Election Central

Democrats accuse Idaho’s Simpson of flip-flop on ‘clean’ budget vote

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — charged with the job of retaking control of the House in 2014 — is alleging Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson broke his “promise” to vote for a short-term bill to reopen the government.

“Congressman Simpson had a chance to keep his word, break from his party leadership and re-open the government,” said Emily Bittner of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in a news release. “Sadly, Congressman Simpson stuck with Speaker Boehner instead. The government could reopen in the next hour, but once again Congressman Simpson is standing in the way, protecting insurance companies’ profits instead of ending this reckless shutdown.”

Simpson replied in a statement Thursday morning:

“If the DCCC and Nancy Pelosi want to call me a loyal Republican and ally of Speaker Boehner in this budget battle, I gladly plead guilty. I’ve made it perfectly clear that I will continue to support the position of the Republican Caucus in this fight. I’ve also said that like Senator Rand Paul, I could support a very short-term clean CR that gives us time to continue negotiating on a longer-term CR. The DCCC has little regard for the truth, but I guess that shouldn’t surprise me or anyone else. The DCCC should focus more on the fact that House Democrats continue to blame Republicans for closing our national parks and museums, but then opposed my legislation to open them immediately at current funding levels with no strings attached.”

The DCCC’s complaint stems from Simpson’s Tuesday night comment to Daniel Newhauser of Roll Call, which Newhauser tweeted on Wednesday.

Newhauser quoted Simpson as saying: “I’d vote for a clean CR, because I don’t think this is a strategy that works. I think the strategy that works is on the debt ceiling.”

The tweet prompted the Washington Post to put Simpson at No. 16 on a list of House Republicans backing a “clean” bill to temporarily fund the government without the poison pill of repeal or delay of President Obama’s health care law. If Speaker John Boehner brought a “clean” continuing resolution to a vote and that many Republicans defected, Democrats would likely win the day and the government would reopen.

It’s hard to glean context from 140 characters (we’ve translated the tweet into regular English) but Simpson quickly issued a statement Wednesday afternoon making it clear he had no plans to break with his friend Boehner, R-Ohio, who recently held a Boise fundraiser for Simpson.

“Let me be clear, I am going to continue to support the position of our Republican Caucus in the ongoing shutdown dispute,” Simpson said. “Having said that, similar to Senator Rand Paul, I could support a very short-term clean CR, perhaps one or two weeks, while we continue to negotiate on a longer-term bill that addresses priorities we believe are important.”

Perhaps overlooking that statement, the Democrats seized on a procedural vote to allege Simpson had flip-flopped. As with most things about Congress these days, the matter is considerably more complicated.

About 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Washington, the House was ready to vote on Simpson’s bill to reopen national parks, Smithsonian museums, the National Gallery of Art and the U.S. Holocaust Museum.

Before the vote, Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Interior Appropriations subcommittee chaired by Simpson, then moved to amend Simpson’s bill. Moran’s motion would gut Simpson’s piecemeal funding measure and replace it with the Senate-passed budget extension without a health care delay — the “clean” measure backed by Democrats.

Simpson then made a point of order, arguing the amendment was not germane. The top Democrat on the Budget Committee, Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, argued it was a “simple motion” to keep the entire government operating and was in order. But the presiding officer for the day, Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., ruled the amendment was not germane.

Democrats moved to appeal the ruling by Collins. Simpson, in turn, moved to table the motion appealing the ruling of the chair. That is the vote the DCCC cites in making the case that Simpson broke a promise. It is the sort of procedural vote that cleanly separates the parties. On Simpson’s motion to table the appeal, all 230 Republicans sided with Simpson, while all 194 Democrats voted no.

A few minutes later, the House approved Simpson’s parks and museum funding bill, 252-173. One Republican opposed the bill and 23 Democrats voted for it.

Here’s the news release from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, issued late Wednesday:

FLIP-FLOP ALERT: Congressman Simpson Breaks Promise, Votes Against Keeping Government Open

Despite having claimed that he would vote for a bill to re-open the government, Congressman Mike Simpson just voted against bringing the bill up for a vote. Talking Points Memo reports that Republicans like Congressman Simpson “rejected Wednesday an effort by House Democrats to put a clean temporary spending bill on the floor, closing one opportunity to re-open the federal government” and Fox News reported that Congressman Simpson “rejects effort to consider clean CR to re-open gov’t on procedural vote.”

“Congressman Simpson had a chance to keep his word, break from his party leadership and re-open the government,” said Emily Bittner of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Sadly, Congressman Simpson stuck with Speaker Boehner instead. The government could reopen in the next hour, but once again Congressman Simpson is standing in the way, protecting insurance companies’ profits instead of ending this reckless shutdown.”

BACKGROUND:

Congressman Simpson Voted to “Block Vote on Re-Opening Government.” Congressman Simpson voted to block consideration of a vote on a clean government funding resolution. According to Talking Points Memo,The House rejected Wednesday an effort by House Democrats to put a clean temporary spending bill on the floor, closing one opportunity to re-open the federal government.” Following the vote, Fox News reporter Chad Pergram tweeted “House rejects effort to consider clean CR to re-open gov’t on procedural vote. 230 to 194.” [HJ Res 59, Vote #512, 10/02/13; Talking Points Memo, 10/02/13; Twitter, 10/02/13]

Congressman Simpson: “I’d vote for a Clean CR.” Daniel Newhauser of Roll Call tweeted “.@CongMikeSimpson “I’d vote for a clean CR, bc I don’t thnk ths is a strategy tht works. I thnk th strategy tht works is on th debt ceiling.” [Twitter, 10/2/13]

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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Posted in Election Central, Idaho Politics