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Armey Plays Both Sides Of Failed Nuke Waste Bill Praises Craig For Pushing It; Nevadans For Killing It

The No. 2 Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday praised members of Idaho’s congressional delegation for getting GOP Sen. Larry Craig’s plan for a temporary nuclear waste dump as far as they did before Nevada lawmakers had it killed.

House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas, who was in Boise to raise money for embattled Republican Rep. Helen Chenoweth, suggested the bill’s chances were good in the House once Craig had pushed it through the Senate over strident opposition from Nevada’s two Democratic senators.

But he said Republican Reps. John Ensign and Barbara Vucanovich of Nevada, along with GOP congressional candidate Jim Gibbons, met with Speaker Newt Gingrich and the other House leaders and convinced them to sidetrack the bill that had stirred strong criticism in the state.

Democratic President Clinton also had threatened to veto the legislation if it ever reached his desk.

“How effective Larry Craig was in getting that vote taken in the first place demonstrated that it could be done,” Armey said. “Then you have Mike Crapo here and Helen Chenoweth, and they made an extraordinarily good case. But the fact of the matter is the president of the United States said, ‘I’ll veto this bill.’ We’re not going to take that vote in the face of that veto.”

During a campaign stop Thursday in Las Vegas, Armey praised Ensign and Vucanovich for doing what Nevada’s senators, Democrats Harry Reid and Richard Bryan, could not.

“What I was amazed by is that these two senators were celebrated for trying and failing while you guys did the job under more difficult circumstances,” he said, admitting that if a vote had been allowed he would have supported opening a temporary dump near Nevada’s Yucca Mountain.

Ensign told Gingrich and Armey that allowing a vote in the House on Craig’s bill would wipe out Nevada Republicans at the ballot box next month despite the promise of a Clinton veto that neither the House nor the Senate had the votes to override.

The leadership’s decision to side with the Nevadans appeared to be a slap in the face for Idaho Republicans. Just days after Ensign issued his warning, Chenoweth, Craig and GOP Rep. Michael Crapo urged Gingrich to allow a vote on the bill but never got one.

A temporary dump in Nevada would have reinforced the government’s ability to finally begin removing waste stored at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory as GOP Gov. Phil Batt maintains his 1995 deal with the government would do.

On Friday, after a $500-per-person VIP reception and a $100-per-person fund-raiser for Chenoweth, Armey said Craig did “a remarkable job” of beating the Nevada Democrats in the Senate against the threat of a veto.

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