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Sullivan votes ‘no,’ Murkowski ‘yes’ on spending bill

WASHINGTON — Alaska's Republican senators split their votes on the omnibus appropriations bill Friday, with junior Sen. Dan Sullivan saying he couldn't support a bill brought to vote under a shoddy process.

"Over 2,200 pages of legislative text, hundreds if not thousands of pages of accompanying documents – all with huge implications for our economy and our citizens – deserves far more than 28 hours to read and review," Sullivan said in a statement issued after the vote clocked in at 12:21 a.m. Friday on the East Coast.

Lawmakers were under pressure to pass a budget before funding ran out in less than 24 hours, lest the government partially shut down for the third time in recent months. Sullivan joined a mix of Democrats and Republicans in the minority opposing the bill, which broadly boosted government spending.

The bill passed 65-32. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski voted for passage, citing positive provisions for Alaska in the $1.3 trillion spending bill that funds the federal government through September. Alaska Rep. Don Young voted in favor of the bill in the House in the early afternoon Thursday.

Alaska's senators have in recent years complained about the dysfunctional nature of the current body, though their positions appear to shift with the type of legislation. Sullivan voted "no" this week because, he said, there was not enough time to review the legislation and it did not come close to the standard of "regular order" for congressional appropriations.

Murkowski, who voted "yes," pointed to the process last summer when she joined two other Republicans in voting against a series of bills to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. Sullivan voted for those bills, saying he had plenty of time and input.

And it isn't Sullivan's first "no" vote when it comes to congressional spending. In 2015, he voted against a budget bill, saying he didn't come to Congress to boost spending on agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Interior, and that it didn't spend enough on the military.

"While this legislation contains many critical spending priorities – necessary increases for our military and national security, safeguards for our schools and local communities, and investments to encourage job creation and economic growth – I could not in good conscience vote for it," Sullivan said Friday.

"My commitment to Alaskans to give legislation – particularly something of this size and magnitude – the appropriate level of due diligence and attention simply could not be met under these circumstances."

Sullivan said the vote was a difficult choice, given the bill's inclusion of some of his priorities — "funding for Secure Rural Schools and the Denali Commission, investments to fight our addiction and mental health crisis, resources for water and sewer infrastructure, and necessary upgrades to our missile defense systems."

The bill included funding for a grant program Sullivan created to bring water and sewer infrastructure to rural communities.

Murkowski, who chairs the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, was pleased with that portion of the omnibus bill. "I am proud of the work we have done in this Interior appropriations bill to empower Alaskans to build our economy and create healthy communities for our families," she said in a statement Thursday evening.

Murkowski highlighted funding for rural schools, preparing for natural disasters, $340 million for Indian Health Service infrastructure needs, and huge funding increases for health services and public lands.

"The $498 million increase for Indian Health Service is the largest increase in this annual appropriations bill, ever," Murkowski's office said in a statement.

"The bill prioritizes infrastructure improvements on our nation's public lands. It includes a historic $180 million increase for National Park Service construction and deferred maintenance, the largest percentage increase ever in this annual appropriations bill," her office said.

Young also touted the funding opportunities available for Alaska in the bill, in a statement Thursday.

"Funding the government is one the main responsibilities of Congress," Young said. "Today, the House voted to rebuild our infrastructure, support our military members and veterans, protect our national security, combat and treat the opioid epidemic and keep our schools safe.

But Sullivan said Congress wasn't meeting its full budgeting responsibilities.

"Since arriving to the Senate, I've said our system for funding the federal government is in dire need of repair. Sadly, this process was business as usual – an all or nothing deal, without a single opportunity for amendments or ample time for review," he said. "The Alaskan and American people deserve better."

President Donald Trump tweeted Friday morning that he was considering vetoing the bill because it does not address immigration issues or fully fund his proposed border wall, but he did ultimately approve the bill Friday afternoon.

It is unclear how Congress would have managed a veto before the Saturday shutdown deadline, as most members had already left Washington for a two-week break.

"I will never sign another bill like this again," Trump said in a press conference. "Nobody read it."

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