Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

President Barack Obama last week signed a $200 billion Medicare bill that reforms payments to physicians. Tucked inside that massive Medicare bill was a two-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools Act, a federal program that pays rural counties and school districts with a lot of non-taxable forest land.

Some sportsmen's groups and conservationists say they're frustrated with votes by both of Idaho's Republican senators on a budget resolution the groups say is a first step to federal land transfer or sale.

U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch both voted late last month to establish a procedure for selling, exchanging or transferring to the states federal lands.

Idaho's Rep. Labrador Votes Against Secure Rural Schools Funding

Mar 26, 2015
Gage Skidmore / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho's two representatives split their votes on a bill that was overwhelmingly supported in the U.S. House Thursday that reauthorizes timber payments to rural counties with a lot of federal land.

The Secure Rural Schools Act reauthorization was tucked inside a $214 billion bill that blocks cuts in doctors' Medicare payments.

Just 37 House members voted against the bill, while 392 supported it. Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, was one of the 'no' votes.

Oregon's congressional delegation is hoping to secure a two-year extension of timber payments to rural counties. The Secure Rural Schools provision is tucked in a bill the U.S. House is voting on this week.

Congress let the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act expire in the fall of 2014, leaving Idaho counties and school districts with $26 million less than expected.

Idaho counties will bear the brunt of this loss. Seventy percent of Secure Rural Schools money goes to counties for things like road maintenance. Thirty percent goes to school districts.

Data from the Idaho Association of Counties shows Idaho County will lose more money than any other county, nearly $7.3 million.

Mike Crapo
U.S. Senate

A bill to renew federal subsidies to timber counties has been filed in the Senate.

The Secure Rural Schools program made up for federal timber revenues that declined as environmental protections reduced national forest logging, but it expired last year. Efforts to renew it failed in the lame-duck session of Congress.

The latest version was filed Thursday by Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden and Idaho Republican Mike Crapo.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho's Rep. Raul Labrador is one of nine U.S. House Republicans this week who announced the formation of the House Freedom Caucus. The group includes some of the most conservative members of Congress.

Labrador says the formation of the new caucus is a way for the its members to better represent their constituents. 

Labrador has been part of a similar, but larger group in the Republican Study Committee. He says having his voice – and that of his constituents in Idaho’s 1st Congressional District – heard will be easier as part of the new Freedom Caucus.

Rick Gerrard / Idaho Public Television

Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Risch derailed a 2010 wilderness bill but says he's working now with U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson on a scaled-down version as others attempt to persuade President Barack Obama to designate a central Idaho area a national monument.

Risch, a Republican, tells the Idaho Statesman in a story on Sunday that he's looking forward to carrying a bill that he says is a collaborative product.


The future of the greater sage grouse, already uncertain, may get even murkier because Congress is considering delaying protections for the Western bird.

Congress is considering a $1.1 trillion spending bill that would keep the federal government from shutting down. A legislative rider in the bill would put the brakes on protecting the bird.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Republican Idaho Sen. Jim Risch says the U.S. Senate should not have released a report on CIA interrogation practices following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The report that became public Tuesday says the CIA tortured prisoners, did not get much valuable information from doing so, and lied to Congress about it.   

U.S. Forest Service

 A slow wildfire season in the U.S. means the Forest Service won’t have to dip into other parts of its budget to cover firefighting expenses. The federal government’s fiscal year ends Tuesday. It’s the first time in three years the agency’s firefighting allotment will cover actual costs.

The Forest Service exceeded its firefighting budget by $505 million last summer, and $440 million the year before.

Rep. Raul Labrador, a Tea Party favorite, is calling for Congress to debate and vote on further military action against the extremist group calling itself the Islamic State.

Labrador thinks President Obama needs to sketch out a well-defined mission with a clear exit strategy in order to win Congressional support in his forthcoming speech to the nation.

Congressional investigators say the Pentagon violated the law when it swapped five Taliban leaders for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held prisoner in Afghanistan for five years.

The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office says the Defense Department's failure to notify the relevant congressional committees at least 30 days in advance of the exchange broke the law.

Mike Crapo

U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo says he will seek re-election in 2016.

In making the announcement Friday in Lewiston, the 63-year-old Republican says he's committed to resolving a number of critical issues to the country.

The Lewiston Tribune reports that Crapo was elected to the Senate in 1998 to succeed Sen. Dirk Kempthorne. He is serving the fourth year of his third term and is ranked 39th in seniority in the Senate.

Dan Popkey
Jim Hadley / Idaho Public Television

Dan Popkey, the longtime Idaho Statesman reporter who announced last week he’s going to work for Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador, says his decision to make a career change has been an agonizing one.

After cancelling a string of campaign events and fundraisers this week, Montana Democrat John Walsh announced Thursday that he would drop out of the race for the U.S. Senate.

"I am ending my campaign so that I can focus on fulfilling the responsibility entrusted to me as your U.S. senator," Walsh said in a statement. "You deserve someone who will always fight for Montana, and I will."

He will serve out the remainder of his Senate term, which expires in Jan. 2015.

On Sunday morning, with haze from wildfires thick in the air, Sen. John Walsh addressed a graduation for officer candidates at the Fort Harrison Army post outside Helena, Mont.

"As your senator and someone who sat in your seat approximately 30 years ago today, I will always be your partner," Walsh told the small crowd.

For Walsh, this should have been a perfect event. He's the only Iraq War veteran serving in the U.S. Senate. And he had graduated from this same training here.

Idaho Republican Congressman Raul Labrador lost his bid Thursday for majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. But the run may not be a complete loss for Idaho’s ultra-conservative congressman.

This post was updated at 4:20 p.m. ET.

Calif. Rep. Kevin McCarthy has been chosen by House Republicans to be their next majority leader, taking the place of Rep. Eric Cantor, who was defeated in a stunning primary upset earlier this month. Louisiana's Rep. Steve Scalise has been selected to fill the majority whip post left vacant by McCarthy's promotion.

McCarthy defeated Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador, a conservative with close ties to the Tea Party, in a secret ballot for the position.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho Republican Rep. Raul Labrador could begin his third term in the U.S. House as Majority Leader. Labrador Friday announced he's running for the high-profile post after Rep. Eric Cantor, R-VA, lost his primary election.