Although Congress was beset by distractions and partisan disputes for much of the year, the Idaho delegation was still able to notch a handful of victories in 2017.
The entire Idaho delegation, for example, came together to support the nomination — and subsequent confirmation — of Judge David Nye to the U.S. District Court in Idaho.
The Idaho District had been down to a single judge for about two years, since Judge Edward Lodge retired. The lengthy vacancy prompted the federal court system to declare a judicial emergency.
In addition to supporting Nye’s nomination, Reps. Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador both introduced bills assigning a third judge to the Idaho district. Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch co-sponsored similar legislation, but none of the bills advanced.
Other activities for the Idaho lawmakers include:
He sponsored 12 bills in 2017, including a measure to provide more stable funding for wildfires and legislation renaming the White Cloud Wilderness in honor of Cecil Andrus, who fought to preserve the area as governor.
On the judicial front, Simpson also proposed splitting the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals into a Ninth and new 12th Circuit, to better distribute the workload.
In December, the Department of Interior announced it would make no modifications to Craters of the Moon National Monument, following input from Simpson, Crapo and Risch.
“I applaud the department for honoring the local consensus,” Simpson said in a news release. “I worked with a diverse group of stakeholders over 10 years ago to ensure that Craters of the Moon reflects Idaho values and can be enjoyed by outdoor enthusiasts. I’m grateful that this review reflects our local solution.”
His biggest headlines, though, came from his vocal criticism of the Trump administration.
“I don’t even pay any attention to what’s going on with the administration, because I don’t care,” Simpson said in July. “They’re a distraction. The family is a distraction, the president is a distraction. At first it was, ‘well, yeah, this is the guy we elected. He’ll learn, he’ll learn.’ And you just don’t see that happening.”
Sponsored nine bills and resolutions in 2017, in addition to announcing a run for governor.
One of the first measures Labrador introduced was a constitutional amendment calling for term limits in Congress. The resolution would cap the Senate at two terms and the House at six terms, for a maximum of 12 years in either body.
He also sponsored legislation allowing veterans’ education benefits assigned to one child to be reassigned to a second child in the event the original beneficiary dies. Sen. Crapo sponsored a companion bill in the Senate. The measure was signed into law in August.
Labrador’s Future Logging Careers Act passed the House in November and awaits action in the Senate. The bill lets 16- and 17-year-olds work for their parents in family-owned mechanized logging operations, similar to an existing provision for farm and ranch kids. Sen. Risch sponsored a companion bill in the Senate.
Labrador’s Davis-Oliver Act includes three provisions, initially authored by others, that subsequently passed the House and await action in the Senate.
One, called Kate’s Law, requires mandatory prison sentences for anyone convicted of illegally entering the country after they’ve been deported. A second provision would withhold federal grant funding from so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
The third provision makes it easier to deport illegal aliens suspected of gang activity, and prohibits them from receiving immigration benefits, such as asylum or temporary protected status.
The American Civil Liberties Union opposes the latter measure, but President Trump has voiced his support for it. As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee, Labrador managed the floor debate when the bill passed the House in September.
Became chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs in January 2017.
Crapo sponsored 24 bills and resolutions during the year. Besides authoring tougher sanctions on Russia, he led the effort to ease financial restrictions on credit unions, community banks and smaller regional banks, making it easier for consumers to get mortgages and obtain credit.
The latter measure passed his committee and will be taken up by the full Senate this coming year. The Wall Street Journal described it as “the most significant, bipartisan rollback of financial regulations” since the Dodd-Frank reform act was enacted in 2010. The Northwest Credit Union Association said the legislation could help nearly a million Idaho credit union members “grow their businesses on Main Street and have access to affordable home loans.”
Crapo also proposed easing federal switchblade regulations that affect Buck Knives in Post Falls, as well as other manufacturers, and listened to hearing safety advocates when he sponsored a bill to eliminate a $200 tax on firearm silencers.
Other bills and resolutions would authorize a national day of remembrance for Americans who were affected by above-ground nuclear weapons testing during the Cold War, and extend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Trust Fund for another 19 years.
Became chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship in January 2017. He’s in line to take over the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2019, following the retirement of Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.
Risch sponsored 15 bills and resolutions in 2017, including a measure prohibiting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from amending its greater sage grouse management plan in Idaho or listing the bird as a threatened or endangered species for at least a decade.
The MAIN STREET Cybersecurity Act, co-sponsored by Risch and Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, passed the Senate unanimously in September. The measure provides resources to help small businesses protect themselves from online threats.
“The recent Equifax hack is the latest example of the many vulnerabilities that exist, and why we must take urgent, proactive steps to prevent cybersecurity attacks on small businesses,” Risch said.
Other sponsored bills include a proposal to strengthen the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy — which evaluates the impact of federal regulations on small businesses — as well as legislation seeking to limit Columbia River salmon predation by sea lions and sanctioning maritime labor union workers from engaging in slowdowns.
Risch’s office notes he also worked with Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and foreign officials to end China’s ban on U.S. beef and the Japanese ban on U.S. potatoes.