Idaho’s Labrador again snubs GOP leaders, helping deal ‘humiliating setback’

In October, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., was in Boise to help Idaho GOP Rep. Raul Labrador raise money for his first re-election bid. But when Cantor needed Labrador’s vote on a bill allowing people with preexisting health conditions to buy into a high-risk insurance pool as they transition to coverage under the Affordable Care Act, the Idaho tea party favorite once again demonstrated his independence from his leaders.

A scheduled vote on the “Helping Sick Americans Now Act,” was cancelled Wednesday because Labrador and other Republicans agreed with the anti-tax Club for Growth and the conservative Heritage Foundation that the measure was “a costly boondoggle that would do nothing to dismantle the health-care law,” according to the Washington Post’s Paul Kane.

Kane called the leadership’s retreat a “humiliating legislative setback” to Cantor’s attempt to “rebrand the GOP after defeats in the 2012 presidential and Senate elections.”

“You’re replacing one big-government program for another big-government program, and I don’t think that’s what the American people are asking us to do,” Labrador said Wednesday at his monthly “Conversations with Conservatives” forum, which he co-chairs. Wednesday’s forum was sponsored by the Heritage Foundation.

Labrador also bucked the No. 3 GOP leader, Whip Kevin McCarthy of California, whose job was to corral enough votes from the party’s right wing to pass the bill without help from Democrats. Wrote Kane: “For a few dozen core conservatives, cutting spending and eliminating the health-care law are such paramount goals that they tend to oppose any new spending or any health-related bill that would not repeal the 2010 law — no matter what Cantor and McCarthy say.”

Less than two weeks before the November election, Cantor stopped in Boise to headline a Labrador fundraiser that featured a top donation of $2,500.

But both Cantor and McCarthy, architects of the “Young Gun” strategy that keyed the GOP takeover of the House in 2010, backed Labrador’s primary opponent that year, Vaughn Ward. Labrador upset Ward despite a heavy spending disadvantage and went on to defeat Democrat Walt Minnick.

Labrador proudly defies the House culture that says newcomers need to get along to go along. He also was part of a failed plot to defeat House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in January, which brought sharp criticism from Idaho’s other congressman, eight-term Republican Mike Simpson.


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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