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Carlson: More like Simpson

Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Second District Congressman Mike Simpson continues to make a case to be Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives some day. He believes in solving problems and making government work. We need more like him.

He recently spoke candidly to the Idaho Conservation Leagues’ annual retreat at Redfish Lake. What he said was a breath of fresh air to those who are beginning to wonder if either political party will figure out that real solutions to the nation’s challenges will require compromise and bipartisanship.

Simpson not only figured it out a long-time ago, he has taken steps to form a working coalition of like-minded Republicans and Democrats. His frustration is that outside of the “Gang of Six” in the Senate he sees little else that gives any hope that the Senate, which has failed to pass a budget for three straight years, will be of similar mind.

In what some would consider heresy, Simpson repeated his endorsement of the castor oil but comprehensive approach worked out by the Erskine Bowles/Allan Simpson Commission. It arrived at a combination of entitlement reform, spending cuts and revenue enhancements that would be a path forward out of the debt wilderness would folks, including the President who formed the Commission, get behind it.

Asked about the unholy hold “take the no taxes pledge or else” Grover Norquist seems to have over most Republicans, Simpson said he’d signed the oath once and had refused to do since. He pointed out the illogic of closing loopholes and supporting tax reform being translated into further tax increases by Norquist.

A line that brought applause was a statement that he no longer signed any pledges or requests by any interest groups, that the only oath or pledge any member should take is the oath of office that pledges to defend the Constitution.

Other statements by Simpson included:

* 40 of the 87 freshman members of Congress had held no prior elected office. Simpson was strongly implying these were the ideologues that think compromise is a dirty word.

* Solutions to challenges facing the nation had always been and would of necessity always have to be bipartisan solutions and that reasonable compromise was essential to good legislating.

* 90 percent of legislation passed by Congress has to do with governance and usually reflects bipartisan votes while only 10% deals with divisive social issues that are matters of principle to advocates. Unfortunately some members infuse every vote as a matter of principle instead of good governance.

Asked about whether Governor Andrus who spoke earlier on the need to use an Antiquities Act declaration by the President to get Simpson’s carefully crafted compromise wilderness legislation moving, was not correct given a hold on the Senate side by Senator Risch, Simpson said he was not ready to give up on a legislative solution.

Simpson opined that there could be several vehicles utilized as the session ended. He bluntly said despite senatorial courtesy that allowed one senator to stand in the way, he didn’t think in the final analysis Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada cared one bit what Jim Risch thought. Simpson was clearly saying Risch would be overridden and his hold tossed aside.

He did allow there was a possibility that if all else failed, and especially if President Obama were defeated in November, the Antiquities Act might be invoked. He pointed out correctly that the Act tends to be utilized most by presidents as they leave office.

He predicted one way or the other the Boulder/White Clouds would get the additional protection it merits.

Asked whether he shared Governor Andrus’ concern about INL seeking to change the 1995 agreement with the Dept of Energy and the Navy signed by Governor Phil Batt Simpson stated the agreement had to be modified simply because DoE was not going to be able to meet the deadlines contained in the agreement.

While extolling the contributions of INL Simpson did make it clear he did not support INL ever becoming the nation’s nuclear repository. His sense of what’s realistic told him though that a compromise had to be reached between the State and the Federal government.

There’s that word again. Agree with him or not, like his candor or not, he clearly works for solutions and understands people are elected to high office to solve problems not pass them along to future generations.

Candidly, that’s the kind of mentality the public needs in a Speaker rather than the confrontational approach by current Speaker John Boehner who appears hell bent on repeating the crisis of self-fulfilling prophecy that a refusal to increase the debt ceiling always becomes.

This is one writer who hopes he can again address Simpson as “Mr. Speaker.”

CHRIS CARLSON is a former journalist who served as press secretary to Gov. Cecil Andrus. He lives at Medimont.

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