Senator Murkowski - eNewsletter 01-30-09

Inauguration week with so many Alaskans was great!

Senators Murkowski and Begich with dancers from Barrow who performed in the Inaugural Parade.

Last week was a historic week in Washington.  The inauguration of President Barack Obama drew more Alaskans to D.C. than I have ever seen here before.  The historic election of President Obama brought people from all over the country and the excitement and sense of purpose here was contagious.

It has been great to see so many old friends and new faces from home in my office and at the open house coffee Senator Begich and I hosted the day after inauguration.

Meeting with the Colony High Marching Band

Senator Murkowski speaks to students.
The same day as our coffee, Senator Begich and I met with 240 students from the Anchorage School District later in the afternoon.  We spoke to them for over an hour about their experiences in Washington, D.C., and answered their questions on the issues they were most concerned about.  I am always impressed by the insight and enthusiasm Alaska’s youth have for the job we here in Washington are doing.  I learn as much from them as they do from me.

Sen. Murkowski Joins Senate Appropriations Committee

I am extremely pleased to have been appointed to the Senate Appropriations Committee.   Playing a large role in responsibly appropriating federal taxpayer dollars enables me to more effectively fight for Alaska’s needs, especially as I gain seniority in the Senate.  In my role as an appropriator, I will serve as a steward of taxpayers' money and a champion for Alaska by ensuring that the appropriations process is transparent and accountable.

Sen. Murkowski becomes Ranking Member on the Energy Committee

Senator Murkowski speaks at an Energy Committee hearing.

I am pleased to report that I have been selected by my colleagues to be the new ranking member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.  Working in conjunction with Chairman Bingaman from New Mexico, I will have an expanded role in working on national energy policy and an increased ability to further the energy agenda of Alaska and our Nation. In addition to energy, the Committee also has jurisdiction over National Parks, Public Lands and Forests, Water, and Power-related legislation.  Since the federal government owns approximately 60 percent of the State, my work as Ranking Member will be of particular importance to Alaska.

In my new role, I will continue to promote a three-pronged energy policy that includes energy conservation and efficiency, alternative and renewable energy, and increased domestic production.  By pursuing these three goals, we can make significant progress on enhancing our energy security.

Sen. Murkowski votes no on releasing more TARP funds

On January 15, 2009, I voted against giving the Treasury Department access to the remaining $350 billion in the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).  Last year Congress authorized the Treasury Department to spend $350 billion to help restore the flow of capital to our financial institutions but we have seen little accountability as to how those funds were spent and have not yet seen stability in the capital markets. I have not received satisfactory assurances that the remaining $350 billion will be used effectively.   Unfortunately many in the Senate did not share my concerns and senators voted, 52 – 42, to give the Treasury Department authority to spend the $350 billion remaining in the $700 billion economic rescue plan. 

I am hopeful that the concerns raised by the TARP Oversight Panel will serve as a wake-up call for the Treasury Department to more closely address the oversight issues raised by Congress and the panel. 

Sen. Murkowski welcomes passage of Public Lands bill for Alaska

Senator Murkowski with King Cove residents.

The first bill to pass the Senate this Congress is one that I worked on in the Energy Committee.  The Public Lands package contained 160 bills which are beneficial to many communities in Alaska and across the country, particularly in the West.  Included in the package is a bill I sponsored which authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to determine whether a land exchange between the state of Alaska and the King Cove Native Corporation and the U.S. Department of the Interior is in the public interest.  The exchange has been sought for more than 20 years by local residents to allow construction of a narrow, restricted seven mile road to reach the Cold Bay airport.  Many residents of King Cove have been stranded in emergency situations over the years, unable to access the airport just across the bay due to inclement weather.

Other Alaska provisions included in the lands package are an amendment to the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline Act, and language granting competitive status for certain federal employees in Alaska, allowing local hire within the National Park Service to Alaska residents applying for full-time positions.  The bill also contains a provision allowing for the establishment of a Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area to promote local tourism, and a 12-acre land conveyance to the City of Coffman Cove of U.S. Forest Service-owned land within the city.  The bill now goes to the House of Representatives where we anticipate quick action so that it can be sent to the President for his signature.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar promises to visit Alaska

Senator Murkowski and Secretary of the Interior Salazar.

I was proud to support Ken Salazar when he was confirmed as the new Secretary of the Interior on Tuesday, January 20, 2009.  Now Secretary Salazar and I developed a close working relationship over the past four years on the Senate Energy Committee and I am confident that we will continue to work well together as he assumes this important role at Interior.

Secretary Salazar has promised to visit Alaska and learn firsthand about the unique challenges Alaskans face.  As head of the Interior Department, Secretary Salazar will oversee a number of issues important to Alaska.  I look forward to showing him our great State and working with him to expand responsible energy development in Alaska.