The News Tribune - Senate Candidate Q/A: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R)

News Article

Candidate's name: Lisa Murkowski

Party: Republican

Date of birth: May 22, 1957

Occupation: U.S. Senator

Current employer (with starting date):

Citizens of Alaska, U.S. Senate, Dec. 20, 2002

Employment history (please include starting and ending months and years):

Anchorage District Court Attorney's office, 1987-1989

Attorney in private practice, 1989-1998

Alaska House of Representatives, 1998-2002

U.S. Senate, December 2002-present

Previous public offices held (include dates):

Alaska House of Representatives, 1998-2002

Previous unsuccessful runs for office (include dates): None

Post-secondary education (please includes dates and degrees):

Georgetown University, bachelor's in economics, 1980

Willamette College of Law, J.D., 1985

Military service (starting and ending dates, last rank, specialty):


Spouse's name: Verne Martell

Children: Nicolas and Matthew

In what states have you lived for at least six months? In what countries?

District of Columbia while attending Georgetown University and Oregon while attending Willamette College of Law and Willamette University

Web site: and


1. Why are you running for office? (Up to 100 words)

My love of Alaska drives me each and every day to work to improve and protect our great state. Alaska has come a long way, but we are still a young state that must continue to grow and prosper. Alaska's future is bright, but without leadership and proven experience in Washington, Alaska will not be in a position to achieve its full potential.

2. If elected, what are the three most important things you want to accomplish during your first/next term? (Please be specific.)

Ensure more access to Alaska's natural resources such as oil and gas development in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, and ANWR; start gas pipeline construction; expand use of renewable energy and protect fisheries.

Protect Alaska from the heavy hand of Washington, D.C., by fighting onerous regulations; and ensuring our military bases remain among the world's finest.

Reduce our national deficit, stop out-of-control federal spending, and make the tax code more predictable for families and businesses.

3. What specific changes, if any, will you propose or support for the Social Security system?

Social Security is headed down an unsustainable path and Congress must work in a bipartisan manner to ensure its solvency. For those Alaskans currently receiving Social Security, I am opposed to cutting or changing any benefits. But for the next generation, we must accept that changes will have to be made to the program and that means considering ideas such as raising the age of eligibility and awaiting the reports of two Commissions currently studying possible reforms.

4. The Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire on Dec. 31. Which comes closest to your position:

* Congress should extend the tax cuts only for the middle class, not for the top 2 percent, that is, households earning $250,000 or more.

* Congress should extend the tax cuts for everyone, including the top 2 percent, that is, households earning $250,000 or more.

* Congress should not extend any of the ax cuts.

* Other (explain).

Congress should extend the tax cuts for everyone, including the top 2 percent, that is, households earning $250,000 or more.

In the middle of a recession, the last thing we should do is allow a massive tax increase that will adversely impact families and small businesses -- the single biggest job creators. Businesses will not expand and hire more employees until they have some certainty about the fate of the tax structure.

5. Should the U.S. tax code be simplified? Is it fair? What would you describe as its single worst flaw?

First, Congress must act to prevent the looming tax hikes that are coming unless Congress blocks the President's plan. Then, Congress must replace our current tax system with one that eliminates inefficiencies, encourages equity and promotes long-term economic growth and capital formation. However, we must ensure that any final plan does not place a disproportionate tax burden on lower- and middle-families and seniors on fixed incomes.

6. Do you support congressional term limits? What limit would you propose?

No, the choice of a Senator belongs to Alaska voters and they should be free to choose whomever they wish. If Alaska voters want to choose someone else after six years, that is their right. But the government should not limit their choices by prohibiting experienced candidates from seeking re-election. Ted Stevens represented Alaska for 40 years in the Senate and voters rewarded him for the quality of his service. Senate seniority is vital for small states as it is the only way for citizens in small population states to counter the power of the federal bureaucracy.

7. Do you support the current U.S. strategy in Afghanistan? What should the future United States role in Afghanistan be?

General Petraeus needs the freedom to accomplish the mission without micromanagement from the Congress. That mission is to prevent Afghanistan from being used to launch terror attacks against the west and to secure freedom for the Afghan people from terrorists. Over time and without artificial deadlines we must build the Afghan Army, which must be prepared to take over the work from coalition forces. I support long- term economic assistance to help Afghanistan maintain a stable government.

8. How good a job is the military and the Veterans Administration doing in providing ongoing care to soldiers and ex-soldiers who served in the war? What specifically would you do to improve services?

The challenges are formidable, the outcomes inconsistent, yet there is progress. Reducing suicide rates is the top priority. Guardsmen and Reservists should remain on active duty until battlefield injuries are diagnosed and treatment established, preferably close to home. VA should implement my legislation authorizing ongoing treatment of rural veterans in Native health facilities and expand use of Community Health Centers. Alaska veterans should be treated in Alaska, not Seattle. Implement Women Veterans Health Improvement Act.

9. What is your position on the federal loan guarantees for an Alaska natural gas pipeline?

* Increase them

* Maintain them as they are

* Decrease them

* Eliminate them

Why? What specifically would you do to carry out your position if elected?

Increase them.

One of Alaska's major producers recently stated that federal loan guarantees would be necessary to build a gas line. I have insisted on these guarantees since 2004 and negotiated an increase in guarantees from $18 billion to $30 billion last year during consideration of an energy bill. As the Energy Committee Ranking Member, I will ensure any relevant bill that comes out of the committee includes these guarantees plus the language to allow the Federal Financing Bank to make the loans and language to make the guarantee I won in 2004 work better. I will also advance the corresponding needed appropriations.

10. Do you support oil and gas development on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? If so, what specifically would do to make this happen? How would this be more effective than previous efforts?

I unequivocally support oil and gas development in the coastal plain, either through directional drilling from state lands or, preferably, on the coastal plain itself. If I am reelected, my Energy Committee will have the votes to pass ANWR in committee for the first time in years. Therefore, any bill coming to the floor from my committee can have an ANWR element, and the Democrats won't have 60 floor votes to strip it out. To build support I have already proposed to use some of the federal revenues to fund renewable energy and wildlife programs.

11. Should the proposed Pebble mine in southwest Alaska be constructed? If you have any specific concerns about the project, what are they?

Until all the environmental studies and a final mining plan are finished it is premature to support or oppose Pebble. Clearly the concern is what the effect on water quality there will be if the ore is mined by an open pit process. While I support mining, I will not trade fish for gold and will support the mine only if it can be built without appreciable risk to fisheries and the lifestyles of bay residents.

12. Should the federal government end affirmative action programs in the public sector? In the private sector?

I support the 8(a) federal contracting program which helps socially and economically disadvantaged Americans, including but not limited to our Native peoples, and support contracting preferences for businesses owned by disabled veterans, women and people with disabilities. I strongly support the veterans preference in federal hiring as well. The federal mandate for affirmative action in private sector employment extends only to federal contractors and should remain in place unless determined unconstitutional.

13. Do you believe the U.S. Constitution should be amended in any specific ways? Do you believe any existing amendments should be repealed? Explain.

I have cosponsored a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow Congress to prohibit the physical desecration of the U.S. flag. I also voted in support of efforts in 2006 to enact the Marriage Protection Amendment. In 2009, I sponsored a Constitutional amendment that would give the District of Columbia one voting member of the House of Representatives.

14. What is your position on the 8(a) federal contracting policy that many Alaska Native corporations have used to grow?

* Continue it as is

* Expand it

* Shrink it

* Eliminate it

Why? What specifically would you do to carry out your position if elected?


I would oppose and fight any legislation that strips Alaska Native Corporations, Indian Tribes, and Native Hawaiians of the contracting preferences afforded to them. We must reform the program to ensure it works the way it was intended. Completely removing these contracting preferences would set back the progress we have made to address the poverty experienced by our nation's first peoples.

15. Do you support federal funding for the Denali Commission, which funds water, sewer, energy and other public projects in rural Alaska?

* Increase funding

* Maintain funding at the FY 2010 level of $64 million

* Decrease funding

* Eliminate funding

Why? What specifically would you do to carry out your position if elected?

Maintain and slightly increase funding.

I will use my position and increasing seniority on the Senate Appropriations Committee to continue fighting for the Denali Commission. I will work to block efforts of other Senators and the Obama Administration to eliminate Denali funding for critical needs such as health facility construction, roads, energy upgrades and clean water and sewer projects. I will also work to reauthorize the program in statute to ensure its continued viability and ability to deliver for rural Alaska.

16. Is deficit spending by the federal government inherently bad in all circumstances? Under what circumstances would you support deficit spending by the federal government?

Our current debt levels are unsustainable and preclude additional deficit spending under most circumstances. The current deficit levels are a drag on the economy and are partially responsible for the slow recovery we are experiencing. An example of an instance where I would support deficit spending would be during a national emergency such as a major terrorist attack or a natural disaster.

17. Name five large federal government programs you would eliminate within 10 years if you could.

The 2009 Stimulus law.

The 2010 Heath Care Reform law.

The National Drug Intelligence Center, as it is duplicative of other programs.

Suspend Federal land purchases

Since so many programs have so many backers in Congress, and are very difficult to eliminate, I would strongly support a 5 percent across-the-board cut in spending and mandatory caps on spending each year.

18. Do you believe the U.S. Constitution authorizes the collection of a federal income tax?

Yes, the 16th Amendment states: "The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration."

19. Are you satisfied with the level of federal environmental regulation and oversight of offshore oil and gas drilling and shipping to prevent a major spill in Alaska? If not, what do you want to see changed?

I am satisfied that the very limited amount of exploratory drilling scheduled for 2011 can be done safely, and of course, we will need to be constantly improving our safeguards against a spill. I recently helped the Energy Committee unanimously pass a bill to improve offshore drilling safety based on lessons learned in the Gulf, and I would pursue many of those reforms in addition to administrative changes to allow better spill response capabilities.

20. Rural Alaska communities continue to be hit by very high rates of unemployment, suicide, abuse and neglect. Is there anything you would do to address these issues? What specifically?

Secure greater resources for law enforcement and the criminal justice system, to provide justice for domestic and sexual violence victims, and ensure local alcohol laws are enforced. We must support community wellness activities that revitalize Native cultures and support education and training programs that prepare individuals for the workforce. I spearheaded the Native Millennium Challenge bill that allows tribal organizations to use economic development funds in a coordinated manner to address the long term economic needs of rural villages.

21. Should marriage be legally defined as between one man and one woman?

Yes, marriage should be legally defined as between one man and one woman. I have voted in support of efforts in the Senate to enact a Constitutional amendment that would have limited marriage to one man and one woman only.

22. Should openly gay women and men be able to serve in the U.S. military?

The Secretary of Defense, with the support of senior military leaders including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has commissioned a study to guide a congressional decision on whether "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" should be repealed. The study will not be completed until the end of this year or early next year. I welcome the study and intend to carefully study its conclusions in forming a judgment on this question.

23. State your position on abortion.

Abortions should occur as infrequently as possible and federal funds should not be used to pay for an abortion. I supported passage of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban and a prohibition against human cloning. Last year, during debate of health care reform legislation, I offered an amendment that, if successful, would have clarified that abortion is not a preventative service.

24. Do you believe abortions should be allowed in the case of rape or incest? What about when the life of the mother is at risk?

Yes, I believe abortions should be allowed in the case of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is at risk. Congress has consistently provided such an exception in abortion related legislation. For example the Partial Birth Abortion Ban that is now law contains such an exception and the annual Hyde amendment that prohibits federal funds from being used to pay for abortions contains the same exception.

25. What is your view on teaching creationism in public schools? Do you believe it should be part of the required state curriculum? How does it fit in with teaching evolution?

Creationism applies faith to explain our observations about our world. As a parent, I share the Founding Fathers' belief that the guidance we give to our children about our faith is best taught in our houses of worship and in our homes, not established by government.

26. What should Congress or the federal government do, if anything, to help increase the supply of doctors in Alaska?

I have introduced legislation to address this issue and have consistently supported federal programs to increase our supply of physicians in Alaska. For example, in 2009, I successfully included an amendment in the annual Budget Resolution to increase funding for the National Health Service Corps, which allows Americans living in rural and frontier areas to have access to general care providers such as family doctors and internists, nurses and physicians' assistants.

27. Do human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases play any significant part in global warming?

Alaskans know that our climate has changed in the past 30 years, permafrost has melted, sea ice has retreated and lakes have dried up. The issue involves the extent to which human behavior and the use of fossil fuels have contributed to the rising temperatures in the North. I suspect that man has had some impact on climate, but the extent is what's at issue and awaiting further study.

28. Do you support enacting any laws or regulations to reduce human-caused greenhouse gas emissions as a way to moderate global warming? Explain.

I support funding, research and tax and grant aid to make renewable and alternative energy truly economic. By reducing the cost of wind, geothermal, biomass, hydroelectric and ocean energy and helping further natural gas and nuclear power, we can make non-carbon emitting fuels economic, actually saving Alaskans money compared to diesel-generated power.

29. How would you describe the core health care policy problem in the U.S.? Was the problem addressed, in whole or in part, by the health care reform legislation passed by Congress this year?

The core issues are reducing costs and increasing access to health care providers, while providing affordable, comprehensive medical coverage that ensures continuous access to nurses, doctors, medical health services, and does not interfere with the ability of individuals to continue choosing the health care provider of their choice. The new law actually does the opposite. The bill cost $2.5 trillion, increased insurance premiums, raised taxes and did nothing to fix Alaska's inequitable Medicare reimbursement rate.

30. Do you believe the health care reform legislation should be repealed? If it were to be repealed, what would you propose Congress do to improve access to affordable, quality health care for most or all Americans?

I would repeal the bill and replace it with provisions that would reduce health care costs and increase access to health care providers and insurance. Examples of such provisions include medical liability reform, allowing small businesses and solo practitioners to purchase health insurance as a group, and allowing individuals and businesses to purchase health insurance across state lines.

31. Will you vote for federal legislation containing earmarks? Will you propose the inclusion of earmarks for Alaska in federal appropriations bills?

I am fully supportive of earmarks obtained through an open and transparent process as Congress has a constitutional responsibility regarding federal spending. Earmarks have supported Alaskan priorities such as the Denali Commission, countless health clinics and harbor construction projects, and the many improvements at our state's military bases. Alaskans know our priorities better than a Washington bureaucrat.

32. Is it appropriate to use the polar bear listing as a threatened species to limit oil and gas development in the Arctic or regulate distant greenhouse gas emissions? Are there other steps you think government and industry should take to protect Alaska's polar bear population?


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has stated that oil and gas development in the Arctic is not the cause of the polar bear's endangered species listing and is not affecting polar bear populations. It is not appropriate to the use the ESA as a backdoor way to regulate emissions either. The Marine Mammal Protection Act offers sufficient protection for polar bears and the population is at a near modern high.

33. Do you support the federal granting of ownership shares of Bering Sea commercial fisheries to western Alaska villages -- the CDQ program -- at the expense of private companies that work those fisheries?

Yes, the success of the program does not come at the expense of private companies because the CDQ groups have a completely different mission. The program was devised to develop economic opportunities for 65 communities along the Bering Sea coast. The program provides eligible villages with an opportunity to participate and invest in Bering Sea fisheries, support economic development in the region, alleviate poverty and achieve sustainable and diversified local economies.

34. Would you:

* Expand the program to include more villages

* Expand the program by increasing the ownership shares of the villages

* Maintain the program as is, with the villages collectively getting a percentage of the pollock, crab ... commercial catches.* Shrink the program

* Eliminate the program


Maintain the program as is.

I certainly would not eliminate or shrink the program. While the CDQ program has achieved significant progress in providing economic development and reducing poverty in Western Alaska, there is still much more to be done. As far as making changes, I would not suggest any at this time. The CDQ program has been amended several times through the Magnuson-Stevens Act and any further changes should be recommended or requested by the CDQ communities.

35. It has been difficult for Alaskans eligible for Medicare to find coverage because of a shortage of physicians willing to accept these patients under current benefit rules. Do you believe this is a problem? What specific steps would you take to improve the situation?

Yes, and in 2008, I secured a permanent 35 percent increase for Medicare reimbursements to provide seniors and the disabled the ability to stay with their general care providers, instead of being forced out of their practice. I have secured federal appropriations for Alaska's only primary care residency training program at Providence Hospital and $500,000 to open Alaska's first Medicare-only Clinic, which will provide an opportunity for our Medicare population to receive primary care services.