Alaska energy projects, and even the road to King Cove, may be put hold by the Trump Administration.
While Alaskans debate the wisdom of Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski opposing President Donald Trump on Obamacare and at seemingly every juncture, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is said to be calling business leaders from around the state, with a message that Trump is ready to put a lid on Alaska projects until Obamacare reform is passed.
Our sources in Washington say that Sen. Murkowski has received a frank call from Zinke, with the same message — that she has miscalculated one time too many in her opposition to Trump on issues of major importance, and her state will pay the price.
We are told that Sen. Dan Sullivan received a courtesy call today from Zinke. Sullivan is said to be “concerned” about Alaska’s economy as a result of the call.
Murkowski was quoted in the media today, defending herself against Trump: “How about just doing a little bit of governing around here?” A message to her press secretary this evening was not returned.
Meanwhile, rumors are swirling that all movement on off-shore oil development, ANWR and King Cove are about to come to a standstill after Murkowski voted to not move forward on a simple procedural vote that would bring Obamacare reform forward for debate.
Vice President Mike Pence had to cast the deciding vote after Sen. John McCain of Arizona left his treatment for brain cancer and came back to Washington to vote for the motion to proceed.
For her part, Murkowski has threatened to hold up confirmations of the president’s appointments. She has cancelled confirmations that were scheduled for tomorrow.
Trump criticized Murkowski today on Twitter, “Senator @lisamurkowski of the Great State of Alaska really let the Republicans, and our country, down yesterday. Too bad!”
Rep. Buddy Carter, a Georgia Republican, defended Trump’s criticism of Murkowski, saying “I think it’s perfectly fair,” “Let me tell you, somebody needs to go over there to that Senate and snatch a knot in their ass. I’m telling you, it has gotten to the point where how can you say ‘I voted for this last year, but I’m not going to vote for it this year’?”
All of this is very much in the heat of the moment. Alaska’s other congressional members, Sen. Sullivan and Congressman Don Young, are close with Zinke and are in good standing with the president. Rather than putting all of Alaska’s economy at peril, the Trump Administration may just put its relationship with Murkowski on ice, and award any “wins” to Sullivan and Young. We can hope.
The timing was especially awkward, since today Murkowski joined 35 senators in sending a letter to Zinke in support of the Department of the Interior’s new Outer Continental Shelf Five-Year Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2024.
The plan has the potential to boost Alaska’s economy, keep energy affordable, and reinforce the United States’ position as an energy dominant superpower. But that is now in peril, along with other agenda items important to Alaska, as our senior senator’s deteriorating relationship with the White House continues to fester.