ICYMI: Times-News Endorsement: Simpson Has Big Game Potential

Posted on 10/24/14 in Uncategorized, No Comments

Times-News Editorial Board

October 24, 2014

U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson is like that scrappy NFL backup who has a habit of throwing a pick at exactly the wrong moment. But he also has a penchant for coming off the bench and leading a game-winning drive. We just can’t help but root for him.

The eight-term Republican is a consummate pragmatist, sometimes to a fault. His vote in September to kill the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — an admittedly dead on arrival measure in the Senate — was just one example of where Simpson supported bad legislation to keep intra-party peace among tea party hijackers. Last year’s vote to defund Obamacare, which shut down government, is another.

“That bill was meant to get us out of town,” Simpson said of the DACA legislation, noting the bill never had a chance in the upper house. “I didn’t necessarily agree with it.”

We hope for a little more resolve going forward. While deals with the devil might serve to keep three-dozen right-wing House Republicans in line, they also serve to denigrate entire populations, in DACA’s case one that’s growing in the 2nd Congressional District.

Simpson is bright, calculating and thoughtful. Playing politics has its benefits, but we expect more from him.

But, like that upstart quarterback, Simpson’s pragmatism also has a real upside, which we very much appreciate. His seat on the powerful House Appropriates Committee provides Idaho with a voice on one of the most influential bodies in government. His relationship with Speaker Boehner bolsters his position and gets him placed where he can be most effective for his constituents.

Simpson’s call for “permanent” green card status for the country’s roughly 13 million illegal immigrants represents welcome moderation in a time of partisan screeds. He wouldn’t punish those who are already in the U.S. His plan would allow them to simply apply for citizenship. It’s a perspective that recognizes the hypocrisy of luring people here to work and then squealing when they stay.

He’s wisely asking the White House for a few more months reprieve to hammer through a bill making Boulder-White Clouds federally protected wilderness. It’s a much better option for local communities than the now-pitched national monument proposal. His wildfire funding bill, co-sponsored in the Senate by Idaho’s Mike Crapo, is also a solid piece of bipartisan legislation. When it comes to Idaho-specific federal issues, Simpson is rock solid.

And, every so often, he even bucks his party, such as last month’s vote against arming Syrian rebels. That’s the Mike Simpson we have come to value and expect.

The dentist from Blackfoot is a reasoned, fact-driven conservative, a brand that’s becoming harder to find these days. And, Simpson is a legit member of the House majority squad, which counts for a lot.

His opponent, former Rep. Richard Stallings, a Democrat, on the other hand, would be left on the outside looking in, should he win. On most issues — including immigration and wilderness management — Stallings offers only a different style. He’s a 74-year-old firecracker, one who’s trying to tie Simpson to the congressional GOP’s attacks on women, minorities and the poor.

Stallings’ support for boosting the federal minimum wage — which we like — stands noticeably alone on the list of policy differences between the two men. The crux of Stallings’ pitch is that he can get done the things Simpson can’t. His voice in this race has raised important issues, and we hope his outreach to Hispanics will help engage a long-disenfranchised population.

But his claim that he could out-perform Simpson doesn’t jive with reality. The House is going to remain in GOP hands in January. Republicans also have a good shot at snatching the Senate. Stallings would be in the minority. He couldn’t come close to holding the sway Simpson possesses.

Playing politics is part of the game. Without allies, no representative is worth much to anyone. But we hope going into his ninth term, Simpson strikes a little harder against the unyielding ideologues that hold excessive influence over the House majority caucus.

If Simpson can do that, he can play anytime with our first string.