Since the Idaho Legislature has spent the last two months waiting to see what President Trump does with a variety of policy positions, there’s hardly need to discuss what’s going on at the statehouse. The session appears to be on auto-pilot, and everybody is waiting to go home.
It has been that way from the start, with lawmakers waiting to see what Trump does with issues such as Obamacare, Medicaid, and environmental regulations. There’s also some anxiety over what Education Secretary Betsy DeVos might, or might not, do to public schools.
So, the new administration has provided Idaho lawmakers with a convenient excuse to do nothing. The gap population, the working-poor Idahoans who are unable to have access to health insurance, will wait another year for legislative action. Or, what’s more likely, inaction.
If Trump is the focus of this legislative session, we might as well turn our attention to the man himself, who became our president on Feb. 28 when he addressed the joint session of Congress. Sure, he was inaugurated on Jan. 20. But his recent address to Congress was the first time that he looked, talked and acted like a president. Some of the “facts” he presented didn’t pass scrutiny, but presidents don’t always let “facts” get in the way of a decent speech.
Things swiftly returned to “chaos as usual” at the White House, and the allegations about ties to Russia won’t go away. But for more than an hour on Feb. 28, and at least a couple of news cycles, Trump was standing tall as our president – to the delight of Idaho’s all-GOP congressional delegation.
Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo must feel he’s on top of the world, as chairman of Senate Banking. What red-blooded banker in Idaho doesn’t like the fact that stocks are soaring on Wall Street. About all Crapo has to do is make sure his committee doesn’t do something to screw it up.
Not surprisingly, Crapo was gushing with praise for the president after his speech to Congress. The senator didn’t mention banking specifically but liked what the president was saying about health care, tax reform, reducing regulations, bolstering national security and producing “meaningful” tax reform.
“On job creation, the president spoke about the need for infrastructure revitalization through a national rebuilding initiative financed through public and private capital partnerships,” Crapo said. “This approach will help rebuild our nation while putting to work many of our neighbors.”
Of course, Crapo and his friends must figure out how to pay for massive infrastructure improvements while dramatically increasing defense spending and cutting taxes. However, there’s no immediate need to let messy details get in the way of this political celebration.
Even Congressman Mike Simpson, who deemed Trump “unfit” for the presidency during the campaign, has changed his tone.
“I am looking forward to working with the administration to implement policies that create jobs and fuel economic growth. Fundamental tax reform, entitlement reform, and regulatory reform are essential to address our nation’s debt crisis once and for all,” Simpson said. “Finally, now more than ever, our country needs to put politics aside and find common ground for the greater good. I am willing, many of my colleagues are willing, and the American public needs to be willing as well to seek and pursue what unites us to move our country forward.”
Simpson’s praise for Trump didn’t stop with the speech to Congress. The congressman applauded the Trump administration’s executive order rolling back former President Obama’s “Waters of the United States” rule, which would have subjected groundwater – or even small puddles on an Idaho farm -- to regulations under the Clean Water Act. Congressman Raul Labrador and Crapo issued similar statements of support for the president’s action.
“Simply put,” Simpson said, “the rule was a shot across the bow to westerners because water is life. I applaud this administration for taking the first step in rolling back this potentially burdensome regulation.”
Evidently, Simpson – who is known for being strong-minded with his views, if not outright stubborn – is starting to warm up to this president. If Trump continues to act the part of a president and slows down with his twitter rants, we may be seeing more supportive statements from Simpson.
Chuck Malloy, a long-time Idaho journalist, is a columnist with Idaho Politics Weekly and an editorial writer with the Idaho Press-Tribune. He may be reached firstname.lastname@example.org