Idaho Examiner - Sen. Larry Craig News Releases

Friday, December 23, 2005

Senate Resolutions

by Idaho Senator Larry Craig

We will soon be celebrating a new year, and many of us embrace the tradition of establishing resolutions for the upcoming year. Resolutions help us focus our efforts, provide a way to measure results, and keep us accountable. I am one of those who make resolutions each year and want to take this opportunity to share with you some of my resolutions for 2006.

The most important is to continue to prioritize providing timely service to Idahoans. In each of my offices and on my website I display my mission and goals. Goal One has always been to, “Deliver timely, high quality constituent service.” This means I am always in touch with Idaho and that I do all I can to help people who have problems with the federal government, respond substantively to everyone who contacts me, listen with respect, study issues before me, and stick to my principles. In short, I try to serve Idahoans in a way they expect and deserve. I resolve to continue to do that as long as I serve Idaho in the Senate.

The Senate’s first order of business in the new year is to consider Samuel Alito to serve on the United States Supreme Court. His floor vote is expected January 20. I have met with Judge Alito and have studied his record. While I will wait until after the hearings before I make my final decision, what I have seen so far demonstrates an excellent choice by the President. Judge Alito has a fifteen year judicial record for us to examine, and so far we have seen that he is smart, practical, conservative, and understands that judges interpret and apply the law, they don’t make law. As we consider Judge Alito, I resolve to fill Justice O’Connor’s seat in a deliberate, thoughtful, and timely manner.

Speaking of judges, Idaho now has two individuals awaiting Senate confirmation to serve on the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Despite being before the Senate for more than two years, receiving approval from the Judiciary Committee twice, and being supported by a majority of the Senate, William Myers continues to be filibustered by Senate Democrats. Joining him just this month as a nominee to the federal circuit court is Judge Randy Smith, an Idaho State District Judge. I resolve to work to ensure both nominees receive a fair up-or-down vote in the Senate – a vote I hope will confirm them to serve.

This Fall, families across Idaho welcomed home friends and relatives who have been away in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting terrorism, liberating Iraqis, and spreading American principles of freedom, liberty, and democracy. Sadly, some families have had to say goodbye instead, to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. I could not be prouder of the Idahoans who have served in the War on Terror. It is a worthwhile conflict, brought against those in this world who seek to end America’s way of life and deny life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to everyone. We cannot sit idly by and let that happen. We have to stand up for what is right.

My very first vote in the United States Senate, in 1991, was the hardest vote a federal legislator can ever cast – to send fellow Americans into harms way to fight a war. I relive and review that somber moment every time I call a brave family who has lost a loved one in combat. No condolences can possibly assuage that loss, but we can honor their sacrifice by continuing the fight for freedom. As the new year unfolds, I resolve to continue to support the War on Terror until we prevail.

During a time of war, finances can be tough. I have long been a champion of fiscal responsibility and smaller government. When I was first elected to serve Idaho in Congress, I introduced the country to the Balanced Budget Amendment, which I still champion. Government provides needed services, but, left unchecked, it will balloon out of control, racking up deficits and debt to be left to our grandchildren. The answer is not to increase its size by increasing taxes; the answer is to control spending. Congress just passed a budget that reduces the federal deficit by $40 billion over five years. This is an enormous first step, but more needs to be done. I resolve to continue my work to control federal spending and reduce taxes.

These are in no way inclusive of everything I will fight for. Idahoans expect me to stand up for responsible use of our natural resources, expansion of our energy supply, and protection of our civil liberties. I resolve I will not disappoint them in the year to come.

As we all reflect on the past year and welcome a new one, I wish each of you the very best.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

SENATE EXTENDS PATRIOT ACT FOR SIX MONTHS

Craig calls this a “clear victory”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States Senate has agreed to extend the USA PATRIOT Act for six months so that concerns over civil liberties raised by Idaho Senator Larry Craig and others can be addressed.

On Monday, Craig and Senators Hagel, R-Neb., Sununu, R-N.H., and Murkowski, R-Alaska, proposed a three-month extension. The extension was designed to ensure the Bush Administration retains the important tools afforded by the Act to fight terrorism while differences over provisions of the Patriot reauthorization bill are worked out. Craig worked with his colleagues, Senate leadership, and the Administration on the extension agreed to today.

In reaction Craig stated, “It was never my intention to let the Patriot Act expire. President Bush needs the tools to fight terrorism and protect Americans. However, when we permanently authorize vast powers to the government, we must do it right. When a law will be on the books for decades, spanning Presidents and generations, we can’t make assumptions that everyone will act with the integrity of the Bush Administration.

“This extension is a clear victory for those of us who stood our ground for civil liberty – the very liberty that tens of thousands of Americans have died to protect.”

SENATE APPROVES DEFICIT REDUCTION PACKAGE

Craig supports the $40 billion in savings

WASHINGTON, D.C. – For the first time in eight years the United States Senate approved a deficit reduction package. Among other things, the Work, Marriage, and Family Promotion Reconciliation Act of 2005 provides for $40 billion in deficit reduction over the next five years.

Idaho Senator Larry Craig was among the 50 Senators voting in favor of the measure. Vice President Cheney cast the deciding vote. Craig, the long-time sponsor of the Balanced Budget Amendment, commented after the vote, “Current federal spending is spiraling out of control and needs to be reined in. That means we need to tighten our belt, which translates to tough choices. While the other side of the aisle spouts about excessive spending, they don’t act to curb it. This bill does that, and it is the right thing to do. ”

In addition to deficit reduction, the legislation improves Medicare and Medicaid, strengthens education for low-income students, provides assistance for needy families, and offers assistance with heating costs for low-income families.

For detailed information on the legislation, please visit the Senate Budget Committee and watch Senator Craig’s floor speech on fiscal responsibility.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

CRAIG, OTHERS OFFER PATRIOT ACT SOLUTION

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The four Republican Senators who voted against ending debate on the USA PATRIOT Act reauthorization urged Majority Leader Frist and Chairman Specter to work to temporarily extend the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act until early next year. The four Senators: Larry Craig, R-Idaho; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Chuck Hagel, R-Neb.; and John Sununu, R-N.H., sent a letter outlining their request and reasoning.

In the letter, the four stated:

“We write to express our profound disappointment that many important provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act will expire on December 31. We agree with the President that it is inexcusable for the Senate to not re-authorize this important law.

“We believe that if key changes to the conference report were made, the re-authorization would overwhelmingly pass the Senate. As one of many alternatives, the Senate could pass a three-month extension to allow more time for negotiations. Or the Senate could take up and pass a bill similar to the Senate version passed with unanimous support earlier this year.

“We note the House of Representatives may return on December 22, making all these options viable.”

Monday, December 19, 2005

Reviewing, Revising, Renewing — The Patriot Act

by Senator Larry Craig

Back in August, shortly after reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act was approved by the Senate, I wrote a piece praising the role of Idahoans in improving the Patriot Act and protecting Americans’ civil liberties. Now, as 2005 and the first session of the 109th Congress draw to a close, it’s time for an update on the progress of the Patriot reauthorization.

Since then, the House passed its own version of the bill, and members of the House and Senate were appointed to a conference committee to resolve the differences. On December 14, the House approved the conference report.

In the buildup to the Senate vote, my name has been thrown around quite a bit on the pages of the newspapers, because I made it known that I would not be supporting the conference report. Why not? While the bill does preserve important tools for law enforcement, it doesn’t do enough to protect the civil liberties of innocent Americans.

The conference report would allow the government to obtain library, medical and gun records and other sensitive personal information under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, without demonstrating specific reasons to believe that person is connected to a suspected terrorist or spy. Currently, federal agents can simply say those records are relevant to an authorized intelligence investigation.

As business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have argued, this would allow government fishing expeditions targeting innocent Americans. We believe the government should be required to convince a judge that the records they are seeking have some connection to a suspected terrorist or spy. The Senate-passed version of the Patriot reauthorization had this requirement, but the conference report does not.

I am also concerned about the conference report’s treatment of the use of National Security Letters (NSLs). NSLs are similar to a subpoena from a court. Federal agents can use them to gather certain types of sensitive information about a suspect, including business records. Someone who receives an NSL is placed under a gag order and cannot discuss the NSL with anyone except an attorney, and must report that contact to the FBI. Furthermore, if someone feels they have been unjustly served an NSL, their ability to challenge it in court is harshly limited by the law, and the conference report does not allow meaningful judicial review of the gag order.

There are other concerns I have with the current form of the conference report for the Patriot reauthorization bill, but the space to discuss them is limited.

That being said, significant compromises were made when the House and Senate conferees met to iron out the differences between the two versions. The conference report, in its current form, includes real improvements on the Patriot Act that is on the books.

Who can Idahoans thank for these improvements? You can thank yourselves! Shortly after the original Patriot Act was approved in 2001, Idahoans from all walks of life, from all points of the political spectrum came to the Idaho Congressional Delegation with concerns about the Patriot Act and civil liberties. Hearing those concerns, we worked together to improve the law. The result has been improved safeguards for the rights of Americans.

Several areas of the law still need adjustment to better protect civil liberties. I believe that is why my colleagues joined me in supporting a filibuster to gain a limited extension of time for negotiators to work out the few remaining problems. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to oppose reauthorization of Patriot until these concerns are met.

President Bush is right when he says we cannot afford to go one moment without the tools that the Patriot Act provides. However, we must strike a balance in the law, so our law enforcement officials have all the necessary tools to fight terrorism, while Americans’ civil liberties have all the protection they need as well.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

CRAIG WARNS WHITE HOUSE CONFERENCE ON AGING ABOUT RAPIDLY AGING NATION

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Larry Craig spoke to the White House Conference on Aging Tuesday night and again today (Wednesday), and warned the approximately 2,000 people gathered about the challenges that are ahead of an America that is quickly growing gray.

“Consider this – today there are over 50,000 centenarians in the United States. By 2050, just 45 years from now, the number of centenarians will be closer to one million. Imagine one million people living in the U.S. who are 100 years and older. It’s stunning, simply phenomenal,” said Craig.

He is the Chairman of the Economic Security Subcommittee of the national conference, and is the immediate past chairman of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging. He used the lives of two senior citizens to illustrate what lies ahead.

“Maria Capovilla from Ecuador, at 116 years old, is the oldest woman on the planet, and Emiliano Mercado del Toro of Puerto Rico, is the oldest man alive at the age of 114,” Craig said. “He was born August 21, 1891, and served in the U.S. Army at the end of World War I. He is the nation’s oldest veteran,” Craig said. “Don Emiliano and Maria are called super-centenarians because they surpassed the age of 110, and folks, what is phenomenal about this is that in a few years, this will be the norm. This phenomenon of a rapidly aging population presents challenges and opportunities. The challenge, of course is to evaluate our current programs and design them to meet the needs of our upcoming older population.”

Craig praised President Bush for his recognition of these trends and called the President’s efforts to improve Social Security for older generations a “wise decision.”

“We have a demographic time bomb clicking away, and unless we make some changes soon, it will be our children and grandchildren who will face either much higher taxes or lower benefits in Social Security. By allowing some type of personal account within Social Security, we can protect current seniors on Social Security and improve the amount of money our grandchildren will have in their retirement years,” Craig said.

To address the needs of older Americans, Craig noted that in 2000, Congress changed the law to allow people drawing Social Security to work without losing their benefits.

“That change has had an impact – more seniors than ever before are receiving Social Security and they have the freedom to work without being penalized by the federal government,” said Craig. “But I suspect we in Congress may need to more changes to current laws to make government work even better for older Americans.”

Another recent improvement for older Americans that Craig pointed to was the addition of the Medicare prescription drug benefit which will go into full implementation in January. “Last year Congress voted to add a much needed and long-overdue prescription drug benefit to Medicare. It's not a perfect bill, but it will save an average senior citizen enrolled in the program $1,000 a year,” Craig said.

Sen. Craig is the second elected leader from Idaho to speak at the national gathering. On Monday Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne also spoke to the conference. The White House Conference on Aging occurs once a decade to make aging policy recommendations to the President and Congress, and to assist the public and private sectors in promoting dignity, health, independence and economic security of current and future generations of older people. More information about the conference is available on the Internet at http://www.whcoa.gov

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

JAPAN OPENS BORDERS TO U.S. BEEF

Idaho delegation applauds decision

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Idaho Senators Larry Craig and Mike Crapo and Idaho Representatives Mike Simpson and C.L. “Butch” Otter reacted to USDA Secretary Mike Johanns’ announcement today that Japan has reopened its borders to U.S. beef products. The Idaho Congressional Delegation issued the following joint statement:

“We are very pleased with this announcement, as are many Idaho cattle producers. Reopening this market is an important step toward reestablishing safe, high-quality U.S. beef products in Japan and other Asian markets. We would like to thank President Bush, Secretary Johanns, U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman and many others who listened to concerns expressed by the Idaho delegation and who worked on a personal level to lift this ban. This is a great day for U.S. and Idaho producers, and we will continue to put pressure on other countries in the region to follow Japan’s lead.”

This development is expected to have a huge impact on the U.S. cattle producers and the domestic cattle market, as all cattle 20 months of age or younger will now be allowed into Japanese markets. The USDA reports that in 2003, the United States exported $1.4 billion worth of beef and beef products to Japan.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Supporting Good Science

by Senator Larry Craig

There has been quite a bit of discussion around Idaho and the Northwest lately regarding my efforts to redirect funding for the Fish Passage Center (FPC) to other entities in the region. Much of this criticism contends that I am placing dams above salmon, “silencing science” or “killing the messenger” that brought bad news about salmon recovery efforts.

These catchy phrases may sound good or look good in the local paper, but they aren’t advancing the debate about salmon recovery in the Pacific Northwest. Rather than silencing science or killing the messenger, I am providing a greater ability for unbiased, objective science to be heard in the recovery debate. I do not believe we have to sacrifice salmon for dams or vice-versa; we can have both and should be working in that direction.

It’s important to note that the functions of the FPC will not cease. Rather, these functions will be transferred to a different entity or entities, which the Bonneville Power Administration and Northwest Power and Conservation Council will choose.

The FPC had put itself in the position in recent years where many in the Northwest felt it was beginning to take sides in the recovery debate. In doing so, the FPC began to undermine its own credibility. Advocacy has its place in this issue, but BPA’s ratepayers shouldn’t be expected to fund it. Make no mistake; the scientific data will continue to be collected, analyzed and disseminated to the region, just not by the FPC.

Contrary to some claims, this is not a conflict between states, between the region’s salmon and Idaho’s water. While the dams in question may be in Washington, Idaho gets roughly 20 percent of its electricity from BPA. If those dams are breached, their generating capacity must be replaced, and would probably be replaced by generators that burn fossil fuels. There is no question these would impact the environment in a way many salmon advocates would not want.

We must also consider what will happen to the state and regional economy if we are eventually forced to flush our water downstream for experimental spills. The science is not conclusive that increased spill increases salmon survival, but it is clear that spills threaten recreation opportunities behind the dams, as several tribes have pointed out.

This is a regional challenge, and a regional solution must be found.

Debating FPC funding is essentially anchored in the past. The Energy and Water appropriations bill for FY 2006 has been passed by the House and Senate and signed by the President. It is law. So the discussion must now move to the future.

Where do we go from here? First, all the interested parties need to take a deep breath, abandon the polarizing rhetoric, and come together to find solutions to the salmon recovery issues facing the Northwest. If we are to reach a solution with which all can live, we need the broadest array of interests to participate in the give-and-take in good faith. Throwing grenades at each other might look good in the headlines, but it solves nothing.

Second, we need to begin addressing the areas of salmon recovery that we know the least about. We know quite a lot about salmon and their lives in the river systems. However, once they navigate the rivers of the Northwest and make it to the ocean, scientific knowledge is woefully inadequate. Salmon spend a majority of their lives in the ocean, but that’s the part of their lifecycle that is the most unknown. How do ocean conditions affect salmon? How many are harvested or otherwise die before they reach maturity and return to spawn in our rivers?

These questions underscore a huge gap in our collective knowledge of salmon and steelhead, and we are only just beginning to nibble at the edges of it. Therefore, until we fill this gap, any policy formed to boost fish recovery will be incomplete, and quite possibly, counterproductive.

I will continue to work in the Senate for solutions that all parties can accept. The United States found a way to put a man on the moon through ingenuity and a can-do spirit. I believe we can find a way for dams and salmon to coexist that does not sacrifice one for the other. To do so, we need to come together and build toward success, rather than tear each other down.

Monday, December 05, 2005

America Works

by Senator Larry Craig

America is built on the private sector and the ingenuity and drive it nurtures. It is this that has made America the beacon of freedom, hope, and opportunity it is today. American capitalism is succeeding once again.

This past week brought a flurry of positive economic news. While news of layoffs and closure dot the landscape, overall our economy is healthy. Over 4.4 million jobs have been created in the U.S. since May 2003, with 215,000 new jobs in November alone. Our unemployment hovers around 5%. This is at a time when Germany, Europe’s largest economy, is celebrating a 10-month low of 11% unemployment.

According to economist Richard DeKaser, America’s labor market has more jobs than workers, on average, which is pushing wages higher. These jobs and wage gains are translating to more money for the average American. Incomes were up .4 percent in October and consumer spending increased 4.2 percent during the third quarter of this year. Business investment outlays rose 8.8 percent – signaling a stronger economy in the future. Amongst all of this news, Alan Greenspan emphasized that the economy, “has delivered a solid performance thus far in 2005” and “economic activity appears to be expanding at a reasonably good pace as we head into 2006.”

While the government does not create jobs, the policies it embraces can stifle or foster economic growth. Thankfully, this Administration and Congress have embraced policies that promote investment, free markets, ownership, individual responsibility and ingenuity, and freedom. Most important are the tax cuts that keep money out of government coffers and in the hands of individuals to spend and invest how they see fit. We have also recently enacted legislation that will help in the future, including an energy bill, pension reform, and bankruptcy reform.

Of course, we can’t sit idly by. Congress must be vigilant in ensuring that sound policies are enacted, the most pressing of which is limiting federal spending. We have to make hard choices, including restrictions on entitlement spending. Again, we turn to Greenspan, who just yesterday called for Congress to take steps to control entitlement spending, healthcare in particular, following his remarks on this week’s economic news. He stated that healthcare costs, “will exert budget pressures that seem increasingly likely to make current fiscal policy unsustainable.” We need to rein in these costs.

Fiscal responsibility embraces the simple concept that less is more. Less government spending means more freedom for individual Americans and increased levels of economic activity and rates of economic growth for the country. Studies by the Public Finance Review, the Journal of Monetary Economics, and the International Monetary Fund have all come to the same conclusion – smaller governments equal better economies. After all, every dollar the government spends is one taken from an American and is one less dollar in the productive, private sector economy.

Americans are rightly concerned that our fiscal policy is sliding towards recklessness. Not too long ago, Republicans stood up, made the case for smaller government, and made it happen. The record budget surpluses from 1998 to 2001 reflect that. The time for action is upon us once again. Congress must act to extend the Bush tax cuts, limit spending, and implement a fundamental, permanent policy of fiscal restraint such as a Balanced Budget Amendment the Constitution like the one I re-introduced earlier this year.

It’s policies like these that have led America to have the strongest economy in the world, an economy every American can participate in.