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Alaska's Congressional delegation returns to work

January 13th | Erica Martinson, Alaska Dispatch News Print this article   Email this article  

WASHINGTON — Alaska's congressional delegation joined a busy opening week in Washington for the 115th Congress, packed with early votes and meetings with nominees to President-elect Donald Trump's cabinet.

Alaska's delegation met with a slew of Trump nominees, readied plans to peel back end-of-term Obama administration regulations and introduced dozens of bills they hope to send to the president's desk this year.

On Tuesday, Alaska's most recently re-elected Republican lawmakers, Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young, joined colleagues for oath-taking and receptions filled with family and friends. The process goes at a swifter pace in the comparatively small Senate, where 34 lawmakers were individually sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden at noon Tuesday. In the House, Majority Leader Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, led the swearing in of all 435 members, followed by a day-long set of photo-ops in Statuary Hall, in the U.S. Capitol building.

Moving up — and downstairs

With a new round of elections, the seniority math changes in the Senate.

Murkowski is ranked 24th out of 100 senators, and is switching her office to a bigger, better and historically Alaskan spot: Sen. Ted Steven's old office. The office, two floors down in the same building, is being vacated by former Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, according to Murkowski spokeswoman Karina Peterson.

Sullivan, who is now ranked 93rd in the Senate — up from dead-last 100 before the election — may move his office, depending on what's available at the end of the month. And he might move up to No. 92 before the month is out, if Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, is confirmed as attorney general.

Young, the longest-serving House Republican, isn't moving from his well-known, game-covered office. And he's sticking with his back-of-the aisle seat in the House chamber too. Other members jokingly warned freshman congressmen to stay out of the 23-term, bear-hunting member's spot, according to the New York Times.


The Senate has announced official committee membership for the new Congress, but the House has not.

Both Murkowski and Sullivan stayed on the same committees where they served last year.

Murkowski is chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and is a member of three other committees: Appropriations; Indian Affairs; and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Sullivan is a member of the committees for Armed Services; Commerce, Science and Transportation; Environment and Public Works; and Veterans' Affairs.


Committee membership — and leadership, in Murkowski's case — can dictate the priorities of nominees to Trump's cabinet as they head to Capitol Hill to court votes and support before nomination hearings that begin this week.

Sullivan had a busy schedule meeting with nominees to head defense, transportation, commerce and environmental departments last week. And early in the week, he met with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), nominee for ambassador to the United Nations.

On Thursday and Friday, Sullivan was scheduled to meet with Commerce Secretary-nominee Wilbur Ross; Gen. James Mattis, who Trump selected for defense secretary; Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-South Carolina, Trump's pick for budget director; Elaine Chao, selected to head the Department of Transportation; and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, named to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

Murkowski, meanwhile, had meetings scheduled with Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVoss; Interior Secretary nominee Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Montana; and former Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is nominated to head the Department of Energy.

Bills, bills, bills

Focused on getting a quick start to the session, Young began the week by introducing 38 bills Tuesday. Most, he noted, were bills already passed by the House, but had faltered in the Senate.

"I believe with a new president and the Senate we'll be able to get some of this legislation done very quickly," Young said.

The bills ranged from legislation to transfer certain federal property to Native organizations to a broad effort to amend the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

Also of interest: Young co-sponsored a bill that would repeal income and other federal taxes, abolish the IRS and enact "a national sales tax to be administered primarily by the States."

The House also voted already to pass two pieces of legislation that have long held Young's support.

The first, H.R. 21, would allow Congress to repeal a package of Obama administration regulations at once, with greater ease.

And late Thursday, the U.S. House passed the so-called REINS Act (H.R. 26, "Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny"), which would require congressional approval of regulations that have an impact of $100 million or more on the economy.

"Federal regulations are often ill-considered, ill-conceived and often not scientific. It creates a tremendous burden on our economy — in building, in construction, in mining, in drilling and just living your everyday life," Young said in a statement after the bill passed.

Both bills face an uphill battle in the Senate, where a slim Republican majority will make it difficult to overcome Democrats' opposition.


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