Senator Murkowski - eNewsletter 03-13-09

2009 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and the Alaska Army National Guard

Senator Murkowski with Maverick, one of the four-legged athletes competing in the 2009 Iditarod.

I was thrilled to be in Anchorage this past weekend at the ceremonial start of the 37th Annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. I always look forward to coming home for Alaska’s Last Great Race and meeting the spectators and competitors.

While at the Iditarod’s ceremonial start, Senator Murkowski also visited with back to back, two-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey.

Senator Murkowski with Staff. Sgt. Harry Alex of the Alaska Army National Guard before he begins the Iditarod.

In recognition of its historical ties to the Iditarod, Staff Sgt. Harry Alexi of the Alaska Army National Guard is competing in the 2009 Iditarod. Lt. Col. Joseph Lawendowski explained that the Guard, (which began as the Alaska Territorial Guard during the World War II era), was founded by the efforts of people like ‘Muktuk’ Marston. Marston recruited nearly 4,000 individuals for the Guard using sled dogs to reach remote villages in Alaska. I wish Sgt. Alexi the best of luck and will follow his standing during the race.

Down, But Not Out

Senator Murkowski discusses health care issues with Alaskans visiting Washington, D.C., during the Senator’s constituent coffee. With Senator Murkowski are, from left, Donna Phillips of Girdwood, Kathleen Gettys of Eagle River, Megan Orien of Anchorage and Josh Meals of Palmer – all of whom are registered nurses.

As you may have heard, I took a tumble while skiing at Aleyska last weekend. According to the doctors, I tore my anterior cruciate ligament (acl), medial collateral ligament (mcl) and lateral meniscus. I will undergo surgery during the Easter recess back in Anchorage. Until then, I am in a wheelchair and on crutches, but it will not keep me from my work here in the Senate.

Murkowski Receives Appropriations Subcommittee Assignments

As the 111th Congress got underway, I received a seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Last week,  I was assigned to five subcommittees: Interior, Environment and Related Agencies; Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies; Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies; Financial Services and General Government; and Legislative Branch. I will serve as the ranking Republican on the legislative branch panel.

Several of these panels play a major role in Alaska. For example, Interior-Environment oversees the Bureau of Land Management, Minerals Management Service, Environmental Protection Agency, Forest Service, Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Indian Health Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Military Construction-Veterans Affairs will allow me to make sure that we properly fund infrastructure at our military installations and watch out for the interests of Alaska’s Veterans, while Commerce, Justice and Science will give me a seat at the table when it comes to regulation of federal fisheries.

Bypass Mail

I have heard from many Alaskans and share their concerns about the nationwide mail service price increase and the impacts on the costs of bypass mail.  Residents of rural Alaska already face extremely high transportation, shipping and energy costs and rely on bypass mail for most of their goods.  I have been working with the other members of the Alaska delegation, shippers, air carriers, and rural communities to find a solution to a proposed 40 percent to 50 percent cost increase.  An alternative, which I support, has been presented to the Postal Service for consideration.  The proposal addresses the need to reduce costs to the Postal Service and would not have such a severe economic impact on isolated rural Alaskan communities.  I am optimistic the United States Postal Service will see the benefit of this alternative.

National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Honors Murkowski

Presenting Senator Murkowski with the Congressional Leadership Award is the Honorable Joe Garcia, President of the National Congress of American Indians (left) and Mr. Edward Thomas, President Emeritus, Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska.

I was humbled to be awarded the Congressional Leadership Award by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) for my service as Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Although I had to give up the vice-chairmanship when I became the ranking Republican member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee earlier this year, I still remain a member of this important panel. I thank the NCAI for the honor and will continue to work hard on the issues important to Alaska Natives, American Indians and Native Hawaiians.

Women of the U.S. Senate

Senator Murkowski with her fellow female senators. With Senator Murkowski are (back row, from left) Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Barbara Mukulski (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-WA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME). Seated, from left, are Sens. Kay Hagan (D-NC), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

I am one of 17 women currently serving in the United States Senate (Only 38 women -- including the current 17 -- have served as senators since the Senate was founded).  Earlier this month, our official photo commemorating the women serving in the 111th Congress was taken. I am honored to serve as your Senator with this dynamic group of women.

Visiting with the Lieutenant Governor

Lt. Governor Sean Parnell was in Washington this week and dropped by my office for a courtesy call. It is always good to chat with state officials visiting from back home.

Additional Assistance for Villages facing a Fuel Crisis

Last week, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) made an additional $20,000 available to the Emmonak Tribal Council to help residents who are struggling with the high cost of home heating fuel and food necessities. I was pleased that the BIA was able to follow-up on my request to provide additional assistance to the community.  I stand ready to support any other villages experiencing similar difficulties.