Senator Murkowski E-Newsletter for the week of March 18, 2014
The last few weeks have been a whirlwind! I was back home in Alaska for the start of Iditarod 42, and then off to Houston, Texas to speak at a major international energy conference before heading back to Washington, D.C. for a number of important votes. Many Alaskans make the trek back to D.C. in March and I was busy with constituent meetings throughout last week. Now I am back in Alaska and spent time in Fairbanks to help kick off the Arctic Winter games before taking a road trip to visit with many of you up and down the Parks Highway.
A Great Time at the Last Great Race
(Under the Ceremonial Start with all of the flags of the racer’s nationalities.)
The Iditarod is my favorite sporting event, and this year I had the chance to visit with almost all of the mushers before they hit the trail. Walking the chute during the Ceremonial Start in Anchorage is always great fun. I love to visit with the dogs and chat with our world-class mushers about the race. It’s always an amazing race but nobody could have predicted the crazy trail conditions or how Mother Nature took control over the end. Congratulations to Dallas Seavey on his fabulous second Iditarod win! And congratulations go out as well to Aliy Zirkle and Jeff King- the finish of this years race will go down in history books! To all the mushers and their teams- know that we salute you all.
(Congratulations to Dallas Seavey for winning the Iditarod in the fastest time on record with a total run time of 8 days, 14 hours, and 9 minutes!)
(Sharing the Iditarod fever on the Senate floor shortly after the amazing finish that woke Alaskans at 4:04 am -- Click the picture for video)
Protecting Those Who Protect Us
Last week, the Senate passed The Victims Protection Act of 2014 to add protections for victims of military sexual assault. I was pleased to support this bill because it removes the ability for commanding officers to overturn lower level command decisions on sexual assault crimes – and heightens the punishments for offenders. While I had advocated for tougher reforms led by Senator Kristen Gillibrand, I believe this bill is an important step along with other changes that have been made earlier this year in addressing the issue of sexual assault in our military. I will continue to fight for initiatives that protect victims.
(Click on the picture to watch my speech to the Senate about my support of military justice reforms.)
Arctic Absent in Obama's Budget
The President released his budget for Fiscal Year 2015 earlier this month and I was hugely disappointed he barely mentioned the word Arctic. Though the administration claims it is taking America’s Arctic future seriously, time and time again it has failed to put its money where its mouth is. I have been a strong advocate for the Arctic, helping to ensure that people know that Alaska makes the United States an Arctic Nation. It is absolutely imperative for us to be prepared for the Arctic’s changing landscape. Being prepared means directing resources appropriately.
The President’s budget is his yearly opportunity to lay out his priorities. Unfortunately for Alaska and America, he is showing little interest in devoting the resources necessary to move forward in the Arctic, despite the United States being 14 months away from taking the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council and the world looking to us for leadership.
I plan on raising this issue with all the members of the administration during budget hearings over the next several weeks, to get concrete answers for our state and our nation on what the administration’s plans for the Arctic really are.
King Cove Road
Just last week, two more King Cove residents – a sick infant and an injured crab boat crew member – had to be rescued from King Cove by the U.S. Coast Guard when bad weather prevented other travel between King Cove and nearby Cold Bay. Their lives were saved when the USCG Jayhawk helicopter’s crew once again put their lives at risk to successfully fly them out of King Cove to the all-weather airport in Cold Bay. These are just the most recent examples of why the King Cove road is so vitally needed.
I’m still fighting for the road and I am pleased the Alaska State Legislature has joined that fight. I was invited to speak to the Alaska State House Resources Committee in support of House Joint Resolution 30, which calls on Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to reconsider her rejection of the land exchange and road that will provide the people of King Cove with safe access to the Cold Bay airport in case of medical emergencies. This is one fight that I will not give up on and I know one day we will have a solution for the people of King Cove.
If you would like to read my statement to the House please click here: Murkowski Testimony.
Out and About
(Rebecca Himschoot and Amy Laufer, winners of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching stopped by my office where we chatted about the importance of math and science education. Congratulations to these two great Alaskan teachers!)
(Last Wednesday, I spoke to the National Congress of American Indians about the IHS and BIA budgets and asked them for help with King Cove access and was pleased that they immediately responded by passing a resolution in support of this life-saving road.)
(Last week Sen. Wyden and I received the John D. Dingell award for bipartisanship work in the Congress. This is a prestigious recognition from EEI and the IBEW recognizing our work together on energy issues. Rather than a plaque we received a lamp with a meter on it! Pretty neat award. )
(Shanelle Natalia Mary Afcan of Mt. Edgecumbe High and John Walsworth, of Homer High School represented Alaska as the recipients of the US Senate Youth Program0 quite a tribute. Both are accomplished young students and I was so glad to meet with them. I had the chance to call and congratulate John last week as I nominated, and he was accepted to the US Air Force Academy.)