Idaho Democrats react after senator holds up spending bill over wilderness area name

BOISE, Idaho -

Idaho's Democrats applaud the efforts of Congressman Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, to rename the White Clouds Wilderness after the late, four-term Governor Cecil D. Andrus.

Senate Assistant Minority Leader Cherie Buckner-Webb, House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding and Representative Melissa Wintrow from District 19 released a statement Friday after Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, slowed passage of Congress' huge spending bill because the measure renamed a portion of the White Clouds Wilderness area after the deceased Democratic governor.

Governor Andrus was beloved, respected and is mourned by Idahoans of all political stripes. He was the longest-serving governor in Idaho history. He also served as the Secretary of Interior under President Jimmy Carter and worked tirelessly throughout his storied career to protect America’s wild places for all of us.  The Cecil D. Andrus-White Clouds Wilderness designation is a particularly fitting tribute to Governor Andrus’ life of public service as he was instrumental in saving this unique and amazing place for the benefit of all Idahoans.  

As Senator James Risch said on the Governor’s death, “Governor Andrus was one of the most accomplished, successful and masterful political figures I have worked with.”  The elected representatives from District 19 are perplexed over Senator Risch’s divisive move to hold up an appropriations bill to keep the United States government functioning in an effort to forestall this honor for Governor Andrus.  We thank Congressman Simpson for his nonpartisan wisdom in working to see this fitting honor come to fruition.

Language renaming the area after the late Cecil Andrus appears on page 786 of the 2,232-page spending bill Congress completed early Friday. But aides and lawmakers from both parties said that for hours Thursday, objections by Idaho Sen. James Risch helped delay its passage.

The battle played out behind the scenes, with no debate on the Senate floor.

"He was basically standing up against a political grudge that he's had for years," Erpelding told Six on Your Side. "Gov. Andrus beat him 9 times out of 10 and competitive people don't like to lose, and some people take it personally. I think after 40 years of knowing Andrus, Sen. Risch took it personally."

Eventually, the Senate approved language preventing the renaming of the area after Andrus. But the change required approval by the House, which had already left Washington for a recess.

No. 2 Senate GOP leader John Cornyn of Texas told reporters that the House rejected Risch's effort.

President Donald Trump signed the budget bill Friday, which includes the renaming of the wilderness area. 

The White Clouds Wilderness is in Idaho's Sawtooth and Challis National Forests. 

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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