TWIN FALLS • A congressional coalition is assembling legislation to tackle the federal debt, but don’t expect to see much action on it this year.

That’s according to U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, who said he would love if a bill being prepped by a coalition of House members was introduced for debate this spring. However, he doesn’t expect the chances of that are likely before this fall’s elections. The bill is based around past proposals such as those by the Simpson-Bowles commission in 2010, using tax changes and spending cuts to tackle national debt issues.

Simpson visited the Times-News office Wednesday to discuss some of the pressing issues currently facing the nation and Idaho.

He also remarked on the May primary races for his seat. M.C. “Chick” Heileson of Idaho Falls, who unsuccessfully challenged Simpson two years ago, will vie with him again for the Republican nomination. Meanwhile, three Democrats — Jack Wayne Chappell of Buhl, and Nicole LeFavour and Eldon Wallace of Boise — will compete in their own primary.

Simpson welcomed the attention and the entrants into the race. It’s the first time he’ll run in a closed primary in Idaho — only registered Republican voters can participate — and he noted turnout will be a question, especially with some voters unhappy about having to declare a party. But he doesn’t believe closing it will dramatically change his race.

Closer to home, Simpson applauded Wednesday’s announcement that a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld last year’s action by Congress to take wolves back off the endangered species list and forbid judicial review of the change.

It was Simpson who co-authored the rider that allowed the wolf delisting. Since then, critics have argued it set a concerning precedent, and Simpson himself was unsure how often Congress should intervene so directly in species management.

“I don’t like this as a means of skirting the Endangered Species Act,” Simpson said. “But a lot of time we end up managing these species in court.

“It does concern me and it’s something we have to address.”

He also touched on the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s recent choice to delay a final decision on the China Mountain Wind Project, located in the heart of priority sage grouse habitat.

“If you just look at the bird’s migration patterns and looked at the most heavily populated corridors, China Mountain was located right there,” Simpson said. “The BLM is doing just as good as job as they can. I think Wyoming has the model plan right now and Idaho is looking at that and trying to catch up.”

Like many other state officials, Simpson doesn’t want to see the bird listed as an endangered species.

“We have to try to prevent a listing and I think we can,” he said.

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