BOISE – Idaho stands to lose influence and millions of federal dollars now that the state’s senior U.S. senator has lost committee leadership positions and faces increasing pressure to resign after his arrest in a Minnesota airport restroom.
Republican Sen. Larry Craig has been dumped from leadership assignments on the Appropriations, Environment and Veterans Affairs committees.
Political experts compared the situation to 1995, when then-U.S. Sen. Bob Packwood, R-Ore., the chairman of the Finance Committee, was forced to resign after allegations that he’d sexually abused 10 women.
After Packwood’s ouster, Oregon has struggled to recapture leadership posts that had made its delegation among the strongest in the country when it came to financial issues, said Ronald Tammen, director of the Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University.
Craig has similarly lost much of the clout he earned during 17 years in the Senate. He sometimes boasted that he brought home $2.5 million a week to Idaho in the form of federal grants.
In his three terms in the Senate – Craig also spent a decade in the U.S. House until 1990 – he has pushed funding for rural schools and communities, co-authoring with U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a bill that gave millions to rural areas in the West where timber-based economies had been undercut by reduced logging on U.S. Forest Service-managed territory.
He’s also championed the Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls, including $40 million in 2005 to begin development of a new experimental nuclear reactor to produce electricity and hydrogen. In July, he argued in favor of more than $25 million in Idaho-related projects in an agriculture funding bill, including nearly $13 million to fight a worm afflicting eastern Idaho potato farmers.
With his removal from leadership posts, Craig has been marginalized on all these issues, said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
“It will cost Idaho millions of dollars and lots of influence on policy,” Sabato said, adding the scandal isn’t likely to be forgotten soon. “Poor old Larry Craig has got years of this to go.”