Jim Risch

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Jim Risch
Jim Risch official portrait.jpg
United States Senator
from Idaho
Assumed office
January 3, 2009
Serving with Mike Crapo
Preceded byLarry Craig
Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Assumed office
January 3, 2019
Preceded byBob Corker
Chair of the Senate Small Business Committee
In office
January 3, 2017 – January 3, 2019
Preceded byDavid Vitter
Succeeded byMarco Rubio
31st Governor of Idaho
In office
May 26, 2006 – January 1, 2007
LieutenantMark Ricks
Preceded byDirk Kempthorne
Succeeded byButch Otter
39th and 41st Lieutenant Governor of Idaho
In office
January 1, 2007 – January 3, 2009
GovernorButch Otter
Preceded byMark Ricks
Succeeded byBrad Little
In office
January 3, 2003 – May 26, 2006
GovernorDirk Kempthorne
Preceded byJack Riggs
Succeeded byMark Ricks
President pro tempore of the Idaho Senate
In office
Preceded byReed Budge
Succeeded byMike Crapo
Member of the Idaho Senate
from the 18th district
In office
Preceded byRoger Madsen
Succeeded bySheila Sorensen
Member of the Idaho Senate
from the 21st district
In office
Succeeded byMike Burkett
Prosecuting Attorney of Ada County
In office
Personal details
James Elroy Risch

(1943-05-03) May 3, 1943 (age 77)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
(m. 1968)
EducationUniversity of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
University of Idaho (BS, JD)
Net worth$20.8 million (2019)[1]
WebsiteSenate website

James Elroy Risch (/ˈrɪʃ/ born May 3, 1943) is an American lawyer and politician who has served as the junior United States Senator from Idaho since 2009.[2] A member of the Republican Party, he served as lieutenant governor of Idaho from 2003 to 2006 and from 2007 to 2009, and as governor of Idaho from 2006 to 2007.

Risch was a prosecuting attorney and taught criminal law.

Early life[edit]

Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Risch is the son of Helen B. (née Levi) and Elroy A. Risch, a lineman for Wisconsin Bell. His father is of German descent and his mother is of Irish, Scottish, and English ancestry.[3] Risch attended the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee from 1961 to 1963 and then transferred to the University of Idaho in Moscow, where he was a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity.[4] He obtained a B.S. degree in forestry in 1965,[5] and continued his education at the university's College of Law. He served on the Law Review and the College of Law Advisory Committee[6] before receiving a J.D. degree in 1968.[7]

Risch entered politics in 1970 in Boise at age 27, winning election as Ada County Prosecuting Attorney. While serving in this capacity, he taught undergraduate classes in criminal justice at Boise State College and served as the president of the state's prosecuting attorneys' association. Concurrent with his service in the Idaho Senate, Risch became a millionaire as one of Idaho's most successful trial lawyers.[8]

State politics[edit]

Idaho Senate[edit]

Risch was first elected to the Idaho Senate from Ada County in 1974. He entered the state senate leadership in 1976, serving as majority leader and later as president pro tempore.

In a dramatic upset, Risch was defeated for reelection in 1988 by Democratic political newcomer and Boise attorney Mike Burkett. As of mid-2006, it remains Idaho's most expensive legislative contest.

In the second political defeat of his career, Risch lost the 1994 primary election for a state Senate seat to Roger Madsen. Risch returned to the state senate in 1995, as an appointee of Governor Phil Batt, who had named Madsen as the state commerce department's director.

First term as lieutenant governor[edit]

In January 2001, Risch had his eye on the lieutenant governor's seat vacated by Butch Otter, who resigned after being elected to Congress, but Governor Dirk Kempthorne appointed state Senator Jack Riggs of Coeur d'Alene to the post instead. The next year, Risch defeated Riggs in the Republican primary and won the general election, spending $360,000 of his own money on the campaign.


On May 26, 2006, Risch became governor of Idaho when Kempthorne resigned to become U.S. Secretary of the Interior. Risch appointed Mark Ricks to serve as his lieutenant governor.[9] Risch served out the remaining seven months of Kempthorne's term, which ended in January 2007.

In August 2006, Risch called a special session of the Idaho Legislature to consider his proposed property tax reform bill, the Property Tax Relief Act of 2006.

Second term as lieutenant governor[edit]

Risch was expected to enter the 2006 Republican gubernatorial primary to succeed Kempthorne, who was completing his second term at this time of his federal appointment. But Otter had already announced his candidacy for the position in December 2004 and gained a significant head start in campaigning and fundraising. In November 2005, Risch announced his intention to seek election again as lieutenant governor.

Risch was unopposed for the 2006 Republican nomination for lieutenant governor and defeated former Democratic U.S. representative Larry LaRocco in the general election. Risch's term as governor ended in January 2007 and he returned to the role of lieutenant governor. He resigned as lieutenant governor to take his seat in the Senate on January 3, 2009. Otter named state Senator Brad Little of Emmett as Risch's successor.

U.S. Senate[edit]



On August 31, 2007, the Associated Press reported that Governor Otter might appoint Risch to the United States Senate to succeed the embattled Larry Craig. On September 1, the Idaho Statesman reported that Otter's spokesman denied Risch had been selected and that Otter had "made no decision and he is not leaning toward anybody."[10] On October 9, Risch announced that he would run for the Senate seat.[11] In May 2008, Risch was nominated as the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.[12] In the general election he defeated former Democratic Congressman Larry LaRocco with 58% of the vote.[13]


Risch won the Republican primary with 79.9% of the vote[14] and defeated attorney Nels Mitchell in the general election with 65.3% of the vote.[15]


Risch with Ivanka Trump, Lauren Gibbs and Shauna Rohbock at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea

Risch was one of four freshmen Republican Senators in the 111th Congress of 2009, with Mike Johanns of Nebraska, George LeMieux of Florida and Scott Brown of Massachusetts. Republican Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho called Risch "results-oriented".[16]

In 2017, Risch was one of 22 senators to sign a letter[17] to President Donald Trump urging him to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement.

On August 11, 2017, in an interview on PBS Newshour, Risch endorsed Trump's threatening North Korea with military destruction in the event that country launched missiles at Guam.[18]

On March 22, 2018, the day before a potential federal government shutdown, Risch threatened to block a government spending bill because it included changing the name of the White Clouds Wilderness protected area to honor a deceased political rival, former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus.[19][20] Risch ultimately acquiesced.

In January 2019, Risch joined Marco Rubio, Cory Gardner, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in introducing legislation that would impose sanctions on the government of President of Syria Bashar al-Assad and bolster American cooperation with Israel and Jordan.[21]

On January 21, 2020, during the first day of opening arguments in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, Risch was the first senator to fall asleep. His nap was memorialized by courtroom sketch artist Art Lien.[22]

In 2020, while Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Risch decided not to press Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to testify for the annual budget hearing. Pompeo had just successfully sought to have State Department inspector general Steve Linick fired; at the time, Linick had been conducting a watchdog investigation into the Trump administration's decision to sell arms to Saudi Arabia without congressional approval.[23]

Committee assignments


Political positions[edit]

Risch with Hong Kong activists who have become prominent figures in the 2019–20 Hong Kong protests


Risch is anti-abortion.[24] In 2013, he co-sponsored the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, which would have made it illegal for a minor to cross state lines for an abortion.[25]


The National Rifle Association (NRA) endorsed Risch and gave him an A+ grade for his voting record on gun issues.[26]

In 2013, along with 12 other Republican Senators, Risch threatened to filibuster any bills Democrats introduced that Republicans perceived as a threat to gun rights, including expanded background checks. In an interview with National Public Radio, he said that Americans' right to keep and bear arms includes "a right to purchase one [a gun], to sell one, to trade in one, and you really have to have a robust market if indeed you're going to have a constitutional right." He also said that additional background checks would mean that gun dealers would "have to deal with the federal bureaucracy, which is very, very difficult to deal with."[27]

In response to the Orlando nightclub shooting, Risch and Crapo said the shooting was not a reason to call for gun control legislation.[28]

In 2016, Risch voted against the Feinstein Amendment, which would have blocked the sale of guns to people on the terrorist watch list, and Democrat Chris Murphy's proposal to expand background checks for sales at gun shows and online. Risch voted for both Republican-backed bills, John Cornyn's proposal to create a 72-hour delay for anyone on the terrorist watchlist buying a gun and Charles Grassley and Ted Cruz's proposal to alert authorities if a someone on the list tries to buy a firearm.[29]

Criminal justice[edit]

Risch opposed the FIRST STEP Act, a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill. The bill passed 87–12 on December 18, 2018.[30]

Health care[edit]

Risch supports repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.[31] He voted against the ACA in 2010.[32]

Saudi Arabia[edit]

In 2019, Risch sought to quell dissent among Republican senators over what they perceived as the Trump administration's weak response to the killing of Saudi journalist and U.S. permanent resident Jamal Khashoggi, and its refusal to send Congress a report on the administration's determination of who killed Khashoggi. Risch told his fellow Republican senators and Politico that the Trump administration was in compliance with the Magnitsky Act, but the administration had stated that it refused to comply with the Magnitsky Act.[33]

Israel Anti-Boycott Act[edit]

In March 2018, Risch co-sponsored the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (s. 720), which would make it a federal crime for Americans to encourage or participate in boycotts against Israel and Israeli settlements in the West Bank if protesting actions by the Israeli government.[34][35]

Turkey sanctions[edit]

Risch is a co-sponsor of S.1241, the Promoting American National Security and Preventing the Resurgence of ISIS Act of 2019, which is intended to punish Turkey and protect allies like the Kurds who have suffered from recent Turkish military operations in Syria, including by resettling them in the United States.[36] The measure has broad support in Congress, which is concerned about the purchase of the Russian S-400missile system Turkey is currently testing.[37]

Electoral history[edit]

Idaho State Senate District 18 Republican Primary election, 1996
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Jim Risch (inc.) 2,299 76.0%
Republican Emil Loya, Jr. 709 24.0%
Idaho State Senate District 18 election, 1996
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Jim Risch (inc.) 9,543 67.5%
Democratic Donald Baumback 4,589 32.5%
Idaho State Senate District 18 Republican Primary election, 1998
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Jim Risch (inc.) 2,656 67.4%
Republican Sharon Ullman 1,283 32.6%
Idaho State Senate District 18 election, 1998
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Jim Risch (inc.) 8,742 76.0%
Libertarian Daniel Adams 2,758 24.0%
Idaho State Senate District 18 Republican Primary election, 2000
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Jim Risch (inc.) 3,222 50.4%
Republican Jack Noble 3,171 49.6%
Idaho State Senate District 18 election, 2000
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Jim Risch (inc.) 12,917 80.3%
Libertarian Daniel Adams 3,165 19.7%
Idaho Lieutenant Governor Republican Primary election, 2002
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Jim Risch 49,607 34.6%
Republican Jack Riggs 39,689 27.7%
Republican Celia Gould 22,134 15.4%
Republican Larry Eastland 22,079 15.4%
Republican Jim Pratt 5,638 3.9%
Republican Darrell Babbitt 4,161 2.9%
Idaho Lieutenant Governor election, 2002
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Jim Risch 226,017 56.2%
Democratic Bruce Perry 160,438 39.9%
Libertarian Michael Kempf 15,562 3.9%
Idaho Lieutenant Governor election, 2006
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Jim Risch (inc.) 259,648 58.3%
Democratic Larry LaRocco 175,312 39.4%
Constitution William Charles Wellisch 10,460 2.4%
U.S. Senate Republican Primary election in Idaho, 2008
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Jim Risch 80,743 65.3%
Republican Scott Syme 16,660 13.5%
Republican Richard Phenneger 6,532 5.3%
Republican Neal Thompson 5,375 4.3%
Republican Fred Adams 4,987 4.0%
Republican Bill Hunter 4,280 3.5%
Republican Brian Hefner 2,915 2.4%
Republican Hal James Styles, Jr. 2,082 1.7%
U.S. Senate election in Idaho, 2008
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Jim Risch 371,744 57.7%
Democratic Larry LaRocco 219,903 34.1%
Independent Rex Rammell 34,510 5.4%
Libertarian Kent Marmon 9,958 1.5%
Independent Pro-Life 8,662 1.3%
U.S. Senate Republican Primary election in Idaho, 2014
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Jim Risch (inc.) 119,209 79.9%
Republican Jeremy "T" Anderson 29,939 20.1%
U.S. Senate election in Idaho, 2014
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Jim Risch (inc.) 285,596 65.3%
Democratic Nels Mitchell 151,574 34.7%


  1. ^ "Ranking the Net Worth of the 115th". Retrieved August 5, 2019.
  2. ^ 2008 statewide totals Archived February 20, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "risch". Archived from the original on July 4, 2015. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  4. ^ "Phi Delta Theta". Gem of the Mountains, University of Idaho yearbook. 1965. p. 359.
  5. ^ "College of Forestry, '65 graduates". Gem of the Mountains, University of Idaho yearbook. 1965. p. 63.
  6. ^ "Jim Risch Biography". Jim Risch Senate. Retrieved November 18, 2014.
  7. ^ "College of Law". Gem of the Mountains, University of Idaho yearbook. 1968. p. 36.
  8. ^ Russell, Betsy Z. (September 17, 2009). "Risch among the richest". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved August 11, 2019.
  9. ^ Miller, John (June 16, 2006). "Governor names Ricks to lieutenant post". The Spokesman-Review.
  10. ^ Hahn, Gregory (September 1, 2007). "Risch rumors about replacing Sen. Craig are 'dead wrong'". Idaho Statesman. Retrieved September 1, 2007.
  11. ^ Greene, Tom (October 9, 2007). "Jim Risch announces Senate bid". Coeur d'Alene Press. Archived from the original on February 4, 2019. Retrieved October 10, 2009.
  12. ^ "2008 Primary Results statewide". sos.idaho.gov. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  13. ^ "2008 General Results statewide". sos.idaho.gov. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  14. ^ "Statewide Totals". sos.idaho.gov. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  15. ^ "Statewide Totals". sos.idaho.gov. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  16. ^ Catalini, Michael (February 10, 2014). "Idaho Sen. Jim Risch: High energy, low visibility". Idaho Statesman. Retrieved November 7, 2014.
  17. ^ Inhofe, James. "Senator". Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  18. ^ "WATCH: North Korea 'will regret it fast' if it acts against U.S. allies, Trump says". PBS. August 11, 2017.
  19. ^ Mattingly, Phil (March 23, 2018). "Idaho senator holds up bill over political rivalry with deceased governor". CNN. Retrieved September 18, 2020.
  20. ^ DeBonis, Mike (March 23, 2018). "Sen. James Risch's decades-old grudge briefly derailed the big spending bill". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 18, 2020.
  21. ^ Carney, Jordain (April 1, 2019). "Senate poised to rebut Trump on Syria". The Hill. Retrieved September 18, 2020.
  22. ^ Mazza, Ed (January 22, 2020). "Caught Snoozing? Impeachment Sketch Artist Shows Sen. Jim Risch Zonked Out During Trial". HuffPost. Retrieved January 22, 2020.
  23. ^ Woodruff Swan, Betsy; Desiderio, Andrew (June 7, 2020). "Top aide: Senate chairman drops effort to secure Pompeo testimony". Politico. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  24. ^ "Aspiring Pol Changes Name To Pro-Life". CBS News. Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  25. ^ Cox, Ramsey (February 15, 2013). "GOP bill would tighten rules on parental consent for abortion". The Hill. Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  26. ^ "NRA Endorses Jim Risch for U.S. Senate in Idaho". NRA-PVF. Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  27. ^ Cornish, Audie (April 9, 2013). "Republican Senators Pledge To Filibuster Gun Control Bill". National Public Radio. Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  28. ^ Cowan, Richard (June 20, 2016). "Senate rejects gun-control measures after Orlando shooting". Reuters. Retrieved November 7, 2020.
  29. ^ "Risch, Crapo favored two of four gun bills that failed Monday". Idaho Statesman. June 21, 2016. Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  30. ^ Levin, Marianne (December 18, 2018). "Senate approves Trump-backed criminal justice overhaul". Politico. Retrieved December 18, 2018.
  31. ^ Gerber, Drew (July 24, 2017). "Washington and Idaho senators split along party lines ahead of health care vote". The Spokesman Review. Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  32. ^ Russell, Betsy Z. (July 24, 2017). "With Senate vote looming, Crapo, Risch say they want to repeal, replace Obamacare". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  33. ^ Desiderio, Andrew (February 22, 2019). "Jim Risch tries to calm Republicans furious with Trump". Politico. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  34. ^ "Cosponsors - S.720 - 115th Congress (2017-2018): Israel Anti-Boycott Act". www.congress.gov. March 23, 2017.
  35. ^ Levitz, Eric (July 19, 2017). "43 Senators Want to Make It a Federal Crime to Boycott Israeli Settlements". Intelligencer.
  36. ^ Horowitz, Daniel (December 6, 2019). "Idaho REPUBLICAN senator pushing bill to 'prioritize' more unvetted Syrian & Iraqi refugees". The Blaze. Retrieved September 18, 2020.
  37. ^ Mattingly, Phil (December 5, 2019). "Powerful Senate chairman moves toward sanctions crackdown on Turkey as talks over weapons purchase falter". WRAL.com. Retrieved September 18, 2020.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Jack Riggs
Lieutenant Governor of Idaho
Succeeded by
Mark Ricks
Preceded by
Dirk Kempthorne
Governor of Idaho
Succeeded by
Butch Otter
Preceded by
Mark Ricks
Lieutenant Governor of Idaho
Succeeded by
Brad Little
Party political offices
Preceded by
Larry Craig
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Idaho
(Class 2)

2008, 2014, 2020
Most recent
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Larry Craig
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Idaho
Served alongside: Mike Crapo
Preceded by
Olympia Snowe
Ranking Member of the Senate Small Business Committee
Succeeded by
Jeanne Shaheen
Preceded by
David Vitter
Chair of the Senate Small Business Committee
Succeeded by
Marco Rubio
Preceded by
Bob Corker
Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Mark Warner
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Jeff Merkley