Senator Murkowski - eNewsletter 02-09-09

Sen. Murkowski appointed to the Senate Republican Leadership Team

Senator Murkowski meets with Senator McConnell earlier this month as part of his leadership team.

I was honored to be appointed to the Senate Republican leadership team earlier this month. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell named me as a counsel, which means that I will offer my input, advice and guidance to the leadership team. This leadership position, combined with my recent appointment to the Senate Appropriations Committee and new role as ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, enhances my ability to serve as Alaska’s senior senator. I look forward to working with Sen. McConnell and the other members of his team as we shape national policy in the United States Senate.

Sen. Murkowski Fights for Alaska Territorial Guard Veterans

Senator Murkowski speaks on the Senate floor about the service of the Alaska Territorial Guard.

I am deeply disappointed that the Army has revised its policy of crediting Alaska Territorial Guard (ATG) service towards military retirement.  The Army recently announced that effective February 1, 2009, Alaskans who had served as part of the Alaska Territorial Guard would be unable to apply their years of service towards military retirement.  While the Army regrettably stands by its decision, Secretary of the Army Peter Geren has authorized a two-month payment for each Elder, which will give Alaska’s congressional delegation time to find a solution.  The Elders will receive payments for the difference in what they should have received from their military retirement versus what they will now receive under the Army’s revised policy. These payments, while appreciated, in no way lessen my resolve to ensure that the service of Alaska Territorial Guard members is respected as active duty service and fully credited toward military retirement.  This is an earned benefit which must be restored.

Senator Begich and I have introduced S. 342 which restores the Army’s previous policy of crediting time served in the Alaska Territorial Guard towards Army retirement. Congressman Young has introduced a companion bill, H.R. 744, in the House of Representatives. The outpouring of support, not only from Alaskans, but from across the Nation, in support of our Territorial Guard members is most gratifying.  I and the rest of the Alaska Delegation will continue to fight for our honored veterans, to whom we owe so much.

Sen. Murkowski applauds FAA action on Iditarod Air Force

Posing with a competitor, Senator Murkowski attends the 2008 Iditarod Race.

After a great deal of effort by my staff, I received word that the Federal Aviation Administration recently issued an exemption to allow the Iditarod Air Force to fly in support of this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race scheduled for March 7, 2009.   The all-volunteer Iditarod Air Force has been flying in support of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race for more than 20 years and typifies the spirit of Alaska.  The Iditarod Air Force  has struggled to win FAA approval to continue flying indefinitely because of FAA regulations prohibiting volunteer pilots from accepting any cost deferments for items such as fuel, accommodations or food. The Iditarod Air Force provides critical support by transporting food and fuel to checkpoints for dogs and mushers, volunteers, judges and veterinarians as well as moving dropped and scratched dogs. 

I have and continue to support the Iditarod Air Force in the vital role it  plays as part of Alaska’s Last Great Race and have urged the FAA to find a long-term solution that will allow the Iditarod Air Force to continue operating while protecting participants and addressing the concerns of commercial carriers.

I look forward to being at the start of this uniquely Alaskan race next month.

Sen. Murkowski Votes for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

I was pleased to support passage of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)  earlier this month.   This program has been an exceptionally important means of providing the most vulnerable of our population--our children--with health care.  Congress must ensure that a downturn in the economy does not adversely affect health care for low-income children and children of the working poor.

CHIP, commonly known in Alaska as Denali Kid Care, has been an important and effective program to insure that our children receive health care.  There are more than  29,000 children currently enrolled in Denali Kid Care and the passage of this legislation allows the children of the working poor to receive the preventive healthcare that they need to stay healthy and to function well in school.   

The reauthorization provides an additional $32.8 billion over the next 4 1/2 years and extends coverage for the seven million children currently enrolled.  Under the legislation, Alaska would receive $22.3 million annually, roughly doubling the amount of money the state receives in CHIP funding.   

Sen. Murkowski Salutes the Lady Seawolves

Senior Rebecca Kielpinski of the Lady Seawolves (Photo courtesy of UAA Athletics)

I would like to congratulate the Lady Seawolves for earning the #1 ranking in the nation in the USA Today/ESPN Division II Top 25 poll.  It would appear that the Lower 48 has finally realized what we in Alaska have known for years, that Alaska women are indeed the best!  Congratulations, ladies. You have worked hard to earn this position, and I wish you luck with the rest of the season.