Alaska’s congressional delegation reacts to State of the Union address

Sen. Murkowski, Rep. Peltola among those in attendance Tuesday night
Sullivan shared a video on his social media accounts discussing his hopes for the speech before it had been delivered.
Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 4:42 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Tuesday evening’s State of the Union address from Pres. Joe Biden — the second of his term as president — was met with mixed reaction, not only across party lines but also from members of Alaska’s congressional delegation.

In attendance at the speech in front of a joint session of Congress this week were Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Mary Sattler Peltola. Murkowski was first to provide public reaction on Tuesday, pointing in a video shared online to portions of the speech with which she agreed, and portions with which she did not. In particular, Murkowski expressed that she felt Biden was overconfident in his analysis of the economy, as much of the nation continues to try and recover from the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was a message of optimism from the president,” Murkowski said in the video. “I think, in fairness that the president struck a note of optimism that Alaskans are certainly not feeling. I’m hearing from Alaskans that are concerned about the continued price of inflation, what they’re paying for fuel, what they’re paying in the grocery store; the fact that they cannot get eggs. The reality is, is that it is still a very, very tough economy.”

Murkowski also pointed to what she believes are significant bipartisan accomplishments, several of which she has been a part, but said that “it has to be more than just words,” and while there was good work done, she thinks worry over a recession in Alaska remains.

“So, this optimism, this rosy glow that ‘all is fine,’” she continued, “when we talk about the State of the Union, the State of the Union – the president is right – is good because of the soul of the American people. But it’s not good right now in the sense of a healthy economy. We have got a ways to go.”

Alaska’s senior senator also touched on “buying America,” and how there’s no better place to do that than Alaska, while also again championing development of the Willow Project.

“We’ve got a project that is ready-made, the Willow Project in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska,” she said. “Mr. President, do the right thing and approve that project, so it gets Alaskans to work, it helps our native people who live in that region, it helps our state, it helps our country, and it helps our allies. That’s made in America.”

In her first full term in the U.S. House, Peltola was present during the SOTU for the first time as a federal lawmaker. Her office, in a prepared statement shared Wednesday, said she also reminded Biden about the importance of development in Alaska after the speech.

“I am grateful to be here on behalf of all Alaskans,” she said, adding that witnessing a SOTU address is “a tremendous honor.” “In Yupik culture, we have deep respect for the wisdom of elders, and President Biden has used his experience to achieve bipartisan successes over the past two years. However, there is much we still need to do.”

Like Murkowski, Peltola commended the forward movement of the Willow Project, but spoke on the importance of responsible resource development across the state and acknowledged how many Alaskans are still suffering from a struggling economy.

“Alaska has not seen the same job growth that the rest of the country has enjoyed the past year and vital projects like Willow are still awaiting decisions that could create thousands of good-paying jobs for Alaskan workers,” Peltola said. “I will continue making the case for Willow and Alaskan workers to the Administration, making it clear that the state of our union depends on affordable American energy.”

Alaska’s News Source was told Tuesday morning that Sen. Sullivan wouldn’t be attending the SOTU, citing his own annual address to the Alaska Legislature in Juneau the same day. A spokesperson from his office also said he wouldn’t be watching the address live, as he was set to return to Washington, D.C., at the same time it was happening.

Sullivan shared a video on his social media accounts discussing his hopes for the speech before it had been delivered.

“No offense, Mr. President,” Sullivan said. “I know you’re giving the State of the Union tonight, but this is way more important to me, especially given what Alaska can do for America in terms of energy.”

Sullivan went on to remind his audience that there are many issues he and the Biden Administration do not agree on, nothing in the video that the “most strategically damaging” policies have to do with “shutting down Alaska.” He said he hoped Biden would “issue a cease-fire in his war on Alaska,” while – like his colleagues – pushing for the Willow Project.

“Stay tuned,” Sullivan said. “Alaska’s energy, Alaska’s resources are critical, not just to our state, but to our entire nation, and I hope the president makes that clear.”

The video was posted to the accounts shortly after the start of the SOTU on the East Coast. Sullivan’s office has not responded with a direct reaction to the SOTU address and has not indicated whether or not the senator has viewed it.

The full State of the Union speech can be found here.