Idaho Senators Cast
by Jim Fisher
It doesn't matter whether it is President Clinton or President Bush expanding this country's open-trading community with other nations; Idaho's senators are often found voting with the fearful protectionist minority.
There Sens. Larry Craig and Mike Crapo were again last week, voting against Bush administration trade agreements with Chile and Singapore. Doing that placed them not only within a minority of their Senate colleagues, but within a much smaller minority of their fellow Republicans.
The agreement with Chile was approved 66-31, but those voting no included only five Republicans other than Craig and Crapo. Among them were both of Alaska's senators, who based their opposition on competition from Chile's salmon industry.
Among Republicans who supported the deal the administration negotiated under Bush's so-called fast-track authority, which prevents members of Congress from fiddling with the details for home-state advantage, were both of Utah's and Wyoming's Republican senators, Montana's Conrad Burns, Oregon's Gordon Smith and Nevada's John Ensign.
Also in the majority were Washington Democrats Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, who have proved to be reliable supporters of free trade.
The vote on Singapore was about the same, 66-32, with Craig and Crapo again voting primarily with Democrats, many vainly fighting to save jobs that have already been lost.
And again, the Senate's Republican leadership, from Majority Leader Bill Frist on down, voted to approve an agreement that Montana Democrat Max Baucus said would "usher in a new era of enhanced economic ties." Baucus is the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee.
It's time Craig and Crapo explained to the Idahoans who elect them why they oppose such enhancements of U.S. trade with other countries. Is it because, like Alaska's Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski, they seek to protect one industry from foreign competition? Or is it because they object to free trade on principle?
Judging from the past statements of both, it is not the latter. But then, few politicians speak these days against the idea free trade. Instead, they express initial support for the concept, and later add their objection after the word "but."
Let's hear Craig and Crapo tell us what, in their cases, comes after "but."
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