Senator Mike Crapo visited with Fernwood residents, Aug. 6, at the community center.
Sen. Crapo fielded questions a range of topics including election interference, gun control, payments in lieu of taxes for federal timber land and robocalls. He also received compliments from a disabled veteran in the audience regarding improvements made to veteran healthcare.
Area resident Doug Strong asked the senator about bills regarding election interference and universal background checks. The three bills have passed the House of Representatives but were held up in the Senate.
“I’d like to know what your thoughts are on why the Senate is not being allowed to vote on bills that have already passed the House to protect our elections from foreign influence, provide for universal background checks—they are already sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk waiting to be voted on Mr. Strong said.
“…the hard right and the hard left and many in the middle are mad at Mitch McConnell because a lot of the reporting is that he’s the reason that the Senate is not voting on those particular bills…the reason…is that those bills have pieces in them that are not bipartisan yet,” Sen. Crapo said.
Republicans have stated that the Securing America’s Federal Elections Act is an overreach of federal government because it dictates voting methods for states to use. However, Sen. Crapo alluded to Russian sanctions.
“Take the election interference—there are ways to sanction Russia and ways not to sanction Russia for our own self benefit,” Sen. Crapo said. “I drafted the bill that’s called CATSAA, it was passed in the last Congress. It is the most significant Russian sanctions bill that has passed United States Congress in history. And President Trump signed it into law… And President Trump has implemented massive—more sanctions on Russia than any President in the history—that’s not reported.”
CAATSA is the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs helped craft the bill. Sen. Crapo is Chairman of the committee.
According to the Brookings Institute, since 2017, the Trump Administration has taken 48 policy actions against Russian agencies, businesses and individuals, many of which involve sanctions. A complete timeline is available on their website.
NPR reported that President Trump has been tougher on Russia than any other post-Cold War era president.
As for the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 and Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019, passed by the House in February, Sen. Crapo explained that the bills would need 60 votes to pass.
“I find it hard to believe that the bills we’re talking about would not get 60 votes,” Mr. Strong said.
“They would not, I know that,” Sen. Crapo said.
Asked about tax payments on federal timberland by County Commissioner Phil Lampert, Sen. Crapo said that the subject is a “constant battle.” He said progress is being made on a bill that would return money to timber zones for schools.
“I think there is a good chance we’ll get it though. But maybe not this year,” he said.
To address Robocalls, Sen. Crapo and Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobochar have collaborated on a bill to regulate robocalls.
“We passed a bill that increased our telecommunications companies’ ability to deal with robocalls,” he said.
He added, “I got two, today, while out on the road.”
Area resident Ray Fink thanked Sen. Crapo for improvements made to Veteran’s Association healthcare. Mr. Fink is a retired veteran with 22 years of service in the Army.
“The VA thing they have really helped me out. I’ve got a local doctor now,” Mr. Fink said.
He added that the local VA “hustles” to fix any issues when he mentions Sen. Crapo or Sen. Risch.
“Those people are scared to death of you and Risch,” Mr. Fink said.
“We have stepped up our case work…and we have passed bipartisan legislation,” Sen. Crapo said.