Inslee’s Iraq vote speaks loudly in U.S. House race

  • Bill Sheets<br>Edmonds Enterprise editor
  • Thursday, February 21, 2008 12:00pm

Several national issues present themselves as important in U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee’s defense of his First District Congressional seat against Republican Joe Marine and Libertarian Mark Wilson. But none presents itself in as large and timely a way as Iraq.

The three candidates were interviewed by The Enterprise only a day after Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, cast a minority vote in the House of Representatives against a resolution authorizing use of military force against Iraq. The measure passed in the House 296-133 and in the Senate 77-23.

An attack on that country and its dictator, Saddam Hussein, would serve only to “supercharge Osama Bin Laden’s recruiting effort,” said Inslee, referring to information he said was given to him by generals and intelligence officials.

Inslee said he was told that the threat of a terrorist attack is more imminent than any threat from Iraq, that Hussein is “not interested in committing suicide” – partly evidenced by the fact he could have used chemical and biological weapons in the Persian Gulf War but did not, Inslee said – and is more of a “secular tyrant” than a lunatic or Islamic fundamentalist.

“If we come for him, he’ll give every ounce of anthrax he’s got to every terrorist organization in the world,” said Inslee, seeking his third two-year term in the House.

Inslee said he supported another measure in which the United States would join the United Nations in stringently requiring weapons inspections, and then if that didn’t work Congress could readdress the issue.

Marine said he was “diametrically opposed” to Inslee’s position, akin to that taken by Wilson.

“We need to send a clear message to Saddam Hussein to allow unfettered inspections,” said Marine, who spent a year as an appointee in the state House of Representatives and previously served on Mukilteo City Council. He said years of embargoes, sanctions and “16 different U.N. resolutions” haven’t stopped Hussein from thwarting weapons inspectors.

Approval of the resolution “could very well keep us out of war,” Marine said.

Wilson, a distributor of electrical wire and cable and Suquamish resident, said he doesn’t believe an adequate case has been made for the resolution authorizing force. He said he doesn’t believe Hussein “represents the threat that the President would have us believe. He’s doing everything to protect his survival.”

Wilson said U.S. policies are “fueling unrest in the most unstable areas of this planet” and that instead we should “get at the root causes of what creates terrorism.”

Regarding the economy, Wilson called for repeal of the capital gains tax, more competitive bidding in government and an end to “corporate welfare.” Inslee touted continuation of federal financing of a lease program involving Boeing tanker planes, called for extension of unemployment insurance and criticized Republicans for not allowing a proposal for an independent corporate accounting board to come to a vote. He also noted that the federal deficit has increased in the wake of the recent tax cuts, which he said is a “drag on the economy.”

Marine criticized Inslee for voting against creation of a trade promotion organization, for rating a “zero” from the Small Business Survival Commission and for voting against the airline industry bail-out proposed following September 11. Inslee responded that the trade bill did not address an important defect in the North American Free Trade Agreement, admitted that he doesn’t always vote with small business but said he promoted legislation to help keep small “webcasting” radio stations in business, and said the airline bailout bill provided no safeguard for the employees.

On health care, Marine said Washington state is “basically a role model of what not to do with health care.” He contended that the state’s Basic Health Plan discouraged competition by requiring insurers to provide low-cost insurance to low-income people, which resulted in many companies leaving the state and those remaining to raise rates for others. He said the state would have to address the Basic Health Plan itself, but suggested the federal government allow for larger health-care spending accounts that could be used with high deductibles to keep costs down and called for prescription drug benefits under Medicare.

Marine said Inslee voted against the prescription drug benefit. Inslee said rather he voted against a Republican plan that would allow seniors to negotiate with different insurers for lower drug prices. Inslee said he has four ideas on health care: the prescription drug benefit under Medicare; to end “cost shifting” by increasing Medicare reimbursements; reimbursement of counseling for healthier lifestyles, and streamlining of recordkeeping on Medicare.

Wilson said tort reform to keep down malpractice insurance would help, and suggested legalizing marijuana and taxing it and using the revenue for health care – a “diversion of resources away from a lock ‘em up attitude.”

Noting transportation problems, Marine criticized Inslee for “refusing” to serve on the House Transportation Committee. Marine said 18 cents of every dollar of gas tax goes to the federal government and that more should stay here.

Inslee responded that he doesn’t serve on the Transportation Committee because fellow Washingtonians Brian Baird and Rick Larsen represent the state’s interests on the committee, along with Sen. Patty Murray, and he said he supports their efforts to bring funding back.

“It doesn’t matter what committee I sit on if there’s no money to build roads,” he said.

Inslee serves on the Natural Resources and Financial Services committees, the latter through which he sponsored a bill preventing banks from selling private information without permission, he said. Other legislation on which Inslee worked included a pipeline safety bill in the wake of the Bellingham accident and one requiring 100 percent baggage screening at airports.

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