In Congress, Alaskans are split over shutdown

Rep. Don Young in his Washington, D.C. office. Photo: Liz Ruskin

Republicans in Congress remain mostly united behind President Trump and his rejection of legislation to re-open government departments unless it includes $5 billion for a border wall. But the Alaska delegation is split on this.

The U.S. House has now passed three spending bills, to fund the departments of Agriculture, Transportation and Treasury. No more than a dozen Republicans voted with the Democrats, and Alaska Congressman Don Young wasn’t among them.

On Wednesday, Young said he’d probably vote for the spending bills. He predicted a good number of Republicans would vote yes and that would signal to the White House that it has to compromise.

He didn’t have a lot to say as he left the House chamber Thursday after voting against two spending bills.

“I said ‘probably!'” Young retorted, when asked to square his votes with the intentions he stated Wednesday.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Photo by Liz Ruskin.

On the other side of the Capitol, Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she’s urging her colleagues to pass spending bills to reopen most of the closed departments. She said it’s fine for the president to continue to press for border security.

“But do that within the construct of the Homeland Security bill,” Murkowski said. “You don’t need to hold hostage the Interior bill, the financial services bill, the transportation, housing, urban development bills.”

Sen. Dan Sullivan said questions about how he would vote on spending bills that don’t include the wall are hypothetical, since the president has already said he won’t sign them.

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, in his Washington, D.C. office. Photo: Liz Ruskin

“I want to make very clear one thing, and that’s: I support the president in his efforts, and in his administration’s efforts, to secure our border,” Sullivan said in a video he made to explain his view to Alaskans.

Here’s a bit of good news for furloughed workers: The Senate, by voice vote, on Thursday passed a bill agreeing to restore back-pay to them, once the shutdown ends.

The House plans to pass one more spending bill Friday. That one would fund the Department of Interior. The salaries of about 2,600 Alaskans are riding on that bill.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at

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