Alaska Delegation Responds to State of the Union Speech

Senator Lisa Murkowski

Alaska’s Congressional delegation appreciated President Obama’s call in his State of the Union address Tuesday night to cut red tape and spur employment, energy development and innovation. But the Republicans in their ranks question his plan to make that happen.  The President delivered his State of the Union to a joint session of Congress in the U.S. House chamber.  His comments on energy particularly interested the Alaskan delegation.

“And nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in the promise of American made energy.  In the past three years, we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight I’m directing my administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources,” President Obama said.

Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski said Obama was trying to take credit for initiatives that started in the Bush administration. Speaking with APRN Tuesday night near the Capitol subway taking Senators back to their offices after the speech,  she said she was pleasantly surprised the President spent a good six and half minutes on energy.

“I did note with great interest that he seemed to be very favorably inclined to natural gas.  Which is good, it’s critical for this country in terms of resource and in terms of the jobs.  It’s going to be very important for Alaska as we seek to find market for natural gas.  But I also recognize there are some within his agencies that are not so keen on all aspects of natural gas,” Murkowski said.

Photo by Libby Casey, APRN - Anchorage: Sen. Mark Begich talks to a reporter in the US Capitol in August 2011.

Democratic Senator Mark Begich says he was also pleased to hear President Obama linger on energy issues, but he wants to hear more details:

“You can’t talk about oil and gas unless you talk about Alaska.  We’re an important part of this equation.  So I feel he could’ve been more specific about how he’s going to do that.  I hope in the next coming weeks that will be more detailed, about how Alaska can play a role supplying oil and gas to this country.  Especially because he mentioned OCS, that’s where the biggest finds will potentially be, in Chukchi and Beaufort,” Begich said.

Alaska’s Republican U.S. Representative Don Young agreed with Senator Begich.  He gave the President only a couple standing ovations, most notably when Obama said it’s time “to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas” and called for tax reforms to give companies incentives to hire American.  But Young dismissed the President’s energy policy as “smoke and mirrors.”

Last night though Alaska’s delegation sat with members of the other party. Congressman Young, who rarely attends State of the Union speeches went at the invitation of Hawaii Democrat Mazie Hirono. Senator Begich sat with Maine Republican Olympia Snowe and Senator Murkowski, a big proponent of the movement for bipartisan seating, was joined by Colorado Democrat Mark Udall.

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