Jan 13 2013

The emerging split

Published by at 11:19 am under Idaho

Last week’s Idaho column was about the two sides that Idaho’s U.S. House Republicans – insurgent Raul Labrador and establishmentarian Mike Simpson – have taken in the new Congress. A piece in the Idaho Statesman (paywalled) today aggressively underlines that.

A split between the two has become direct and personal, Simpson calling Labrador “irresponsible” and more for his role not only in the fiscal cliff battle, but also for his decision to withhold his vote for John Boehner as speaker. That, he said, will hurt him down the road – severely damaging his credibility. Simpson added, “As anyone who’s ever been in a legislative body will tell you, you’ve got one thing going for you and that’s your credibility. And once you lose that credibility its gone and gone forever.”

Labrador shot back, calling Simpson a “bully” and “an old-school legislator who went to Washington, D.C., to compromise.”

In backing up his side, Simpson told a story about himself, one I saw unfold years ago, when he was in the Idaho House. Back in the early 80s when Simpson joined the Idaho House, he was known as an ideological hardliner, and he was considered well to the right of House Speaker Tom Boyd, with whom he was in leadership in the later 80s. In 1990 he ran against Boyd to oust him, and an in the caucus vote Boyd won.

Simpson recounted how, in the floor vote to formally elect a speaker, he joined the other Republicans in voting for Boyd. But there’s more to the story. In the following 1991 and 1992 sessions, Simpson didn’t sit back and sulk, and he didn’t trying to engineer an angry guerrilla war. Instead, in the sessions that followed he became a more productive legislator than he ever had been before, pushing through a batch of significant legislation, from a “Truth in Taxation” measure to legislation amending mandatory minimum sentencing laws, bills that crossed ideological lines and marked him as a serious legislator. The upshot was that when Boyd retired from the House in 1992, Simpson easily won the speakership. And eventually, put him in good position to run for Congress.

Labrador has taken, so far, a rather different route. We’ll see where it gets him.

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One Response to “The emerging split”

  1. fortboiseon 13 Jan 2013 at 7:52 pm

    The public nature of the disagreement is indeed curious. Simpson’s criticism is well-deserved, but he seems to be making the same mistake he’s criticizing Labrador for. It suggests Simpson’s indignation is genuine, and strong enough that it overcame his usual, quiet approach to this sort of thing.

    Labrador has quite a bit of “bully” himself; I suspect that charge is more self-indicting than an accurate assessment of Simpson’s behavior.

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