WASHINGTON — Alaska’s Republican U.S. senators split on the vote to suspend the debt ceiling, with Lisa Murkowski voting in favor and Dan Sullivan voting against.
The Fiscal Responsibility Act passed Thursday evening 63-36. The 99-page bill suspends the debt ceiling until January 2025 and enacts a slew of policies, including spending limits and permitting reforms. Alaska’s Democratic U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola backed the bill, which passed the House of Representatives 314-117 Wednesday.
Both Murkowski and Sullivan voiced concerns with the bill’s defense spending cap of $886 billion in FY24 and $895 billion in FY25, which many GOP senators said fails to keep pace with military needs and inflation.
Sullivan lauded parts of the deal that he said reduce “wasteful spending” and authorize “critically needed” permitting reforms. But he said the defense spending cap ultimately led to his vote against the bill.
“I could not vote for an agreement that fails one of the most critical duties of the United States Senate: adequately funding our military service members to provide for the security and defense of our nation,” Sullivan said in a prepared statement.
Ahead of the vote Thursday, Sullivan wrestled for more military spending, taking to the Senate floor to air objections to what he called an “anemic” defense budget and advocating for assurances from Senate leadership not to block supplemental defense funding.
He also offered an amendment to redirect more than $70 billion from the Internal Revenue Service to the Pentagon. Though GOP senators unanimously supported the proposal, it did not meet a 60-vote threshold, failing 49-48.
“America’s military leaders all agree we are in the midst of one of the most dangerous periods for U.S. national security since World War II,” Sullivan said in the statement. “This rushed budget simply does not meet the reality and the threats of this moment.”
In a Thursday afternoon interview, Murkowski said she shared concerns with others in her party about the defense budget. She said she would be looking “very critically” at the defense negotiations but that “right now, my inclination is to be able to support this negotiated deal at the end of the process.”
While she was unsatisfied with the defense provisions, Murkowski welcomed the permitting policies in the bill, including deadlines for environmental reviews. However, on permitting, she said “there’s a lot that’s been left on the table” for future consideration.
Murkowski said that in a divided government, “you don’t always get what you like.”
“At the end of the day, you’ve got to balance it all. This is a negotiated deal, which means that effectively both sides have to advertise that they have won or you’re never going to get a deal, right?” Murkowski said. “So look at how the president is choosing to describe it. Look at how McCarthy is choosing to describe it.”
“Somewhere the truth is in the middle, but what has been achieved if the Senate passes it this evening — which I assume we’re going to do — is that we will be able to avoid a default on our debt,” Murkowski said Thursday. “And at the end, that has to be paramount.”