BOISE, Idaho — There are a lot of issues being constantly debated in Congress right now, from the continued government shutdown to the development that President Donald Trump may be blocked from delivering his State of the Union address to the House of Representatives.

On Wednesday, KTVB spoke with Idaho freshman congressman Russ Fulcher about the contentious atmosphere in Washington D.C., and his controversial “no” vote on the recent NATO Support Act.

When talking about his initial impressions of the politics in Washington DC, Fulcher says what many see from afar is the reality.

"A big, big gap in philosophical thinking, bigger than I thought, I did know there was going to be some of that," Fulcher said.

The crux of that right now is the government shutdown that has stretched on for over a month.

"It's not debate about what the right thing to do is, it is a power play between the speaker and the president," Fulcher explained. "That's basically all this falls down to."

With that in mind, Fulcher says he and the 100 other new members of the House of Representatives are trying to buck old time rivalries to reach common ground.

"We are actually working together reasonably well and trying to put pressure on the powers that be to just look at the facts, make decisions based on the facts before us, not what's in the rear view mirror," he said.

If given a shot, Fulcher believes Congress could end the shut down quickly.

"If the body With the current makeup had a green light from leadership on both sides just to do a straight up vote, this thing I believe would be over very, very quickly," he said.

Heading into the House of Representatives, Fulcher knew he was going to be in the minority party. This week, he saw that exemplified when he was one of only 22 representatives to vote no on the NATO Support Act. Some are criticizing the freshman congressman's vote, but he explains the decision was simple.

“The real purpose was to try and put the president into a situation where he couldn't pull out of NATO, or whatever," Fulcher said. "But the language locks us into the current situation and as a negotiator, as a former businessman, and as a legislator, I never want to lock myself into a position because if I do that, I tell my opponents I can't move."

A new debate in Washington now centers on whether or not President Trump will deliver his State of the Union next week to the House.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the president will not receive an invitation to do. Like many members of Congress, Fulcher is now offering ideas for an alternative.

"If the president were to ask me, and he hasn't, and I assure you, but I would tell him either to deliver his message in the Senate and we can join him there or to pick another site around the country, and we could join him there," Fulcher said.

Idaho's other congressman, Rep. Mike Simpson, released a statement Wednesday addressing the continued government shutdown.

Simpson said in part that like all Americans, he is extremely frustrated in Congress's inability to compromise.

Simpson says he has encouraged his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to come to the table with serious proposals that could end the crisis immediately.

Below is Rep. Simpson’s full statement:

“Like all Americans, I am extremely frustrated in Congress' inability to compromise. My message to Idahoans is that I am sorry for the failure of your elected leaders to fulfill their most basic duty. We are a diverse nation with many different viewpoints, but all Americans expect their government to continue functioning, day in and day out.

“I strongly believe there has to be a way to address our nation's significant policy disagreements without causing Americans to suffer the uncertainty of a shutdown, and that is the outcome I will continue working toward with my colleagues until it is resolved.

“I have encouraged my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to come to the table with serious proposals that could end this crisis immediately. The shutdown has gone on far too long with far too little progress until this point. The President brought forward a thoughtful compromise over the weekend, but I was yet again disappointed that the Democrats dismissed the proposal before details were even announced. Americans deserve real negotiations that result in meaningful progress - not partisan pandering.

“Today, the House voted on a package of bills that were negotiated last year between the House and the Senate, Republicans and Democrats. Although it does not represent my preferred starting place for negotiations, I support it because it includes provisions that are important for Idaho that I personally worked to secure, including increased funding for sage grouse conservation, PILT, wildfire prevention and suppression, and a prohibition on listing sage grouse as an endangered species, among many others. My hope is that it will be conferenced with the President’s plan being voted on in the Senate this week, a plan that acknowledges and addresses the very real crisis at our southern border.

“To Idaho, a shutdown means thousands of furloughs for government workers and contractors, a significant reduction in the work being done by the Forest Service to prevent catastrophic wildfires, and the added backlog to the deferred maintenance on our public lands and National Parks, to name just a few things. It is unacceptable to jeopardize the pay of our hard-working civil servants from carrying out their service to the American people. I understand the burden that this has created for many families, and I commend the men and women in our country are currently working with their pay withheld or who are furloughed. I truly hope that my colleagues and I can break this impasse this week so that we can all go back to work in addressing this country’s other real challenges.”

Author: Joe Parris

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