Rep. Heather Scott of Blanchard, a hardline conservative and one of the few legislators who writes regular newsletters to constituents, usually has plenty of dialogue that appeals to her base.
She thinks the Legislature is too liberal overall and doesn’t pay enough attention to constitutional guidelines, or those agency rules and regulations that have the effect of law.
Scott is one of the leaders of the so-called “Liberty Caucus” in the House, and typically gets the highest “conservative” grades from the Idaho Freedom Foundation. She’s quite a force politically, winning elections and beating back strong opponents with more moderate views.
But the cynicism that she has about state government apparently doesn’t transfer to the federal government. Scott’s newsletter discussed her participation in a conference by the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, which included Idaho and Utah legislators. It was Scott’s first visit to the nation’s capital, and she seemed impressed by what she saw in the city and heard from the high-level federal officials.
“The city was busy, the people were friendly, the metro was convenient, the history was humbling,” she said. Along the way, she visited a few of the historic sites, toured the Capitol and “tasted a little of the diverse cuisine.”
Meeting Vice President Mike Pence was one of the highlights of the trip.
“It was truly an honor to hear this man’s speech and shake his hand,” Scott said. “And I had the opportunity to give him a Drain the Swamp Idaho hat!”
How nice. Apparently, nobody told her that she was in the middle of the swamp and swimming with the alligators. As star-struck as she may be about the Trump administration and everybody in it, we’re still sitting with a national debt of more than $21 trillion with no signs of slowing down. “Conservative” Republicans in Congress are still passing big-spending bills. By contrast, those “liberals” in Idaho operate on a balanced budget, which is a constitutional requirement.
So, it’s beyond me how Heather Scott – who often rails against “top-down” political leadership – could embrace anything about Washington, D.C. There are a lot of cockroaches crawling around the area, and some of them are on Capitol Hill. But Washington is a nice place to visit, and there’s no shortage of slick-talking politicos telling folks what they want to hear.
“Those attending (the conference) were reassured that the new administration wants to work more closely with the states,” she said. “We were reminded repeatedly that the federal government is there to serve us.”
Hmmm. Let’s take a moment to remember Ronald Reagan’s take on the nine most terrifying words in the English language: “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”
Of course, White House officials are going into a crowd of legislators and county commissioners and talk about a “new day” that gives more power to the states and local governments. They certainly wouldn’t be talking about creating a federal dictatorship and steamrolling visiting legislators.
She said that Pence “let Idaho and Utah attendees know that the president’s plan was a lot like our state’s plan of fiscal responsibility, pro-growth policy, investment in infrastructure and education.”
But as Scott and all good conservatives know, “investment” is the politically correct term for “spending more money.” And Scott has hardly been the leading voice for spending more money on infrastructure, schools or anything else for that matter.
Partnerships between the federal government and states are nothing new. Over the years, Gov. Butch Otter – one of the liberal demons in Idaho, according to the Idaho Freedom Foundation -- has talked extensively about various partnerships that have worked to Idaho’s benefit.
But, let’s assume that everything Scott heard was correct and the Trump administration will work extra hard to form alliances with the states. Here’s sad news for Scott … partnerships will not go to her level. It would be more of a top-down exercise, with federal officials working with the governor. At best, there’s a slim chance that top leaders in the Legislature, who are viewed as more liberal than Scott, would be part of the partnership discussions.
But if she saw some good things in Washington and heard inspiring words, then good for her. Working within the political establishment might not be such a bad thing after all.
Chuck Malloy, a long-time Idaho journalist, is a columnist with Idaho Politics Weekly. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org