Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
President Obama signed into law Wednesday a stop-gap spending measure that funds the government for two more weeks. This morning the Senate followed the House’s lead and passed the trimmed, temporary budget on a vote of 91 to 9. Both of Alaska’s Senators voted for it, as did Congressman Don Young. Now the deadline for a shutdown is March 18.
Even as Congress wrangles over current spending levels, it’s also looking to nest year – and the President’s proposed budget. Wednesday, committees in the Senate and House heard testimony from Obama’s cabinet on their departments’ funding. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar appeared before the Senate Energy Committee and defended the President’s $12.2 billion request for the department that covers lands, Alaska Native and Native American issues, and oil development. That’s frozen at last year’s spending levels, and Salazar says it saves more than $1 billion too.
Secretary Salazar singled out as a sacrifice the Alaska Lands Conveyance Program, which is on the chopping block, much to the dismay of the Alaskan delegation.
But Senator Lisa Murkowski, questioned cutting the Conveyance Program. She pointed out that there was a pledge to finish any outstanding land conveyances by the 50th anniversary of statehood, a date that came and went in 2009.
Both Murkowski and Congressman Young are complaining also about the new “Wild Lands” policy. That’s an order to analyze millions of acres of public lands to determine if they contain wilderness characteristics. Congressman Young lit into an Obama Administration official Tuesday at a hearing on the matter:
Murkowski agrees, and told Secretary Salazar Wednesday that the Wild Lands policy could “lock up” lands in Alaska, and amounts to a “work around” of the limits on the Wilderness Act.
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