Idaho Examiner - Sen. Larry Craig News Releases

Tuesday, January 31, 2006


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Idaho Senator Larry Craig commented on President Bush’s State of the Union address tonight in the House chambers:

“Tonight we heard some inspiring words from President Bush, reminding us that America has always risen to the challenges facing it, and that we are at our best when we are proactive and playing a leadership role in the world.

“This is a man who has a very good read on the concerns of the American people. He came to the Capitol tonight and laid out some excellent proposals to meet these challenges and make our Union stronger, healthier and more prosperous.

“Many of us also appreciated his call to abandon the angry partisan rhetoric and tactics that have poisoned the national dialogue in recent months. I hope all of Congress takes that message to heart. We can and must debate the issues of the day, but we ought to be able to do so without questioning each other’s character and integrity. Civility and respect are absolutely necessary to a good working relationship between Democrats and Republicans, and I’m glad President Bush brought attention to the subject.

“The President also presented some bold proposals that will move America’s energy portfolio into the 21st Century. We have several technologies like ethanol and hydrogen fuel cells that have the potential to greatly reduce our dependence on foreign oil. More support for research and development can make these fuels a reality, and I’m glad the President shares that vision.”

Friday, January 20, 2006

Approaching Alito’s Approval

by Senator Larry Craig

Elections do indeed have consequences. This thought returned to me again and again as I watched the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings of Judge Samuel Alito’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. Here we are in January 2006, and the echoes of 2004 continue to reach us.

Throughout the presidential campaign of 2004, voters heard how important it was to participate, because the winner would appoint one, two, or perhaps even three new justices to sit on the Supreme Court. No matter who won, appointing so many new justices would have a profound effect on the future of the court and our country.

Looking back now, President Bush has done a phenomenal job in filling the two vacancies that have opened up in his second term. Making these selections is not as easy a task as some would believe. Many of the voters who supported candidate Bush expected strong conservative nominees, but those nominees must also be able to survive the gauntlet of Senate confirmation proceedings. It is not an easy line to walk. Still, John Roberts was an outstanding choice for chief justice, and he was approved by a large, bipartisan majority of Senators. After watching Alito’s hearings, I believe that he too is an outstanding nominee worthy of my support and the approval of the full Senate.

Some Idahoans have asked me why I waited so long to decide whether I would vote in favor of Judge Alito. That’s a fair question, and if you’ll allow it, I will explain.

It was clear very soon after Judge Alito was nominated that he was an outstanding judicial talent and a decent, honorable man. He has impeccable qualifications, including a bachelor’s degree from Princeton and a law degree from Yale (One of my staff members points out that Princeton is the “U of I of the East”). His colleagues almost unanimously praise his fairness, intellect, and work ethic, noting that he does not allow ideology to influence his rulings. Professionally, there is very little, if anything, to argue about.

I also met with Judge Alito several times to get a sense of the human being, what kind of person he was. He is a loving husband and proud father who coached his son’s Little League baseball teams. He has been active in his community. Throughout our conversations, I tried to pay close attention to his temperament. What you can't get a sense of through court cases and decisions is a man’s personality and his demeanor. I think that is very important, almost as much as his judicial philosophy. I came away very impressed.

While I had a good sense of Judge Alito, I wanted to allow the confirmation process to take its course before making a final decision to support him. It is important for the nominee to conduct himself well and allow members of the Judiciary Committee to seek answers to some important questions.

From the evidence I had seen, Alito was not a judge who saw himself as a substitute legislator who would try to correct the shortcomings of the law or the Constitution by rewriting them from the bench. I believe judges should reach decisions based on what the law says, rather than reach decisions and reinterpret the law to support them. Judge Alito’s performance before the Judiciary Committee was the final, yet crucial, confirmation that my conclusions were well-founded. When the time comes on the Senate floor, I will readily vote in favor of his confirmation.

Although it is now 2006, some Democrats in the Senate have apparently refused to acknowledge that George W. Bush won in 2004. Some even produced their own lists of who they thought would make attractive Supreme Court nominees. The last time I checked, however, the president lived and worked in the White House, not on Capitol Hill. Without question, President Bush’s victory in 2004 gave him a mandate from the people to nominate justices who fit his requirements, not John Kerry’s.

That being said, I am pleased that Alito will be receiving bipartisan support when his nomination reaches the full Senate, and that he will not be filibustered. This is a testament to the high standards President Bush has set – and met – in selecting people like Samuel Alito to serve on the United States Supreme Court.

Judge Alito, son of an Italian immigrant, has succeeded at every stage in life through hard work, perseverance, integrity, and respect for his colleagues and neighbors. He is truly a role model and the embodiment of the American dream. He deserves strong support and a timely confirmation.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Whiskey and Water in the American West

by Senator Larry Craig

Over the past several weeks, I have enjoyed spending time in Idaho with friends and family and celebrating the holidays. I have also enjoyed watching the rain, and more importantly, the snow continue to fall more regularly on nearly all of Idaho this winter.

It is rumored that author Mark Twain once said, “Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over.” For generations of Westerners, this saying has been true. I’ve had my fair share of fights in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate to protect Idaho’s right to control its water, and will continue to be vigilant in the future. But outside Congress, I have noticed a shift in recent years. Thankfully, folks are now starting to sit down to talk and work together to address the challenges presented by this scarce commodity.

We are all familiar with the drought Idaho has suffered through for the past five years, going on six. The last two years, Idaho agricultural producers have worried through unusually dry winters, only to be saved by unusually heavy spring rains. Those spring rains have provided our streams, lakes and reservoirs with just enough to get through the growing season, but not enough to ease drought conditions.

This winter has gotten off to a promising start, according to the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, with precipitation totals well above average in every region of Idaho except the panhandle, which stands at 96 percent, as I write this. However, the winter isn’t over, and if our current snowpack stays at these same levels for the remainder of the season, we may be left praying for those late spring rains to save our farmers and ranchers once again.

Such is the nature of life in the West. The region we love is, in general, a dry one. In this day and age, water is becoming the scarce and precious commodity of highest value, not unlike the gold and silver that attracted settlers who came here more than a century ago. But a vital difference is that our water sources are a known quantity, and they are limited.

At the same time, the stream of people relocating to western cities and town is seemingly endless, and this is beginning to pose a very real challenge. In addition, recovery of endangered or threatened species such as salmon and steelhead have added complexity to the question of how our water is used.

Much of our water infrastructure is aging rapidly or needs updating. Congress is also very concerned with reining in federal spending, and the Bush Administration has given clues that its budget requests for fiscal year 2007 will be a continuation of efforts to cut the federal budget deficit in half by 2009. This means a lean financial environment for water projects.

Because I am concerned about these issues and finding ways to address them, I serve as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Center for the New West, which recently concluded a conference titled “Water and the West – Meeting Supply Challenges Today and Beyond.”

This conference was held in Las Vegas, Nevada, a city whose very existence highlights the challenges of using and managing water in the West. Las Vegas is in the middle of a desert, but it is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. The West is growing rapidly and the growth does not always occur where water is abundant, so we face a huge obstacle in bringing water from where it is to where it is most needed.

The “Water and the West” meeting brought leaders from the public sector and private industry together to discuss important water issues and look for solutions that meet the needs of all water users. In many instances, some innovative solutions have been found, and conferences like this one allow new ideas and perspectives to be shared and applied on a broader basis.

We had a very productive and rewarding meeting this week, and I was proud to be a part of it. That being said, many problems still exist and will continue to spring up as the West continues to grow and change. Thanks to the Center for the New West, we can be sure that leaders from all walks of life will continue to work, not fight, for real water solutions.