Why Sen. Sullivan voted against a bill to fund government, aid Ukraine and renew VAWA

moonrise over Capitol, with dome to the left and purple sky.
The moon rises over the U.S. Capitol. (Brett Davis)

Congress passed a $1.5 trillion bill Thursday night to keep the federal government operating and send emergency aid to Ukraine.

Two-thirds of Alaska’s delegation to Congress voted for it. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Congressman Don Young issued news releases touting features of the catch-all legislation, like its reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. They issued long lists of Alaska projects the bill funds.

Sen. Dan Sullivan voted no. In a written statement after the vote, he said he supports a lot of the bill, like its increase in military spending and aid for Ukraine. But Sullivan said his staff didn’t have enough time to read its 2,700 pages.


In what’s become the norm, Congressional leaders rolled a dozen annual spending bills into an omnibus package. The final version emerged less than two days before the Senate vote.

Roll Call reports that Sullivan held the bill up because he objected to something in the VAWA section. In his written statement, Sullivan listed two elements of the VAWA bill he supports: the Choose Respect Act and the electronic delivery of protective orders. He did not mention a key Alaska feature of VAWA: A pilot program that will allow a number of Alaska tribes to prosecute certain violent crimes in their villages, even if the suspect is not Native.

Sullivan has not said publicly whether he supports that aspect of the bill, which Murkowski and Young have pursued for several years.

Sullivan “supported the overall goal of getting more resources, capabilities, and legal capacity in our Native communities in the VAWA Act, and was working on technical corrections with Senator Murkowski to the bill before time ran out to have them considered,” a spokesman said.

The wording of the VAWA section was made public a month ago.

RELATED: VAWA bill in Senate would expand power of up to 30 Alaska tribal courts

The final Senate vote was 69-31. The House passed the bill Wednesday night and President Biden is expected to sign it soon.

According to Roll Call, Sullivan seemed to release his hold on the $1.5 trillion bill in exchange for quick passage of a fisheries bill.

Minutes after the 69-31 vote on the spending package, a bill Sullivan sponsored cleared the Senate with no objection. It creates a fisheries advisory committee in the Commerce Department to review grant applications, among other duties.

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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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