U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) today announced she will vote against President Obama's nominee to oversee the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service if the nomination is taken up for a vote Thursday in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Rhea Suh, who has been nominated to be the Interior Department's next assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks; lacks the leadership qualities and background knowledge necessary to right an agency that has lost sight of its responsibility to the American people, Murkowski said.
"I do not believe that Suh has answered our questions adequately, that we have a good enough understanding of her current role at Interior, or that she is the right candidate for this position," Murkowski said. "As a result, I am not willing to vote in favor of her nomination."
Murkowski has raised a number of issues with the Fish and Wildlife Service's recent decisions, including the agency's objection to a land exchange in Alaska that would have provided life-saving land access to an all-weather airport for an isolated community in the Aleutians, while adding 56,000 acres of state and tribal lands to the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. Murkowski said those decisions are emblematic of the way the Interior Department and its agencies are treating people across the West.
"My view is that the Fish and Wildlife Service is simply not considering the impact of its decisions on people across our country. That needs to change," Murkowski said. "Between the lack of answers that we have received, and the lack of policy experience we have observed, I am simply not convinced that Suh is the right person to turn the Fish and Wildlife Service around."
Murkowski said Suh's two appearances before the energy committee and in personal meetings with her and other senators has done little to assuage her concerns.
"In our prior communications, Suh has been either unaware and unprepared or evasive, even misleading in her responses to questions from the committee," Murkowski said. "I am not convinced that she is the caliber of nominee who deserves swift passage through our committee."
Murkowski, who plans to resubmit a list of questions that were not answered adequately by Suh, some for the third time, said markup of the nomination should be postponed until Suh has responded fully to the concerns she and other senators have raised.
"I firmly believe that a reasonably qualified nominee who has completed nearly five years of service in a leadership position within the Interior Department would either know the answers to the questions to which Suh has claimed ignorance or would make it a point to learn the answers to such questions," Murkowski said. "The other alternative is that Suh knows or could learn the answers but is choosing to give "stock' answers rather than respond in detail. Regardless, the result is the same -- Suh's nomination does not merit the consent of senators."
Murkowski is the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee.