Idaho Republican Rep. Raul Labrador voted against a bipartisan budget deal Dec. 12, but the U.S. House overwhelmingly approved the deal that avoids another government shutdown. The final House vote on the bill hammered out by GOP Rep. Paul Ryan and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray was 332-94. The bill is expected to pass through the Democratically controlled Senate before heading to President Barack Obama who has promised to sign the measure into law.
Nearly 170 Republican Representatives, including Idaho GOP Rep. Mike Simpson, backed the agreement, but Labrador and 61 other Republicans voted against it.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told Democrats in a closed meeting to "embrace the suck" of the bill, adding that Congress needs “to get this off the table so we can go forward.”
Speaker John Boehner told reporters the agreement is “not everything that we wanted, but it advances conservative policy and moves us in the right direction."
There's just something about Mike Crapo and the holidays.
You may recall the Idaho senior senator's Dec. 23, 2012, drunk driving arrest in Washington, D.C.(law enforcement said Crapo failed several field sobriety tests and his blood alcohol content registered 0.11.. Crapo later said he had been drinking straight vodka at home alone before the incident.
at a D.C. holiday party.
And on Dec. 11, more than a few C-SPAN viewers were stunned when they saw Crapo stand to speak in opposition to President Barack Obama's nominee to the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
Crapo was sporting a significant bruise to the right side of his face. The Daily Caller reported that Crapo had hurt himself over the recent recess while redecorating his house and Crapo spokesman Lindsay Nothern said the the senator had injured himself while moving furniture on the day after Thanksgiving in his Idaho Falls home. Northern said Crapo needed stitches to close what appeared to be a pretty ugly injury.
Capitol Hill pundits were burning up cable news airwaves this morning with word of a temporary fiscal truce—a bipartisan budget agreement crafted by Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan.
And while much of the conversation swirled around how the deal avoids another federal government shutdown, there is little talk about what it doesn't do—extend long-term unemployment benefits that will expire Tuesday, Dec. 31.
Regular unemployment benefits, paid by the state, last up to 26 weeks. But long-term jobless benefit programs are funded by the federal government, and are triggered on and off by the state's unemployment rate.
Officials with the Idaho Department of Labor say the maximum number of weeks of unemployment benefits in Idaho will drop from 99 weeks to 39 weeks, effective Wednesday, Jan. 1.
The state estimates 300 jobless Idaho workers transition each week from regular unemployment benefits to federally funded extended benefits.
In describing this morning's Congressional agreement to avoid another shutdown, Forbes Tax Policy Center analyst Gene Steuerle said, "With this little package, we’re not going to climb out of the hole we’ve dug. All we’re doing is agreeing to stop throwing shovels at each other.”
This morning's New York Times quite literally deconstructs the U.S. House of Representative in the shadow of a bruising three-week fight that resulted in a partial federal shutdown and a threatened financial default. The Times categorized the factions of the House, how they voted on the compromise that ended the shutdown, and where they'll probably land in January 2014 when the same fiscal showdown is expected to be repeated.
Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson falls under the category of "G.O.P. Leadership," comprised of the House's veteran Republican caucus. More than half were elected before 2004 (Simpson was first elected to the House in 1998). House G.O.P. Leadership voted 31 in favor of the compromise, 13 against.
Idaho Republican Rep. Raul Labrador falls under the category of "Shutdown Strategists," which includes signers of an Aug. 21 letter that urged House leaders to tie the budget to defunding the president's health-care law. The Times writes that Labrador "blamed moderates for the failure of the shutdown strategy." Thirty-three members of this group voted against the compromise. Only five voted yes.
Here's how the remaining categories voted:
One hundred-ninety members of the "Democratic Core" voted for the compromise.
Eight members of "Defund Democrats," who have regularly voted to defund or repeal the Affordable Care Act, voted in favor of the compromise.
Among "Moderates," 19 House members voted for the compromise and one voted against.
Among "Defund Moderates," 43 House members voted against the compromise and 18 voted yes.
In the category of "Tea Party Afilliates," 16 House members voted against the compromise and 10 voted yes.
And among the "Tea Party Core," 38 House members voted against the compromise and four voted yes.
If three of four Idaho congressmen had their way, the U.S. would be entering its 16th day of a government shutdown, and the nation would be maxing out on its borrowing authority right about now.
Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch joined 16 other U.S. senators in voting "no" on legislation to fund the government and avert a default, but an overwhelming majority of 81 other Senators voted "yes." The measure, which was promptly signed into law by President Barack Obama will fund the government through Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014 and lift the debt ceiling until Friday, Feb. 7. The bill also triggers furloughed government workers to return to their jobs, beginning today.
Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador joined 143 other house members to vote against the agreement, but a bipartisan majority of 285 house members voted yes.
Rep. Mike Simpson was the sole Idaho congressional member to vote yes for the furlough-ending package.
"The easiest, most politically expedient thing for me to do would have been to vote no and protect my political right flank," said Simpson. "Doing so, however, would have been the wrong thing to do for my constituents and our economy.
But Labrador insisted that his no vote was a sign of standing strong, insisting "we would not raise it without reducing the debt."
"Unfortunately, what Congress is passing today gets us out of the immediate political mess engulfing Washington, D.C. without making any substantial changes for the American people," he said.
Risch said he thought the compromise legislation "kicked the can down the road for three months."
"I hope the President and my democrat colleagues will offer serious proposals to find a solution instead of turning this situation into another crisis in January," said Risch.
And Crapo said the compromise "does almost nothing to address long-term mandatory spending and debt problems."
"Unfortunately, continuing resolutions perpetuate the problem of keeping government spending on autopilot. We cannot continue this unrestrained spending," said Crapo.
Most Treasure Valley Cable ONE subscribers didn't get a chance to see it because CNN (along with a host of other Turner Broadcasting networks) have been yanked from the cable line-up, but a GOP Congressman ripped into a CNN anchor this morning, saying she was "part of the problem" in the current federal shutdown.
CNN Anchor Carol Costello was talking with Indiana GOP Rep. Todd Rokita this morning when this exchange took place:
COSTELLO: "I think most Americans would say fight that fight separate from the federal budget. Don’t partially shut down the government. Don’t make things worse fighting the same fight ... "
ROKITA: "But it is. We seem to go around in circles."
COSTELLO: "Right, we’re going in circles. Right—circles—that’s what you guys are doing."
ROKITA: "You’re part of the problem; the media is part of the problem as well."
COSTELLO: "Come on, that’s so easy. That’s so easy."
ROKITA: "Carol, you’re beautiful but you have to be honest as well."
Idaho Republican Reps. Raul Labrador and Mike Simpson joined a bipartisan majority July 31 in voting—391 to 31—to approve a bill that ends fixed interest rates for student loans. The bill has been sent to President Barack Obama for his approval, and he is expected to sign the legislation into law.
When it does become law, interest rates on government-sponsored student loans will be pegged to the yield on the 10-year Treasury note and will go up and down as the economy improves or slows down. Loans will be locked in for one year at a time. The interest rate for undergraduate Stafford borrowers will be 2.05 percentage points higher than the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. Graduate students will be charged interest of 3.6 percentage points more than the 10-year Treasury yield and parents will pay interest of 4.6 percentage points above the 10-year Treasury yield.
Interest rates will be capped at 8.25 percent for undergraduates, 9.5 percent for graduate students and 10.5 percent for parents.
The legislation would have an immediate impact on student borrowers, who saw loan rates double to 6.8 percent on July 1.
Undergraduates’ loans for the 2013-14 school year will come with a 3.9 percent interest rate for both subsidized and unsubsidized loans. Graduate students will pay 5.4 percent interest, and parents will borrow at 6.4 percent.
But while the legislation saves students from an interest rate hike now, some consumer advocates worry that it will result in ugly interest rates down the road.
"The bottom line is that students will pay more under this bill than if Congress did nothing, and low rates will soon give way to rates that are even higher than the 6.8 percent rate that Congress is trying to avoid," Chris Lindstrom, higher education program director for the consumer group US PIRG, told the Associated Press.
Idaho Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch joined a bipartisan Senate majority late July 24 to reverse the recent spike in interest rates on federal student loan rates.
The bill, which would tie interest rates to the government's borrowing costs, passed in an 81-18 vote and now heads to the U.S. House, which hopes to approve the deal before lawmakers take a recess in early August. President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have already signaled their support.
The deal offers students lower interest rates on federal student loans through the 2015 academic year. After that, rates could reach as high as 8.25 percent for undergraduate students, 9.5 percent for graduate students and 10.5 percent for parents under the agreement.
Interest rates on federal student loans doubled to 6.8 percent on July 1 after lawmakers couldn't agree on a fix, and the Senate had been deadlocked on a bill to deal with the issue until recently.
The US Congress is expected to vote today on limiting the National Security Agency's ability to collect U.S. phone records. It would be the first vote held by the U.S. House on restricting NSA surveillance since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents detailing the agency's PRISM program to the Guardian and the Washington Post.
The amendment to the Department of Defense funding bill was put forward by Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash and supported by Michigan Democrat Rep. John Conyers.
As written, the measure would prevent U.S. intelligence agencies from relying on Section 215 of the Patriot Act "to collect records, including telephone call records, that pertain to persons who are not subject to an investigation." If approved, the NSA could only collect data and records if the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court declared the surveillance was related to an individual under investigation.
The head of the National Security Agency, Gen. Keith Alexander, held separate, private meetings with Republican and Democratic lawmakers July 23 to urge them to vote against the measure.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama's administration has made clear that it opposes the amendment, with White House press secretary Jay Carney accusing Amash of trying to "hastily dismantle one of our intelligence community's counterterrorism tools."
"This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process," Carney said in a statement released late July 23. "We urge the House to reject the Amash Amendment, and instead move forward with an approach that appropriately takes into account the need for a reasoned review of what tools can best secure the nation."
The U.S. Senate reached a tentative deal July 16 to confirm several of President Barack Obama's nominees, averting a Democratic plan to change filibuster rules with the so-called "nuclear option". Obama's nominee confirmations stalled in the Senate because of threats of a filibuster, which would require 60 votes to confirm rather than a simple majority of 50.
As part of the deal, Obama would replace two of the nominees to the National Labor Relations Board—Sharon Block and Richard Griffin—whose nominations would have trouble being confirmed. Five other nominees including Thomas Perez as labor secretary would be allowed to go through without any filibuster.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry M. Reid and Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain announced the deal minutes before a scheduled vote on Obama’s pick for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Richard Cordray.
"I think the deal is going to be something that is good for the Senate," Reid told Politico. "It is a compromise, and I think we get what we want, they get what they want. Not a bad deal."
The deal does not change any of the Senate rules around filibusters and Republicans made no commitment not to filibuster future nominees.
The last minute deal is expected to thaw relations on both sides of the aisle and avert the "nuclear option" of a rules change.
The "nuclear option", which Democrats had threatened to carry out, would have changed historic Senate rules so presidential nominees could be confirmed by a simple majority vote.