Congressional Quarterly: Murkowski Named Top Republican on Interior-Environment Panel

Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski will serve as the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Interior-Environment Subcommittee, a promotion that will extend her influence over environmental and energy policy.

The slot will give Murkowski major sway in writing the budgets for EPA and the Interior Department — two agencies she has harshly criticized as the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

In the last Congress, Murkowski led an unsuccessful effort to overturn EPA’s endangerment finding on greenhouse gases, which triggered regulations on carbon dioxide that went into effect last month. She has yet to sign on as a cosponsor to the handful of recent bills that would block or delay the rules, but attaching a rider to the agency’s budget is widely seen as the most realistic strategy for staying EPA’s hand on global warming and other controversial regulations.

The appropriations seat also boosts her hand in dealing with Interior, a department she has criticized over its response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and one that manages vast tracts of public lands in her home state, as well as oil production in federal coastal waters.

“Nearly two thirds of Alaska’s land mass is owned or managed by federal land management agencies, so as the ranking member of the Interior-Environment Subcommittee, I will be fighting to ensure that the federal government upholds its commitment to maintain these lands for the benefit of all Alaskans,” Murkowski said in a statement Friday.

Her ascension to the ranking slot caps a remarkable comeback from near political death just months ago. Her Senate career looked finished last year when tea party-backed challenger Joe Miller bested her in a Republican primary.

Despite losing her party’s nomination, Murkowski eked out an improbable write-in win, in defiance of Senate Republicans, who backed the challenger.

Murkowski ended up leaving her leadership position before the election, but despite some rumbling about punishing her for running against a party-endorsed nominee, she retained her ranking slot on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee after winning re-election.

As expected, Rhode Island Democrat Jack Reed will chair the Interior-Environment Subcommittee. Reed has not been a central player in energy and environment issues, but he received perfect or near-perfect scores from the League of Conservation Voters for his voting record since 1999.

He replaces California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, who will chair the Appropriations Energy-Water Subcommittee.

Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who previously was the ranking Republican on Interior-Environment, will assume that position on the Energy-Water panel.




By:  By Geof Koss. Originally Published on February 4, 2011