After a busy August home in Alaska, I'm back in Washington, D.C., focused on affordable energy, jobs, controlling federal spending and U.S. interests in the Middle East.
On the top of the Senate's agenda this week is President Obama's proposal in response to Syrian President Assad's killing of hundreds of his own people, largely women and children, with chemical weapons. While this act is abhorrent, I have said any American intervention must meet four criteria:
Be an international rather than just a U.S. response;
No American soldiers on the ground in Syria;
The cost of any missile strikes can't come from other vital federal services;
An exit plan must be in place.
I realize this is a high threshold but we must be very clear on the course of action when considering an American involvement. I look forward to the President’s Tuesday speech to the American people and will continue to analyze classified briefings I’m receiving in the Senate before making a final decision on U.S. intervention.
Also on tap this week is how to keep the federal government running after the Sept. 30 deadline. As a relatively new member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I'm looking for every opportunity to cut federal spending while keeping essential services in place. Defense workers and some Alaska Native organizations have borne the brunt of automatic budget cuts and I want to find a way to make smarter cuts in the future.
I'm also pushing the Senate to take up a bipartisan energy bill which is designed to increase energy efficiency, make the U.S. economy more competitive and create jobs. This couldn't be timelier after the visit to Alaska last week by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. I was pleased to travel to the North Slope with the secretary to show her Alaska's enormous oil and gas resources and demonstrate that Alaskans can produce those energy resources responsibly.
During the final weeks of August, I also met with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy in Alaska where she reassured concerned Fairbanksans during a meeting with Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA) that new EPA rules promoting natural gas over coal should not affect GVEA. Alaskans already pay the second highest energy prices in the country and the federal government shouldn't be adding to this financial burden.
Senator Mark Begich