Juneau Empire: Murkowski: Good things can come together with bipartisanship

Senator says Alaska needs to be ready for infrastructure opportunities

Sen. Lisa Murkowski extolled the virtues of bipartisanship Tuesday in her annual speech to the Alaska State Legislature. During her remarks, Murkowski, a Republican who has held one of Alaska’s U.S. Senate seats since 2002, touted the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.


“Good things can come together with bipartisanship, we can actually approach this from a common-sense approach,” Murkowski told a joint session of the Legislature in the chambers of the Alaska House of Representatives. “I promise you, (the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law) will bring sustained benefits to both urban and rural areas across the state.”


Murkowski, in her first in-person address to the Legislature in two years, spent much of her address emphasizing the benefits the infrastructure package would bring to the state and that working across the aisle had made it happen. She thanked U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, for his support for the bill despite pressure from fellow House Republicans to oppose it and called the bill “One of the most consequential measures I have ever worked on.”


She told lawmakers they need to make Alaska ready to take advantage of the many grant opportunities that would be available in the coming years. Many of the grants are targeted at areas that are underserved, and Murkowski noted Alaska has several communities that are wholly unserved. Murkowski put particular emphasis on infrastructure for broadband internet and wastewater, saying it would transform the daily lives of many Alaskans.


But while emphasizing bipartisanship, Murkowski was also critical of the Biden administration’s approach to energy and resource development. Calling President Joe Biden’s policies toward resource extraction “incoherent,” Murkowski said the administration’s policies help other oil-producing countries while hurting Americans.


“No administration should look to OPEC for supply,” Murkowski said, referring to a group of 13 oil-producing nations.


In questions, Rep. Kevin McCabe, R-Big Lake, asked the senator if she regretted her vote to confirm Deb Haaland as Energy Secretary due to her policies on resource extraction. Murkowski said she is seeking to change Haaland’s mind on resources, and said Haaland was only part of an administration with a different view of energy development.


“It is beyond the secretary’s office, it is a White House that has an entirely different view,” Murkowski said. “But we also have to be able to talk to these people.”


The same day as Murkowski’s address, the Biden Administration announced halts to oil and gas leasing on federal lands and made a decision regarding the controversial Ambler Access Road. Murkowski referenced the decision in her address, though because of the timing could not say at the time what the announcement would be, only calling it “a setback.”


The senator noted Alaska’s strategic importance and said the state would soon be home to the most fifth-generation aircraft anywhere in the world. Murkowski called Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to send troops into separatist provinces in Ukraine’s east “an invasion” but said the Biden Administration has made it clear that combat troops were not being deployed.


“When you have a nation effectively coming into a region and attempting to re-arrange, if you will, their political dynamic,” Murkowski said. “For the U.S. or for any free country to just kind of sit back and say we’ll that really wasn’t so bad. Think about the signal that that sends.”


Murkowski is up for reelection this year and is facing off against a number of opponents, one of whom —state Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson, D-Anchorage — was in the audience. But the senator has been censured by the Alaska Republican Party and is facing Republican challenger Kelly Tshibaka who’s earned the support of former President Donald Trump.


“I am up for election and I am taking every day to not only share with Alaskans what I have done for the state but what is my vision going forward,” Murkowski said.

By:  Peter Segall
Source: Juneau Empire