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MALLOY: Democrats do the work, Simpson takes bows

by CHUCK MALLOY
| March 7, 2023 1:00 AM

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson should be sending thank you notes to Democrats and President Biden, for they have given him a wealth of material for press releases.

Since the first of the year, Simpson has sent out more than a dozen news releases about how he has “secured” funding through the Fiscal Year 2023 Omnibus spending package for a variety of projects in the Second District, and it’s a good bet that there will be more to come.

These are nice political trophies, for sure. But Simpson is taking credit for something he didn’t do. He voted against the Omnibus bill, slamming Democrats for passage of the $1.7 trillion bill — describing the action as “one final reckless, inflationary spending binge in the waning hours of their House majority.”

That’s gratitude for you. The Democrats saved the day for the Second District by approving that “reckless” spending bill, and President Biden promptly sealed the deal with his signature. Simpson should have been standing with the president during the signing, and shaking hands with Democrats who voted for the package.

Politically, Simpson made the right call by voting against the bill. Republican leadership, including now-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, were solidly against the spending package. Simpson, being the team player that he has been over more than 24 years in Congress, wasn’t going to buck leadership on this one. He has been around long enough to know that rebels seldom win, and he wasn’t about to commit political suicide. If Simpson huffed and puffed too much, and went against the leadership’s wishes, he could have lost his lofty seat on the Appropriations Committee — the position that has kept him in power for so long.

But if there’s justification for his vote against the bill, it’s fair to shoot a few darts his way for taking credit for something he didn’t do.

Simpson had his fingerprints all over the Omnibus bill, at least in the drafting stage. The package included almost $37 million for Idaho projects that the congressman wrote into the bill. But when it came to the final vote, Simpson left it to Democrats and President Biden to do the heavy lifting.

Simpson explained his actions in his releases.

“Through my time in Congress, I have continually pushed to limit the growth of the federal budget and fought back against Democrats’ efforts to freely increase spending with no consideration for the long-term health of our nation. But congressionally directed spending is not more spending. Congressionally directed spending (once called “earmarks” before it became a four-letter word to Republicans) gives Idahoans an important voice in determining where the budgeted funding goes. No bureaucrat in Washington, D.C., knows Idahoans the way you and I do, which is why I will always fight to bring tax dollars back home to Idaho, rather than leaving the decision to federal agencies to distribute in other states.”

Simpson is correct. If Idaho doesn’t go after its fair share of federal money, then it will go to other states — which is part of the reason why we’re sitting with a national debt of more than $31 trillion. Simpson comes from the old school of congressional politics, where members seek out federal dollars like they are panning for gold.

Simpson, as a senior member of Appropriations, is better than most in terms of bringing federal money to his district. He finds ways to get funding for agriculture research in Kimberly, a Pocatello infrastructure project, a McCammon fire station and a long list of other projects. It’s possible that he could have secured funding through “congressionally directed spending,” or other channels, if the Omnibus measure had failed. But thanks to the Democrats, the Omnibus bill passed and there was no need for Simpson to seek out other mechanisms.

What’s mystifying is why Simpson feels a need to take credit for something he didn’t do. Maybe he’s just reminding his constituents who their sugar daddy is, and that he — and only he as a senior member of Appropriations — can provide for their needs. Or, maybe he’s sending a signal that he plans to be there for life.

If bringing home the bacon is the benchmark for a successful congressional career, then Simpson has been a splendid representative for Idaho’s Second District. But through his shameless hypocrisy, Simpson shows that he’s doing an even better job representing himself.

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Chuck Malloy, a longtime Idaho journalist and Silver Valley native, is a columnist with Idaho Politics Weekly. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com.

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