Washington Bureau

07.25.13

Conservative Idaho Congressman Calls For Bipartisanship

Idaho Republican Mike Simpson says that Congress should ignore the demands of interest groups to work across the aisle

Mike Simpson is a rock-ribbed Republican congressman from Idaho who thinks the problem with Congress could just be that it passes too many laws. He is also facing a primary challenge, backed by the Club for Growth, for being too liberal.

Simpson, a loyal ally of Speaker John Boehner, shared his pragmatic conservative legislative philosophy with The Daily Beast on Tuesday and bemoaned what he sees as the increased partisanship on Capitol Hill and the rising influence of interest groups and the scorecards they use to rate members of Congress.

The eight-term Idaho congressman emphasized the importance of both parties working together, particularly in this Congress. “If a bill gets through in a Republican House and Democratic Senate then it’s generally got pretty good bipartisan support and that’s not a bad thing.” He compared the partisan divide with Obamacare to what he saw as the generally bipartisan support for the creation of programs like Social Security and Medicare. In Simpson’s opinion, “One of the biggest problems with Obamacare, is it got no Republican votes. So what do Republicans want to do? They want repeal it. What do Democrats want to do? They want to make it work.” Simpson said, “it takes bipartisanship to solve many of the problems, the biggest problem we’ve got right now is the lack of people willing to cross the aisle.”

The Idaho congressman went on to express his dismay that many centrists and moderates in both parties have left Congress, making it “more partisan on each side.”

Simpson blamed this partially on growing pressure from interest groups---particularly those that issue scorecards, which he despises. “If you’re looking at scorecard and how they’re ranking things and worrying about it, then they’ve already won,” he said. In his opinion, lawmakers who worry about scorecards “shouldn’t be here.” 

Yet for all his talk of bipartisanship, Simpson shouldn’t be mistaken for a moderate. He scoffed at claims from the Club for Growth’s President Chris Chocola (who he mocked as Count Chocola) that he was a liberal and reminisced about a moment of political awakening. Simpson recalled driving down the road in Idaho during the fierce 1980 Senate election between incumbent liberal lion Frank Church and challenger Steve Symms. The radio aired a pro-Church ad that recited the Democrat’s long list of legislative accomplishments during his 24 years in the Senate. The announcer then asked what bills Symms had passed in his eight years of Congress; 15 seconds of silence followed. The ad backfired, at least with Simpson, who recalled his thought process at the time “I’m just driving, going now that’s the guy I want. I don’t want someone in there passing new laws.”  

In the meantime, Simpson isn’t worried about his re-election bid and the attacks from Club for Growth. His philosophy is simply to “do what you’re going to do and hope it was right and then let the chips fall where they may.”