COEUR d’ALENE — Incoming freshman congressman Russ Fulcher said he’s “not naive” about what his role will be in Washington, D.C. As the new kid on the block and as part of the minority party, he doesn’t anticipate the next Speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, to be asking his opinion on the issues of the day.
“The best thing we can do probably is to focus on constituent services,” he said Tuesday in an interview at The Press.
Fulcher said he will do things a little bit differently than his predecessor, Rep. Raul Labrador. Rather than route all constituent services through Boise, Fulcher wants to localize constituent services at his three offices: in Coeur d’Alene, Lewiston, and Meridian.
“The northern part of the state feels like they have to go through Boise,” he said. “I want to get rid of that perception.”
His Coeur d’Alene office will be headed by Tim Kastning, former owner of Grace Tree Service, who now serves as Legislative District 2 chair with the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee. Fulcher said he anticipates adding one or two more staffers to help locals navigate the federal bureaucracy.
A look at the case logs of Labrador and Rep. Mike Simpson showed many constituents asking for help to deal with agencies including the Department of Veterans Administration, Social Security Administration, the Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Forest Service, he said.
“The better we can get at that to help folks navigate that morass, the better,” said Fulcher.
Fulcher said mainly Idahoans will staff his D.C. office, plus some seasoned Capitol Hill hands. He has identified the Idahoan who will serve as his chief of staff, but Fulcher said it’s too early to announce who that person is.
Fulcher awaits his committee assignments on swearing-in day Jan. 3. In the meantime, he said, constituents have given him his marching orders: Do something about health care, natural resources, and immigration.
“All of those are monster issues that I’m sure a freshman minority is going to solve single-handed,” Fulcher quipped.
However, he said, “That’s where the hearts and minds of Idahoans are,” and he’s going to try to master the legislative process in D.C. to add an amendment here and make a motion there, to achieve what he can on those subjects.
Fulcher said he plans on spending as much time as possible to master that process, and to build good working relationships with his colleagues. His goal is to “Be smart enough on how the system is navigated so you can maneuver to your maximum ability,” he said.
He has some experience on that count from his time as a state senator. It took years, he said, but as one example, Fulcher and his colleagues got the grocery tax credit bill through. He was noncommittal on whether or which caucuses he might join on Capitol Hill.
Fulcher said he would try to conserve his time from getting sucked into an impeachment fight, but added that he’d try to block attempts by Democrats to unseat President Donald Trump.
“To the extent I have influence, I will be resisting proceedings because I don’t think it’s healthy and from what I can tell it’s not warranted,” he said. “I’ll put as much focus as I can on other things because that is by definition a polarizing wedge and you’re not going to build any rapport on that.”