Having completed his first 100 days in office, Idaho Congressman Russ Fulcher said he’s “encouraged” by the opportunities he sees, even though his party is now in the minority in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Fulcher was elected to Idaho’s 1st Congressional District seat last fall. He stopped for a visit in Lewiston Wednesday morning, before touring the flood damage near Kamiah.
Democrats took over the majority in the House this year, after picking up 40 seats in the 2018 elections. Fulcher said that pretty much closed the door on his chances of running any major legislation.
“Anything I do legislatively — other than signing on as a co-sponsor on a Democratic bill — isn’t going to go anywhere,” he said.
Nevertheless, he still thinks there are plenty of opportunities to work with executive branch agencies and officials in solving on-the-ground problems in Idaho.
“I think at least until 2020, that’s the channel that’s open to me (to be effective),” Fulcher said. “And honestly, I can’t reach out fast enough to the Department of Interior or the Forest Service. They’re getting to me first. I think there’s a willingness to cooperate that hasn’t been there in a long time.”
Part of that is because of the Trump administration, he said, which is open to working with states.
Part of it is also Fulcher’s own style and approach. Rather than belittle federal employees, he tries to be positive and respectful and find solutions that work for everyone.
For example, he recently met with some county commissioners and Forest Service personnel to discuss prescribed burns in the southern part of his district. The commissioners were concerned because they didn’t know when or where the burns were scheduled, and local property owners weren’t being notified. The goal of the meeting was to improve the interagency communication and reduce complaints for both entities.
“There weren’t any votes cast and no press release was issued, but I think we walked out of the room with some happy commissioners and even happier Forest Service personnel,” Fulcher said.
Back in D.C., Fulcher is taking an old-school approach: He’s trying to listen and learn, rather than rushing out to talk with the national media, as some of his freshmen colleagues have been doing.
After considering his options for the past few months, he also recently joined the House Freedom Caucus, which was co-founded by Raul Labrador, his predecessor in office.
However, now that Republicans are in the minority, Fulcher said, any previous “friction” between the caucus and Republican leadership has pretty much dissipated.
“They’re shoulder-to-shoulder now,” he said. “When you’re the small dog, it has a humbling impact.”
Fulcher made a pass through northern and central Idaho this week, meeting with various city and county officials to hear their concerns. He plans to hold public meetings the next time he swings through the region.