Murkowski calls Republican criticism of infrastructure bill “petty”


Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski hit back at compatriot GOP on Wednesday lawmakers over Biden-backed $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, saying concerns that a small group of Republicans have given the president a victory are “petty” when the country’s infrastructure needs are so important.

The measure was passed by the House on Friday, with Alaska Representative Don Young and a dozen other Republicans providing critical support for it.

In response, several Republican lawmakers and conservative groups quickly attacked Young and other supporters of the bill, calling them “RINO” – “Republicans in name only” – and some even said they should be removed from their committee functions.

[Tensions rise in GOP over infrastructure bill and whether any agreement with Biden should be tolerated]

Alaska’s all-Republican delegation was instrumental in shaping the bill and was unique in providing overall endorsement for it. The measure was passed by the Senate in August with the support of 19 Republicans.

Murkowski said on Wednesday that the bill concerns the security and global competitiveness of the country, which received a C rating for its infrastructure from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

“So this is not a victory for Biden, or a victory for the Democrats,” she said. “It’s about meeting the needs of our country. And for those who I think are going to be so mean that they would deny good, solid politics because they don’t want the person who holds the keys to the White House today to be able to say that they have it. under his watch, what a shame for us that we are unwilling to put the country’s priorities ahead of the politics of this. “

“And the last time I checked, when you come out on this road, they don’t check if you’re a Republican or if you’re a Democrat driving this road,” she said. “When you walk over this structurally deficient bridge, they don’t check whether you are a Republican or a Democrat.”

Murkowski, Young and Senator Dan Sullivan all said the measure was not perfect. But they add that over the next few years, it will provide critical funds for Alaska to improve and build roads, airports, ports, ferries, broadband and sanitation systems.

Murkowski in particular was instrumental in creating the bill this summer when she worked with a bipartisan group of nine other senators to work out the details.

On Wednesday, meeting with reporters in his Anchorage office, Murkowski called the bill “the most significant piece of legislation” that Congress could have worked on right now to develop the national economy and make the United States more competitive. worldwide.

[Infrastructure bill to bring billions to Alaska for roads, ports and broadband. Here are some of the specifics.]

She said it was a victory for Alaska because, among other things, it would bring running water and sewage to villages without it, and broadband connectivity to communities lacking telehealth and health opportunities. online education. She said it was a victory for the nation as it would reduce supply bottlenecks like the current inflation-inducing shipping delays.

“You’ve probably seen some of the news articles that point out Alaska is doing well and note my involvement,” she said. “Well yeah, what did you expect me to do? Look the other way on Alaska’s needs? Say rural America shouldn’t have parity here when we talking about infrastructure when they’ve always been harmed? No. Damn, I’ll put myself in the middle of it all.

“I’m going to make sure people understand that when we talk about roads, all good roads are good,” she said. “But when 80% of the communities in the state of Alaska aren’t connected by roads, I’m going to connect the people I work for. And they connect by water, and they connect by air, and they also have to connect virtually. “

“I think each of us wants and deserves to have a secure infrastructure,” she said. “I think each of us wants to have a healthy, strong and competitive economy. And if we don’t make these investments in ourselves, who do we think will? Are we waiting for the Chinese to come and build new bridges for us? This is what they do in some countries. Well, we have to invest in ourselves.

“So these people who suggest a Republican can’t take over the infrastructure, come on, come on,” she said.

Young himself did not respond directly to the attacks that followed his votes. But his office said this week that Young is keenly aware that Alaska has significant infrastructure needs that the bill will help meet, his office said.

“The congressman knows not everyone is as passionate about the goals of the bill as he is, but he doesn’t make decisions based on where the political winds are blowing,” said Zack Brown , spokesperson for Young, in an email.

[Statement by Alaska Rep. Don Young on why he voted for the infrastructure bill]

FreedomWorks, a conservative group seeking a smaller government, was among the groups that attacked Young and others they called “the Republicans of RINO.” The group said in a tweet that Young “sold himself on the agenda of the great radical left government.”

Young’s support for the bill shows that he can make significant federal investments in Alaska and continues to wield powerful influence in Washington, said Brown, a spokesperson for Young.

After Friday’s vote, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said on Twitter he was grateful for Young’s early advice and encouragement on the bill. Klain called Young one of Biden’s first “consultations” on the bill.

Kelly Tshibaka, a Republican vying for Murkowski’s seat in next year’s election, said on Twitter Monday that the “so-called” infrastructure bill “gives Alaskan crumbs.”

“It’s the Green New Deal disguised as infrastructure and just another item on Radical Biden’s agenda,” she said.

But John MacKinnon, who retired in September as head of the Alaska Department of Transportation and Workforce Development, called the bill a “godsend” to Alaska. The agency could see its budget increase by $ 3.5 billion, or 50%, over the next five years because of the bill.

Sullivan noted he and other senators were able to include essential measures in the bill to increase the effectiveness of federal reviews of permits for projects.

Murkowski spent much of the hour-long meeting with reporters highlighting some of the benefits the bill will bring to Alaska, including significant investments in the struggling Alaska Sea Route system, broadband and sanitation systems.

There are “so many good ones” in the Alaska bill because Alaska has so little infrastructure to begin with, she said. For example, the state is expected to receive $ 1.4 billion to build and improve broadband in unserved and underserved areas, she said.

[Gerrymandering surges as states redraw maps for seats in U.S. House]

“So I don’t hesitate at all to say, ‘Yeah, I went in there and asked a lot,’ because Alaska’s needs are pretty great,” she said.

“But keep in mind that a lot of what we’re talking about in Alaska isn’t reconstruction,” she said. “We are building for the first time.

Meeting with the bipartisan group of 10 senators to work out the details of the bill was essential, she said. They chatted over a cold pizza around a small table, which allowed her to highlight Alaska’s needs, especially in rural and tribal areas, she said.

She highlighted the value of ferries as being as critical as highways for some communities in Alaska. She insisted on the sanitation needs in the villages of Alaska. This contributed to the inclusion of $ 3.5 billion for the Indian Health Service to provide piped water and sewage to Alaska and the Lower 48 reserves.

“A flush toilet isn’t too much to ask for these days,” she said.

“When I tell them and show them pictures of what is happening in some of our communities where children are carrying buckets of human waste and throwing them in a lagoon, they are shocked,” she told About the bipartite group. “And then they say, ‘What can we do, what can we do to help.’ “

The bill contains so many articles, she said, originally thought the measure “would die under its own weight.”

But she said some elements were a matter of compromise.

She and Young didn’t like all the money going to nationwide transit in the bill. Alaska has very little public transportation. But his support for transit in other states was a chance to gain support for Alaska’s unique ferry system.

“And I say okay, ‘I think that sounds a bit too much (for public transport), but I understand where you’re coming from and help me with issues that are a little different from Massachusetts,’ and that’s where you build a larger understanding, ”she said.

“I think the Alaskan delegation looked at this critically and said that this is an investment in infrastructure that our state needs, and our state will benefit, our country will benefit.” , she said.

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