Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Alaska senators comment on Supreme Court nominee

FAIRBANKS - Alaska's senators have been reserved in their comments about President Obama's second Supreme Court pick.

Last week, President Obama nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan for the seat that will be open with the retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens this summer.

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski released a statement shortly after the announcement, congratulating Kagan and stating she looks forward to Kagan's confirmation hearing.

"As a senator, I have a constitutional duty - one that I take seriously - to examine and evaluate a judicial nominee's qualifications to ensure that the candidate has the right temperament, experience and credentials to serve on the highest court in the land," Murkowski said in a statement. "I look forward to my upcoming meeting with Solicitor General Kagan and to the confirmation hearings this summer."

Democratic Sen. Mark Begich seemed much more receptive to Kagan's nomination, calling her "one of our nation's most gifted lawyers with a diverse background and broad experience," but the senator stopped short of a full endorsement.

Begich said he hopes to question Kagan about issues that concern Alaskans, such as Second Amendment rights, privacy and Kagan's philosophy about judicial activism.

"With a massive spill continuing in the Gulf of Mexico on everyone's mind, I'd like to discuss the Supreme Court's decision, which I strongly disagreed with, dramatically reducing what Exxon should have paid to Alaskans damaged by the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and get her thoughts on the appropriate role of courts in the payment of damages from human-caused disasters," Begich said in a statement.

Begich bill would aid veterans

Sen. Mark Begich has introduced legislation that would waive copayments for U.S. veterans' telemedicine visits.

In Alaska, more than 200 veterans are enrolled in the Veterans Health Administrations Telemedicine Program. Each telehealth appointment can cost up to $50 per visit.

"Telemedicine has become an increasingly integral part of addressing the needs of veterans living in rural and remote communities and is a critical piece to ensuring they have proper access to health care," Begich said in a statement. "This simple fix of waiving the copayment lessens the burden on our veterans who have sacrificed in service to our great nation."

Begich said the bill, cosponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, will encourage more veterans to use the service and save taxpayers money by eliminating or reducing travel for some health services.

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Source: By Chris Freiberg. Originally published May 17, 2010