Quick peace negotiations have ended a monthlong mini-war between Reps. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, and Howard Nielson, R-Utah, that threatened to engulf the entire Utah delegation.
It had included such battles as Nielson breaking House rules to attack Owens; Owens stealing credit for a Nielson bill; Nielson declaring himself a "one-man truth squad" against Owens; and a failed peace attempt when Owens bought a real hatchet and offered to bury it.The peace terms are: Owens will now not steal official credit for Nielson's bill; Nielson will back away from his "one-man truth squad"; and other delegation Republicans will not publicly enter the fray as threatened.
The end came as Owens sought out Nielson on the House floor and in a brief talk offered to give back Nielson official credit for a bill to declare the Colorado River's Westwater Canyon a "wild" river.
Owens had essentially stolen that credit by introducing his own Westwater bill. Because he is a Democrat on the Democratic-controlled committee that will act on the matter, the Owens bill was virtually assured of passage instead of Nielson's. Owens said he will now withdraw his bill.
"That's essentially what I was offering to do last week when I sent Howard the hatchet and offered to bury it," Owens said, although his note to Nielson did not specifically say that.
Nielson never unwrapped that package, waiting to hear first that Owens would definitely withdraw the bill.
Owens said, "I took the initiative because I felt it was time to end this."
Nielson added, "The war's over as far as I'm concerned. It is important for us to work together on the CUP bill. It has to pass this year, and it still has plenty of obstacles."
The war started weeks ago when Nielson intentionally broke a House rule to reveal that Owens in previous years had not signed a petition - whose names are supposed to be secret - to allow a House vote on the Balanced Budget Amendment. It had been bottled up in committee.
Owens signed that petition this year, which helped lead to a vote on it being scheduled for next week. But Nielson thought Owens was taking too much credit considering his past actions and attacked him.
Owens called that attack "unprofessional" and retaliated by stealing the Westwater bill to show Nielson that such attacks come with a price.
Owens also introduced his bill just after Nielson left for Iraq and could not respond personally - even though his staff called it a "stab in the back."