Idaho GOP Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch joined an overwhelming bipartisan coalition that supported a two-year extension of a rural school funding bill.
The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act was worth $7.2 million to Idaho schools in 2013-14. The two-year funding extension was inserted into a Medicare funding bill that passed the House last month. On Tuesday, the Senate approved the bill, 92-8.
Crapo and Risch voted yes, but not without reservations. In a statement, they expressed concern that the bill is not paid for, and pledged to look for spending offsets to cover the costs. “We must assure that this legislation does not add to our mounting national debt.”
Debt concerns were the talking point last month in a highly public tiff between Reps. Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador, who split their vote on this bill. Simpson conceded the bill was imperfect, but suggested critics “would have to look long and hard” for reasons to oppose it. Labrador argued the bill would add $141 billion to the national debt — and in an interview with Boise State Public Radio, Labrador questioned Simpson’s character and honesty.
Here is the Crapo-Risch statement, in full:
“For decades, Congress has struggled over two competing issues that are part of this legislation: repealing the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, and meaningfully and fully addressing our national debt. The bill contains needed entitlement reforms and protections of our rural communities. Conservatives have long lobbied for this much-needed entitlement reform. But there is legitimate concern that the bill is not fully offset.
“One of our overriding concerns has been that the bill was not fully paid for. In the ensuing weeks since the House passed the legislation, commitments have been made regarding reductions in the upcoming Senate-House budget conference to reduce the budgeted spending to account for the need to fully offset this bill. Although this does not adopt the necessary offsets immediately, it does establish in our federal budget the recognition that our work on this legislation is not done. We must assure that this legislation does not add to our mounting national debt.
“This bill contained needed adjustments and reforms to our Medicare system and protections for our rural communities in states with high federal property ownership. We voted in favor of this bill tonight and give our commitment to work until the necessary spending offsets to be incorporated into our federal budget are realized so that Congress follows through on both: entitlement reform and federal spending reduction.”