Report: Interior Chief Warns Alaska Senators on Health Care - NBC Connecticut
National & International News
The day’s top national and international news

Report: Interior Chief Warns Alaska Senators on Health Care

The Interior Department and the White House had no comment on the report

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    On the Road Again
    Getty Images
    In this June 23, 2010 file photo, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) attends hearing in Washington, DC. (Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images)

    Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke called Alaska's two Republican senators to warn them of repercussions for the nation's largest state if they failed to toe the Trump administration line on health care, according to a published report.

    The Alaska Dispatch News reported Thursday that Zinke called Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and complained that Murkowski's vote against proceeding on legislation to repeal "Obamacare" had put Alaska's future with the administration in jeopardy. Vice President Mike Pence broke a 50-50 tie to advance the measure earlier this week.

    Sullivan told the newspaper that the call from Zinke heralded a "troubling message." Questioned by reporters on Thursday, Sullivan declined to discuss his conversations with administration officials.

    Murkowski confirmed that she received a call from Zinke, but said she did not perceive the call as a threat against her or Alaska.

    'Late Night’: A Closer Look at GOP’s Defense of Kavanaugh

    [NATL] 'Late Night’: A Closer Look at GOP’s Defense of Kavanaugh

    Seth Meyers takes a closer look at President Donald Trump visiting North Carolina to survey damage from Hurricane Florence and Republicans making it clear they have no interest in hearing the truth about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

    (Published Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018)

    "He was just sharing the concern that the president expressed to him to pass on to me," Murkowski said Thursday. She and Zinke, a former Montana congressman, have a "cordial, respectful and friendly relationship," Murkowski added. "I don't think that will change one bit."

    The Interior Department and the White House had no comment on the report.

    The notion of a Cabinet official warning senators of retribution over health care is highly unusual, even as Trump has lashed out at GOP members of Congress for balking at his policies. On Wednesday, Trump tweeted at Murkowski: "Senator @lisamurkowski of the Great State of Alaska really let the Republicans, and our country, down yesterday. Too bad!"

    Sen. Hirono Tells Men to 'Shut Up and Step Up'

    [NATL] Sen. Hirono Tells Men to 'Shut Up and Step Up'

    Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii addressed "the men in this country" during a Tuesday press conference.

    (Published Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018)

    Murkowski, who was re-elected to a new six-year term last year, chairs the powerful Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has say over Interior business and nominations. She also leads an Appropriations subcommittee with authority over the Interior Department budget. On Thursday, an energy committee hearing on nominations was postponed, with a spokeswoman citing "scheduling uncertainties."

    Alaska has a range of issues affected by the federal government, including proposals to build a road through a remote wildlife refuge and drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Several Alaskans also have been nominated for key posts at Interior, and Murkowski and Sullivan have pushed to expand drilling on federal land in Alaska's North Slope near the Arctic Ocean.

    Sullivan told the newspaper: "I'm not going to go into the details, but I fear that the strong economic growth, pro-energy, pro-mining, pro-jobs and personnel from Alaska who are part of those policies are going to stop."

    Koreas Strike Nuclear Site Deal, With US Condition

    [NATL] North, South Korea Strike Nuclear Site Deal, With US Condition

    North and South Korea reached a deal to shut down North Korea’s main nuclear site - on one condition.

    (Published Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018)

    "I tried to push back on behalf of all Alaskans. We're facing some difficult times and there's a lot of enthusiasm for the policies that Secretary Zinke and the president have been talking about with regard to our economy. But the message was pretty clear," Sullivan said.

    Sullivan told reporters on Thursday that resource development is critical for his state, which he said is in recession.

    "From my perspective, the sooner we can get back to cooperation between the administration and the chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the better," he said, referring to Murkowski.

    Trump 'Feels Terribly' For Kavanaugh

    [NATL] Trump 'Feels Terribly' For Kavanaugh

    President Donald Trump said Tuesday he "feels terribly" for Judge Brett Kavanaugh and his family. The Senate is trying to schedule a hearing to hear from Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who alleges Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a high school party about 35 years ago.

    (Published Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018)

    Murkowski, who talked to Trump before her vote on Tuesday, said she has no problem with the administration's efforts to persuade her on the health care bill.

    "The president wants to get a health care bill. He's going to make calls. That's understood. ... That's kind of his job. I don't have a hardship with that. I don't have heartburn with that at all," she said, adding that she made her position clear to Trump when they talked before the initial vote on Tuesday.

    "He was very direct, in terms of encouraging me to vote to proceed," Murkowski said of Trump. "It was a difficult conversation."

    'Late Night’: A Closer Look at Kavanaugh Accusation, Manafort Flip

    [NATL] 'Late Night’: A Closer Look at Kavanaugh Accusation, Manafort Flip

    Seth Meyers takes a closer look at President Donald Trump's ex-campaign chairman flipping on him and the sexual assault allegations leveled against his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

    (Published Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018)

    In the end, she decided to vote against moving forward, saying the bill was not ready and would make unacceptable cuts to Medicaid.

    Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said any threat against Murkowski was a mistake.

    "Always. Tomorrow's another day," Shelby said. "We vote thousands of times ... I'd never threaten anybody because they didn't vote with me on some issue because tomorrow, we might have another issue."

    'Little Delay' Possible on Kavanaugh: Trump

    [NATL] 'Little Delay' Possible on Kavanaugh: Trump

    President Donald Trump said Monday that the vote to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court may take longer than expected following a woman's claim that the judge sexually assaulted her at a party when they were both in high school.

    (Published Monday, Sept. 17, 2018)

    Associated Press writers Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Alan Fram contributed to this report.