U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is visiting the central Kenai Peninsula this week in a public tour around the state.
The Senator stopped by the joint Kenai and Soldotna Chambers of Commerce luncheon Wednesday to give an update on Washington, D.C., and expressed concerns about issues that need to be addressed.
In a face-to-face with local media Wednesday morning, she said in Washington, lawmakers are looking at funding issues for the U.S Forest Service, which doesn’t have money to take preventative measures such as tree thinning.
“How we are better prepared for the next inevitable fire season, I think is part of what we need to be thinking about.”
The Senate next goes into a brief session on Sept. 8. With the end of the fiscal year approaching, funding and appropriations will be discussed.
Following the Nov. 4 election, Murkowski said what is taken up in the lame-duck session will likely be dependent on whether Democrats retain the majority or if Republicans take it.
Congressional gridlock is causing frustration, Murkowski said, because there are heavy issues that need to be addressed.
“It’s been unfortunate because we’ve got a whole host of things that I think are front-burner issues,” she said. … “We’ve got debt issues that we need to address. We’ve got an immigration situation. We have a weak-kneed foreign policy approach and issues as they relate to what is going on overseas.”
Murkowski said as a Republican senator in a Democratic administration, she is facing pressure to help move along backlogged approvals of nominees with ambassadors and the departments of the interior, energy and defense. However, she said Majority Leader Harry Reid, who sets the agenda, is trying to fill out the Department of Justice, which is slowing down progress in other departments.
She also said part of the reason Alaska’s agenda is not being heard in the Senate is because the Majority Leader’s agenda doesn’t line up with resource development.
“I need to have a Majority Leader that agrees that our nation’s economy is better, that the opportunities for Alaskans and all Americans are better when we’re able to access our resources in a responsible way,” she said.
The rules and regulations under review by the Environmental Protection Agency could “really taint economic development” for Alaska, she said.
However, she said progress has been made in Washington on a variety of issues including water resources development, homeowner flood insurance affordability and Veteran’s Affairs access to timely and adequate health care, which she said needs more work due to stipulations that cause limitations.
Along with speaking at the luncheon, Murkowski received a debriefing on the Funny River Horse Trail wildfire and chatted about recreational fishing and the Magnuson-Stevens Act at the Kenai River Classic roundtable at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex Wednesday. On Saturday, she will be at Industry Appreciation Day, which celebrates the fishing, oil and gas and tourism industries, at the Kenai Park Strip.
“Very seldom do we see real industry appreciation and you have that down here on the peninsula,” Murkowski said.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at email@example.com.