Senator Murkowski's eNewsletter for Feb. 3, 2011
February 3, 2011 Murkowski Speaks to the National Congress of American Indians
Last week I was honored to give the congressional response to the National Congress of American Indians' (NCAI) "State of Indian Nations" address delivered by the Honorable Jefferson Keel, President of NCAI. In my remarks, I spoke about the efforts to reduce federal spending, and warned that America's Native peoples must be prepared to fight hard for federal dollars that go towards the Indian Health Service and other federal Indian programs that have suffered from chronic underfunding.
I also touched on some of my priorities for the 112th Congress, including tackling the high rate of suicide that plagues American Indians and Alaska Native youth and ensuring that Indian Country is included in our national energy policy. Click here to view the speech.
Senate Health Care Votes The Senate took several health care votes this past week, aimed at rescinding all or a part of the controversial health care law. The law is nearly a year old, yet opposition to it continues to grow. A poll late last year, for example, showed that 54 percent of Alaskans supported repeal.
I was disappointed that the Senate was unable to muster enough votes to repeal the law, which slashes Medicare, raises taxes and imposes burdensome regulations on our small businesses. While the repeal vote failed 47 to 51, I was glad that the Senate did vote to rescind one of the onerous tax reporting burdens on small businesses - a provision that requires any business that purchases more than $600 of goods or services from another business to submit a 1099 tax form to the IRS for each transaction. Absent repeal, that mandate, which will take effect at the end of the year, will result in small businesses paying the government $17 billion over the next 10 years.
As Congress grapples with repeal - the House of Representatives earlier this year approved repeal legislation - it now appears likely that the fate of the health care law will rest with the United States Supreme Court. Earlier this week, a federal judge in Florida found the law unconstitutional - the second federal ruling in recent months to declare unconstitutional the requirement that most Americans must purchase health insurance. Two other federal judges, however, have upheld the law, which means that it's all but certain that the high court will have the final say.
New Appropriations Earmarks Policy I want to update you on the implementation of a new two-year earmark moratorium in the Senate and how I intend to respond.
Earlier this month, the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), announced a two-year moratorium on appropriations earmarks. I will honor his decision and not formally submit any earmark requests to the Senate Appropriations Committee. In light of Chairman Inouye's decision to return all earmark submissions to the requesting Senator, I do not believe it is an efficient use of Alaskans' time to fill out the extended earmark request form that I have traditionally used each year. However, it is still important for me to know the needs of Alaska and the best way to get that information is directly from you. Thus it will be my policy, as a member of the Appropriations Committee, to continue to solicit that information from towns and communities across the state through a much shorter request form for the FY 2012 Appropriations cycle (submit your information here). The information will be extremely valuable to me as the Appropriations Committee turns to setting funding levels for a host of programs that are critical to Alaska and also as the various federal departments and agencies begin to make grant and allocation decisions later this year.
BP Oil Spill Commission Final Report Presented to Congress As the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I believe we should advance a balanced legislative response to the tragic BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that ensures we can safely and responsibly develop our offshore resources. The presidential commission's final report clearly states that the need for ongoing research in the Arctic should not be used as an excuse to delay exploration. Oil and natural gas are vital to our nation's economy and will continue to be so for decades.
Murkowski Receives the Head Start Association's 'Commitment to Opportunity Award'
Presenting the National Head Start Association's Commitment to Opportunity Award to Sen. Murkowski is Yasmina Vinci, executive director of the National Head Start Association, and Mark Lackey, executive director of the Alaska Head Start Association.
Providing children with the fundamental tools to sustain a lifetime of learning and healthy living is essential to ensuring their success in life. I have been a strong and consistent supporter of Head Start, which provides education, health and other services to low income children and their families to ensure that children have the skills that will enable them to be ready to start school.
In 2007, I worked closely with my colleagues on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to write and pass the Head Start for School Readiness Act, which includes many of the priorities of Alaska's Head Start Directors, including authorizing more funding, expanding eligibility, maintaining local control and additional, guaranteed support for Indian Head Start programs.
Since then, I have continued to assist Alaskan Head Start grantees to work through issues associated with the regulatory process, to ensure full participation for Alaska's Indian Head Start grantees in the Tribal Consultations, and to ensure our small Head Start centers are allowed to open and serve Alaska's children.
2011 High School Internship Program I am now accepting applications for my 2011 High School Summer Internship Program. The High School Intern Program is an opportunity for young people to learn about the United States Senate and the political process and to gain experience working in a professional office.
Alaskan students who will graduate from high school this spring are eligible to apply. The deadline to submit an application is March 11, 2011. Successful applicants will be well rounded individuals who are willing to work hard and have fun.
- Assist me and my staff in serving Alaskans
- Assist with day-to-day clerical and administrative tasks
- Perform research and assist in drafting legislation
- Shadow me through a full legislative day
- Experience first-hand how the legislative process works in the United States Senate
- Have the opportunity to enjoy the many educational and cultural activities that are available in the Washington, D.C., area.
If you have any questions, please contact my intern coordinator, Rochelle Hanscom, at 202-224-6665.
Sen. Murkowski recently visited Polaris K-12 in Anchorage.