Idaho Examiner - Sen. Larry Craig News Releases

Friday, May 26, 2006

SENATE CONFIRMS KEMPTHORNE

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States Senate confirmed Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne to be Secretary of the Interior. Idaho Senators Larry Craig and Mike Crapo both voted in favor of Kempthorne’s nomination.

Craig spoke in support of Kempthorne’s nomination Thursday evening, stressing his consensus-building talents, “I have watched Governor Kempthorne for two terms, or 8 years in my State of Idaho, take very difficult situations and sometimes competing sides and bring them together to resolve a problem and to come out whole and smiling in behalf of their interests and in behalf of the State of Idaho. It is with that kind of style and capacity that Governor Kempthorne comes to the position of Secretary of the Interior.”

“Today’s confirmation of Dirk Kempthorne marks the beginning of a great tenure at the Interior Department,” said Crapo. “While there has been some partisanship regarding his confirmation, none of it was directed at him but rather at specific political situations. Dirk has been a great leader in the state of Idaho and will bring strong guidance and common sense to the issues confronting the Interior Department. I look forward to working with him on improving the Endangered Species Act, public land management issues and a host of other issues facing the West and our country.”

Craig also emphasized the Secretary’s role in energy production, “I believe in the next 2 1/2 years Dirk Kempthorne will actually produce more energy for this Nation and our Nation's energy consumers than will the Secretary of Energy. It is that kind of uniqueness and the domain over which he presides that makes this position tremendously important.”

The Senate voted 85-8 to limit debate on the nomination. Kempthorne was subsequently approved on a voice vote.

A high-resolution photo (300 DPI, JPEG) of Kempthorne and his wife, Patricia, with Craig, Crapo, and Senate Majority Leader Frist along with Craig’s full remarks, including audio and web video, are available at Senator Craig's website.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The need to secure our borders

On Monday night, the President spoke to America about the need to secure our borders and reform immigration. He laid out an aggressive plan that I support.

For years now I have worked diligently on a comprehensive approach to immigration reform. We are a nation of immigrants - our economy and our culture are formed by immigrants. Our welcoming nature is something that is unique to America. After all, you can move to Germany, but you cannot become German. You can move to Japan, but you cannot become Japanese. However, anyone can become an American and realize the American dream. For this reason, America continues to be one of the most successful countries in the history of the world, being the very definition of a land of opportunity and freedom.

It is this "shining city on the hill" that attracts immigrants to our country. We need to recognize this and take steps to address our immigration problems. We need to secure our borders, deal with the workers who are already here, and improve programs to provide the workers we need.

First and foremost, border security is national security. If we don't know who is coming into our country, it weakens our ability to halt the next terrorist attack. The President mentioned that the Border Patrol has increased in numbers from 9,000 to 12,000 agents during his tenure and funding for border security has increased 66 percent - an increase partly due to the amendment adopted last year that I authored along with Senator Robert Byrd, D-W.V. to provide funding for 1,500 new border patrol agents. We also joined efforts to secure resources for 20,300 detention beds, 460 additional detention and removal personnel, and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for patrolling our border. These were all mentioned by the President as vital tools to secure our border.

These efforts were a solid foundation. As the President outlined, continued resources are needed, including the use of our National Guard until we can put the additional agents in place. I support the President's proposal and will work hard in Congress to ensure it is enacted as soon as possible.

On May 17, 2006, the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee invited me to testify at a hearing on the President's plan. My full statement is available for you to read on my website.

Border security is vital, but the fact remains we have an estimated 12 million undocumented workers in our country. While the National Guard can assist the Border Patrol, I don't think any of us want our military going door-to-door to find these 12 million people. Still, we need to know who they are. That is why it is important for us to set up a system to bring these workers out of the shadows. I am talking about workers who have been working in our country for years, who have set up roots, and who have learned our language. I believe they should come forward, pay a substantial fine for their illegal act, submit to a background check, learn English, be involved in our community and our government, and continue to work, in order to be eligible for legal work authorization. In addition, they need to get in the back of the line for a green card.

Finally, we need to address the needs of our economy. Americans are fortunate to live in one of the most prosperous countries in the world. Consequently, there are simply jobs that Americans won't fill because they can work at a better job. We have always needed and will always need immigrants in our work force. Therefore, any system to fill that need must bring the workers in legally, keep track of them, and allow them to return home to their families in their home countries when the work is done.

Immigration is certainly the hot political topic of the day, and it is important. That is exactly why I have been working on border security and immigration reform for years. During that time I have had a lot of opportunities to reflect on where America came from, where it has been, and where it can go. If we can secure our borders while recognizing the value of immigrants, our growth will only be bound by the passion, tenacity, and innovation of those seeking life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Live Long and Well

by Senator Larry Craig

“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” These words of Benjamin Franklin have gotten a lot of mileage since he first uttered them. While there is a lot of truth to them, we all know that staying healthy isn’t always as simple as getting plenty of rest.

The field of medicine is much more complex than that, and seems to grow more so each day. At the same time, health care costs continue their steady climb, taking an increasing bite out of the wallets of American workers. According to experts, $1.9 trillion was spent in 2004 on health care costs. By 2015, it is estimated this figure will rise to $4 trillion, doubling in less than a decade. Recognizing this dilemma, Congress and President Bush have taken action, but more remains to be done.

One of the actions we’ve already taken was to approve the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit. While the program isn’t perfect, many of the problems seniors experienced when enrollment began last year have been resolved. Medicare Part D is doing what was intended: helping seniors afford their prescription drugs. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) calculates that 127,778 beneficiaries in Idaho now have prescription drug coverage, or about 66 percent. Nationwide, the average beneficiary will save $1,100 on prescription drugs. To most people I know, that’s a pretty good chunk of money.

By the time you read this, the May 15 deadline to sign up for Medicare Part D may have passed. If you are eligible – if the deadline hasn’t passed, and you have not yet signed up – don’t hesitate any longer. There is a penalty for missing the deadline. Don’t leave money on the table. Take advantage of the savings and sign up now.

I am also cosponsoring several bills to address some other health care challenges that remain.

By some estimates, as many as 46 million Americans are without health insurance, and this has far-reaching implications. According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, children and adults without insurance experience poorer health and die sooner. Health care providers and public health programs serving the uninsured can become financially unstable, forcing them to cut back services and capacity, and that hurts the insured as well.

To help more of the uninsured gain coverage, I am cosponsoring S.1955, commonly called the Small Business Health Plan bill. This legislation will give small businesses the same leverage with insurance companies as larger ones by allowing them to band together to negotiate coverage for their employees. An actuarial firm estimated that the bill will reduce the cost of health insurance for small businesses by about $1,000 per employee. That will make it easier for businesses to provide coverage for workers.

An important part of maintaining good health is remaining physically active, and so I am cosponsoring S.772, the Workforce Health Improvement Program (WHIP) Act. This small measure eliminates the tax penalty for employers who support healthy behavior by employees and eliminates the tax penalty for employees who live healthy lifestyles. It allows employers and employees to deduct the cost of health club memberships or worksite fitness facilities from their gross income.

Two other measures I support are S.2424, which raises the limit on the amount workers can contribute to Health Savings accounts, and S. 2563, the Pharmacist Access and Recognition in Medicare (PHARM) Act. The PHARM Act requires Medicare to reimburse pharmacists in a timely fashion, which has been a problem in the past; allows consumers more flexibility in choosing pharmacists; and provides Medication Therapy Management Services, which help seniors understand how to appropriately use their medication, to live longer, healthier lives.

The costs of health care, whether they are visits to the doctor, medical tests, surgery or prescription drugs, continue to rise. I’ve only listed a few things that Congress and I are doing to bring these costs under control, so all Idahoans can lead healthy lives.

Some other less-famous words of Ben Franklin were “Wish not so much to live long as to live well.” I’ll keep working on health care issues in the United States Senate, so we can all do both – live long and well.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

JUDGE SMITH APPROVED BY JUDICIARY COMMITTEE

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This morning the United States Senate Judiciary Committee approved Judge Randy Smith’s nomination to serve on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Smith currently serves as a District Judge in Pocatello, Idaho.

Following the vote, Idaho Senator Larry Craig observed, “I have known Randy for a long time, and have always been impressed with his thoughtfulness, fairness, and integrity. The Committee sees that, and I am pleased another hurdle has been cleared in his confirmation process.”

“Randy Smith will make a superior judge for the Ninth Circuit Court,” said Idaho Senator Mike Crapo. “Many issues that face Idahoans are decided on the Ninth Circuit and I'm pleased to see an Idahoan with Randy's capabilities fill this seat. He has the experience and qualifications needed, and I look forward to a full and prompt debate and vote on his nomination on the Senate floor.”

The Committee vote was along party lines, 10-8. A vote before the full Senate has not been scheduled, but Craig and Crapo vowed to push for a timely vote.

NOTE: To link directly to this release, please use the following address: http://craig.senate.gov/releases/pr050406b.htm. There is also a printer-friendly version (PDF, 39 KB) available.