Republican U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan was sworn in at the start of the new Congress on Tuesday, becoming Alaska's junior senator.
An Alaska contingent that included Gov. Bill Walker and state lawmakers were in Washington, D.C., for the event. Sullivan said he was honored and humbled by the turnout. He said the joke was that the "Alaskainvasion" — which he numbered at more than 200 people — brought with it the snow that blanketed the area Tuesday.
Sullivan, a former state attorney general and Natural Resources commissioner, rounds out an all-Republican congressional delegation for Alaska that also includes Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young.
Sullivan defeated first-term incumbent Democrat Mark Begich by about 6,000 votes in November. The race was contentious and closely watched nationally as Republicans sought to wrest back control of the Senate, which they ultimately did.
One of Sullivan's first orders of business was signing on as a co-sponsor to legislation, which the White House threatened to veto, that would approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Sullivan said moving forward with the project — which would move tar sands oil from Canada to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast — would be good for the country and for jobs and show that the U.S. is willing to move forward on a broader energy policy.
President Barack Obama has said the project would benefit Canadian oil companies but would not be a huge benefit to American consumers. Sullivan said it's important to look at energy markets regionally and geographically, from a North America perspective.
Sullivan said he is excited to get to work and pleased with his committee assignments, which he said were his top picks.
Sullivan will serve on the committees of Commerce, Science and Transportation; Environment and Public Works; Armed Services; and Veterans' Affairs. Sullivan is a Marine Corps reservist.
He said his priorities include moving the economy ahead through less regulation. He said he doesn't think agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are challenged enough in their issuance of regulations, and he plans to ask them what their specific authority is for any new regulations they impose. That's a basic question that doesn't get asked enough, he said.
He also said he wants to ensure that veterans are cared for and to keep on top of efforts to reduce the backlog for care within the Veterans Affairs system.
Sullivan said the plan is for his daughters to finish out the school year in Alaska; his eldest, he said, is a high school senior.