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News from Senator Begich; September 9, 2013: Senator Weighs U.S. Options over Syria



September 9, 2013

Senator Weighs U.S. Options over Syria

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:

  1. Be an international rather than just a U.S. response;
  2. No American soldiers on the ground in Syria;
  3. The cost of any missile strikes can't come from other vital federal services;
  4. 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.

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Senator Mark Begich



Keep Eielson Strong – Sen. Begich met with Chief of Staff to the U.S. Air Force, Gen. Mark Welsh, where he left feeling more optimistic than ever that the F-16's and their crews will remain stationed at Eielson for the long-term.



Upcoming Events

September 13, 2013
10:00 a.m. (Alaska)
U.S. Senate Emergency Management subcommittee field hearing on disaster response in Alaska
Anchorage: NANA building at 909 West 9th Avenue

September 14, 2013
12:30 p.m. (Alaska)
Magnuson Stevens Act reauthorization listening session
Nome: Kawerak, Inc. board room

September 14, 2013
3:30 p.m. (Alaska)
Listening session on federal emergency response in Alaska
Nome: Kawerak, Inc. board room

September 14, 2013
5:30 p.m. (Alaska)
Nome town hall meeting
Nome: Old St. Joe's Church in Anvil City Square

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Useful Links

Begich Calls Out "Hollywood Health Guru" for Ignoring Farm Fish Facts

Continuing his effort to promote and protect Alaska seafood, Sen. Begich challenged Hollywood fitness trainer Harley Pasternak's People Magazine article about the virtues of farmed fish vs. wild fish. In a letter that describes the benefits of wild salmon over their "floating corncob" counterparts, Begich describes fish farms as environmental polluters that feed their fish "crops" with genetically modified grains. "It's a disservice to point your clients and your fans toward farm fish, the corncob couch potatoes of the ocean, instead of encouraging them to eat fresh, healthy wild fish like Alaska salmon," wrote Begich in his letter. In his People Magazine article Pasternak, implied that farm fish have certain health benefits over wild fish. Sen. Begich, who has challenged Wal-Mart and multi-national giant Sodexo Coporation on their seafood purchasing policies and engaged in a social media stand-off with the CEO of Domino's Pizza over a halibut-maligning video, responded to the article after staff brought it to his attention.

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Expanding Trade - Sen. Begich welcomed China's ambassador to the U.S., Tiankai Cui, to Alaska to explore opportunities for expanded trade. Begich leads the Senate's relationship with China.

Get Your Business Online - Sen. Begich visited with small businesses in Fairbanks at Google's Get Your Business Online event.

Begich Chairs Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs Field Hearing in Anchorage

Discussing issues important to Alaska veterans such as eliminating the claims backlog and improving facilities and programs for women, Sen. Begich recently chaired a Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs field hearing in Anchorage. "Our veterans deserve our respect and appreciation as well as the benefits and services promised to them. I repeatedly emphasize to my colleagues the importance of meeting all of our veterans' needs, which is why it was critical that these decision makers hear firsthand from Alaskan veterans, where veteran programs here are excelling, and where changes need to be made." Speakers included Undersecretary of Health for the Department of Veterans Affairs Dr. Robert Petzl.

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Creating Jobs at JBER - Sen. Begich visited Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson to meet the new United States Army Alaska Commander, Major General Mike Shields, and to see some of the new facilities. The project has kept 70-100 Alaskans working on it every work day since July of 2012.

Jewell Visits the North Slope - Interior Sec. Sally Jewell visited the North Slope with Sen. Begich to learn more about oil and gas development.

Sen. Gillibrand Visits Alaska for Discussion on Military Sexual Assault

Sen. Begich held a roundtable discussion with U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in Anchorage to discuss their work on curbing sexual assault in the military. Sen. Gillibrand is the lead sponsor of the Military Justice Improvement Act, of which Sen. Begich is co-sponsor. "Sexual assault and harassment have no place in our military or our society as a whole." The legislation would strengthen prosecution of sexual assault crimes in the military by taking away the authority of commanders to overturn or lessen court-martial verdicts in sexual assault cases and removing the military chain-of-command from determining whether sexual assault cases are prosecuted.

This week's website features
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Alaskans Weigh in on Syria

The Begich Minute: Begich Visits Site of Pepe's Restaurant Fire in Barrow

Over 6,000 Alaskans participated in a telephone town hall last week hosted by Sen. Begich to listen to questions and concerns from Alaskans about the ongoing situation in Syria. The President will address the country and discuss possible intervention tomorrow night at 5pm Alaska time.

Sen. Begich shot the Begich Minute in front of the former site of famous Pepe's restaurant in Barrow, Alaska and expressed hope that they would rebuild the Alaska institution soon. Pepe's was completely destroyed in an unfortunate fire this August.

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