It would be easy to simply view the dustup over the bill naming the 2015 central Idaho wilderness for former Gov. Cecil Andrus as simply the petty and embarrassing episode that it is. But that would miss several potential lessons, the ripple effects of which cannot be known today.
The first should not be overlooked. Creating the Cecil D. Andrus-White Clouds Wilderness is a perfect memorial to the legacy of Andrus, who also served as an influential secretary of Interior. Within the area’s borders is Castle Peak, the mountain that Andrus himself said “made a governor” when he ran and won opposing a molybdenum mine there in 1970.
So, credit Congressman Mike Simpson for proposing and shepherding the name change into law. If Sen. Jim Risch had followed the wise advice to let sleeping dogs lie, this would have been the brief and transient headline on this story. Alas, Risch briefly tried to stop the name change, which also meant trying to stop the giant spending bill the Senate ultimately passed.
Second is that the late-night episode overshadowed the pros and cons of legislating massive budget bills into law with little review or oversight. As Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse observed, silly missteps come from “a ridiculously dysfunctional process.” Are there true outrages lurking in the 2,200 pages of this monster bill?
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Third is what we learn from the political fight itself. Such contretemps always excite political journalists eager for anything to enliven a story about a federal spending bill. Such a self-inflicted black eye delights those who dislike the offender (Risch) and who like the offended (in this case, a beloved Idaho…