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Audience presses Labrador on issues

Rep. Raul Labrador speaks to an audience at Super 8 Motel in Grangeville on Friday, Sept. 2.

Photo by Andrew Ottoson
Rep. Raul Labrador speaks to an audience at Super 8 Motel in Grangeville on Friday, Sept. 2.

— Rep. Raul Labrador’s visit last Friday, Sept. 2, marked the end of his first tour of the district he represents in Congress, where has shown a willingness to clash with Republican leaders such as former Speaker John Boehner.

A man in the audience yelled at him about what he would like to see Labrador accomplish in office.

Labrador heard him out, and while addressing a later question said, “I’m only one man.”

The man in the audience piped up again: “I understand, but you’re the only one we get to talk to. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the tub.”

In office, Labrador has embodied the urge to send officials packing.

The House Freedom Caucus — a group Labrador and others originated as a self-styled conservative alternative to Republican leadership — compelled Boehner to hand the Speaker’s gavel to Rep. Paul Ryan last October. Labrador told the New Yorker magazine last December “The final exam for Paul Ryan will be in January 2017, when there is a Speaker election, and we will look at his body of work and determine whether he gets a passing grade or not.”

Labrador’s bills, as summarized Aug. 28 by the Spokesman-Review.

HR 2316, the Self-Sufficient Community Lands Act. The measure, which would allow pilot projects in state and local management of parcels of national forest land, first was introduced in 2012 and passed the House in 2013, but wasn’t considered in the Senate. This year, it cleared a House committee in June.

HR 4731, the Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act of 2016. Would allow states and local governments to veto refugee resettlement while imposing other restrictions. Cleared a House committee in March.

HR 2802, the First Amendment Defense Act. Would give new federal protections to people who say they oppose same-sex marriage on moral grounds.

HR 2171, Owyhee Wilderness Areas Boundary Modification Act. House version of a Senate bill sponsored by Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch.

HR 1215, the Future Logging Careers Act. Would grant exemption from child labor laws to allow kids 16 or 17 years old to work in their parents’ logging operations, as they can now in agriculture. This is the only one of Labrador’s bills on which fellow GOP Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson is a co-sponsor. Risch and Crapo sponsored an identical bill in the Senate. Labrador introduced a similar bill in 2014, but it didn’t advance.

HR 920, the Smarter Sentencing Act. This bipartisan sentencing reform bill was largely folded into another measure sponsored by House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., though it hasn’t passed.

HR 900, the National Monument Transparency and Accountability Act of 2015. Sought to forbid designation of national monuments without approval from both Congress and state legislatures.

Between now and then, Labrador himself faces an election vote Nov. 8. One man in attendance voiced concern over Ryan’s leadership; Labrador didn’t address it.

About 30 people attended in Grangeville, including a few Democrats as well as local Republican elected officials and partisans who are also campaigning for office this fall.

Audience members pressed Labrador for answers on issues including health care, refugees, criminal justice, spending and the national budget, the presidential election and why the House hasn’t impeached President Obama.

Labrador’s bills address some of these topics, but, apart from a measure that helped establish the gun club site near Riggins, they haven’t passed Congress.

Regarding the presidency and impeachment, Labrador said: “Exceeding your authority is not an impeachable offense. Bush did it and it wasn’t impeachable, and Obama is doing it and it’s not impeachable. Impeachment is a political issue. It’s where you have to convince the American people that the person is no longer able to do their job. And we haven’t convinced the American people. And the second reason is, who becomes President if you impeach Obama? Joe Biden. And it’s not going to be any different. So I’m all for defeating him politically, at the ballot box, but I don’t think impeachment is an answer to the problems we have.”

Asked about the election, he said: “If Trump wins – and that’s a big if, they’re both so highly unpopular – something good could happen… The independence that Trump has brought, he’s not beholden to the party. That’s actually a good thing, that he stands on his own. But it also gives the Congress independence. I hope you can follow what I’m saying because it has taken me a while to think about this. So, right now, we make a mistake in Washington D.C. When it’s a Republican president, all the Republicans put on the red jersey and defend the Republican president. When it’s a Democratic president, all the Democrats put on their blue jerseys and defend the Democratic president. I have Democrats who come to me and say, ‘I agree that Obama is exceeding his authority but the problem is I like what he is doing and agree with what he is doing.’ We saw the same thing with President Bush, who was exceeding his authority and you had Republicans who wouldn’t call him out. About 10 years ago, I was having a crisis of conscience where I was thinking ‘Maybe I’m not a Republican because I don’t like what Bush is doing.’ Then I realized, it’s just that I’m conservative.”

During a short interview with the Free Press afterward, asked why he self-identifies as a Republican, Labrador said: “I identify first as a conservative, and then as a Republican. I’m a conservative with libertarian leanings. … The Republican Party at least promotes the most of the ideas I agree with philosophically. Limited government. Less spending. A responsible national defense. All those things are important to me. We espouse those as a party, but I’m afraid we don’t follow through. And that’s why the question about Trump is so important. Because that’s why Trump has been nominated, because people just don’t believe us anymore. This gentleman who was yelling at me – you can’t get someone who has fought more in Washington D.C. than I have, but he still doesn’t think it’s enough because we haven’t been able to make big changes.”


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