Idaho Examiner - Sen. Larry Craig News Releases

Friday, March 25, 2005

A Climate Change Policy For Our Nation

by Senator Larry Craig

By now, we have all heard about the 1997 Kyoto treaty on climate change – although I’m sure some wish they hadn’t. Believing that man-made gases are causing global warming, the Kyoto treaty requires severe – and costly – restrictions on man-made emissions into the atmosphere. However, the Kyoto treaty is seriously flawed.

Initial debate of the treaty basically suggested that if climate change is human-caused, the only way to save the climate is to turn the lights out on large economies like ours. It doesn’t allow for the economic growth that is critically necessary to a rising standard of living. That is one reason the Senate and our President pushed back and said no, we would not ratify Kyoto.

President Bush has consistently acknowledged that human activity can affect our climate, and that climate variability does not recognize national borders. The key issue is not whether there is any human-influenced effect. Instead, there are several issues: how large any human influence may be, as compared to natural variability; how costly and how effective human intervention may be in reversing climate variability; and how and what technology may be required now and in the long term.

Several countries and organizations still press the United States to approve Kyoto. If we did, the onerous and costly restrictions would be felt by every Idahoan, and every American, as we would be forced to drastically cut our energy use as part of a global plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Yet, developing countries, not subject to emission reductions, would suddenly occupy an uneven economic playing field. Their cheap energy costs would result in high-paying U.S. jobs in manufacturing, mining, transportation and other sectors moving overseas. Under Kyoto, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates gasoline prices would rise 14 to 66 cents per gallon by the year 2010, and electricity prices would go up 20 to 86 percent.

Important questions about climate change remain unanswered. Current climate change advocates blame mankind for producing greenhouse gases. But highly accurate and scrutinized satellite data do not show the warming they predict. There has only been surface warming of slightly more than one degree Fahrenheit over the past 100 years, well within the customary, natural swings in surface temperatures.

More than 4,000 scientists, including 70 Nobel Prize winners, signed the Heidelberg Appeal, stating there is no firm evidence that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are causing global warming. A survey of state climatologists revealed serious doubts that man-made greenhouse gases present a serious threat to climate stability.

Serious scientific study could determine whether the earth is in a natural cycle of temperature change, or whether man-made greenhouse gases are actually changing our climate. As good stewards of the environment, we must work to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases mankind is releasing into the atmosphere by reducing the greenhouse gas intensity. Greenhouse gas intensity is defined as the ratio of greenhouse gas emissions to economic output. This is a far wiser measure of progress for climate change issues because it complements, rather than conflicts with, a nation's goal of growing its economy and meeting the needs of its people.

To promote and encourage scientific and reliable reduction of greenhouse gases, Senators Alexander (R-TN), Dole (R-SC) and I cosponsored Senator Hagel’s (R-NE) Climate Change Comprehensive Legislative Reform Act of 2005. Above all, this legislation is a true acknowledgment that climate variability and change is a top priority as an issue for the United States and for all nations. It offers a comprehensive, voluntary approach to addressing climate change by connecting domestic and international economic, environmental, and energy policies.

The act contains three bills: an international bill (S.386), a domestic bill (S.388), and a tax incentive bill (S.387). S.386 promotes adoption of technologies that reduce greenhouse gas intensity in developing countries, while S.388 promotes adoption of these technologies domestically. The third bill provides tax incentives for reducing greenhouse gas intensity here and overseas. This legislation will help our nation get its arms around this issue and show that we are sensitive to it.

There is a legitimate debate about whether more can be done while meeting our nation's economic objectives. I, for one, support doing more in the areas of technological development to help lift developing countries from the depths of poverty, and to advance their cause as we advance ours. That is why I am proud to be working with my colleagues in the Senate on this legislation. I look to our Idaho educational institutions, Idaho private business, and the Idaho National Laboratory to develop and deploy the technologies that reduce greenhouse gas intensity.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

DELEGATION REACTS TO INL CLEANUP CONTRACT AWARD

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Idaho Congressional Delegation issued a joint statement today reacting to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) selection of CH2M¨WG Idaho, LLC as the contractor for the Idaho Cleanup Project at the Idaho National Laboratory. Idaho Senators Larry Craig and Mike Crapo and Congressmen Mike Simpson and C.L. “Butch” Otter said:
“We are pleased that the Department of Energy was able to quickly resolve the concerns that arose a week ago and move forward with the selection. Having the contract awarded is important to the employees and to continuing the important cleanup work. We will work with DOE and the contractors to ensure there is a smooth transition.

“We look forward to working with CH2M¨WG Idaho, LLC to fully implement the Batt Agreement. While the INL embraces its future as the nation's premier nuclear energy research facility, we take very seriously the responsibility to continue ensuring safe and effective cleanup.

“The caliber of competition for this contract was impressive and a testament to the quality of the employees and opportunities at the INL. However, we do want to make sure we thank BBWI for its efforts. Its leadership and employees have done a tremendous job in managing the lab and cleanup at the site.”

Monday, March 21, 2005

Water, water anywhere?

by Senator Larry Craig

“March roared in like a lion,” so the saying goes. Clearly, that was not the case this year. In Idaho, most of the month has been marked by only a few clouds that brought only shade, and temperatures well above average. While that might help to keep the cabin fever at bay, the dry winter is a source of concern to many around the state: on the farm, on the range, and in the forests.

As winter draws to a close, it becomes clearer that Idaho will not get the kind of rain and snowfall we had all hoped for. There is still a reasonable hope for a wet spring to alleviate the effects of a miniscule snowpack in most areas of the state. Include me in that crowd. Unfortunately, it would take rains of almost biblical proportions to fill our lakes and reservoirs to their full capacities this year. Even with a wet spring, it appears Idaho is headed into yet another year of drought.

While this can be discouraging, there are still some things to be optimistic about. The continued drought will catch no one by surprise, and farmers around the state are, and should be considering all options to mitigate the effects of drought this season. Back in Washington, D.C., we will be taking a hard look at the issue and what we can do, should problems become severe. We know a dry season is likely on its way, so we’re preparing well in advance.

With regard to our forests and public lands, there is also some good news. Readers might recall the 33 air tankers that were grounded last summer due to safety concerns. The Forest Service and BLM adjusted well, and the Lower 48 states were blessed with a relatively mild fire season. This year, I am pleased to report that twenty of those grounded tankers have been certified as airworthy and will return to firefighting duty this summer.

In addition, it has been nearly eighteen months since the Healthy Forests bill passed, and a number of important thinning and cleaning projects have gotten underway in our national forests. This will help to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire in those forests, making the federal government a better neighbor to the private landowners nearby. These projects also reduce risk to critical watersheds and wildlife habitat.

Of course, the most important factor, the weather, is well beyond anyone’s control. That does not mean that we are all powerless to affect the course of events this summer. Indeed, much can be done throughout the summer and into the fall to stretch our water resources and prepare for the warm, dry months ahead.

Voluntarily cutting household consumption of water can go a long way. We Idahoans love our cars, but if you live in a drought affected area, perhaps you might consider washing your car every two or three weeks, instead of every week. You don’t have to give up your garden or your green lawn; just water them at night or early in the morning, when cooler temperatures mean less evaporation. Remember, concrete doesn’t grow, so make sure your sprinklers only water the grass, not the sidewalk or the street.

Also, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality points out that leaky faucets and pipes account for ten percent of the average homeowner’s indoor water usage. Repairing them not only saves water, it can help lower your water bill as well.

We can all take a page from the land manager’s book and create a defensible space between homes and property and surrounding forest lands. Clearing dense underbrush and thinning overgrown trees reduces fuel loads and significantly decreases the threat of wildfire.

Rest assured, as the summer and its companion, the fire season, draw nearer, I will continue working in the Senate to ensure that Idaho producers, landowners and land managers have the tools they need to withstand the drought and reduce fire danger on our public lands. March came in like a lamb this year, and we can all do our part to make sure that lamb doesn’t get scorched this summer.

CRAIG TO PROMOTE ADOPTION IN INDIA

Improving child welfare and facilitating international adoption to top agenda

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Idaho Senator Larry Craig is leading a delegation to India to help promote adoption both inside and outside of India and to share ideas on improving the welfare of children.

The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI), which Craig co-founded and is currently a board member, organized the trip. Also attending will be other board members and staff of the Institute and a representative for Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La., also a co-founder and board member. The trip is funded entirely through private donations to the Institute.

The overarching goal of the trip is to improve the lives of the orphans of India. This comes in many forms, from shoring up their economy to easing adoption in country to placing them in loving homes outside of India. Craig emphasized one of the guiding principles of U.S. law, “First and foremost, children should be placed with families inside their home country. If that is not possible, we work to find permanent, safe, and loving homes for the children in another country.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently visited India, signifying our improved relations with this relatively young democracy. Craig emphasized the importance of this relationship, “India is an important ally in the world, and must be a shining example of democracy and freedom.”

The delegation will be in India from Monday, March 21 until Thursday, March, 24, 2005. For information during or following the trip, please contact Senator Craig’s office or Mark Moore with CCAI at (703) 288-9700. For more information, please visit http://www.ccainstitute.org or read Senator Craig's Adoption Resources Issue Brief.

Friday, March 18, 2005

BODMAN PRESSED ON CLEANUP CONTRACT

Craig, Crapo express concerns over continued delay in cleanup contract award

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Because of their concerns about the delay of the award of the cleanup contract for the Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho Senators Larry Craig and Mike Crapo met with Secretary of Energy Bodman to express their concerns and accelerate the process.

Craig and Crapo presented a unified voice, “This contract is essential to a smooth transition at the Idaho National Laboratory. The employees, bidders, and neighbors of the INL deserve a quick resolution of this problem.”

Secretary Bodman assured the Senators that resolving this was a top priority at DOE. They are working throughout the weekend to resolve it, and a decision will be made as soon as humanly possible. He further emphasized that they were not legally allowed to release the details of the problem that arose, but reiterated it was related to internal and proprietary issues.

Craig and Crapo continued, “We underscored the urgency and importance of this matter to Idaho and expressed our disappointment with yet another delay. Our patience and understanding is not limitless.”

CRAIG SUPPORTS BEEFING-UP BORDER

Senate adopts measure to add 2,000 border patrol agents

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Idaho Senator Larry Craig cosponsored an amendment to expand the number of border patrol agents. Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and John Ensign, R-Nev., offered the amendment during Senate consideration of the Budget Resolution.

The amendment provides for an additional 2,000 border patrol agents in Fiscal Year 2006, with at least ten percent being allocated to the northern border. This number coincides with the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and the Intelligence Reform Bill of 2005, which was enacted earlier this year.

Speaking on the amendment, Craig stated, “Bringing our immigration problem under control requires both increased enforcement and reform of our guest worker programs. The bottom line is that we need more agents on our nearly 7,000 miles of land borders.”

In order to keep the budget balanced, amendments are required to offset their cost by reducing spending in other programs. The $352 million required for this program was extracted from the International Affairs budget.

Craig continued, “We have a problem that needs to be addressed here at home – we should focus our resources on that before the needs of other countries.”

The amendment is now part of the Senate’s Budget Resolution, which will need to be reconciled with the House version by a conference committee.

To learn more about Senator Craig's guest worker reform, please read his AgJOBS Issue Brief.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

RESOLUTION SEEKS TO OPEN JAPAN’S BEEF MARKET

Calls for retaliatory measures if Japan does not allow U.S. beef imports

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Idaho Senators Larry Craig and Mike Crapo joined several of their colleagues today in cosponsoring a resolution that strives to reopen Japan to U.S. beef imports. Senator John Thune, R-S.D., is the chief sponsor.

The resolution calls on the United States Trade Representative to “immediately impose retaliatory economic measures against Japan” if Japan continues to delay the implementation of an October 23, 2004 agreement to resume U.S. beef imports.

Craig urged support of the resolution, “Japan is a billion-dollar market for U.S. beef, so it is vital that trade resume for our producers and our economy. U.S. beef is safe – Japan must move expeditiously and honor its agreement to resume imports of U.S. beef. Retaliatory measures are the hammer we need to ensure they act.”

Crapo, Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee’s Subcommittee on International Trade and Finance and a member of the Senate Finance Committee and Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, said, “We have had face-to-face meetings with Japan’s ambassador and we relayed the message that the U.S. has met the safety requirements set forth by the Japanese government, and Japan must re-open its markets swiftly. U.S. beef producers have instituted a stringent detection program for BSE and have been negatively impacted by the approximate $1,700,000,000 in export losses due to prolonged closure of Japan’s market. It is time to reopen the Japanese market to American beef.”

Click here for a copy of the resolution.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

BLACKHAWK HELICOPTER PILOT TO TELL HER STORY

TO VETERANS' COMMITTEE
VA, DOD and GAO to report on transition from active duty to veteran



(Washington, DC) Chairman Larry Craig announced today that the U.S. Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee will hold a hearing concerning the transition process for military men and women after they have left the service. The hearing will examine the issues involving both those physically injured in the war on terror and discharged as a result, and those without physical injuries at the time of discharge, but who may seek health services from VA at a later date.

The hearing, titled, "Back from the Battlefield: Are we providing the proper care for America's Wounded Warriors?" will be held Thursday, March 17, starting at 10:00 a.m. in room 418 Russell Senate Office Building. It will be webcast live on the committee's website at:
http://veterans.senate.gov. It may also be audiocast on the C-SPAN
hearings website: http://www.capitolhearings.org.

"During Korea, Vietnam and the 1991 Gulf war, about one servicemember in four died from their wounds. Today's battlefield-wounded are surviving at twice the rate, but many are coming back with very severe disabilities, including missing limbs. One of those heroes, Tammy Duckworth, will testify before our committee. I want to ensure that for Tammy and others, there is a seamless transition from military service to civilian life ," said Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho).

Duckworth, originally from Hawaii, who was shot down while piloting a Blackhawk helicopter in Iraq for the Illinois National Guard. She lost her right leg above the knee and her left leg up to her knee after her helicopter was hit by a rocket propelled grenade (RPG). Her right arm was also injured.

"Major Duckworth's first-hand experience in Iraq and her evacuation to Walter Reed will help us as we grapple with how best to ensure that our servicemembers, particularly our Guardsmen and Reservists, are provided with the care they need from DOD and VA," said Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), the ranking member of the Committee.

Panel 1
* Maj. Tammy Duckworth, United States Army National Guard - wounded in Iraq
* Mr. Joseph Costello, MA, Team Leader, Vets Center, Vista, CA - Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) Bronze Star winner
* Mr. David Hosking, Counselor, Vets Center, Madison, WI - Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq) Bronze Star winner

Panel 2
* Major General Kenneth L. Farmer, M.D., Commanding General, Walter Reed Army Medical Center and North Atlantic Regional Medical Command
* Jonathan B. Perlin, M.D. PhD, MSHA, FACP Acting Under Secretary for Health
* Ms. Cynthia A. Bascetta, Director, Veterans Health and Benefits, Government Accountability Office (GAO)

CRAIG, ENSIGN, HUTCHISON AND VITTER AMENDMENT

INTRODUCED TO INCREASE VETERAN'S BUDGET
Plus-up will add $410 million for veterans programs

Washington, DC) U.S. Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho), chairman of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, joined with Senators John Ensign (R-Nevada), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and David Vitter (R-Louisiana) in sponsoring an amendment to the budget now before the Senate.

Their proposal will increase money available for veterans benefits and services by $410 million, bringing a total increase of $1.2 billion in discretionary spending for VA's budget for 2006.

"At a time of war, when we have young men and women coming back with great medical needs, we need to make sure that VA is prepared to provide them with the best care possible," Craig said.

If approved by colleagues, the amendment (number 171) to the Senate Budget resolution (S. Con. Res. 18) will provide sufficient funding to do all of the following:
* Keep prescription co-pays at $7 - rejecting the proposal to increase co-pays to $15.
* Reject the proposal to impose a $250 enrollment fee on lower priority vets.
* Protect those in veterans nursing homes - rejecting the proposal to scale back state nursing home per diem payments made by VA.
* Adopt the President's request to spend an additional $100 M for mental health services.
* Adopt the President's request to spend an additional $100 M for prosthetics.
* Adopt the President's requests for all other non-medical discretionary accounts which would allow for a $116 million in increased funding for construction;
* Adopt an increase in disability claims staffing of 128 full time employees; and the continued expansion of the National Cemetery System, including $41 million for land acquisition to build 6 new cemeteries.

As Craig took to the floor to speak about the amendment, he reminded his colleagues that veterans have fared very well in the past few years, noting that since President Bush took office:

* Medical care funding for veterans has increased 41 percent.
* The VA has increased the number of enrolled veterans by 57 percent - from 4.9 million enrolled vets to 7.7 million.
* The quality of care has improved - veterans are more likely now than four years ago to be seen "on time" at their specialty care or primary care appointments.
* Washington Monthly - a magazine described by Democrat advisor James Carville as a "progressive must-read" - last month characterized the VA health care system in a cover article as the "BEST CARE ANYWHERE."
* There has been a 55 percent increase in Montgomery GI Bill educational assistance benefits since President Bush took office.
* Survivors' and Dependents' educational assistance benefits have increased 37 percent.
* There has been a substantial increase - from $203,000 to $359,650 -- in the maximum VA loan a veteran can qualify for without a down payment.

"The president has done a great job for veterans and has done a great job to put this nation back on the road to fiscal soundness. As supportive as I have been of the President, however, it's clear that the budget proposal for veterans is not enough, so this amendment works within the overall budget parameters that the President has set, and increases funding for veterans," Craig said.

Senator David Vitter, a former U.S. Congressman from Louisiana who was elected last year to serve in the U.S. Senate also expressed his comments about the amendment.
"Our veterans should be honored properly for their service to our country," said U.S. Sen. David Vitter. "This amendment helps lower the costs for veterans to get the medical benefits and services they've earned."

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

NATIONAL SAFE PLACE RECOGNIZED

Nextel joins as a partner during National Safe Place Week

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- At a press conference today, Idaho Senator Larry Craig joined representatives from Nextel Communications and National Safe Place recognizing the week of March 13th as National Safe Place Week.

S. Res. 71, a resolution sponsored by Craig and Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., designating this week as National Safe Place Week passed the Senate unanimously on March 10, 2005.

Not only was Safe Place recognized at the press conference, but Nextel Communications announced their intentions to actively support the program through a $75,000 donation and a commitment to make each of their stores a Safe Place.

“Safe Place is a terrific program that unites volunteers and the public and private sectors in our communities to assist young people. I celebrate National Safe Place Week along with over 75,000 youths who have been helped through the program,” said Craig. “I applaud Nextel Communications for their help in expanding the reach of Safe Place so we can help more young people.”

Safe Place is a program that helps troubled youths by offering them a place to go in their community where they can talk to trustworthy adults who act as a link to help. The program works by creating a network of businesses and public locations that display the bright yellow, diamond-shaped Safe Place logo in their windows or a highly visible place on the front of their buildings. The employees at locations where a Safe Place program is in effect have been trained to handle emotionally distressed people.

When a troubled youth requests assistance, an employee will provide the youth with a secure place to wait while he or she contacts the local Safe Place headquarters. If necessary, the headquarters will dispatch a trained volunteer to the Safe Place site to offer assistance and provide transportation to a shelter if necessary.

Nicole Hill, a Safe Place participant and Idaho resident, joined representatives of National Safe Place and Nextel Communications today. Idaho currently has more than 500 Safe Place sites. Senator Craig has designated his Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Twin Falls, and Coeur d'Alene offices as Safe Places.

SENATORS WORK TO OPEN JAPANESE BEEF MARKET

Craig, Grassley, Baucus, among others, meet with Japanese Ambassador

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Idaho Senator Larry Craig, along with several of his colleagues, met with the Japanese Ambassador today to discuss reopening Japan to U.S. beef exports.

Before the discovery of a Canadian calf in the United States that was infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly referred to as mad cow disease, Japan was a major component of our beef exports. Shortly after the calf was discovered, Japan banned U.S. beef imports.

Today’s meeting included Craig, Conrad Burns, R-Mont., Gordon Smith, R-Ore., Thomas, R-Wyo., and Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M. Also attending were Senator Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, Max Baucus, D-Mont., the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over trade issues. Senator Mike Crapo, a member of the Committee, along with other Senators, met with the Japanese Ambassador on Friday. In addition, the President, Vice-President, and Secretary of State have all openly pressured Japan to reopen the Japanese market.

During Senate debate two weeks ago Craig said, “When Canada sneezed and we got the cold, our trading partners backed away. In backing away, we lost a billion-dollar Japanese market.”

After the meeting Craig stated, “Today I stressed to the Japanese Ambassador the importance to Idaho’s economy of reopening this market. Our beef is safe, and the U.S. has bent over backwards to consider the requests of the Japanese government. If beef trade does not resume soon, we will be forced to consider appropriate actions.”

Craig joined 19 of his colleagues in a February 18, 2005, letter to the Japanese Ambassador expressing their concern over the continued closure of the market. For a copy of the letter, please visit Senator Craig's website.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Beneficial Power Administration

by Senator Larry Craig

Dams and cheap power. Those are probably the first things that come to mind for many Idahoans and Northwest residents when the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is mentioned. Clearly, BPA is more than that, but hydroelectric power provided by BPA-operated dams has been, and continues to be, a critical factor in shaping the character of our region and way of life.

As we know, the Pacific Northwest largely is a land of fast-running rivers and vast, open expanses of high-plateau desert. Small parts of the region are blessed with abundant supplies of water, but like much of the West, we have a lot of arid land. However, in the first half of the 20th Century, the enormous potential of our rivers was harnessed by a network of dams built on the Columbia and Snake Rivers.

Many of these dams were built to generate electricity, and they do the job well. The BPA was created to market the power generated by these projects. The dams generate electricity at a low cost, because all that is needed to turn the turbines is some water, and the force of gravity does all the work. At other power plants (wind and solar power aside), fuel must be burned to generate steam or turn the turbines. Fuel costs money. Water and gravity are free.

In addition to the power generated, the dams also create irrigation sources to “make the desert bloom.” And bloom they have, for many, many years. The existence of dams virtually produced the agriculture and aluminum industries in the Northwest out of thin air. Businesses and manufacturers have been attracted to our region for decades because one of the major costs of doing business – energy – is very low compared to other regions. When those businesses come here, they bring jobs that provide a living for thousands of families.

Unfortunately, some look at the low rates the BPA is able to charge and see an opportunity to boost the revenues of the federal government. BPA generates power more cheaply than other providers, and that isn’t fair, they say. And with the federal budget likely to be tight this year, they think it would be a good idea to make the BPA and other power marketing administrations (PMAs) sell their power at market rates. This would bring the PMAs more revenues to fill Treasury coffers, or so the thinking goes.

That’s baloney, plain and simple. While making such a change could, perhaps, generate more revenues for BPA, the argument supporting it is misinformed. BPA operates at no cost to the federal
government, and each year makes payments on its remaining debts. In fact, BPA has moved ahead of schedule with its payments to Treasury.

Making PMAs sell at market rates could result in rate hikes of 20 percent or more. We learned from power shortages in California that rate hikes are inevitable, and rate hikes always hurt the consumer. By forcing BPA to raise rates, the cost of energy goes up in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. That hurts businesses, which may be forced to cut jobs or relocate to another region. Most important, it hurts the workers and families of the region by reducing the number of good paying jobs and increasing their bills.

That is why I worked so hard to defeat the Administration’s request that BPA and other PMAs sell their power at higher rates. BPA provides 40 percent of all power in the Northwest, more than any other PMA. A small increase in rates would have a devastating impact on Idaho’s economy and the entire region. I’m pleased my effort was successful, but this monster has reared its head before, and I’d be willing to bet it will again. If it does, rest assured that I will do everything in my power to stop it.

The BPA has been instrumental in the development and prosperity of the Northwest. It has shaped our economy and our way of life for the better. If the “B” in BPA stood for “Beneficial,” I think that would be appropriate, and many residents of the region would agree. As long as I’m in the Senate, I’ll work to keep it that way.

BILL TO HELP CONTROL MEDICARE COSTS

Authorizes medical nutritional therapy treatments to keep people healthier

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Legislation was introduced today in the U.S. Senate to authorize Medicare to cover Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) for all diseases and conditions where treatment is reasonable, necessary, and cost effective. Idaho Senator Larry Craig and Senator Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., are the chief sponsors.

MNT can be used to promote health and functionality and affects the quality of life for many Americans. It is an effective disease management component that lessens chronic disease risk, slows disease progression, and reduces symptoms.

Craig and Bingaman introduced the legislation to help control Medicare costs and to provide a higher quality of life for our seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries. Craig stated, “MNT is a proven treatment option which reduces costs and improves people’s lives. Congress should allow medical professionals, not arbitrary laws, to determine the best treatment option.”

Currently, Medicare beneficiaries can have access to MNT, but only for the care of diabetes and kidney diseases. This legislation grants the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) the authority, using the National Coverage Determination process, to expand the MNT benefit. CMS reported to Congress last year that there are other conditions, such as hypertension and dyslipimedia, HIV/AIDS and cancer, where evidence supports the cost-effectiveness of MNT as part of the care plan.

Craig continued, “It just makes sense for CMS to direct this benefit appropriately without having to get Congressional approval for each and every disease.”

Please visit Senator Craig's website to view the text of the legislation.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

SUPPORT GROWS FOR FOREST COUNTIES BILL

Mark Rey pledges to work with Congress to reauthorize the law

WASHINGTON, D.C. – During a Senate hearing today, Mark Rey, U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, pledged to support the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, commonly referred to as the Craig\Wyden bill.

Rey was testifying before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests, which Idaho Senator Larry Craig chairs. During his testimony, Rey acknowledge the successes the Bush Administration has seen, “Our experience in implementing the Secure Rural Schools Act has shown that a stable payment to States has been achieved, the establishment of Resource Advisory Committees (RACs) has created a cooperative working relationship with local communities and the Forest Service in implementing projects under Title II of the Act, and these projects have had a positive impact on improving natural resource conditions on National Forests and Grasslands.”

Craig, who worked with Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., five years ago to enact the original law, stated, “This legislation has a proven track record of giving local residents a voice in forest management, completing projects on the ground, and helping to fund schools and roads. I am pleased the Bush Administration recognizes this and will work with Congress to reauthorize it.”

“This law has produced nothing less than a revolution in forest-dependent communities, and it was critical for the Administration to recognize its success and its importance to the region,” said Wyden. “When we talk about efforts that can unify us, and not divide us, we don’t need to look any further than this legislation. How often do you find the Administration, the Forest County Schools Coalition and the Wilderness Society all testifying on behalf of a natural resources bill?”

For more information on S. 267, please visit Senator Craig's website or the Library of Congress.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Healthy Forests, healthy kids

by Senator Larry Craig

“To waste, to destroy our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very property which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed.”

President Teddy Roosevelt, the man responsible for establishing today’s U.S. Forest Service, uttered these words almost 100 years ago. Roosevelt is well-known as a conservationist, a man who fully enjoyed nature and the outdoors, and thought we should preserve them for future generations. If you read the passage closely, however, it is easy to see that Roosevelt believed federal lands should be used as well as conserved.

In establishing our National Forests, Congress and President Roosevelt intended that they would be managed in a sustained multiple-use manner in perpetuity, providing revenues for local counties and the federal treasury in perpetuity as well. Public forests were never intended to be locked up with “Keep out” signs at the entrances.

Those who live near a National Forest likely understand why. Since the federal government does not have to pay property taxes, many counties across the West, some of which are 90 percent owned by the federal government, find it nearly impossible to develop a solid property tax base. Only a few years after creating the National Forest system, this problem became painfully clear. In 1908, Congress passed a bill which created a revenue sharing mechanism to offset for forest counties the effects of removing these lands from economic development.

From 1908 until about 1993, the revenue sharing mechanism worked extremely well. Rural counties with lots of federal land received 25 percent of all revenues generated on public lands. As many Idahoans know, these revenues helped counties provide many of the schools and road projects their residents needed.

However, from 1986 to the present, we have, for a variety of reasons, reduced our sustained active multiple-use management of the National Forests, and the revenues have declined sharply. Most counties have seen a decline of more than 85 percent in actual revenues generated on our National Forests and therefore an 85 percent reduction in “25 Percent” payments to counties. These payments are used to help fund schools, roads, bridges, snowplows and sandtrucks.

Five years ago, Senator Ron Wyden and I, along with a few other colleagues in the House and Senate, took strong action to address what was a growing problem. The law we succeeded in passing came to be known as the Craig-Wyden bill, and it established a formula that stabilized the revenues counties receive from the National Forests. Participating counties receive the greater of 25 percent of the current year's receipts or the average of the highest three years since 1986. Counties may also direct funds toward a variety of projects, such as teen work crews, urban forestry, or forest-related education.

Craig-Wyden also established Resource Advisory Committees (RACs), diverse groups of 15 people who direct a share of the monies to projects on the local forest. RAC members include county commissioners, school superintendents, businessmen and women, members of conservation groups and a variety of other individuals in the decision-making process. The program has been judged a success by nearly all involved, because everyone gets a real say in how their local forests are used, and how their communities will benefit. It truly is a collaborative process.

RAC projects have addressed a wide variety of improvements drastically needed on our National Forests. Projects have included fuels reduction, habitat improvement, watershed restoration, road maintenance and rehabilitation, reforestation, campground and trail improvement, and noxious weed eradication.

In spite of its success, Craig-Wyden is not guaranteed to continue. The law is set to expire in 2006, which is why Ron Wyden and I have joined together in an effort to extend it for another seven years. The bill to extend Craig-Wyden enjoys strong support from both parties in the House and the Senate, and I am very optimistic that it will be approved by Congress and signed by President Bush.

Rural communities are the lifeblood of western states like Idaho, and quite often, public forests are the lifeblood of those communities. Without the revenue to pay for basic services, these communities struggle, and sometimes waste away. However, I will continue to work for solutions like Craig-Wyden that help maintain Idaho’s counties and towns as great places to live.
“Speak softly and carry a big stick,” was one of Teddy Roosevelt’s most famous sayings. Clearly, he knew where that stick came from.

CRAIG TO SERVE ON INTERIOR APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate Appropriations Committee completed its reorganization last night, and Idaho Senator Larry Craig picked up a new assignment. He will now serve on the Interior and Related Agencies Subcommittee, along with five other subcommittees.

As the chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Forests and Public Lands, he plays a key role in public land policy and has worked closely with Senator Conrad Burns in funding the Department of the Interior and related agencies, such as the USDA Forest Service and the Environmental Protection Agency. As a member of the Subcommittee, he will play a more direct role in crafting the annual funding bill.

Over the past couple of months, the Senate and House Appropriations Committees have toiled through a reorganization plan. The Senate finalized their plan late yesterday. After the dust settled, Craig now serves on the following Appropriations Subcommittees: Agriculture, Rural Development, and Related Agencies; Energy and Water Development; Homeland Security; Labor, HHS, and Education; Military Construction and Veterans Affairs; and Interior and Related Agencies.

Following the announcement, Craig stated, “These subcommittee assignments will allow me to have more impact over the budgets of agencies important to Idaho. Idahoans pay a tremendous portion of their income to the federal government, so I will continue to work to ensure their federal tax dollars are spent effectively and responsibly.”

Congressman Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, serves on the Appropriations Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives.

For more information on the appropriations process, please read Senator Craig’s Appropriations Process Issue Brief .

Thursday, March 03, 2005

CRAIG VOTES TO PROHIBIT CANADIAN CATTLE IMPORTS TO U.S.

Resolution to keep border closed until mad cow concerns are addressed

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Idaho Senator Larry Craig joined 51 of his colleagues today in supporting a resolution asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to delay opening the border with Canada for live cattle imports.

Before the vote, Senator Craig spoke to the Senate, including recognizing the Bush Administration’s work to reopen Japan to U.S. beef. Below are excerpts of those remarks:

“It is fair for us to err on the side of science. That’s where we ought to be. That’s where our industry is. That’s where we ought to demand that the Canadian industry is. Our industry folks have been north of the border. They see the tremendous progress that has been made. Our Secretary of Agriculture has recognized that progress and, in part, premised his rule on that basis.

“At the same time, I am one of those who remain skeptical. I think we have to assure Canadian beef is safe. We cannot take another hit in our ag economy. We’ve had our act together here in the Lower 48 for a good long while, prohibiting the incorporation of animal protein in the feed supply. We’ve played by the rules and they have been sustainable, scientific rules, assuring the American consumer safe, high-quality beef.

“When Canada sneezed and we got the cold, our trading partners backed away. In backing away, we lost a billion-dollar Japanese market. Yes, the President, Vice-President, and Secretary of State have all openly pressured Japan to reopen its market to U.S. beef. However, I cannot in good conscience open a border that brings greater numbers to the Lower 48 when the science remains questionable and we haven’t resumed the Pacific Rim markets that are extremely valuable to the livestock industry.”

The resolution, S. J. Res. 4, expresses Congress’ disapproval of an USDA final rule allowing Canadian beef to enter the United States. Currently, Canadian cattle are not allowed into the United States because of concern over bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly referred to as mad cow disease.

For more information on what Senator Craig is doing for Idaho agriculture, please read his Ag Action Plan at http://craig.senate.gov/i_agactionplan.htm.

Craig Warns of Scam Targeting Families of those Killed in Iraq "We need to send these predators to jail," Craig says

(Washington, DC) U.S. Senator Larry Craig, Chairman of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, has joined with the Department of Homeland Security in warning about an e-mail scam that is targeted at the families of fallen U.S. soldiers.
In the scam, the sender claims to be a volunteer working with U.S. forces and that a late friend, who also was a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq, was a very good friend of a relatives' slain son or daughter. The sender then goes on to ask for help in obtaining funds kept for them by the deceased friend, promising more details when the relative responds to the e-mail.

"This is outrageous. Anyone who commits fraud on the tender spirits and broken hearts of the families of America's heroes needs to spend a long time in a federal prison. In short, we need to send these predators to jail," said Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho). "And just like Monopoly, when they're caught, it should be 'do not pass go, do not collect $200 and do not get out of jail free.'"

Calling the new Internet fraud schemes "among the worst we have ever encountered," Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security Michael J. Garcia said his agency is concerned that the criminals in these schemes are impersonating Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, which are now under the jurisdiction of Homeland Security.
To add authenticity to the e-mails, senders are adding links to ICE's actual website, the portion of which discusses Immigration and Customs operations in Iraq. "Most troubling is the fact that some are targeting the relatives of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq," Garcia said.

People who receive such e-mails should delete them. If they have responded, they should immediately call 1-866-DHS-2ICE (1-866-347-2423). Criminals involved in such crimes could be charged with mail fraud, money laundering, wire fraud and other charges.

One month ago the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee held a hearing concerning about the problems families have faced after losing a soldier and how well the nation's current benefits system is working. Disturbed at the difficulties widows have had, Craig is now examining the need for legislation to correct the military's benefit assistance program.
"Survivors of our military heroes are precious and they need our protection. If you know a survivor, please encourage them to be on guard against this latest fraud effort," Craig said.

Craig Hails Passage of Amendment favoring Veterans in Bankruptcy

(Washington, DC) As the Senate moves forward with bankruptcy reform legislation, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs today is hailing the passage of an amendment which will help low-income veterans.

"Reform of our nation's bankruptcy laws is a high priority in this Congress. As we proceed with that debate, I am pleased that steps are being taken to make certain that veterans are protected from any undue hardship," said Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), who chairs the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.

The amendment was put forward by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) and offers special consideration in bankruptcy for low-income veterans, active-duty military, and people who have serious medical conditions. The measure, Amendment 23 to Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (S. 256), passed by a vote of 66-32.

The new protection for veterans is part of a new income test that Congress is debating for those going through bankruptcy. The legislation seeks to help clarify whether those seeking bankruptcy protection must repay their debts or are allowed to have them canceled.

"Congress will do what we can to protect veterans, but veterans like other consumers must be ever vigilant,'" Craig said.

A report by the National Consumer Law Center in 2003 noted that veterans are often targeted by an expensive scam in which streams of their military pension and benefits payments are purchased for a lump sum, with high interest rates, although federal law prohibits such schemes. Such schemes can drive military retirees into bankruptcy.

Despite that warning, a story late last year in the New York Times last year noted the problems of one veteran who signed up for such an offer. In return for a lump sum payment of $19,980 after fees and insurance, the veteran signed over his $1,000-a-month military pension for the next five years, which amounted to a total of $60,000 and an interest at a rate of 56 percent a year. Despite claims by lenders that such deals are within legal boundaries, two federal bankruptcy judges ruled last year that such offers violate federal law.

BPA RATE INCREASE EXCLUDED FROM BUDGET

Senate Budget Resolution will not include a proposal for BPA to charge market-based rates

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Idaho Senators Larry Craig and Mike Crapo announced today that they were successful in efforts to block the inclusion of a proposal for Power Marketing Administrations, such as the Bonneville Power Administration, to charge market-based rates. The President’s budget included such a proposal, which would be a shift in the charter of the BPA and result in up to 20 percent annual power rate increases.

Two weeks ago, Craig stated to Deputy Secretary of Energy nominee Clay Sell, “This is a non-starter in Congress. I will not stand idly by and let the Northwest's economy be hamstrung by BPA substantially raising power rates.” Today he expressed, “I am pleased to hear that the Senate Budget Committee will not include this ill-conceived notion in this year’s Resolution. Once again, common sense is prevailing.” Senator Craig is a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which would have to authorize this proposed change.

Senator Mike Crapo, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, noted the chairman of that committee has been apprised of the BPA rate situation. “I appreciate that Budget Committee Chairman Gregg has joined with us in rejecting this proposal,” Crapo said. “I have said from the beginning that this was an ill-advised, unworkable concept based on misinformation about BPA.”

When Power Marketing Administrations were established, they were designed to sell wholesale power at rates to recover their costs, not to make a profit. Because BPA generates most of its power through hydroelectric dams, the Northwest enjoys some of the lowest rates in the nation, helping to grow its economy and create jobs.

Congressman Simpson, a member of the House Budget Committee, is working to exclude the proposal from the House's Budget Resolution.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

JUDICIARY COMMITTEE REVIEWS MYERS

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing this morning on the nomination of William G. Myers to serve on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Idaho Senator Larry Craig introduced Myers to the Committee.

“I have worked with Bill Myers for a number of years and have been impressed with his professionalism, integrity, and ability. He knows and respects the law and will not legislate from the bench – a lesson many sitting judges should heed,” Craig continued. “Bill Myers is a strong, qualified nominee who will help bring balance to a very out-of-balance court.”

Myers has received support of Republicans and Democrats alike who have worked with him over the years. Key Democrats include former Secretary of the Interior and Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus and former Wyoming Governor Mike Sullivan.

“Myers enjoys a strong base of support from those who know him. In addition, he received a qualified rating from the ABA and was confirmed by the Senate to serve as Solicitor at the Department of the Interior,” Craig continued.

Myers was renominated to the post by President Bush on February 14, 2004. He was first nominated by President Bush on May 15, 2003 and was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 1, 2004. His nomination was filibustered by Senate Democrats. While he received a majority vote for confirmation, 53, he failed to garner the 60 votes necessary to overcome the filibuster.

Once the 108th Congress adjourned sine die last winter, all nominees not confirmed have to be renominated if the President wants them to be considered again.