Tag Archives: lisa murkowski

Begich continues to use Murkowski in new ad despite her objections

When U.S. Sen. Mark Begich told Politico that “maybe” he would stop using Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s name against her will in his campaign ads, it appears that his “maybe” means, ‘Heck no.’ The campaign on Tuesday released a television ad that corresponds with a recent radio ad featuring Republican pilot Skip Nelson, touting what a great team Begich and Murkowski make and how they vote together as often as “80 percent” of the time. The claim, it should be noted, is only true for 2014. Since 2009, when Begich was elected, the two have voted together about 60 percent of the time. The issues where they deviated, Murkowski has pointed out, were significant.

In any case, the ad is not likely to help soothe tensions between Begich and Murkowski, tensions that have been simmering beneath the surface for years since Begich stumped for Democratic Senate candidate Scott McAdams in 2010, Continue reading

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Interior Department says Pruitt is ‘wrong’ about Jewell’s ‘get over it’ comment. Pruitt stands firm.

When Alaska state House Majority Leader Lance Pruitt traveled to Washington D.C. with a group of lawmakers from across the country, he had no idea that he would get into a high-profile spat with Sally Jewell, the secretary of the Interior Department, the federal agency that is basically the landlord to more than 60 percent of Alaska’s land.

“I never intended to get in any kind of war with a cabinet secretary,” Pruitt, who’s known for being cautious and even tempered, said in an interview on Saturday.

Ostensibly, the “war” is over whether or not Jewell said that she wished Alaska would “get over” pushing to get a gravel, potentially life-saving road through a slice of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge on Alaska’s Aleutian chain. Pruitt said that was Jewell’s response after he asked her about the road during a White House meeting. According to Pruitt, Jewell said that there were more important things to focus on in the state, like drilling in the Arctic Ocean and in NPR-A.

Pruitt said that Jewell said, “I wish Alaskans would get over this one issue.”

A spokesperson for the agency categorically denied the statement. Continue reading

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Interior Secretary Jewell wishes Alaskans would ‘get over’ King Cove road

Among a crowd of lawmakers from across the country at the White House on Friday, Alaska state House Majority Leader Lance Pruitt asked Interior Secretary Sally Jewell about her decision to continue to bar a potentially life-saving road through a federal wildlife refuge in Southeast Alaska.

He was shocked by her response.

“I wish that Alaskans would get over it,” Jewell said, according to Pruitt, who wrote down the quote, referring to the long-fought-for road from King Cove to Cold Bay. Pruitt said she talked about other issues that she felt were “more important” than the road, like opening up lands for oil development in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve, and offshore drilling in the Arctic.

“Do you know how you feel when you get punched in the gut? That’s how I felt,” Pruitt said in a phone interview on Friday. “What she basically said is that drilling is more important than saving lives.”

Other lawmakers in the room approached Pruitt after the meeting, describing Jewell’s reaction as “arrogant.” Continue reading

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Murkowski one of three Republicans to vote to advance anti-Hobby Lobby bill

As she’s done in the past, particularly on social issues, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski bucked her party and voted to advance a bill that would have reversed a recent Supreme Court ruling that allows closely held corporations to decline to provide employees insurance coverage for some forms of birth control based on religious objections. The bill was co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Begich. As expected, it failed.

In addition to Murkowski, two other Republican senators voted to advance it: Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Susan Collins of Maine, both of whom, like Murkowski, are known for being moderate Republicans.

Murkowski’s vote is consistent with what she said in 2012 after she supported a measure called the Blunt amendment that would have done through Congress what the Supreme Court eventually did. Continue reading

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Bipartisan sportsman bill dies in U.S. Senate, a.k.a. ‘Camp Gridlock’

A bipartisan bill that would have opened up more public lands for hunting and fishing got trapped in partisan muck on Thursday as Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid lost Republican support for the bill by not allowing it to be amended, which has become a pattern for Reid.

The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act was sponsored by 26 Republicans and 20 Democrats and had the support of the National Rifle Association, Safari Club International, the American Sportfishing Association, Ducks Unlimited, the National Wildlife Federation, and Trout Unlimited.

Because Reid refused to allow amendments, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, one of the prime sponsors of the bill, voted to allow it be filibustered, which basically killed it. Continue reading

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Cue the campaign music videos

As far as I know, Forrest Dunbar, the Democrat running for Rep. Don Young’s seat, is the first candidate of this season to use a music video as a campaign tool. Even though “Your Love,” the song that he remixed, brought back certain mixed memories for some of us–peach schnapps, Izod shirts with upturned collars, the Iran-Contra scandal — it worked to get him some attention. And who can forget this faux-folk song from Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s write-in race?  The one below is aimed at Sen. Mark Begich. I don’t know who it came from or whether it will stick. But some of it is a little clever.

 

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Where does Begich stand on EPA carbon rules? Staff declines comment on hot-button amendment.

On Wednesday night, the Senate Appropriations Committee scuttled a politically problematic vote that would have included an amendment that blocked the EPA from finalizing proposed carbon emission limits for power plants.  The amendment was to be offered by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to a funding bill for the Energy Department and water programs. Sen. Mark Begich is a member of the committee. He’s been under fire for his alleged support of carbon taxes and regulations.

Heather Handyside, a Begich spokesperson, declined to say Continue reading

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Republicans hitting Begich over new EPA climate change rules

The National Republican Senatorial Committee will be launching robo-calls beginning on Tuesday that target U.S. Sen. Mark Begich’s alleged support for cap and trade. (Listen to the recording of the call here.)

The RNSC’s effort is on the heels of the Obama Administration’s EPA announcement that the agency is proposing new sweeping rules to target coal plants and cut carbon emissions by 30 percent of 2005 levels by 2030. If passed, much of that reduction will be done through a cap and trade plan that will be left up to the individual states.

“It’s not surprising Mark Begich stands by Barack Obama’s costly regulations, because he supported the same cap-and-trade energy tax plan as Obama,” the robo-call will say. “A cap-and-trade energy tax could have killed almost 6,000 Alaska jobs, and reduced disposable income for Alaskan households by more than $1,200.”

The numbers are questionable, as is the charge that Begich supports cap and trade at all. It’s something that he’s consistently denied, and the record is fuzzy.

But what is true is that if the regulations take effect, cap and trade will be a major compliance tool used by states elsewhere. Alaska has an alternative program, so it won’t be used here. But the state’s power plants and coal industry will be affected by the rules.

What’s also true is that in 2010, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who is highly critical of the rule, offered a resolution to stop the EPA from promulgating such regulations. The resolution needed 51 votes. She got 47 votes for it. Begich voted against it. In fact, he gave it a thumbs down on the Senate floor.

A statement by Begich’s press secretary at the time said that he didn’t vote for it because nothing was going to happen immediately. “Some regulations will not go into effect until 2016,” the press secretary wrote. At the time, Begich seemed sure that lawmakers could formulate an energy policy that would make the EPA rule moot.

The draft proposal will now be subject to a 120-day public comment period and will not be finalized until at least June 2015. States will have to submit plans by June 2016.

The issue is likely to haunt Begich throughout the campaign, as well as other Democratic Senators up for reelection in red states.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com

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For fifth time this year, Coast Guard evacuates patient from King Cove

For the fifth time this year, the Coast Guard performed a dangerous rescue operation out of King Cove. On Monday night, a fisherman’s eye was injured while on board the Seattle-based processor near Unimak Island in the North Pacific Ocean. The safest deep water port was King Cove on Alaska’s Aleutian Chain.  However, there is no ophthalmologist on King Cove, and as many Alaskans know, the road that could have been used to transport the fisherman to the all-weather airport in Cold Bay, from where he was eventually medevaced to Anchorage, has been blocked by the Interior Department and by environmentalists.

The fisherman made it to King Cove at 11:30 a.m. Due to high winds and seas, the Coast Guard didn’t make it to King Cove until 3 p.m.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski has been fighting vigilantly to get the Interior Department to allow the road, which would cut through a slice of a wildlife refuge. According to her office, each Coast Guard transport costs as much as $210,000.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com

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Murkowski votes in committee against Suh. Begich will likely vote against her on floor.

UPDATED: U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski voted in committee on Thursday against approving Rhea Suh to be assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Interior Department.

The Energy and Natural Resources Committee, where Murkowski is the ranking minority member, voted to approve Suh along party lines, 12-10. Suh’s nomination now heads to the Senate floor, where she needs 51 votes to be confirmed. U.S. Sen. Mark Begich’s office said that he would likely vote against her confirmation. Begich is up for relection. A vote for Suh would likley be used against him by his Republican opponents. GOP candidate, Dan Sullivan, put out a release in February urging him to vote against Suh.

“Given his blind support for President Obama’s earlier Interior Department nominees, and his record of voting with the President 97 percent of the time, I won’t hold my breath,” Sullivan said.

If confirmed, Suh would head the Interior Department division that has decided against allowing a potentially life-saving road from King Cove to Cold Bay. Eleven miles of that road would cut through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. The road has received much attention in the state recently, largely thanks to Murkowski.

Suh has also in the past been critical of oil and gas development. While working for an environmental foundation, Suh said in 2007 that “the pace and magnitude of this [natural gas] development is easily the single greatest threat to the ecological integrity of the West.”

However, Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, who chairs the committee, said that Suh has assured the committee that she would “absolutely support the responsible development of natural gas and other fossil fuels from our public lands.”

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com 

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Murkowski fights for what’s right, channels Ted Stevens for King Cove road

When the late Sen. Ted Stevens was gearing up for a fight, he wore a tie with images of the Incredible Hulk. In a Senate hearing on Wednesday where she confronted Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Sen. Lisa Murkowski channeled Stevens by wearing an Incredible Hulk scarf. In the audience were members of the community of King Cove, a village of about 900 on Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. They traveled roughly 4,000 miles to petition their government.

The fight, which has Murkowski and her staff as passionate and committed as I have ever seen them, is over 11 miles of a potentially life-saving gravel road from King Cove to Cold Bay. Cold Bay has an all-weather airport. King Cove does not. When the residents of King Cove need serious medical care, they call the Coast Guard, which picks them up and takes them to Cold Bay, in all kinds of dangerous weather. So far this year, the Coast Guard has been dispatched to the village seven times. Watch the video of one of those dispatches here to see what that’s like.

The 11 miles cut through a piece of the Izembek National Wildlife Reserve, a stop-over for migrating birds who feed on the grasses there. Ironically, the feds say that bird-hunting opportunities in the reserve are “world famous.”

A land swap was proposed and rejected. The refuge covers 300,000 acres, and the community and the state were offering to add 61,000 more in exchange for the road. The road is 206 acres. On Dec. 23, Jewell refused the deal .

For two decades King Cove residents have asked for permission to build the road on a piece of land that their ancestors have inhabited for thousands of years. A frustrated Stevens was able to broker a compromise. In 2007, the community got a hovercraft to transport residents between the two communities. The problem? Weather kept the hovercraft from operating most of the time, and cost about $3 million a year. For years, the hovercraft lay abandoned.

Environmentalists are worried about the precedent. They are staunchly against the road, and have dispatched bloggers and editorial writers across the country to write that the struggle for the road has more to do with a fish processing business than the safety of the residents of King Cove.

“But despite pledges and promises to the contrary, the real purpose for building the road is the same as it ever was: moving fish and workers to and from King Cove’s canneries,” wrote former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt earlier this month. Babbitt himself said no to the road.

That the legislation which would authorize the road would forbid commercial use of it doesn’t appear to matter.

Nor, apparently, do the residents of King Cove, or the safety of the Coast Guard members.

Sen. Mark Begich, it should be noted, has also been fighting for the road, but not with nearly the tenacity of Murkowski.

She and the community will win on this, eventually, because they’ve got right on their side.

And in the process, the environmentalists who have demagogued this issue at the expense of real lives will have lost allies across the state, and perhaps across the country. Including this one.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com

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Murkowski again urges Jewell to allow for King Cove road

On the heels of a Coast Guard medical evacuation in King Cove on Friday, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski again urged Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to allow a road that would connect King Cove, the small Aleutian Island village, to Cold Bay, another small village about 22 miles away with an all-weather airport.

On Friday, 63-year-old Irene Newman had to be evacuated from King Cove to Cold Bay, where she was then transferred via life flight to the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage. Newman had experienced heart failure.

Fearing the destruction of birding habitat, the Interior Department has refused to allow the road, which would cut through a slice of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. Murkowski has made the road a major issue since the latest decision not to allow the road was issued on Dec. 23.

“Friday was just the latest example of the unnecessary risk the Interior Department is willing to submit Alaskans to in the name of protecting bird habitat,” Murkowski said. “While plenty of our smallest communities face transportation challenges, none are as close to an all-weather runway and safe access to hospital care as King Cove. To be left in harm’s way, not because of geography, but because of the callous decisions of Washington bureaucrats is unacceptable.”

The Coast Guard received the rescue call on Friday night at about 4:20 p.m. By 5:15, the Coast Guard helicopter had determined that conditions were too dangerous for a commercial flight. It was snowing and the winds were blowing up to 70 miles an hour.

Three Coasties — two pilots and an airline mechanic– made the flight to King Cove. At about 7:20, Newman was in Cold Bay, waiting to be transported to Anchorage. All told there was about a 30 minute weather delay, according to the Coast Guard.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com 

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King Cove resident in critical condition as Murkowski continues battle over road to Cold Bay

A King Cove resident is in critical condition in Anchorage after a medical incident in the small Aleutian-chain village of King Cove on Friday night. The wind was blowing hard, but the Coast Guard was able to get a helicopter into the village to transport 62-year-old Irene Newman to Cold Bay, where she was then transferred via life flight to the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage.

As of 10 a.m. on Monday, Newman was still in critical condition, but is alert and responding, said King Cove Mayor Henry Mack, who is Newman’s brother-in-law and who is currently at the Native Medical Center.

“It was pretty traumatic,” Mack said. “The Coast Guard put their lives at risk,” he said. And they likely wouldn’t have had to go to such lengths if the federal government were to allow for a small gravel road to be built from King Cove to Cold Bay, he said.

It’s another incident among many that has Alaska’s congressional delegation determined to go to battle with the U.S. Interior Department to allow for the road.

For dozens of years, residents of King Cove —  a village of about 950 on the Aleutian chain — have been lobbying the federal government to allow for the road to Cold Bay, about 22 miles away. But because it cuts through a slice of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, they have been told they can’t. The state of Alaska and King Cove Native Corp. recently offered a land exchange. They would give up nearly 60,000 acres of land for the nearly 2,000 needed for the road, which would include 200 acres from the Refuge.

In December, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell rejected the deal, saying that the road has the potential to harm the Pacific black brant, which is a small goose, and other wildlife in the refuge.

Both Murkowski and U.S. Sen. Mark Begich voted to confirm Jewell. Both objected to the decision. There are numerous stories of deaths and near-deaths because of the lack of a road.

Murkowski continues to keep the issue in the spotlight. “I won’t give up,” Murkowski said recently. “I will not get over it.”

Her current battle is trying to block Rhea Suh’s nomination to be assistant Interior secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, the agency that conducted the environmental impact statement on the road.

It’s unclear if Sen. Mark Begich supports Suh’s nomination. His office did not answer repeated questions about it. If he does, it will likely be used by his GOP opponents in the 2014 election.

Given wide Democratic support for Suh and filibuster reform, it’s unclear how Murkowski will prevail. But apparently she has something in mind.

“If I revealed my whole strategy, there would be no surprise and nothing for you all to work on. I can’t divulge everything,” Murkowski told reporters, according to Politico.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com

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Alaska U.S. senators and candidates react to Obama’s State of the Union

It might have been a good night in much of the rest of the country for President Obama. According to instant reactions, his State of the Union address was fairly well received. Even some Republicans considered it to be relatively benign, if not even a little bit uplifting. In the 49th state, however, Obama’s speech was not received well by Alaska’s senators and those who are running for Senate

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said the State of the Union was “another missed opportunity to demonstrate leadership.” Democratic Sen. Mark Begich was even harsher on Obama, and used the opportunity to distance himself from the president. “I was disappointed I didn’t hear what Alaskans wanted from the President tonight,” Begich said. “Specifically, the President missed his chance to talk about national energy security in any meaningful way.”

Begich also criticized what some pundits say were implicit threats throughout the speech to invoke executive powers. (Other pundits are mystified that that was the takeaway of the night.)

“Alaskans can be sure that I will not sit back and watch any sort of power grab – especially from an Administration that has already demonstrated they do not understand core Alaska issues,” Begich said. (Although such criticism of the president probably doesn’t hurt Begich among his party in the upcoming race, not all Alaska Democrats share Begich’s view.)

Both GOP Senate candidates Mead Treadwell and Dan Sullivan didn’t miss the opportunity to use it for campaign purposes. Treadwell said that the speech made it very clear that “Alaska needs a Senator who will represent our values and will bring decision-making home.”  Sullivan said that the speech reaffirmed that the “country requires a new direction, not another year of liberal policies defined by higher taxes, over-regulation and increased debt, which have been supported 93% of the time by Mark Begich.”

Read the statements in full below:

From U.S. Sen. Mark Begich:

I was disappointed I didn’t hear what Alaskans wanted from the President tonight.  While the President delivered a lot of sound bites that may sound good in a speech, we need to hear a clear plan and commitment to economic growth. Specifically, the President missed his chance to talk about national energy security in any meaningful way.

Alaskans know that to ensure our national energy security, we must be more aggressive on natural resource development. From building the Keystone pipeline to offshore drilling in Alaska, we should be taking advantage of our domestic energy potential and I will keep fighting and using every committee post and option available to do just that. The President said he wants to focus on “fuels of the future” but we should be focusing on the fuels we can develop right now—and that’s Alaska oil and gas.

I also have concerns about some of the President’s comments to increase his executive power on issues where Congress should play a pivotal role.  Alaskans can be sure that I will not sit back and watch any sort of power grab – especially from an Administration that has already demonstrated they do not understand core Alaska issues. 

From U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski:

Tonight marks another missed opportunity to demonstrate leadership from this Administration. Millions of Americans tuned in to hear the President express a willingness to roll his sleeves up and work with Congress in a bipartisan fashion to really help move this nation forward – and I count myself among those hoping for an aspirational message.

But what did we hear?  We heard ‘I don’t need Congress – I’ll work around them.

“Go It Alone” politics is not governing.  It is not what the nation expects or deserves – and speeches like tonight are why the public’s faith in government is at a depressingly low rate.  I worry that this “Go it Alone” attitude will only set our nation back, when we need to move forward.  And we move forward on difficult issues best when we are all pulling in the same direction. It’s how our government is designed to work – and the President should not be able to simply decide that it’s too inconvenient for him or it takes too long.  Ronald Reagan’s legacy reminds us that he didn’t dig in his heels against a Democratic Congress.  Instead, he made the decision to pursue a goal-oriented approach – regardless of who got the credit or blame—and successfully passed comprehensive immigration and tax reform.

Tonight, President Obama said he wants 2014 to be a ‘Year of Action.’  If he wants to follow-through on that claim, we need to all be part of the conversation – not just have it be him telling Congress what he wants done.  Let’s talk about jobs and work together to expand opportunities that create jobs.  Let’s work on some of the bipartisan initiatives in the energy sector – which is truly the bright spot in our nation’s economy.  We all want a ‘Year of Action’ but it’s going to take more than the President’s pen and phone.  It will take true engagement with Congress.

Going it alone is not a solution and it’s counterproductive in government.  Consensus-building is hard, but 100 percent do-able.  Let’s get to work.

From Senate candidate Mead Treadwell:

The challenges facing the country and our state are not going to be solved by a speech, a fact that’s become very clear over the past five years. The a president talked about unilateral action.  Too bad he doesn’t believe in the power of states to take action, or our pipeline would be getting fuller now. Alaska’s future is based on access to our  lands. President Obama and Mark Begich have been at the helm as pipeline production decreases and access to the NPRA is cut in half. Washington needs to get out of Alaska’s way and tonight’s speech made it very clear that’s not the Democrats’ plan. He wants jobs.  He wants to improve income equality.   Let Alaska loose and our energy and resources will help power the nation. Alaska needs a Senator who will represent our values and will bring decision-making home.

From Senate candidate Dan Sullivan:  

What the American people heard tonight was President Obama’s desire to double down on the same job-killing policies that have failed to grow our economy, and he has signaled that he will circumvent Congress through executive order to do it.  Ignoring the rule of law and the U.S. Constitution through executive order is troubling and legally dubious. The President’s executive orders have had harmful impacts on Alaska already, such as when the Obama administration locked up close to half of the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska from future development.

Our country requires a new direction, not another year of liberal policies defined by higher taxes, over-regulation and increased debt, which have been supported 93% of the time by Mark Begich.  Together, their policies have continued to undermine Alaska’s and America’s full economic potential.

Alaska deserves a Senator in Washington that will defend the rule of law, fight back against President Obama’s liberal agenda, and promote pro-growth economic policies to get this country back on track.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com

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Murkowski breaks ranks with Republicans over unemployment benefits

Once again flexing her moderate muscles, Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski voted with a majority of Democrats and five other Republican colleagues to extend the debate over emergency unemployment benefits. About 1.3 million Americans have been taken off the benefit rolls since Dec. 28.

Republicans had been threatening to block debate unless they got to vote on a temporary repeal of the ObamaCare mandate. According to Politico, that the bill advanced with Republican votes “shocked Democrats, who appeared ready to strafe the GOP with charges of obstruction should the legislation stall on the floor.”

In a press release, Murkowski said that it’s “important that we have compassion for those Americans caught up in the administration’s economic policy failures,” and warned that the benefits can’t be extended indefinitely. “Instead, we need to see far more productive actions to strengthen job creation and restructure existing programs – not just ongoing safety net extensions – while seeking ways to not add to this nation’s deficit. That’s why I cast my vote today to have a responsible, solutions-based conversation about the unemployment problems facing this nation,” she said.

Debate will continue in the Senate as to how to pay for the $6.5 billion bill.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com

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