TWIN FALLS • Mike Simpson doesn’t think the current Republican front-runner for president will end up being his party’s standard bearer.
“I don’t think Trump lasts,” the Idaho congressman told the Times-News editorial board Wednesday. “I think he burns himself out. He’s novel and he’s interesting, and he makes all the news because he says things that ... make the news.”
The top 10 GOP candidates will face each other in a debate on Fox News Thursday evening, and Donald Trump had been at the top of the pack in recent polls, well ahead of runners-up Jeb Bush and Scott Walker.
Simpson agreed with Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s recent assessment that it would be good for the next president to be a former governor, which nine of the 17 declared Republican presidential candidates are.
“Executive experience is pretty different from legislative experience,” Simpson said.
And, like Otter, Simpson had kind words for John Kasich, the former Ohio congressman who was still in Congress during Simpson’s first term.
“I’ve been impressed with John ever since I served with him in the House, and I’ll tell you, people have liked him as governor of Ohio,” Simpson said.
Simpson said he also expects former Florida Gov. Bush and Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio to be in the race for the long haul, adding that Florida and Ohio are going to be crucial states for the Republicans to win the presidency. He said he was “very impressed with Rubio,” and wishes Rubio was running for the Senate again, due to his youth.
“I hope (he’s not) running too soon, because I think, in the future, he’s definitely a candidate,” Simpson said. “He might be a VP choice for one of these candidates.”
On Wednesday, Simpson was coming off of one of the biggest victories of his congressional career — the Senate just passed Simpson’s Boulder-White Clouds bill creating a 275,000-acre wilderness area in Blaine and Custer counties, and President Barack Obama is expected to sign it into law. Simpson has been working on the idea for 15 years, and first introduced a bill to create it more than a decade ago.
Simpson said the victory hadn’t fully sunken in yet. He wasn’t sure if he would consider it his “legacy” legislation.
“I don’t know if you would call it legacy,” he said. “I’m protecting the Boulder-White Clouds; is what it is. It’s obviously a very important bill to me, and I think it’s a very important bill to Idaho.”
Now, Simpson said, it has to be implemented. Among other changes, it will entail shifting wilderness study area land to multiple-use, buying out ranchers who want to sell their grazing rights, building a new trail from Red Fish Lake into Stanley, and some land transfers to local cities, such as a few acres that will be given to Stanley to build seasonal worker housing.
Planned Parenthood Investigation Could Trigger Shutdown
Simpson also said he has been appalled by the videos secretly filmed and released by an anti-abortion group that says they show Planned Parenthood is profiting illegally from the sale of fetal tissue. Simpson said the federal government should defund Planned Parenthood during an investigation ordered by House GOP leaders.
An attempt to defund Planned Parenthood was blocked in the Senate on Monday. Simpson said he views the debate over the videos as different in degree than similar confrontations over other wedge issues, and that it could lead to a government shutdown.
“If you are pro-life and you believe that these videos are accurate and say that Planned Parenthood is selling fetal body parts … you’re willing to walk the plank on that,” Simpson said. “You’re willing to shut the government down on it.”
Simpson stressed he wants to avoid a shutdown. He wouldn’t say whether he would be willing to if the issue can’t be resolved, saying that he wants to see how things develop.
“I don’t want to shut the government down,” he said. “I want to resolve this beforehand. Whether we can or not, I don’t know.”
GOP May Attempt Immigration Reform
Simpson also reiterated his belief that House Speaker John Boehner views immigration reform as a moral issue and wants to accomplish it before he leaves the speakership. Boehner might even try to push it before the presidential election, Simpson said.
Simpson said he favors strengthening the border and giving permanent green card status to people who are here illegally. If they want to become citizens, Simpson said, they could stay and work but would have to go through the normal process.
“Some people are going to say, ‘Aw, that’s amnesty,’ because you’re giving them a break,” Simpson said. “Call it what you want to call it, but the reality is, you’re not going to deport 14 million people. So you have to find a way around it.”