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Carlson: Welcoming Simpson

Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Idaho’s Second District congressman, Republican Representative Mike Simpson, is visiting northern Idaho over the next few days and people of all political persuasions ought welcome him.

On April 28 the seven-term House of Representatives member had planned to tour Shoshone County to observe why so many residents are justifiably concerned about the Environmental Protection Agency’s $1.2 billion, 100-year Phase II clean-up plan. Residents wanted him to see firsthand the excessive intrusion of federal bureaucrats, who in their zeal to eradicate the last small increment of historical pollution, are threatening the ability of the region’s rebounding mining industry to survive.

Out of deference to the family of the miner killed in the accident at Mullan’s Lucky Friday Mine he understandably postponed that portion of his north Idaho visit.

The visit of the former Blackfoot dentist and Speaker of the Idaho House is important because he now chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee which oversees the purse strings for the Department of the Interior and for the Environmental Protection Agency.

From that position alone, he exerts influence, already signaling to EPA that there is a new sheriff in town who will stand up to an agency that many believe is out of control and oblivious to the damage it does to legitimate businesses, small and large.

Many consider Simpson to be the single-most effective member of the House this state ever sent to Washington because he knows how to get things done legislatively, knows he is elected to solve problems, and knows that compromise is not a dirty word.

He is a fiscal conservative, but not an ideologue who believes it is his way or the highway. He is not someone who votes “no” simply to take a blindly stupid stand to create a temporary headline somewhere.

He is what the late Arizona congressman, Mo Udall, would have called a workhorse, not a showhorse. The two of them would have gotten along well because just as Udall worked well with the late Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona for their constituents, so Simpson works well with Democrats.

Exhibit A is the pain-staking, 10-year process to come up with a compromise that will provide Idaho’s majestic White Clouds and Boulder Mountains with the wilderness designation they merit. In leading the effort, Simpson gained respect from environmentalists and conservatives alike for the even-handed way in which he worked with all interest groups to devise balanced solutions.

When President Barack Obama uses the Antiquities Act to declare the area a national monument, it won’t be because of any failure on Simpson’s part. Idahoans should lay blame for the far more restrictive designation squarely at the feet of Idaho’s junior senator, Jim Risch, who, showing little respect for the years of work by his Republican colleague, has kowtowed to one narrow, unsatisfied interest group and placed a hold on Simpson’s legislation.

Exhibit B is the recently passed budget bill containing a modest $38 billion down payment to curb spending and begin reducing the national deficit effort by cutting funds from this year’s spending plan. In a pure showmanship, Simpson’s colleagues made a grand stand of voting no, saying the cut wasn’t enough.

It was especially disappointing to see the opposition of Senator Mike Crapo, who is a member of the Senate “Gang of Six,” the bi-partisan group of three Democratic and three Republican senators gallantly struggling to reach a true compromise on deficit reduction that includes changes in the sacrosanct entitlement programs.

It had to gall the hell out of Simpson. He used legislative skill to work with Democratic Senator Jon Tester, a Montana rancher/farmer, to attach language to the bill that successfully delisted wolves from the endangered species list and returned management to the state fish and game agencies of Idaho and Montana.

This was a significant victory and Simpson had every right to expect his colleagues to be there, but they weren’t.

Simpson also defends a judicious and more transparent earmarking process that is so anathema to the nay-say Tea Party types of the world. He’s the only member of Idaho’s congressional delegation to vote for the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan (often called CHIPS) because, as a dentist, he recognized that taking care of children’s teeth is a classic saver of taxpayer money in the long run.

In short, Mike Simpson is the kind of effective legislator all too rare in Congress. Some believe he may one day be speaker of the U.S, House. He’s truly that good.

It should surprise no one he is a key member of House Speaker John Boehner’s core of advisors. He stays sane by driving golf balls a country mile and is a fine painter of water colors. Idahoans should be proud to have him represent the state. Join me in welcoming Mike Simpson to the north country.

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