Senator Murkowski E-Newsletter for the week of February 19, 2014
Last week was ‘Arctic Week’ back here in D.C – starting with meetings on Capitol Hill; speaking in Seattle at the Arctic Encounter Symposium and ending with the Polar Vortex shutting Washington DC down for a couple of days.
As I head home to Alaska for Presidents Day I look forward to visiting with folks in Anchorage, Kenai, Juneau and Ketchikan.
Delivering on a Promise to Veterans
Last week I stood with our brave men and women in uniform who put their lives on the line for the safety and freedoms Alaskans enjoy. I voted to restore full benefits to military retirees before they turn 62. The bipartisan budget deal included a 1% cut to their cost-of-living adjustment. Importantly, the Senate passed this measure without undoing the budget agreement or digging our nation deeper into debt and has been sent to the President.
This cut to early retirees’ cost of living adjustments was something I fought to repeal since even before that bill was passed. I believe we must honor the commitment and sacrifice made to and by these men and women who protect our nation.
King Cove: The Fight Continues
In December – two days before Christmas – Interior Secretary Sally Jewell rejected the life-saving 10 mile, single lane, gravel, emergency-use only road for the community of King Cove. Jewell’s decision was particularly insensitive because it placed the concerns of migrating waterfowl over the safety of Alaskans.
When she blocked this road, Secretary Jewell claimed she had plans to work on alternative solutions, but I have yet to hear about what these solutions may be. In the middle of this silence, Rhea Suh, an Interior nominee for Assistant Secretary of Fish, Wildlife and Parks came before the Senate Committee for Energy and Natural Resources. I asked Ms. Suh just what progress was being made – but she couldn’t answer. I have also sent letters in the past couple of days to President Obama and Secretary Jewell calling on them to reverse the rejection and allow this road to provide safe, reliable transportation to the all-weather airport in neighboring Cold Bay.
As I told Suh and committed to Alaskans: this fight is not over.
(Click on the photo above to hear me speak about the importance of this road during a recent confirmation hearing for Assistant Secretary of Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of the Interior - Ms. Rhea Suh)
Fighting Pirate Fishing
This week, I was invited to testify before the Foreign Relations Committee Oversight Committee to talk about the multi-million dollar economic threat posed by illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing to Alaska’s seafood industry. As Co-Chair of the Senate Oceans Caucus, I stepped forward and told the committee that since 2000, it has cost Alaska over a half a billion dollars, and the Senate needs to ratify the Port State Measures Agreement to help deter IUU fishing.
(Watch my pirate fishing testimony by clicking the photo above)
Bloated Farm Bill
Last week, I voted against the trillion dollar Farm Bill because it contained millions in taxpayer giveaways to agribusinesses in the Lower 48 that don’t really need the help. Even the Washington Post called the bill ‘a case study in everything that’s wrong with Washington, DC!’. While this enormous bill did contain a sliver of benefits to Alaska, I committed to Alaskans that I would make the hard choices when it comes to curbing our unsustainable federal spending. I have not supported the Farm Bill since I arrived in Congress, and will not support it in the future unless the farm subsidy programs are truly recommended.
Last weekend, I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Arctic Encounter Symposium at Seattle University Law School. In the days leading up to this speech, I met with leaders in D.C. who are working to advance our Arctic future: federal appointees, military officials and international leaders. To highlight this speech I used #ArcticWeek across my social media sites. Feel free to search this hashtag on both Twitter and Facebook to see what people are saying about the Arctic!
(Leona Aglukkaq, Canadian Minister of the Environment, and current chair of the Arctic Council, met with me to discuss the future of the Arctic in both Canada and Alaska)
(US Army General Charles Jacoby Jr., of North American Aerospace Defense, came to the office to talk about the Army’s role in the Arctic. I look forward to working with him on developing a defense infrastructure in the Arctic)
At the Arctic Encounter Symposium, I spoke on the importance and urgency of action in a rapidly evolving Arctic. As the world prepares for a more open Arctic, it is vital that we as a nation step up our engagement and leadership. The Symposium brought together leaders in the Arctic community with great discussion about the current and future state of the Arctic. A special shout out goes to Rachel Kallander, a second year law studfent at Seattle University Law School who developed and organized the Symposium. Rachel was born and raised in a fishing family from Cordova and worked with me in D.C. for several years before heading to law school. Great job with the conference Rachel!
(Edward Itta, Fran Ulmer (both on the Arctic Research Commission) and I at the Arctic Encounter Symposium this past weekend at Seattle University Law School)