KTUU (NBC): Feds overreaching on health care, energy, Murkowski says

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Sen. Lisa Murkowski says America may have a new health care reform law, but the debate is far from over. In her first news conference Tuesday since the bill was passed, Murkowski says the legislation needs more work.

She also touched on energy issues at the Anchorage conference and if there was a theme, it was frustration over federal intrusion into so many issues important to Alaskans and Americans.

Although Murkowski opposed health care reform, she now believes it should be viewed as a work in progress.

"Repealing this is not the answer in my opinion, because if you just repeal and you do nothing, we will not have addressed health care reform," Murkowski said.

Murkowski says she voted against the bill because it contains $500 billion in cuts to Medicare -- cuts she says go too far. She says she understands the public's anger, which she predicts will grow when more of the legislation's flaws are understood. But she condemned some of the threats of violence surrounding the bill, and the vandalism at the Alaska Democratic Party headquarters.

"It is absolutely, absolutely wrong," Murkowski said.

She says it's out of character from what she saw during the town hall meetings on health care last year, where Alaskans often disagreed.

"But they were doing so in a very respectful manner," Murkowski said. "I think Sen. (Mark) Begich saw this as well when he conducted his town hall meetings."

But Murkowski warned that come November there will be a backlash at the ballot box over health care, fueled by frustration over other reforms Congress is tackling such as financial regulation, student loans and climate change.

"It's just this whole overreach of the federal government -- this is what I don't like," Murkowski said. "And health care kind of epitomizes that."

On energy issues, Murkowski says federal intrusion came in the form of a recent decision from the Army Corps of Engineers, denying ConocoPhillips a permit to develop a section of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

"This was a very, very, very negative signal about our opportunities for further exploration and development up north," Murkowski said.

Murkowski says the Obama administration's position on energy has not been clear, and a Wednesday decision on offshore oil drilling will indicate whether Alaska will experience more burdens than benefits at the hands of the federal government. For Shell Oil, the eventual outcome will affect more than $2 billion in leases in the Chukchi Sea.

Addressing another energy issue, Murkowski says she understands former Sen. Ted Stevens' call for an in-state natural gas pipeline, and says her job is to help the state pursue whatever path it chooses. But she did say there could be some drawbacks to exporting gas through an in-state line, such as a probable lack of federal loan guarantees.

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Source: By Rhonda McBride. Originally published on March 30, 2010