Just wondering … at what point did President Trump regret not hiring Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador as the Interior secretary? The president could have spared himself from heartache by burying him in the cabinet post.

Trump interviewed Labrador for that position at Trump Tower, but the job went to Ryan Zinke, a mild-mannered Montana congressman who would not have given Trump a shred of trouble. He wasn’t even part of the conservative-based Freedom Caucus, which has been a thorn to Trump’s side. More than likely, he would have voted for Trump’s “replacement” for Obamacare without batting an eye – going along with House Speaker Paul Ryan and other leading Republicans. He probably also would have joined the chorus of Republicans who gave unqualified praise to Trump for his actions against Syria.

If Labrador had gotten the job, he wouldn’t be making press statements challenging Trump. Labrador would be too busy organizing the kickoff to National Parks Week, meeting with the likes of California Gov. Jerry Brown and writing speeches about the National Bison Range. He’d be strapped to a 14-hour workday, traveling across the country and otherwise staying out of Trump’s way. 

But that’s not how it played out. Labrador isn’t being a royal pain out of revenge – it’s just his nature as a conservative Republican with strong opinions. He butted heads with Gov. Butch Otter during his time as a state representative, helped drive out John Boehner as the U.S. House speaker and has not been among Ryan’s loyal soldiers. Labrador also isn’t afraid to stand up to Trump.

Recently, the Idaho congressional delegation gave unanimous approval to Trump’s actions against Syria. But with Labrador, there was a catch. He said that Trump needs to have an “active dialogue” with Congress before taking actions with Syria, or any other nation.

“His policy will be more effective when it has strong, informed, and bipartisan support in Congress,” Labrador said. “The American people would benefit from a more active debate about the possible risks and benefits of U.S. intervention in Syria.”

Labrador, as a founding member of the Freedom Caucus, has been in the middle of the debate over Trump’s health care plans – drawing a pointed “tweet” from the president.

Oddly, one of Trump’s best friends on the health care issue has been Congressman Mike Simpson, who turned his back on Trump three weeks before the November election. Simpson says he was concerned about the president’s plan, but voted for it. “It is important to remember this legislation was just the start of a replacement plan, but to fix health care we have to start somewhere.”

Labrador is not one to wait for “something better” to come along, which is why he has a strong following in the First District. In Labrador’s world, it’s either “right” or “wrong,” with little room in the middle. Such an approach could become problematic if he becomes governor – a position where nobody gets his/her way on everything. But it’s a great tactic for holding leaders accountable.

He took a swipe at all the top dogs in a recent release on the health care issue. “Critics of the bill called it ‘Obamacare Lite’ or ‘Obamacare 2.0’ and those criticisms were not unfair. In proposing a health care bill, the House Republican leadership should have done better. A lot better.”

Labrador encourages fellow Republicans to push for a market-based system and stay within the framework of the GOP’s greatest hits of slogans -- “Pledge to America” in 2010, the “Better Way” drafted by House leadership a year ago, and the “Contract with the American Voter” issued during Trump’s presidential run.

Labrador, as with other Republicans, is all for repeal of Obamacare. His sticking point remains with the “replacement” part.

“When it comes to health care, it’s more important to do it right than to do it quickly,” he says.

Of course, there are sharp differences of opinion of “what’s right.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats have vastly different opinions about “what’s right,” and neither side appears willing to compromise – which translates to “gridlock.”

Names and faces will change in the White House and Congress. But the end result stays the same.

Chuck Malloy, a long-time Idaho journalist, is a columnist with Idaho Politics Weekly. He may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..