Young Calls New 8(a) Legislation an Attack on Alaska

Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC

A member of the U.S. House has introduced a bill to alter the way Alaska Native Corporations do business.  It’s a companion bill to a Senate version introduced earlier this week by Claire McCaskill of Missouri.  Congressman Bennie Thompson from Mississippi is the main House sponsor.  The bill aims to strip away the advantages the Native Corporations receive from the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program in getting federal contracts.

Alaska Representative Don Young is bristling at the legislation, and calls it an attack on Alaska.

The bill won’t likely get a hearing during the Lame Duck session, which will go into December.  Congress is out for the Thanksgiving Recess next week, after a busy first week back, post-midterm Elections.

Newly elected House members visited DC this week for orientation and to pick their offices through a lottery process.  With 93 new members, it’s the largest freshman class in six decades.  Only nine are Democrats, and the rest are Republicans – so many new faces that Republicans will have a strong majority in the House.  Much has been made about the new wave of conservative representatives, some of whom have Tea Party support and have pledged to slash spending.  But Congressman Young says he’s seen the cycle before of confident newcomers, who believe they can change Washington.

Young is heading toward his 20th term in the House, and is second in seniority among Republicans.  He says the election on Thursday of Ohio Representative John Boehner as the new Speaker and the picks for the Republican leadership team were no surprise.

Young is often at odds with Speaker Pelosi, but he’s also butted heads with top Republican Boehner about earmarks, of which Boehner instituted a Party ban, and over Young’s potential leadership roles. It was Boehner who pressured Young to step down from his ranking spot on the Natural Resources committee two years ago because of federal investigations into his behavior.  The Justice Department says Young is not longer under scrutiny, and he hopes to get a subcommittee chairmanship in the new Congress. Even though Young says he’s pleased about the incoming Republican majority, he’s disappointed it’s coming at the cost of losing some of the centrist and conservative Democrats.

The divisions between Democrats and Republicans was apparent this week as Republicans tried to de-fund National Public Radio, and blocked an extension of long term unemployment benefits. Congressman Young voted with most other House Republicans Thursday against the unemployment benefits extension.  Those against say it should be off-set by cuts elsewhere.  The benefits are set to expire at the end of this month, and Democrats who support them say out-of-work Americans need the help.

The final vote was 258 to 154, not the two-thirds majority needed for passage.  All but 11 Democrats voted for it, and 21 Republicans crossed over to support it.

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