Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo hopes that at least a couple of Democrats will want to take a second look at the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package that is heading to the Senate. If that happens, he says, there’s a chance that money can be channeled toward the people who need it the most.
Crapo is all for passing another coronavirus relief package, even if it means increasing the national debt. “But I’m not for building a bridge from New York to Canada, which is part of their bill.”
The senator stands behind some parts of the bill that provides funding to individuals, restaurant operators, a Payment Protection Program for small businesses and vaccines. But he wants no part of spending $50 million for “family planning” services, such as Planned Parenthood, which according to Forbes, also is part of the package. The bill also provides $200 million to the Institute of Museum and Library Services and $270 million to the National Endowment of the Arts.
In other words, this bill has more pork than a sausage factory.
“Huge portions are not even related to COVID relief, or even closely related to COVID relief,” Crapo says. “The amount we’re looking for is much smaller, under $1 trillion, and is focused on COVID relief. We need to remember, this is borrowed money. The national debt is still a crucial issue.”
As Crapo sees it, what happens on COVID relief will set the tone for President Joe Biden and his working relationship with Republicans. If Democrats ram through the package without Republican support, or input, it could be four years of gridlock – which is something that Crapo hopes to avoid.
“There is significant potential for bipartisan agreements in the tax arena, trade arena and health care arena,” Crapo says. “If he wants to work with us, we are ready to work with him.”
Crapo, who this year moved from the banking committee to ranking member of the Finance Committee, is more certain about his cordial working relationship with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Or., who chairs the finance panel. They’ll have their disagreements, starting with COVID relief, and Crapo’s office will churn out press releases expressing his opposition. But with both being from the Pacific Northwest, there’s a lot of common ground as well. Over the years, both have fought for more resources for wildfire management and the Secure Rural Schools initiative.
Crapo, naturally, hopes that Republicans will regain control of the Senate in two years and roles with Wyden on the Finance Committee will be reversed. In the meantime, he’s looking for a productive tenure as the committee’s ranking member – with an eye toward reducing the partisan rancor. His focus will be on issues such as tax policy, trade agreements, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
He backs away from the political fights that headline the network news. One common question is whether he backs Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell or former President Trump. Crapo’s answer is short, and blunt.
“I support Mitch McConnell as our leader and the caucus backs him as well,” Crapo says. “The media makes more of this matter than what’s there.”
Does Crapo agree with Sen. Lindsey Graham and others who view Trump as the party’s supreme leader? Crapo is bored with that one.
“I get that kind of question every presidential election cycle,” he says. “I’m going to get that question from a lot of people every year until the election. My answer is the same. It’s far too early to designate who will be the leader of the party in the presidential context. The decision will be made in the primaries, and I’ll tell you the leader after that process runs out.”
It’s clear that Crapo will never be a headline speaker at a CPAC convention, standing with the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz and railing about how the last election was rigged against Trump. But political grandstanding has never been Crapo’s style.
At the moment, he has more important business in front of him.
Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org