U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski vented her frustrations with the White House and the Democratic congressional leadership while speaking in Kenai on Wednesday.
Murkowski was addressing a crowd gathered at the Kenai Christian Church for a joint, Kenai and Soldotna chambers of commerce luncheon.
Murkowski didn't dance around how she felt about the political climate in the nation's capital.
"It's a very difficult time in Washington right now for many, many reasons," she said, critical of the way President Barack Obama has pushed his agenda over the course of the last year and a half.
"I had high expectations, I was not one of those that wanted to see President Obama fail," she said. "We're now 18 months into the presidency and it seems everyday the president and the congressional leaders are drawing the nation further and further apart."
Murkowski addressed several key legislative hot points she had problems with, including illegal immigration, spending and the stimulus packages among others.
She most aggressively attacked the passage of national health care legislation, and questioned whether the administration was listening to voters.
"I think health care is just one example of where we're seeing an administration that's going in a different direction and is out of touch with what the American people want us to be working on," she said.
Murkowski said she supported Gov. Sean Parnell and State Attorney General Dan Sullivan's decision to join a multi-state lawsuit against the federal government, challenging the constitutionality of parts of the bill.
"I would surely vote to repeal the bulk of this bill, beginning with the mandate that every single American has to buy health care insurance or pay a penalty to the government," she said.
Her comment spurred a brief round of applause, though the senator didn't break before launching onto attempts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions; an area she has been on point on for much of the session.
Murkowski said that while she sees a need to, "take responsible steps" to address climate change, she follows a set of criteria on the issue, one of which is: "Do no harm to the economy."
She said the impacts of proposed cap and trade legislation could hurt an already weakened American economy.
Additionally, she said she plans to introduce legislation next week that would block an effort by the administration to regulate greenhouse gasses through the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency.
She said the step was meant to blatantly skirt lawmakers.
"I'm not going to give my vote on this very important issue to some unelected bureaucrat within the EPA," she said.
Murkowski said the passage of the legislative veto was about more than just regulating carbon dioxide emissions, but was also necessary to control the power of the executive branch.
"What this is about is whether or not we think that those in the executive branch, through an agency, can and should create policy," she said. "I'm one who believes that policy should be set by those who are elected."
Murkowski also spoke about what she sees as an "assault on Alaska" from D.C.
She said actions taken at the federal level right now, including revising the comprehensive conservation plan for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, regulations targeted at cruise ships, a proposed measure to change aviation fuel and targeted use of the Endangered Species Act, among others, were putting pressure on the state's development and economic future.
The elephant in the room was the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which Murkowski said could have grave consequences for Alaska.
"It's not just going to be oil and gas, it's going to be on other aspects of our resources as we try to develop them," she said.
The senator also said that the decision by the federal government to suspend Dutch oil giant Shell's planned drilling operations in the Arctic could hurt the state's long-term future as well.
Through her discussions with company leadership, Murkowski said she believed that if the administration indicated the suspension would only be for a year or less, it likely wouldn't cause Shell to give up; but she questioned how long they could afford to put money into the leases and not produce from them.
"If the real intent here is to put the nail in the coffin, it not only puts the nail in the coffin for Shell, but think about any other operator that's poised to move there next," she said, noting ConnocoPhillips' future Arctic plans.
The tense political atmosphere in D.C. has lead the Republican Party to be labeled as "the party of no" in recent months, an issue Murkowski said she was all too aware of.
She argued however that Republicans have wrongly been labeled so.
"I would suggest to you that we have very genuine, very respectful policy difference with the president's agenda," she said. "When we disagree I think it's our patriotic duty to say, we disagree."
She said as well, however, that if the party is viewed obstructionists, it could have a detrimental impact.
"We need to be constructive but sometimes the way to be constructive is to say, 'this is the wrong path to be taking,' but be sure that we are giving that other path," she said.
She added that instances of across-the-aisle cooperation don't always garner front page headlines, though.
Dante Petri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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