After congratulating Biden on inauguration, Murkowski, Sullivan decry ANWR pause

Anthony Quintano from Westminster, United States, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Alaska U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan both congratulated President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Murkowski called on the administration to work on building consensus as they move forward while Sullivan was quick to criticize Biden’s ANWR pause.  

Long concerned and/or disappointed with the Trump presidency, Murkowski was the first GOP senator to call on the president to resign early and called the House’s impeachment of the president for inciting insurrection appropriate. She recognized Biden’s inaugural message as hopeful for the country. 

“Today, President Biden and Vice President Harris were sworn into office. President Biden’s message to the country was filled with hope for a more unified nation and a commitment to work for all Americans. Vice President Harris being sworn in as the first female to hold the nation’s second-highest office is an inspiration to women around the world. I congratulate them both,” Murkowski said in a prepared statement. “We face great challenges as a nation. We must redouble our efforts to work through our differences and seek common ground, to put the divisiveness and turmoil of the last few months behind us, and move forward with respect, optimism, and hope.”

As one of the U.S. Senate’s most moderate Republicans, Murkowski will likely find herself once again at the center of political discussions as the 50+1 Democratic Senate majority and Biden push ahead with their agenda. A close working relationship with conservative Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, with whom Murkowski posed for a picture with after the inauguration (along with Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins and their spouses), could be critical to building bipartisan support for issues.

“I may not always align with the viewpoints of this administration, but no matter how different our opinions or challenging the subject, I have and always will do my best to build consensus that is in the best interest of all Alaskans,” Murkowski said. “I’m counting on the Biden administration to do the same. 

That pledge will be put to the test almost immediately.

Among the 17 executive orders the president signed today is one focused on the environment, cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline and putting a temporary halt to oil and gas leasing activities in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. 

Exactly what its impact will be given the government has already finalized some—but not all—ANWR leases purchased by the state-owned Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority is unclear. The federal government and oil advocates argued in court earlier this month that the leases themselves would not have any impact on the environment because actions that would cause such damage—such as exploration—had yet to be permitted. 

While Sullivan’s statement congratulated Biden and Harris, it also took issue with the ANWR decision.

“As the new president, Joe Biden has the opportunity to follow through on the rhetoric we heard today in his speech about unity. However, the executive orders he signed today—targeting Alaska and other energy producing states—cause me grave concern. I hope that President Biden comes to understand that America did not give him a mandate to kill good-paying jobs and hurt hard-working families across our nation.”

The delegation later issued a statement criticizing the move.

“At a time when the United States, and especially Alaska, is struggling to deal with the impacts of COVID-19, I am astounded to see that the Biden administration’s ‘day one’ priority is put our economy, jobs, and nation’s security at risk,” Murkowski said.

Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who has been otherwise silent on Biden’s inauguration after suggesting there was a “outside chance” Biden would be elected, issued a statement on the halt. 

“Today’s announcement to shut down development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) should come as no surprise. As a candidate, Joe Biden campaigned on stopping oil and gas development on federal lands. Make no mistake about it, President Biden appears to be making good on his promise to turn Alaska into a large national park,” he said. “Alaska does responsible oil and gas development in the Arctic better than anyone, and yet our economic future is at risk should this line of attack on our sovereignty and well-being continue. Development in the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska, building roads to resources, the mining of critical minerals & rare earths, connection to life saving air transport for villagers in King Cove and more are all in the hands of an Administration that looks at Alaska as a territory or colony, as opposed to an equal State in the Union.”

At least he called him “President Biden.”

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