BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho Republican lawmakers on Monday delayed the confirmation of Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's Democratic nominee for a water board position over what were described as politically charged Facebook posts.
Sen. Clifford Bayer, a Republican from Meridian, said he wanted more time to talk to former House Minority Leader John Rusche — a Democrat from Lewiston — about the social media posts before voting on Rusche's nomination to the Idaho Water Resources Board.
"I say this with the utmost respect to everyone's freedom of speech...but I'll cut to the chase, what I'm referring to are social media posts and commentaries in the media that can be rather frank and rather polarizing," Bayer said. "Nothing wrong with that, but that can lead to concerns."
Bayer said he particularly wanted to talk to Rusche about why some comments have been deleted since his nomination. Bayer declined to provide specific examples of Rusche's social media posts when pressed by reporters after the committee hearing.
Rusche did not attend but said in a phone interview that he is committed "to serving on the water board in a nonpartisan matter and commit to continue to serve the people of Idaho as a I have for the past 12 years."
The retired pediatrician has previously been an outspoken critic of the Idaho Legislature's refusal to expand Medicaid, particularly during his six terms as a lawmaker.
Bayer says he does not think Rusche's appointment is in jeopardy.
"I am simply proposing a time-out to have those conversations," Bayer said.
Members on the Senate Resources and Environment Committee last week questioned Rusche's background as a medical physician and how it would apply to working on a board devoted to managing water and financing crucial water projects.
When Rusche's appointment was first announced, Otter described Rusche as a "reasonable and constructive partner in developing public policies that work for the people of Idaho."
"I admire and appreciate his willingness to serve by bringing his expertise and civic virtue to bear on some of our most significant resource issues," Otter added.
Only Republican committee members agreed to delay the confirmation, with Democratic Sens. Michelle Stennett and Maryanne Jordan voting against it.
In Idaho, governor-appointed nominations must clear a Senate committee confirmation hearing and receive a majority approval from the full Senate before they can start work. They are rarely rejected.
However, in 2013, the same Senate Resource and Environment Committee found itself embroiled in a contentious confirmation debate after questioning a female gubernatorial appointment to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission.
The Idaho Senate eventually rejected the nomination of Joan Hurlock — the first time in decades — after citing concern over her lack of hunting and fishing experience.
In 1988, the Senate blocked three appointees of Gov. Cecil Andrus, all of whom backed the Democratic chief executive as members of a "Republicans for Andrus" group. And in 1974, the Senate ditched another Andrus appointee, Robert Thomas of Coeur d'Alene, from the Fish and Game Commission after senators labeled him an "extreme environmentalist."