Murkowski Statement on Reconciliation Vote
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) today released the following statement after voting against H. R. 1319, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
“There is broad, bipartisan recognition that additional federal support is needed to help Americans recover from the ongoing pandemic. Alaskans are acutely aware of this as they grapple with economic losses from the public health challenges of the pandemic as well as adversarial actions against responsible resource development by the Biden administration.
“Consequently, I have spent the last two months speaking with anyone who will listen—whether it be the new team in the Executive branch or my colleagues in Congress—to highlight the unique burden that Alaska is bearing from significant revenue loss connected to COVID-19 and to ask for their help in getting Alaskans back on their feet.
“I critically evaluated the President’s COVID-19 response proposal. While I agreed with many of the ways in which it directed funding, I viewed a number of the priorities included as unnecessary and not related to COVID relief. It’s also important to recognize that last year alone Congress directed approximately $4 trillion to COVID relief. The most recent assistance was approved just over two months ago with much of that yet unspent. I worked in good-faith with Senate Republicans to present the administration with a more targeted relief plan in the hopes of finding a bipartisan compromise. We presented this plan directly to President Biden and, while some of our input helped shape the bill, the Democrats chose to move forward with a wholly partisan proposal, even bypassing the committees of jurisdiction.
“With a bill that was predetermined to pass, I went to work to improve the package to ensure that Alaskans would receive a fair share of the relief funds. Through discussions with colleagues on both sides of the aisle, I was able to secure some modest support for Alaska’s struggling tourism industry and additional funding for Alaska’s seafood processors. The bill includes support specifically for tribes to make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure and increases the Rural Provider Relief fund. I helped secure an increase to the minimum amount of state and local funding for all states—Alaska was originally slated for $800 million and that is now increased to $1.25 billion. The Senate also passed my bipartisan amendment to give homeless youth and children the resources they need to enroll and succeed in school amid the ongoing pandemic. The final package facilitates getting kids back in school safely and keeping businesses afloat, and bolsters vaccine distribution. Individual payments along with a further extension of Unemployment Insurance will be important to many Alaskans, particularly in our hard hit tourism sector. These are all significant, targeted items that belong in a COVID relief package. They are priorities that Alaska needs and that I support.
“But what I could not vote for is the largest spending package the Congress has ever advanced, on top of the $4 trillion we have already directed toward COVID relief. The decision was made early on to build a partisan bill, even though all the other COVID measures had received support from over 90 members of the Senate. Instead, the bill morphed beyond COVID response to a wish list that was limited only by the Senate’s own rules of reconciliation. I worked hard to make the bill better for Alaska and did so in several significant areas. But there are still formulas that do not work for small population states, allocations that exclude Alaska Natives, and significant federal dollars that will go to those who have economically benefited during the pandemic.
“I have committed to help Alaskans and our state weather this economic casualty of COVID. We are seeing the considerable efforts by so many to get vaccines out and we are beginning to see a light at the end of this long tunnel. Businesses are reopening, kids are getting back to school, jobs numbers are improving, and spring is coming. My responsibility now is to make sure that the relief measure that was just passed helps Alaskans to the fullest extent possible. While I could not support the final package, I remain committed to working with the administration, especially the Secretary of Treasury, as they work to develop formulas to distribute the funding required by this massive spending bill.”