Idaho’s congressional delegation gets to work
The 116th U.S. Congress is officially under way, even amid the partial government shutdown that is casting a shadow on everything in the U.S.
Idaho’s four-member, all-Republican delegation, Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Reps. Mike Simpson and Russ Fulcher, had a busy week.
Idaho’s delegation sponsored or co-sponsored three pieces of legislation introduced this week that are specific to or of interest to Idaho.
Third federal judge: Idaho is one of only three states (with North Dakota and Vermont) with only two authorized district judge seats for the entire state. Idaho has been operating with just two since 1954, when the state’s population was 600,000. The current population is 1.7 million.
Since 2003, the Judicial Conference of the U.S. has consistently found Idaho to be facing a judicial emergency based on weighted caseload numbers per active judge, according to news releases from Idaho’s delegation.
Crapo and Ricsh introduced legislation, S. 103, to establish an additional federal district judgeship in Idaho.
“The ability to deliver justice to people in Idaho has been severely delayed due to the lack of a third federal district judge,” Crapo said in a news release. “Judges from other districts have stepped in to assist, but the amount of cases and related legal work is causing judge and court employees in Idaho and from neighboring districts to work many overtime hours.”
Risch said: “The ‘judicial emergency’ facing Idaho has put our state and legal system at a great disadvantage. Adding a third district judgeship in Idaho is common sense and would help administer efficient and effective justice in our state.”
Simpson and Fulcher introduced similar legislation, H.R. 214, in the House.
“Appointing an additional judge will help to lessen the growing backlog of cases, deliver quicker service to our constituents, and make our judicial system more efficient,” Fulcher said in a news release.
Salmon River maintenance: Simpson and Fulcher introduced legislation to improve a commercial recreation facility at Smith Gulch located on the Salmon River in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.
The bill, H.R. 482, would allow the use of limited maintenance equipment needed to maintain the routine functions and safety of the existing lodge.
Currently, the Forest Service does not believe it has clear authorization to permit the use of the equipment necessary for the general upkeep of the facilities at the lodge, according to Simpson.
“The proposed bill is an effort to clarify Congress’ intent in legislation passed in 2004 to retain the basic characteristics of the lodge without substantially altering the existing use,” Simpson said in a news release. “The use of maintenance equipment would allow the lodge to eliminate the reliance on outdated energy sources and replace them with modest renewable energy sources, all while complying with existing laws.”
Crapo and Risch introduced companion legislation, S. 79, in the Senate.
Concealed carry weapon reciprocity: Crapo and Risch have joined 30 GOP senators in sponsoring legislation to allow individuals with a stateissued conceal carry permit to carry a concealed firearm in any other state that allows or does not prohibit the practice.
The bill, S. 69, is Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn’s latest version of the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act.
“This legislation will allow individuals with concealed carry privileges in their home state to exercise those rights in any other state with concealed carry laws, while abiding by that state’s laws,” according to a news release.
North Carolina GOP Rep. Richard Hudson has introduced parallel legislation, H.R. 38, in the House.
Risch has been elected chairman of U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, replacing Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, whose retirement put Risch next in line for the chairmanship.
Risch, 75, is the third Idahoan to serve as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, following William Borah’s tenure from 1925-33 and Frank Church’s two year term in 1979-80.
“I look forward to giving Idaho a voice on the global stage as we look to confront many issues that hit home across my state, like advancing the interests of Idaho citizens and businesses in international trade and investment, promoting Idaho exports, and supporting human rights and confronting the problem of sex trafficking,” Risch said in a news release.
In addition to leading Foreign Relations, Risch also serves on the following Senate committees: Small Business and Entrepreneurship Energy and Natural Resources, Ethics, and Intelligence.
Crapo was re-elected to lead the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee.
“In the 115th Congress, we ushered dozens of bills through the Committee and into law, from legislation to right-size regulation for Main Street financial institutions and encourage economic growth, to laws that will hold foreign countries accountable and protect our national security interests,” Crapo said in a news release.
He will continue to serve on three other Senate committees: Budget, Finance and Judiciary.
Simpson will continue to serve on the House Appropriations Committee.
Fulcher has not yet received his committee assignments, according to his new chief of staff, state Sen. Cliff Bayer, R-Meridian. Bayer’s mother, Regina, is serving as his temporary replacement in the Idaho Legislature until a permanent replacement is selected.
RECORD-SETTING GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN
Congress convened last week in the midst of a partial federal government shutdown that began on Dec. 20. With no immediate end in sight, on Saturday, Day 22, it will become the longest shutdown on record.
The previous longest stoppage was a 21-day closure that ended Jan. 6, 1996, during President Bill Clinton’s administration.
Congress this week quickly passed a bill requiring that all government workers receive retroactive pay after the shutdown ends. All four members of Idaho’s delegation supported the bill.
Now under Democratic control, the House introduced and passed several stand-alone appropriations measures to fund several federal agencies, including the departments of agriculture, interior, environment, transportation, and HUD.
Simpson and Fulcher did not support any these bills.
On Friday, Risch joined a group of Senate Republicans to introduce a bill to permanently prevent government shutdowns. The End Government Shutdowns Act would keep the federal government open whenever key spending deadlines are missed by creating an automatic continuing resolution for appropriation bills or existing continuing resolutions.
Idaho’s congressional delegation, from left to right, is made up of Sen. Mike Crapo, Sen. Jim Risch, Rep. Mike Simpson and Rep. Russ Fulcher. All are Republicans.