Senate

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 Simpson (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 McConnell (R-Ky.) and Majority Whip John Cornyn (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 Blunt (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 Paul, 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.

Tags government spending bill Idaho John Cornyn Mike Simpson Mitch McConnell Rand Paul Roy Blunt
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