This week I had the honor of visiting with five wounded soldiers attached to units of the 1/25 Stryker Brigade from Fort Wainwright. Surrounded by family members, all five are recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington from wounds suffered during their service in Iraq. No matter how severe their pain or how challenging their recovery ahead, you could not meet a more inspiring group of people. Federal privacy rules do not allow me to share their names or publish their photographs. But let me share with you this comment from a soldier whose recovery will be particularly challenging. "My goal is to be at Fort Wainwright when my friends return, standing there in my prosthetic, and shaking their hands as they come home from Iraq. I will work hard. I will push. I will do anything to make that possible." This holiday season as we give thanks to God for all of the good in our lives, say a special prayer for our wounded warriors and for all of Alaska's brave men and women in uniform. I will do the same.
Sen. Murkowski opposes auto bailout bill
The Senate recently considered legislation aimed at rescuing the Big Three automakers. No one, especially me, wants thousands of hard-working Americans in the auto industry to be laid off, but I believe that the package, as it was written, would not have prompted meaningful and immediate change in the underlying business problems that are causing these companies to fail. Additionally, it's important to note that the $14 billion would only have been a "bridge" loan, and more money could be needed in the future to sustain businesses that might never recover. Simply put, giving taxpayer dollars to these companies without comprehensive and immediate restructuring would not have made them more sustainable. Thus I opposed the bill, which failed to advance by a 52-35 vote with 60 votes being needed to proceed. I believe that the automakers need to fundamentally change the way they do business so that they can continue to produce many of the cars and trucks that Alaskans drive.
Sen. Murkowski conducts a lottery to distribute Inauguration tickets
My office received more than 3,000 requests from Alaskans for tickets to President-elect Barack Obama's Inauguration ceremony at noon on Tuesday, January 20, 2009, on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol. As each Senator was given only a limited number of tickets to distribute, I decided the fairest way to allocate my allotment was to hold a lottery. My Executive Assistant, Kristen Daimler-Nothdurft, helped me select the lucky winners.
And while I'm on the subject of the inauguration, the Presidential Inaugural Committee announced this week that the Colony High School Band in Palmer and the Suurimmanitchuat Eskimo Dance Group of Barrow have accepted invitations to march in the historic parade that will follow President-elect Obama's swearing in.
Sen. Murkowski invites Alaskans to attend her post-inaugural constituent coffee
All Alaskans who will be in Washington, D.C. for President-elect Obama's inauguration in January are invited to attend a Inaugural constituent coffee on Wednesday, January 21, 2009, from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in the Senate Hart Building, Room 902. Due to the number of constituents expected, we have arranged for the top floor of the Senate Hart building to be available and have also invited the other Delegation members to attend. If you would like to participate, please visit my website to RSVP here.
I will be hosting weekly constituent coffees for any visiting Alaskans during the busy Spring season. Please check the Constituent services link on my website, murkowski.senate.gov, for a soon to be released schedule.
Sen. Murkowski and Sen.-elect Begich meet on Capitol Hill
I welcomed Sen.-elect Begich to my office last week when he was in Washington for his Senate orientation. Mark and I have known each other for years, and look forward to working together to advance Alaska's agenda. We had a good meeting discussing committee assignment, appropriations issues and other congressional matters prior to the start of the 111th Congress.
Sen. Murkowski protects Alaskans' right to bear arms
I am pleased with the recent decision by Secretary of the Interior Kempthorne to allow firearms in National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges. The new regulations defer to state law to allow regulations to respect each state's rules.
Previous federal regulations were confusing and unnecessarily infringed on Americans' constitutional right to bear arms. The old regulations allowed for firearms to be carried on land managed by the National Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, but banned firearms on land managed by the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service. In Alaska, this controversy was unique because the ban applied only to a small number of National Parks designated prior to passage of ANILCA (the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act) in 1980.
Last year, I joined a bipartisan group of Senators in requesting a common sense solution. While the new rules are a step in the right direction, they do not recognize the importance of open carry of hand guns and long guns. I have requested that open carry be allowed where concealed carry is now allowed. I have also cosponsored legislation, which passed the Senate Energy and National Resources Committee 18-5, that would require the Department of Interior to defer to state laws on all firearm rules.
Alaska receives $2 billion this year in federal grants, contracts and loans
Last May, Senator Stevens and I held a grants symposium in Anchorage to inform Alaskans of grant opportunities that are available through federal government agencies. As we reach the end of the year, I want to report that the federal government has issued hundreds of grants, contracts, and loans throughout the State of Alaska with funds reaching more than $2 billion. These federally funded projects range from $106,971 for Alaska's Special Education Service Agency programs for the deaf and blind to a $50 million Army contract to Anchorage-based Alcan General Inc. to design and build a battalion complex at Fort Richardson in Anchorage. These funds are an important to our state, and I would like to congratulate and thank everyone involved for their hard work in making these programs possible.