Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Rep. Raul Labrador talks about his Speaker vote and John Boehner

Posted By on Tue, Jan 15, 2013 at 3:45 PM

UPDATE: Read our longer profile of Raul Labrador here.

It’s an understatement that Idaho’s Rep. Raul Labrador hasn’t always agreed with John Boehner, the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Robert Draper’s book on the House of Representatives recounts Labrador saying that he “didn’t come to Washington to be part of a team.” He told Boehner that his debt ceiling plan was a “terrible bill,” and accused him of “abandoning” conservatives.

He went out of his way to distance himself from the more-veteran congressmen.

“I can’t speak for the senior members who’ve been here and are more jaded by politics,” he told President Barack Obama, according to Draper. “But the freshmen really do want to fix the problems of the country.”

And at the very start of this year, his unhappiness with Boehner surfaced: As most of the rest of the representatives voted to reelect Boehner as Speaker of the House, Labrador remained silent as his name was called.

For the most part, Labrador has chosen to remain quiet about the reasoning behind his speaker vote. But in a conversation yesterday, he told The Inlander some of his thinking.

“I decided to speak with my silence,” Labrador said. “There was nobody at that moment I thought would be a good speaker.”

Labrador explains that his complaint is mostly over strategy. Boehner recently agreed to a compromise raising taxes on the very wealthy to avoid the "fiscal cliff," without significantly cutting spending.

“I believe the Speaker is a good man. I don’t think he’s doing what he’s doing because he’s not a good man,” Labrador says. “He’s such a good man that he assumes the person on the other side is equally as good.“

Labrador doesn’t believe Boehner should be offering Democrats concessions so readily. Concessions to tax hikes, he believes, needed to be tied to immediate spending cuts. Delayed spending cuts, in his view, have a way of never happening.  

“I think we need to be a little bit bolder and stronger,” Labrador says. “What I learned as an attorney with negotiations, if you take anything off the table, you show a weak hand.”

Toward the end of February, Republicans and Democrats will likely again battle over an agreement to raise the debt ceiling.

“I hope that our leadership goes in with a stronger hand,” when negotiating with the President Obama over the debt ceiling, Labrador says. “He’s not a dictator. He’s not a king. He’s the President of the United States. It’s Congress that sets the policy, not the President.”

Draper’s book may provide some insight into Labrador’s concern about Boehner’s willingness to have faith in the other side: It details an anecdote of Boehner saying to Labrador, in the midst of a debt ceiling fight,  “I trust Harry Reid.”

“Labrador almost came unglued. Are you out of your mind,” Draper wrote, “Labrador was a lawyer. By training he had learned it was always best to assume the worst in people. He didn’t trust Reid. He thought Obama was lying to the American people about the government running out of money on August 2.”

Even in Idaho, some politicians are unhappy with Labrador’s silence during the speaker vote. Mike Simpson, Idaho’s other Republican representative, has called Labrador’s refusal to vote for speaker “irresponsible” and believed it forever undermined Labrador's credibility. Labrador, in turn, called Simpson a “bully.”

“You know, he hasn’t spoken to me,” Labrador said about Simpson.“Usually when I have a disagreement with someone I go to their face, I don’t go to the press.”

According to the Idaho Statesman, Labrador met with Boehner today, but wouldn’t elaborate on their conversation.

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Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, Daniel Walters was a staff reporter for the Inlander from 2009 to 2023. He reported on a wide swath of topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.His work investigated deep flaws in the Washington...