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Idaho Contingent Approves Clinton’s Propriety, Criticizes Politics Wise, They Say, To Shun Scandal, But Big Government Is Gop Gripe

Wed., Jan. 28, 1998

President Clinton was right to keep any discussion of the allegations he faces out of his speech to the nation, Idaho Republicans in Congress said Tuesday night.

“I think by its sheer title - ‘State of the Union’ - this is not the forum to deal with personal problems,” Sen. Dirk Kempthorne said.

But with the annual address complete, the president needs to offer “disclosure as soon as possible,” Rep. Helen Chenoweth added.

“We’ll be watching to see if the allegations are factual,” she said.

Kempthorne, Chenoweth and Sen. Larry Craig all criticized Clinton for suggesting the federal government could balance the budget and expand or add programs at the same time.

“The points he made bounced all over, and they appeared contradictory,” Chenoweth said.

The Republican-controlled Congress deserves some credit for the declining deficits, Kempthorne said.

Maybe even most of the credit, Chenoweth said.

“He felt very pleased with the balanced budget,” she said. “We were finally able to bring the president to a place where he would work with us.”

Some of Clinton’s initiatives will receive little support from Idaho Republicans.

A hike in the minimum wage?

Not necessary, Craig said. “Almost everyone who wants to work today is working (at pay scales) above the minimum wage,” he said.

Add Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization?

Needs study, said Kempthorne. The U.S. needs to be able to step back from its European commitments, not add to them, said Craig.

Give the states money to hire more primary school teachers?

Not proper, said Kempthorne. “He is inserting the federal government into a state and local area of concern,” he said.

Kempthorne, who is running for governor this year, said he is interested in the details of Clinton’s proposal to offer tax incentives for school construction.

Congress will continue to support U.S. troops in Bosnia, but it will push Clinton for an “exit strategy,” Kempthorne said.

“I didn’t hear one tonight,” he said. “The administration has none.”

The Senate will take up the campaign finance bill proposed by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russell Feingold, D-Wis. Neither Idaho senator supports the bill in its current form.

True campaign reform would require that unions be required to get written permission from their members to collect money that is used in political campaigns, Craig said. Craig wasn’t in the chamber for Clinton’s speech, but denied his absence was a protest.

“It’s a matter of logistics; I watched it from my Capitol office,” the senior Republican senator said. “I did not judge him, nor do I believe others should.”

Craig said he has missed other addresses, from Ronald Reagan and George Bush as well as Clinton. He wasn’t the only member of the Northwest delegation to avoid the pomp, circumstance - and crush - of the speech. Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., also watched Clinton on television.

In analyzing the speech, Craig did make one oblique reference to Clinton’s problems. The president had declared the era of big government over in a previous address; Tuesday his new programs would cause the government to grow, Craig said.

“For someone who’s asking for the trust of the American public, it’s troubling that he’s saying one thing and having done another,” Craig said.

, DataTimes

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