leaving behind Labrador’s allies in the House Freedom Caucus, such as Justin Amash of Michigan, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Steve King of Iowa and Mark Meadows of North Carolina.
A month ago, Fulcher inexplicably joined that same crowd in voting against a congressional statement of support for NATO.
But the country had sickened of President Donald Trump’s 35-day partial government shutdown and was in no mood to repeat the process. Persuading Trump to sign the bill no doubt was aided by a veto-proof majority in each House.
That was abundantly clear in the Senate where Crapo and Risch were part of an 83-16 vote majority.
Eleven Republicans — including Ted Cruz of Texas — joined Democratic presidential aspirants such as Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey in voting against the measure.
Whether this latest vote suggests an emerging pattern for Fulcher or merely an anomaly is uncertain. The package addressed Idaho priorities, such as money for wildfire suppression and PILT. But he grumbled about being confronted with an up or down choice on a massive budget package — which served as grounds for Labrador’s opposition in the past.
For now, give credit where credit is due. Fulcher’s vote promises a renewed cohesion among a delegation that is too small to tolerate intramural skirmishes. It suggests that while Fulcher is every bit the conservative Labrador was, he has a practical side.
All of which bodes well for his constituents. — M.T.