For nearly 30 years reporter Dan Popkey has been pounding the streets of Boise and haunting the halls of the Statehouse, covering politics and the Legislature for the Idaho Statesman. That career started on the police beat, but led him to such high-profile stories as the sex scandal surrounding former U.S. Sen. Larry Craig—which earned him a Pulitzer nomination in 2007—and, more recently, taking on a larger role as a commentator on Idaho politics.
According to an announcement from Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador's office Aug. 29, Popkey, 55, is moving on from the Statesman to serve as press secretary for the Republican House member, known for frequent appearances on national television programs. As of July 6, Labrador has appeared nine times on NBC's Meet the Press.
Making note of Popkey's long experience as an observer of state politics, Labrador stated that "Dan will help me better communicate my message to constituents and the media."
For his part, Popkey applauded Labrador's "independence, integrity and fierce commitment to setting our nation's fiscal house in order," and said he is "thrilled with the opportunity to apply what I've learned to help advance our state's priorities in Washington."
Popkey will remain in Idaho, running Labrador's national press operations from the congressman's office in Meridian. According to the Statesman, Popkey's resignation from the paper is effective immediately.
Boise Mayor Dave Bieter had particular praise for Rep. Mike Simpson's vote late Thursday to toss a life preserver to the U.S. Air Force's A-10 program.
Rep. Raul Labrador voted against the bill, which calls for keeping the A-10 aloft until 2015.
This past March, Air Force brass hinted that they were thinking about merging the National Guard air mission at Boise's Gowen Field with the Air Force mission at Mountain Home Air Force Base. But the A-10 operation at Gowen is linked to approximately 1,000 jobs, setting off a major lobbying effort from Idaho and local officials in an effort to slow down any talk of possible closures or mergers.
And on Thursday, the U.S. House passed the National Defense Authorization Act, including funding for the A-10 program through Fiscal Year 2015.
Additionally on Thursday, the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee voted to approve its own version of a FY 2015 authorization bill.
"Today's votes in the House of Representatives and the Senate Committee are tremendously promising signs for the Idaho Air National Guard and its continued use of the A-10," said Bieter. "We are still a long way from the finish line, but it's clear with these votes that there is support of the A-10 in Congress. I offer my thanks to Congressman Simpson for his support of the bill and look forward to working with Sen. Crapo and Sen. Risch as we continue to fight for the A-10 and the Idaho Air Guard."
In a statement to Boise Weekly late Thursday, Labrador said the bill dealt "with a lot more than the A-10 issue."
"I would have voted for the A-10 extension as a standalone bill, but they included it in this massive bill," said Labrador. "I opposed the National Defense Authorization Act because I do not think it adequately protects our civil liberties and does not make the tough financial choices necessary to regain our fiscal stability. The ambiguity regarding the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism without a trial is dangerous to civil liberties and needs to be clarified to protect the freedom of all Americans."
Officials at the College of Western Idaho are taking advantage of the long Presidents' Day holiday weekend to further decontaminate a building on its Ada County campus following a report of norovirus.
A CWI student told the college that he was diagnosed with norovirus symptoms sometime after he was in the building, triggering the college to shut down the building.
According to an alert posted on the CWI website, no one will be allowed to enter the Ada County Center until an "all clear" is issued. College officials anticipate the building to be back open when classes resume Tuesday, Feb. 19.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, norovirus is very contagious and can be spread from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or touching contaminated surfaces. The virus triggers stomach pain, nausea and diarrhea and can be very serious for some people, especially young children and older adults.
Idaho Reps. Raul Labrador and Mike Simpson voted "yes" this morning, joining 249 of their U.S. House colleagues to pass a five-year, $500 billion farm bill, following nearly two years of debate.
The measure is expected to pass through the U.S. Senate as well, before heading to President Barack Obama for his signature.
The wide-ranging legislation affects about 16 million jobs in the country's agricultural sector and can have an impact on the business landscape for major agricultural companies.
But a number of Democratic lawmakers are opposing the new bill and its massive cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as Food Stamps. The new farm bill cuts approximately $8.6 billion over the next decade from Food Stamp spending by making changes to a heating assistance program used by some states to determine if an individual qualifies for the SNAP program. The House had been looking for nearly $40 billion in Food Stamp reductions while the Democratic-controlled Senate targeted $4.5 billion in cuts.
"I know many of my colleagues would just like this whole farm bill issue to go away. They want to pass a bill and forget about it and move on to something else, but ... the people that will be hurt by this bill aren't going away," said Rep. Jim McGovern, D.-Mass., who voted against the legislation. "This bill will make hunger worse in America, not better."
The last farm bill, which passed in 2008, expired in September after being extended for one year while negotiators ironed out differences between measures approved in the House and Senate.
Saying he would act alone—via executive orders—to boost the nation's economy, President Barack Obama delivered a 65-minute State of the Union address to the usual robust applause from Democrats and near-stone silence from Republicans.
Obama promised a so-called "year of action," following 2013, which saw next to nothing make its way through Congress.
“I’m eager to work with all of you,” Obama told a congressional joint session and a nationally televised audience. “But America does not stand still — and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Obama announced an executive order raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for future federal contract workers.
When Boise Weekly sat down with Idaho Falls attorney Bryan Smith last November, we asked about receiving campaign endorsements and donations from outside of Idaho in his effort to unseat eight-term Republican U.S. House Rep. Mike Simpson.
"What's interesting is that most of the money we're receiving from outside of the state is coming mostly from individuals from across the country," said Smith. "MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell calls Idaho 'the Vatican of Republicanism.' And Congressman Simpson's record doesn't fit into that. I've been endorsed by Club for Growth and FreedomWorks, and people feel motivated about a campaign that will make a difference."
In fact, the Idaho Statesman's Dan Popkey reports this morning that Washington D.C.-based Madison Project will be setting up shop at a new office on Overland Road in Boise. The Madison Project is specifically targeting Simpson's re-election effort. The Madison Project has even launched a "Sack Simpson" website, calling the Idaho congressman a "liberal, Nancy Pelosi Republican."
The Madison Project is unabashedly endorsing Bryan Smith's candidacy on its website, calling Smith a "full-spectrum conservative."
Idaho Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch voted "no," along with most of their Republican colleagues, but the U.S. Senate narrowly approved a measure to advance a temporary extension of unemployment benefits to more than 1 million of America's jobless.
The vote to move forward with the legislation was 60-37, with six Republicans and all Democrats voting "yes," to begin formal debate on the bill.
The measure would restore extended federal aid payments to about 1.3 million long-term unemployed Americans that expired at the end of 2013. The extended aid traditionally kicks in after state benefits expire—usually after about 26 weeks.
But if the final bill does pass through the Senate, its future is unsure in the Republican-controlled House. House GOP leaders have already painted the proposal as fiscally irresponsible.
Supporters — including the White House — argue that the abrupt end to the benefits on Dec. 28 has plunged the long-term jobless into further desperation and will hurt the American economy as a whole if not reversed by a retroactive extension.
Idaho Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch voted against a bipartisan session-ending budget deal Dec. 18, joining Rep. Raul Labrador (Rep. Mike Simpson was the only member of the Idaho delegation to vote yes). Now, all four are heading home for the holidays after buttoning up the least-productive Congressional session on record.
There were approximately 60 public laws enacted this year, so far below the previous low in legislative output that officials have already declared this session to be the least productive ever. In 1995, when the newly empowered GOP congressional majority confronted the Clinton administration, 88 laws were enacted for what had been the record low in the post-World War II era.
Crapo and Risch joined 34 of their Senate colleagues in voting against the budget deal, but 64 other senators easily pushed the spending plan through, sending it to President Barack Obama for his signature.
While relatively modest at 77 pages, the $1 trillion deal packs a big punch. First and foremost, it restores $45 billion—or about half—of the spending that had been slashed as part of cuts imposed by the sequester.
The military's discretionary budget will actually go up by $2 billion, and money will likely be restored to programs for the needy like Head Start and Meals on Wheels, many of which had suffered devastating cuts under the sequester.
However, unemployment benefits will expire for about 1.3 Americans under the deal, and new federal employees will have to pay more into their retirement programs to keep pensions afloat.
One provision, cutting the inflation increases of pensions for military retirees under the age of 62, was proving to be especially unpopular among Republicans.
Several conservatives opposed the measure in Wednesday's final vote because it fails to take on the nation's most pressing fiscal challenges.
But the deal advanced with the help of at least 12 Republicans.
Idaho's congressional delegation, along with 531 brethren in the U.S. House and Senate, are heading home today. And even though the Senate is expected to agree with the House on a budget deal—hammered out last week by Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and GOP Rep. Paul Ryan—the 113th Congress will be known for its record-low accomplishments.
According to congressional records, there have been approximately 60 public laws enacted this year, so far below the previous low in legislative output that officials have already declared this session to be the least productive ever. In 1995, when the newly empowered GOP congressional majority confronted the Clinton administration, 88 laws were enacted for what had been the record low in the post-World War II era.
Which means there is plenty of unfinished business for Congress when it returns in 2014. At the top of the list is passage of the farm bill (they have to do it, but funding for food stamps continues to be a major sticking point. Congress will also need to once again address the debt ceiling, which maxes out on Feb. 7.
Some are hoping that Congress will take up immigration, an extension of unemployment insurance and even the minimum wage, but keep in mind that 2014 is a mid-term election year.
The current group of Capitol Hill lawmakers are also distinguished by being the most unpopular Congress on record. Last month, American's approval of the way Congress was handling its job dropped to 9 percent, the lowest in Gallup's 39-year history.