Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has threatened Alaska’s senators with retribution on major energy and public lands decisions because one of them voted against repealing Obamacare, according to one of the lawmakers.
Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski was one of only two Republicans Tuesday to vote against starting debate on a bill to repeal the health care legislation. On Wednesday, Zinke called Murkowski and fellow Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan and linked their public lands’ priorities to votes on the matter, Sullivan told the Alaska Dispatch News.
(Related: Some GOP Senators Cast Mixed ACA Change Bill Votes)
“The message was pretty clear,” Sullivan, who supported the Republican repeal effort, told the paper. “I tried to push back on behalf of all Alaskans…We’re facing some difficult times and there’s a lot of enthusiasm for the policies that Secretary Zinke and the president have been talking about with regard to our economy.”
He described the exchange as a “troubling message.” Alaska is a major oil producer and the federal government is its largest landowner, with 60% of the total area.
Murkowski chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and abruptly delayed committee votes scheduled for Thursday on several Interior Department nominations without explanation.
A White House spokeswoman referred inquiries to the Interior Department which didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Murkowski and Sullivan’s offices also didn’t respond to calls and emails seeking comment.