Murkowski and Sullivan vote for GOP tax bill, eyeing the opening of ANWR

Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks on the Senate floor during the debate on the GOP tax bill on Dec. 19, 2017.

Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan voted along with every other available Republican senator to pass the GOP tax bill early Wednesday morning.

The bill passed the Senate 51-48, delivering the GOP its first major legislative win since President Donald Trump took office and taking a step closer to opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. The rework of the country’s tax code makes deep, permanent cuts to the corporate tax rate while making temporary cuts for individual taxpayers. No Democrats voted for the measure.

Rep. Don Young voted for the bill on Tuesday, but because of a drafting error the bill will need to return to the House for a second vote sometime today.

The inclusion of ANWR is a key victory for Alaska’s congressional delegation, bringing an end to a 40-year ban on drilling in the refuge. Murkowski helped craft the provision in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which she chairs. The proposed lease is expected to generate about  $1.1 billion for the federal government over the next decade (part of the effort to offset about $1.5 trillion in deficit spending). That doesn’t include

“This is new wealth, this is new prosperity when our nation needs both,” she said.

Murkowski has been almost singularly focused on the issue of ANWR, making much more generalized statements about the tax cuts and downplaying concerns about the bill’s impact on the country’s health care system (the bill repeals the individual mandate to buy health insurance, a key piece of the Affordable Care Act).

Meanwhile, Sullivan has been much more vocal about his support for the changes to the tax code, saying he believes the cuts could more than double annual economic growth.

“Almost every single person I’ve asked, smart people, have said of course we believe we can get back to 3 percent growth,” he said earlier this year. “I know there are some economists that are saying America’s best days are behind us. I happen to believe that’s not the case.”

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