Just what we need in 2020, a disputed presidential election that pushed an already-angry nation to the brink of frustration in the days after the election. And with legal challenges mounting, it’s far from being settled.
Joe Biden is the president-elect, winning the electoral and popular votes, yet President Trump and his team of lawyers will claim that the election was stolen. And there is no shortage of Idahoans who will agree that the election was rigged in favor of the former vice president. Hundreds of Trump supporters gathered in Boise for a “stop the steal” rally moments after Biden was declared the winner.
Just when you thought nothing else could possibly go wrong in 2020 …
But while Election Day presented mass confusion, there was some clarity on the congressional side. Democrats will retain its majority in the House of Representatives and chances are reasonably good that Republicans will hold onto the Senate. So, brace yourselves for more partisan fights between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Mitch McConnell – two tired old faces who look as though they should be spending their time playing dominos at a senior center instead of managing congressional gridlock.
Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, fresh from winning election to a 12th term, would like to see some attitudes change in Washington – starting with less partisanship.
“If you are talking about what the public wants, then yeah. The public would like to see us do our jobs in a less partisan way,” Simpson says. “There are extremes on both sides. The Democratic Party has pulled Speaker Pelosi and its conference so far to the left that it is almost unrecognizable. It’s the same thing that happened to Republicans several years ago when the tea party became very active. They pulled Republicans so far to the right that it made it difficult for us to win elections. We need to get back to working together. That’s how you get things done. Anything that has been passed and sustained has been done on a bipartisan basis.”
Simpson has expertise in that area. He has championed the Great American Outdoors Act and the Boulder White Clouds bill that produced new wilderness areas for Idaho – two tough measures for any Republican to tackle. His next big venture could be salmon recovery, an issue that has long separated Republicans and Democrats. Simpson would be a lead player in finding a middle ground, the kind of role he relishes.
He is a senior member of Appropriations, one of the least partisan committees on Capitol Hill. Priorities vary, depending on party control, but minority wishes are not ignored.
“We work pretty well across the board,” Simpson says. “It broke down the last session when we had drafted all our bills and were ready to put them through to the full committee. Speaker Pelosi came in and added hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending in each bill and never told Republicans. But that was the speaker directing it, and not members of the committee. Hopefully, it gets back to more of a bipartisan effort.”
Simpson’s immediate plans include working with administration officials for continued growth at the Idaho National Laboratory and the Interior secretary to ensure that the outdoors act is implemented as intended. On those issues, it doesn’t matter who is sitting in the Oval Office.
It’s tough to feel good about things politically, given the nation’s unsettled climate. But in talking with Simpson, maybe there is a ray of hope.
“I am optimistic regardless of who is president,” he said. “It’s obvious that the country is divided and it’s reflected in Congress. In spite of that, the American people want us to work together. Hopefully, the leadership will allow us to work together – not as Republicans and Democrats, but as representatives of this country trying to solve problems.”
Those are good thoughts, for sure. Now, all that’s needed is to convince Pelosi and McConnell to leave politics and take up dominos.
Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org