Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson says fellow Republican Rep. Raul Labrador has forever undermined his effectiveness with an irresponsible role in plotting to defeat GOP House Speaker John Boehner.
I think there are 15 or 16 members of our conference that have substantially lost credibility, said Simpson, one of Boehners closest friends in the House.
Labrador was one of three leaders among conservatives upset with Boehner, R-Ohio, for making the Jan. 1 fiscal cliff deal. The dissidents tried to muster enough Republican votes to slow down or stop re-election of Boehner as speaker. They called off their plan a half-hour before the Jan. 3 vote.
Customarily, combatants put aside their differences once the majority picks a leader behind closed doors, joining their party mates for a unanimous public vote on the House floor.
But Labrador let his disloyalty be known publicly as one of 12 Republicans who either didnt vote for Boehner or didnt vote at all. Labrador twice ignored the clerk calling his name and even received one vote to be speaker from fellow ringleader Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich.
He just didnt vote, Simpson said, shaking his head in anger. Which, as anyone whos ever been in a legislative body will tell you, you got one thing going for you and thats your credibility. And once you lose that credibility its gone and its gone forever.
In response, Labrador called Simpson a bully and an old-school legislator that went to Washington, D.C., to compromise.
Thats how you get to a $1 trillion deficit, by just tinkering around the edges, Labrador said. But I think we live in a new world where we have some very serious fiscal issues in America, and you need to have people who are willing to say no to a lot of things things that are very popular back home and that are willing to put their political careers on the line.
Labrador criticized Simpson for publicizing their differences, saying he had declined to talk to reporters until he meets Tuesday with Boehner. I think its really unfortunate that I have to talk to you about this, because I really wanted to talk to Boehner first.
SIMPSON: GOVERNING MEANS UNITY
Simpson said Labrador and other tea party-aligned rebels have jeopardized their careers. Some in the group already have been stripped of key committee assignments by GOP leadership.
Simpson, beginning his 15th year in Congress, is a former speaker of the Idaho House. He responded to questions Wednesday while attending a City Club of Boise forum.
Simpson recounted his own experience when he ran against then-Idaho Speaker Tom Boyd, losing in the closed-door GOP caucus by three votes in 1990.
We came out, and we all voted for Tom Boyd, Simpson recalled. And thats the way its supposed to work, thats what it means to be in the governing majority. To try to undermine that with 25 or 30 of your colleagues to overrun the will of what the majority of our conference voted for is, frankly, irresponsible.
Jim Weatherby, a retired political scientist at Boise State, said Simpson took a rare step in calling out a state and party colleague.
He said, however, that the now-open rift between Idahos only two House members is no shock.