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GOP senator threatened to hold up bill over provision to honor late political rival: report

GOP senator threatened to hold up bill over provision to honor late political rival: report
© Greg Nash

A GOP senator attempted to hold up Congress’s massive spending bill over a provision that would have renamed a wilderness preserve after a former political rival, CNN reported Friday.

Idaho Rep. Mike SimpsonMIchael (Mike) Keith SimpsonDuring a time of uncertainty, Great American Outdoors Act deserves our support Dentists want coronavirus testing kits before reopening MLB, Congress play hardball in fight over minor leagues MORE (R) had included a measure in the spending bill that would rename the state’s White Clouds Wilderness to the "Cecil D. Andrus-White Clouds Wilderness" preserve, after the state’s former Democratic governor and Carter administration Interior secretary. Andrus died last year.

However, Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) approached GOP Senate leadership about the provision on Thursday as the Senate was preparing to vote on the bill, according to CNN. Sources told the network that Risch was threatening to oppose any vote on the bill.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHarris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight MORE (R-Ky.) and Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynCornyn says election outcome 'becoming increasingly clear': report Top GOP senator: Biden should be getting intel briefings GOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results MORE (R-Texas) held a late meeting with Risch as GOP leaders pushed to hold a vote on the $1.3 trillion spending bill late Thursday.

Meanwhile, a 2008 article that mentioned Risch’s political rivalry with Andrus reportedly circulated among Senate reporters on Thursday.

Risch declined to comment when asked if he was objecting to the spending bill.

“No. What part of no don’t you understand?" he told reporters between votes late Thursday. "Do I have a problem with my English? I don’t have any comment.”

Shortly before the Senate voted on the spending bill, the chamber adopted an enrollment correction to strike a provision renaming the wildlife refuge.

However, the provision would need to pass the House, and members of Senate GOP leadership said that would not happen.

Cornyn told reporters the name of the wilderness preserve would not be changed due to "an objection in the House." 

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntMcConnell wants deal this week on fiscal 2021 spending figures Graham becomes center of Georgia storm Republicans start turning the page on Trump era MORE (R-Mo.), asked how the situation was resolved, appeared to pivot to check that Risch, who had just walked by, was no longer standing behind him. 

Blunt said "whatever was in the bill" was staying in the legislation.

Speculation had already been stoked that another GOP senator, Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulLoeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection Rick Scott tests positive for coronavirus Overnight Defense: Formal negotiations inch forward on defense bill with Confederate base name language | Senators look to block B UAE arms sales | Trump administration imposes Iran sanctions over human rights abuses MORE, may object to holding a speedy vote on the massive omnibus spending measure Thursday.

The Kentucky senator, who forced an hours-long shutdown last month, had tweeted throughout the day about his progress reading the more than 2,000 page bill.

Senators voted Thursday night after midnight to approve the bill ahead of a deadline Friday night to avoid a third government shutdown this year.

Updated: 1:17 a.m.