U.S. Sen. Jim Risch and Rep. Walt Minnick visited the Idaho Statehouse Tuesday to talk about partisanship, debt, and burdens on the legislative process in the nation’s Capitol.
Minnick, a Democrat and 1st District congressman, spoke first in an ideologically-based address to lawmakers in which he decried the partisanship of Washington, D.C., as well as in Idaho. Minnick said that the nation's problems, such as shortfalls in the Social Security program, health care reform, and the mounting debt, are not being solved in Washington due to the partisanship which, he says, bogs down the legislative process. He said that though Idaho's congressional delegation has been willing to stand up to leadership to accomplish objectives for the state and the nation, obstacles remain.
"Leadership is very sharply partisan," said Minnick. "Blaming the other side has become more important than solving problems." He added that he feels the nation’s problems are so important that the politicians of the country must cast aside petty politics and work together to solve problems.
"We run as Republicans and Democrats, but we govern as Idahoans," Minnick reminded legislators.
He spoke on the need for additional access to education, something he feels Republicans and Democrats can agree upon. He called on members of the House to work toward more scholarships for higher education students and for more diverse programs for the state's colleges and universities. He also urged lawmakers to "beef up" high school math and science programs.
Before ending his address, Minnick made one more call for lawmakers to work together. To the Republican majority in the House, he encouraged them to reach across the aisle and bridge the "partisan chasm" that often separates lawmakers.
"Good ideas come from both Republicans and Democrats," said Minnick.
To the Democrats in the House who make up the minority party, Minnick pleaded with them to "become part of the process" and compromise with the majority party.
Risch, a Republican, followed shortly after Minnick, praising lawmakers for the efficiency of the legislative process in Idaho. Risch said he feels that lawmakers in Washington never have adequate time to read and ponder legislation, which he believes is "absolutely stunning."
"You'd be so proud of the procedure you're involved in," praised Risch.
Risch also derided the debt situation, saying the rising percentage of debt compared to the gross domestic product of the U.S. is a "very, very serious problem," but said citizens should remain optimistic because lawmakers in Washington are beginning to focus on deficits.
Sen. Mike Crapo will speak before the Idaho House and Senate Wednesday.
(Note: Minnick thanked Rep. Rich Jarvis, R-Meridian, for proposing a resolution calling on the federal government to reign in spending and pay off debt. Read about the Jarvis resolution here.)