Why Sullivan voted ‘no’ on $1.3T bill

Sen. Dan Sullivan. (Photo: Liz Ruskin)

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan typically votes with the Republican leadership in the Senate. But in the wee hours of Friday morning, Congress passed a $1.3 trillion spending bill and Sullivan voted “no.”

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Sullivan has not granted interviews in recent days, and he caught a flight soon after the vote. Spokesman Matt Shuckerow says the senator voted “no” because he felt he didn’t have enough time to review the bill.

“His commitment to Alaskans is to provide an appropriate level of due diligence and attention,” Shuckerow said. “2,200 pages released at 8 p.m. the day before – he didn’t feel like that could be meet under those circumstances.”

That echos the complaints other senators, mostly Democrats, made last year. They said they only had a few hours to read the final versions of a health care repeal bill and the Republican tax bill. Sullivan voted for both of those. Shuckerow says those were different because Sullivan had a hand in crafting them.

“As for health care, the senator was there negotiating.  We were negotiating specific Alaska things,” Shuckerow said. “He was there at the table and having many conversations. And the tax bill itself as well. So I don’t think those analogies hold up.”

Shuckerow points out Sullivan voted against a spending bill in 2015, too, citing a lack of time to read the bill. (Back then, Sullivan also knocked the legislation for adding to the national debt.)

President Trump signed the 2018 spending bill into law Friday, but he, too, complained about the compressed timeline.

“But I say to Congress, I will never sign a bill like this again. I’m not going to do it again,” Trump said from the White House. “Nobody read it. It’s only hours old. Some people don’t even know what is (in it). $1.3 trillion!”

The bill was negotiated behind closed doors for days. After it finally emerged Wednesday night, the Senate put it on a fast-track for a vote, through a process called “unanimous consent.” If Sullivan had withheld his consent, the vote could’ve been delayed until sometime over the weekend. That would have derailed a lot of senator’s travel plans: They are now on a two-week recess. And Shuckerow says Sullivan figured it wouldn’t do any good.

“He didn’t think it was (enough) time. Whether it was 24 or 48 hours,” Shuckerow said. “So unfortunately, as I said, the votes were tallied, and the legislation was going to pass. So that’s kind of where he was.”

Thirty-two senators voted against the spending bill, most of them right-wing Republicans, such as Ted Cruz of Texas, or left-wing Democrats, including Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Congressman Don Young both voted for the bill. They issued press releases praising the bill’s boost for rural infrastructure, military pay and missile defense all things Sullivan likes to extol, too.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Liz here.

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