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When horses kick

carlson CHRIS


It was probably inevitable that a clash between Idaho’s Second District Congressman, Mike Simpson, and Idaho’s First District Congressman, Raul Labrador, would develop.

For the record of course and when with their senatorial colleagues they try to maintain the appearance of comity, that it is all one happy gang of Republicans working together for Idaho. Don’t be fooled, folks. There is growing evidence the two men hardly tolerate each other.

Last week’s not so subtle “tit for tat” columns revealed much even to the untrained observer. It’s not just the canyon-wide differences on political and policy matters. It is that their style is different, which reflects real differences in their approach to public service.

Mike Simpson is a true “work horse.” The veteran congressman believes he is there to solve problems which often means to compromise and even to work together with Democrats. Simpson has paid his dues. He has worked within the seniority system, paid attention to details, displayed respect for all members but especially the seniors.

Simpson is a good legislator. He learned his craft while a member of the Idaho House where he quickly rose to become the Speaker. In Congress he has become a confidant of House Speaker John Boehner and is considered to be a key member of the Speaker’s Leadership team.

He is also known as one of the “Cardinals,” the rare achievers who chair agency appropriation subcommittees. As such, Simpson has much to say about the tax dollars that go to the major cabinet agencies of Interior, Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Labrador comes across to veteran observers as a “show horse.” He is adept, almost gifted at attracting media coverage for himself. For a member only in his third term he has had an unusal number of appearances on television’s Sunday talk shows. He obviously likes publicity.

He is a darling of the Tea Party faction of the Party precisely because he is a young man in a hurry who has little use for protocal and traditional procedure. Two years ago he challenged his own Speaker because he and a large contingent of the Republican caucus are ideologues who prefer confrontation to compromise. Many of his Tea Party supporters applauded him. This January, when he voted for his Speaker, these same folks were angered.

Simpson and his staff were not pleased last year when Labrador did not endorse his Republican colleague. While he did not formally endorse Simpson’s challenger either, there were questions in the minds of some as to whether Labrador encouraged and even advised the challenger. Labrador denies having done anything to assist the challenger.

Labrador compounded his suspect behavior, however, by voting against the funding garnered by Simpson for the Idaho National Laboratory.

It came as no surprise then to see Labrador take a couple of not so subtle “potshots” in a column that ran in several Idaho dailies on March 9th. Labrador was part of a group of conservatives who sought to undue President Obama’s excutive orders on immigraion reform by tying up the budget for Homeland Security and making it a hostage. The goup not only threatened to cut off funding for Homeland Security, it threatened to once again stop all government spending except for Defense.

Labrador was critical of Boehner (and his leadership team) in compromising, saying he capitulated to the Democrats, and accusing the Speaker of weakening the Constitution. He ridiculed the so-called “adults’ of the Republican caucus. You can bet Simpson took every one of those shots personsally.

Within three days Simpson’s column with its not so subtle shots aimed obviously at Labrador appeared. Simpson excoriated those in the Republican caucus who practiced the politics of confrontation, who would use shutdown of an agency or the entire government as a tactic. He termed these types as obstructionits, pointing out that the Republicans had been given a chance to show America they could govern, but were fumbling it away.

He termed the Labrador types an “irresponsible, unrealistic, ineffective segment of the Republican Caucus . . . . .imposing a losing strategy . . . . with no credible policy proposals.” He was scathing in his criticism.

In particular his last paragraph was unmistakable in its target:

“My pro-shutdown colleagues are the same folks who pushed for immigration reform only to abandon the notion—leaving the American people on hold with a broken system, ineffective border, and an overreaching President looking for any excuse to write executive actions.”

When a spokesperson for Labrador was asked if the Simpson comments were aimed at them, the response was “ask Congressman Simpson.’ When a spokesperson for Simpson was asked if Labrador was their target, the response was “If the shoe fits, wear it.”

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