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From Kevin Richert, The Statesman Editor
Idaho's Teflon Congressman
A few days back, I attached the less-than-original nickname "Teflon" to our 2nd District congressman, Mike Simpson.
Here's why. Fellow Republican Rep. Bill Sali is facing a heated race for a second term, with his votes coming under close scrutiny. Not so with Simpson, seeking a sixth term.
We saw another case in point Thursday: Sali got drilled over his no vote on a bill that, according to Democratic supporters, would encourage oil exploration in Alaska. Meanwhile, "Teflon" got a pass for the same no vote.
At issue Thursday was Alaska's National Petroleum Reserve. Thursday's bill would have required annual lease sales at the reserve. According to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the reserve contains 10.6 billion gallons of oil and has been open for drilling for 26 years, with only 14 percent of the land now leased.
The bill needed two-thirds House backing Thursday, but stalled on what was largely a party-line vote. President Bush threatened a veto, and House Republican leaders said the bill's use-it-or-lose-it language already existed in law.
The post-game spin focused on Sali. Said DCCC spokeswoman Jennifer Crider: “Sali just can’t take ‘yes’ for an answer. Today he voted against domestic drilling despite claiming to support it.”
Unscathed was Simpson, even though he fired out a press release saying the bill gave "lip service" to domestic drilling.
Same no vote. Two congressional incumbents both facing Democratic opponents in November — although Sali rival Walt Minnick is an experienced and well-funded candidate, while Simpson opponent Debbie Holmes is a newcomer.
Simpson and Sali don't always vote side by side. I can think of at least three high-profile issues where they split. Simpson supported last week's veto override on a Medicare bill; Sali voted no. Simpson supported last fall's State Children's Health Insurance Program bill; Sali opposed it. Sali voted for the economic stimulus bill; Simpson voted no.
But these two Republicans vote together more frequently than the spinmeisters would have you believe.
I shake my head when I see Sali's votes come under close and perfectly reasonable scrutiny, while Simpson gets a free ride. Hence the reality check, and the "Teflon" nickname. If this keeps up, the moniker just might stick.
No one should let Mike Simpson slide by; he votes with Bill Sali much more often than he votes against him. I'm in this race because I believe that it is time to hold Mike Simpson's toes to the fire; every time we let a hard-line conservative slide, simply because he's not as bad as Bill Sali, we're creating a false impression of moderation.
I may be a newcomer as Mr. Richert says, but I'll always vote my conscience in Washington, and will be better for the people of Idaho. Let's surprise the political establishment in our reddest of states, and show them that they can't get away with the same old nonsense anymore.