A week after it was widely reported that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke delivered some sort “troubling message” to Alaska in retaliation to Sen. Lisa Murkwoski’s votes against the repeal of Obamacare, the secretary said he made no such threat.
Zinke called such claims “laughable” during a Sunday news conference in Nevada, according to a report by E&E News. The outlet included the full exchange with reporters over his exchanges with Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan last week.
Asked yesterday to recount his conversation with the senators, Zinke said: “I talk to Sen. Murkowski and Sen. Sullivan all the time.”
As a reporter attempted to clarify, Zinke continued: “A lot’s been said about a lot of things. But I talk to them all the time. We get along well.”
Asked whether he had issued threats to the senators, Zinke said: “The moon has been characterized as a threat, too, so I think it’s laughable.”
Apparently, then, there was some sort of miscommunication between Zinke and Sullivan, because Sullivan told the Alaska Dispatch News he received a “troubling message” and the Alaska Journal of Commerce reported Sullivan was “very concerned.”
“I’m not going to go into the details, but I fear that the strong economic growth, pro-energy, pro-mining, pro-jobs and personnel from Alaska who are part of those policies are going to stop,” Sullivan he told the ADN.
Projects that were mentioned include the King Cove road, AKLNG and oil production in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The King Cove road recently saw a bill pass the House to enact a land swap of 43,093 acres of state-owned land for 337 acres of federal wilderness and refuge land to build the road. The AKLNG pipeline project also reportedly had a very favorable meeting with the Trump administration earlier this year.
For his part, Sullivan said he, “Tried to push back on behalf of all Alaskans.”
Throughout the process, Murkowski remained sure in her concerns to the bill and objections to the process. When asked about the call, Murkowski generally shrugged it off and said she would remain committed to doing what’s best for Alaska, whether it’s on health care or energy policy.
“I pledged early on that I would work with the President to help advance Alaska’s interests. I will continue to do that—to help build and strengthen our economy, keep the promises made to us as a state, and ensure access to healthcare. While I have disagreed with the Senate process so far, the President and I agree that the status quo with healthcare in our country is not acceptable and that reforms must be made. I continue working to find the best path for what I believe will achieve that–a committee process where we can work issues in the open and ensure Alaskans have the healthcare choices they want, the affordability they need, and the quality of care they deserve.”
She ultimately cast one of the three Republican no votes to prevent the passage of a last-ditch GOP repeal known as the “skinny repeal.” Sullivan voted for it.