Senator Murkowski - eNewsletter 06-24-09

Health Care Forum

Americans are looking to Congress and the White House to see whether lawmakers and the president will deliver on their promises to reform our health care system. This is an issue that impacts every American and I am committed to working with both my Republican and Democratic colleagues to make improvements. Our success will be measured by whether we craft a health care bill that reduces costs while providing affordable, comprehensive medical coverage that ensures continuous access to nurses, doctors, medical health services, and does not interfere with the ability of individuals to continue choosing the health care provider of their choice.

Last Friday, I met with health care providers in Anchorage to discuss the proposal that is being considered by the Senate HELP committee on which I serve. Each provider agreed that basing health care reform on our current Medicare system simply will not work. Medicare's low reimbursement rates and bureaucratic hassles limit the ability of local doctors and providers to accept patients. Instead of cutting billions in funding to the Medicare and Medicaid programs to pay for a new government program, the providers urged significant reforms of the private insurance market to ensure quality care that is affordable and accessible. As we continue to deliberate the legislation, I will continue to seek guidance from Alaskans to make certain that any health reform legislation ensures affordable and better quality care that provides patients with access and choice in their health care providers.

Murkowski Meets with Supreme Court Nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor

Sen. Murkowski met with Supreme Court Nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor. During their meeting, the Senator and the Judge both shared a laugh about their leg braces. Sen. Murkowski is still recovering from a knee injury, while Judge Sotomayor is recovering from a fractured ankle.

On Thursday June 18, I had an opportunity to meet Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama’s choice to fill the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy created by the retirement of Justice David Souter. Judge Sotomayor presently serves on the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City. Our hour long meeting was substantive conversation about Judge Sotomayor’s background, her prior decisions and some of her past statements which have been in the news.

When visiting with administration nominees who are seeking my confirmation vote I customarily ask whether the nominee has ever visited Alaska. Judge Sotomayor responded that she has never visited Alaska but has heard about life in our State from family members who were stationed in Alaska as part of their military service. Much of the conversation centered around Judge Sotomayor’s decisions regarding the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. We also discussed the heavy workload of Circuit Court judges and my interest in splitting the Ninth Circuit into two circuits.

I will not decide on how I will vote on Judge Sotomayor until after her confirmation hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee and the committee has considered her nomination. I, along with my staff, continue to study her work as a scholar, a lawyer and a judge. I am also playing close attention to the letters I receive from Alaskans on the subject.

Murkowski secures $32.5 Million for Polar Icebreaker Program

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Homeland Security Subcommittee’s $44.3 billion budget for 2010 Fiscal Year. Included in that bill is $32.5 million I requested for the polar icebreaker program.

The funding would go to finish the reactivation of the POLAR STAR, which is coming out of caretaker status, and directs the Coast Guard to study whether a new heavy polar icebreaker class is needed or if a major service life extension for existing heavy icebreakers is a better course of action. Right now the only working heavy icebreaker, the POLAR SEA, has seven years remaining on its service life.

The Coast Guard has a large presence in Alaska with more than 2,000 active personnel in over 20 communities, 15 cutters and two air stations and is responsible for monitoring more than 950,000 square miles of water off the Alaskan coast. The funds from this bill will support the Coast Guard and help them maintain and improve their capability and readiness to meet their national missions of safety, security and stewardship.

Murkowski Welcomes Interns to The Alaska Report

Sen. Murkowski takes questions from her first group of summer interns on The Alaska Report.

As you may have seen, Sen. Begich and I take turns hosting a half hour public affairs TV show called the Alaska Report. On the most recent edition of The Alaska Report, I welcomed the first of two groups of my summer interns. The shows where I take questions from my interns are always my favorite. I know how beneficial internships can be to young Alaskans who see the legislative process up close and in person. During this Alaska Report, the interns and I discussed a number of issues including renewable and alternative sources of energy, health care reform and education legislation.

Interns in my office have the opportunity to complete research and writing tasks while also shadowing me to meetings and hearings around the Capitol. If you are, or know of a young Alaskan who would like to be considered for an internship, please visit my website for instructions on how to apply.

If you miss this edition of the Alaska Report, it will be available soon on my official YouTube page.

Thank you, Interns

Sen. Murkowski with her first session interns. Pictured with Sen. Murkowski are from left, front row: Caitlin Baalke, Soldotna; Kayla Reese, Valdez; Hanna Kim, Anchorage; Kimberly Stone, Ketchikan; Melissa Falcone, Anchorage and Emma Roemhildt, Cordova. From left, back row: Noah Fields, Kodiak; Kevin Neimeyer, Desmond Cole, Fairbanks; Anchorage; Maggie Hepler, Eagle River; Joseph Warren, Bethel and Luke Miller of Juneau.

And while I’m talking about my interns, I would like to thank my first group of summer interns for their hard work this past month. You learned a lot through hands-on experience and observation and I wish you the very best in your future pursuits.

High Achieving Alaskans

While serving as Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs, Dan Sullivan joined Sen. Murkowski on the Alaska Report.

I want extend my sincere congratulations to Dan Sullivan on his nomination by Governor Palin to be the next Attorney General for Alaska. I’ve known Dan and his family for many years. With his strong background and experience, I have no doubt that he will make an outstanding Attorney General for our state.

I also want to congratulate Steve Wackowski of the U.S. Air Force for recently being promoted to Captain. Steve grew up in Alaska and was raised in Anchorage and Ninilchik. He graduated from Bartlett High School and entered the Air Force Reserves in 2005 as a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley. Steve also worked for former Sen. Stevens as part of his press team. I was honored to be asked by Steve to promote him to Captain. I thank Steve, and all Alaskans for their service to our country.

Visiting Alaskans

Along with Senator Begich, I recently met with students from across Alaska who were in Washington as part of the National History Day contest. This year, students from communities in Barrow, Fairbanks, North Pole, Copper Center, Wasilla, Anchorage, Eagle River and Haines participated in the History Day program. As part of this program, students across Alaska compete in classroom, school and school district competitions. From these contests, nearly 200 local winners compete in a state contest from which approximately 35 state winners are selected to advance to the national contest held at the University of Maryland. I congratulate these Alaskans on their achievement.

A new role in Senate Leadership

Sen. Murkowski addresses the media following her election as to Senate Republican leadership. Murkowski was elected Vice-Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. Pictured with Sen. Murkowski are, left, Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and newly elected Republican Policy Chairman John Thune of South Dakota.

This week, my Republican colleagues in the Senate elected me to serve as the Vice-Chairman of the Republican Conference. In this position, I will work closely with Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and the rest of the Republican leadership team in advancing the policy agenda of Senate Republicans. Being from a western state with substantial government control over lands and resources, I will bring a fresh voice to the table as I advocate for the unique needs of our region. For more information about the work being done by the Senate Republican Leadership, please visit the Senate Republican website.

Website Enhancements

I have recently added a new section to the front page of my official website that I think you’ll find helpful. On my website, you’ll see a button titled ‘voting record’ that breaks down recent votes that have taken place in the Senate and how I voted on the issues that are important to you. This feature is part of my desire to keep the work I do for Alaska in the Senate as transparent and accessible as possible.