Cortney O'Brien

His opponents accuse of him of being “Senator No.” To everyone else, he’s a conservative hero. For the third time since taking office in 2009, Sen. James Risch (R-ID) has compiled the most conservative record in the Senate, according to National Journal.

“We’ve got a couple liberal publications and they tell me their heads are exploding that I’m voted the most conservative. I don’t get that, why wouldn’t the most conservative state in America, not be represented by the most conservative senator in America? [...] That’s the way it should be. You should represent your constituency.”

Risch’s road to becoming the most conservative member in Congress was unexpected. In fact, it wasn’t a road at all.

“You make a lot of plans, but life happens regardless of your plans. You get in a boat and the river of life is gonna take you where it wants to take you. Sometimes no matter how hard you row, it’s still gonna take you where it wants.”

It turns out Risch’s boat took him all the way to Capitol Hill.

Risch grew up poor in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Pursuing his passion for forestry, he majored in the subject for two years at the University of Wisconsin. He moved to Idaho to finish his degree, before taking a different path and enrolling in law school. Once Risch completed his education, his career escalated rather quickly. He found himself working in the county prosecutor’s office and, when his boss didn’t run for reelection, he “had to run to keep his job.”

That first step into unknown political waters paved the way for a string of other victories, including lieutenant governor and governor. Overall, he spent 30 years in the state Senate.

With all of these titles under Risch’s belt, very little surprises him in politics. Yet, the senator still wasn’t quite pre- pared for the vastly different environment he would face in Washington as he left the uncomplicated, potato-filled fields of Idaho.

“What does surprise me here is the cavalier attitude about money. It just doesn’t seem to have any value here. There’s no end to it. They just spend it, whether they have it or not. When you’re talking about borrowing billions of dollars every day, for someone who comes from a state like Idaho, where we have a balanced budget requirement and our books are in order, our house is in order. To just watch them spend and borrow billions of dollars, every day, it’s hurtful, it really is.”

But, it is the shameful state of D.C. politics that has allowed Risch to establish his impressive conservative reputation.

He has been a leader in exposing the Environmental Protection Agency’s unnecessary regulations on American businesses. Risch contrasted the EPA’s political strategy to that of a fire marshal. Whereas the latter performs a quick review of a location, leaving a to-do list for residents to complete, the EPA is notorious for overstaying its welcome.

“Why should government be the enemy? I mean, if they truly want to clean up the air and clean up the water, sit down with the people, tell them what they’re doing wrong and help them get to where they’ll do right. But it is very adversarial. It doesn’t have to be that way.”

Risch has also established himself as the most likely senator to disagree with the president. One fairly recent example of he and Obama not seeing eye-to-eye, was when the senator challenged the commander in chief for declaring he wanted to send troops to Syria.

“I thought that was a really, really bad idea. I was one of the first ones out of the box, complaining about it and pointing out the pitfalls and the things that could go wrong there and the fact there was really nothing to be gained by it.”

When Risch is not taking the president to task or proving his conservative credentials in Congress, he is likely holding his grandchildren’s attention by reading them a chapter of Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys.

Just more proof that when this conservative senator talks, people listen. •


Cortney O'Brien

Cortney O'Brien is a Townhall web editor. Follow her on Twitter @obrienc2.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography