Donald Trump sent a messenger boy to let Alaska’s two Republican senators know he didn’t much care for Lisa Murkowski’s refusal to play ball on repealing Obamacare. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke called Murkowski and Alaska’s other senator, Dan Sullivan, Wednesday to say he thinks Alaska’s a real nice state, and it would be a REAL SHAME if something were to happen to it. That call followed up Trump’s subtle message to Murkowski on Twitter Tuesday morning:
Zinke simply wanted to reinforce the message that you shouldn’t let the big man down, you know. He doesn’t like that, and don’t the senators know that Alaska relies on a good relationship with the federal government for stuff like roads, land management, that pipeline of theirs, and all sorts of things? You wouldn’t want to complicate your friendship with the president, now would you?
Murkowski hasn’t yet commented on the call, but Dan Sullivan said it was a “troubling message”:
“I’m not going to go into the details, but I fear that the strong economic growth, pro-energy, pro-mining, pro-jobs and personnel from Alaska who are part of those policies are going to stop,” Sullivan said.
“I tried to push back on behalf of all Alaskans. … We’re facing some difficult times and there’s a lot of enthusiasm for the policies that Secretary Zinke and the president have been talking about with regard to our economy. But the message was pretty clear,” Sullivan said.
Why, yes, that is a clear message: We have now entered the age of Thug Federalism. Sullivan said Zinke made it very clear that the call was in response to Murkowski’s vote against the Motion to Proceed on the healthcare bill Tuesday.
The Alaska Dispatch News lists a number of federal goodies that may be held hostage if Murkowski doesn’t straighten up and do what has to be done:
Efforts and issues on the line include nominations of Alaskans to Interior posts, an effort to build a road out of King Cove through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, and future opportunities to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and expand drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, among other regulatory issues that are a priority for Murkowski and Sullivan.
Sullivan said he had discussed the calls with Murkowski, and his concerns remain.
Oh, right — Murkowski wants to drill in the wildlife preserve. Maybe we don’t want to invite her to our slumber party after all. Boy, it WOULD be a shame if none of that went through! Still, she’s a vote against ACA repeal, so we’ll still be nice to her when we see her in the hall.
CBS News reminds us that if Zinke were to actually put the kibosh on drilling in Alaska, it would go directly against his and the Trump administration’s pro-drilling agenda. In May, Zinke said, “The only path for energy dominance is a path through the great state of Alaska.” But who knows — Trump may decide there’s plenty of oil to drill for in more cooperative states, if you know what he means.
The Center for Western Priorities, a conservation group, issued a statement today calling the shakedown exactly what it is:
Ryan Zinke is revealing himself as Trump’s hitman. He’s now threatening to hold public lands and energy policy hostage over a health care bill. This is the U.S. government, not the Corleone family. Congress and the administration should discuss America’s energy and lands policy on the merits, without mob-inspired threats from the Department of the Interior and the White House.
It seems unlikely the Trump threats will put too much pressure on Murkowski; she chairs the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which gives her a fair bit of influence over taking care of Alaska, and that puts her in charge of managing confirmations for the Department of the Interior, so she could have some power to push back on Zinke. ADN notes that a committee hearing on nominations to the departments of Energy and Interior that had been set for Wednesday was postponed indefinitely, although the notice on the Energy Committee’s website didn’t say why. Could be a coincidence.
While Murkowski hasn’t reacted publicly to Zinke’s call, she did say Tuesday that she wasn’t worried about how Republicans in Alaska will see her votes on healthcare:
I base my votes on what I believe is in Alaska’s best interest […] So I know that there are those who wish that I would be more in line with following the party platform, but I don’t think it should come as any surprise that there have been occasions that I have not followed the lead of the party.
She’s also not up for reelection until 2022, so threats of a primary from the right aren’t likely to get any traction, as she said Wednesdayafter Trump’s Twitter tirade:
Sen. Murkowski reacts to Trump's tweet attack: I'm not up for re-election until 2022 …"We're here to govern" https://t.co/Q1O4JfCgz8
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) July 26, 2017
We’re here to govern; we’re here to legislate; we’e here to represent the people who sent us here […] How about just doing a bit of governing around here?
She ain’t afraid of no Trump. OK, she can sit with us at lunch, but we won’t ask her to pet sit our moose.
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