In a display that makes Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) downright statesmanlike and principled, Idaho Republican Sen. Jim Risch (yes, he exists) held up consideration of the omnibus spending bill for hours, refusing to give his consent to cut debate time short and hold the vote, over the most petty thing ever, a provision included in the House bill by his Republican colleague Rep. Mike Simpson renaming a recently-designated wilderness area. Despite Risch’s hissy fit, the bill did move and was passed early Friday morning, 65-32.
But back to Risch’s little tantrum. The provision he was so upset about was renaming the White Clouds Wilderness Area for former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus. Andrus worked most of his long career in Idaho and for the time he served as Interior Secretary under President Jimmy Carter to preserve the rugged and pristine swatch of Idaho’s interior. He worked in the last decade or so with Simpson, who worked tirelessly to get the designation through Congress and signed by President Obama in 2015.
Andrus died in August of last year, and Simpson wanted this tribute for him, as did everyone who cares about wilderness in Idaho. But Risch had been in the state legislature and in fact had regularly wrangled with Andrus, usually getting bested by him. Andrus summed him up well in 2008, when Risch—an at best nasty and acerbic personality—was trying to burnish his career for his Senate run.
Risch clashed with Democratic Gov. Cecil Andrus, particularly over education funding in the 1980s.
After Risch told a reporter he’d worked cooperatively with Andrus during his run for Senate this year, Andrus issued a blistering rebuttal.
“Worked against me is more like it,” the former four-term governor said. “Risch is one of the most partisan people I’ve ever had to deal with. During his time in legislative leadership, cooperation across the aisle and with the governor’s office reached a new low.”
And now Risch has confirmed this assessment from his would-be political rival. They never actually were rivals, because Risch has and could never achieve the stature of Andrus, the state’s only four-term governor. As it turns out, the provision renaming the wilderness area stays in the bill, though the Senate did pass an enrollment correction to the omnibus under unanimous consent, which the House may or may not consider at a later date to take it out. As of now, is going to be signed into law. That will be Andrus’s lasting legacy, while Risch’s will be this incredibly petty and mean little attempt to best a dead political giant.
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