Alaska Politics Blog

This is the place to talk about Alaska politics, state, local, national. Public life in the Last Frontier has rarely been more interesting -- a full slate of federal and state elections, the influence of former Gov. Sarah Palin, the usual hardball Alaska politics. Come here for news, tidbits and information, and join the discussion. We encourage lively debate, but please keep it civil and stay on point. Don't use profanity, make crude comments or attack other posters. Posts that violate the Terms of Use will be deleted. Repeat offenders will lose their ability to post comments.

New Senate organization announced - 11/7/2012 12:48 pm

Homer Revealed - 8/22/2012 2:08 pm

Seven-day countdown - 5/25/2012 8:37 pm

Anchorage city clerk resigns (UPDATED) - 5/23/2012 10:51 am

Gara to seek re-election - 5/2/2012 2:04 pm

For one lawmaker: Good news - 4/27/2012 12:20 pm

Anticipation in the Capitol - 4/26/2012 11:38 am

Election Commission finds 1/2 of precincts ran out of ballots; recommends no investigation - 4/25/2012 5:08 pm

Young votes for health care repeal

From Erika Bolstad in Washington D.C. --

House Republicans took their first big symbolic vote against the Obama Administration's agenda, with a vote to repeal the landmark health care bill signed into law last year.

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, voted for repeal, along with all of his GOP colleagues. It passed 245-189, with just three Democrats voting for repeal.

"At about 2,000 pages long, the health care law is the single worst piece of legislation I have seen in almost four decades in Congress," Young said in a statement. "So far, the administration has released more than 6,000 pages of new regulations to implement the law and it hasn’t even gone into effect in its entirety yet! To start fixing this mess we need to repeal this law and start over. Our country needs health care reform, but this law is a fraud, plain and simple."

The bill is unlikely to be considered by their colleagues in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Even if the Senate did take a vote – and in the unlikely event it passed -- President Barack Obama would veto the repeal.

However, even with a symbolic vote, Republicans fulfilled the campaign pledge that helped them retake the House of Representatives and gain seats in the Senate. They now plan more practical measures to begin hacking away at portions of the bill piecemeal, and House committees already have scheduled hearings on some of its provisions. The health care bill also has been challenged in the courts by states, including Idaho, that expect its constitutionality to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Rep. Doogan back at work after brain surgery

The Associated Press --

JUNEAU — An Anchorage lawmaker says he feels great, roughly six months after having a brain tumor removed.

Democratic state Rep. Mike Doogan says he still has some vision problems. But he says, overall, his progress has been better than expected.

Doogan was back at work Tuesday when the Legislature convened in Juneau.

Last summer, his office disclosed that he was undergoing surgery after an MRI revealed a meningioma. Such cases typically involve noncancerous tumors, and Doogan said his was benign.

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Johansen and Millett each get one committee seat

From Sean Cockerham in Juneau –

Reps. Kyle Johansen and Charisse Millett remain out in the cold, with their efforts to rejoin the House majority caucus soundly rejected. But the caucus decided not to completely marginalize the pair.

House Speaker Mike Chenault, who earlier said he didn’t expect to allow them seats on any committees, today gave them one seat each. South Anchorage Republican Millett has a seat on the health committee.

Johansen, a Ketchikan Republican who had been the majority leader before the blowup, has a seat on the state affairs committee.

It’s not as good as the committee assignments for other legislators, but it’s something.

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Gavel falls to start the 2011 legislative session

From Sean Cockerham in Juneau –

The 2011 session of the Alaska Legislature is underway here in Juneau.

The House of Representatives gaveled in at 1 p.m with the traditional singing of the Alaska flag song. The Senate goes in at 2 p.m.

Members of the Democratic House minority held a press conference this morning, and reiterated their opposition to a lower oil tax.

Anchorage Democratic Rep. Mike Doogan said the state needs to save the oil wealth, and not give it back to the oil companies to “pay their executives bonuses and do whatever they want with it,” Doogan said,

“This oil does not belong to them, it belongs to us. And we need to do intelligent things with it, and not do the latest thing that the industry runs through its propaganda mill to try and make us do stupid things,” he said.

Gov. Sean Parnell and House Republicans have been maintaining the oil tax is a job killer that needs to be cut.

Former House Democratic leader Ethan Berkowitz also argued for replacing the tax when he was running for governor last fall. But he doesn’t seem to have won over his former colleagues among the Democrats in the Legislature

Today is mostly a ceremonial day in the Legislature, with the swearing in of lawmakers.

It looks like the 90-day session isn’t going to get off to a fast start, which isn’t unusual for a year when freshman legislators are coming into office.

There are just three committee meetings scheduled so far for the rest of this week. The ethics committee is to meet tomorrow and there are meetings on Thursday of the legislative council and the budget and audit committee.

None of those committees are scheduled to hear bills.
Tomorrow will be dominated by the State of the State speech.

Gov. Sean Parnell will give the speech as an address to the Legislature at 7 p.m.

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Murkowski, Begich join calls for bipartisan State of the Union seating

From Erika Bolstad in Washington D.C. --

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has joined the call for members of both parties to mingle during the president's Jan. 25 State of the Union speech, instead of sitting separately, as is the tradition.

The Hill reports that the idea came from Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., who proposed that the House Speaker as well as the majority and minority leaders of both the House and Senate sit together during the speech.

Murkowski joined Udall's appeal this afternoon, as did Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska.

"Congressional reaction to the President's State of the Union address has increasingly come to symbolize the sharp partisan divide in Congress," Murkowski said in a statement. "But this is also about respect for an institution that we're all a part of. If we're not showing respect for the institution, how can we expect our constituents to have respect for Congress? So we think a good first step towards greater civility would be for senators and congressmen, Republicans and Democrats, to sit together in the House chamber on Jan. 25 when President Obama addresses a joint session.”

Begich suggested that Murkowski and Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska consider sitting together as a delegation. Young, who rarely attends the State of the Union address, has not weighed in so far.

"I think Democrats and Republicans sitting together at the State of the Union is an excellent way to show we share a common goal of working to make this country a better place for every American," Begich said. "It may only be a symbolic gesture on one evening, but I believe it’s a positive step toward showing unity and ending some of the partisan practices that have become common."

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Flynn: Assembly met behind closed doors on fire chief incident

From Rosemary Shinohara in Anchorage --

Anchorage Assemblyman Patrick Flynn said Tuesday that the Assembly had met in a closed, executive session to discuss “repercussions faced by Anchorage Fire Department Chief Mark Hall for his most recent transgressions.”

Chief Hall was involved in an incident at the Hotel Captain Cook on Oct. 30. Hall was described in a police report as being intoxicated, yelling and putting his finger n a police officer’s face as the officer dealt with a drunk woman.

When it came to light in November, Mayor Dan Suliivan said he and the city manager had taken “appropriate measures."

The mayor’s spokeswoman said at the time they could not give more detail of any action taken because it’s a personnel issue.

Chief Hall said at the time that he had been directed not to discuss it.

In a post on his blog today, Flynn said the Assembly met with senior administration officials on the issue Friday.

“Executive sessions are, by law, confidential, as are many other personnel-related matters so I can’t provide any information we learned. That said, I share the feelings of frustration expressed by many,” Flynn said.

“Ultimately the situation is thus: the mayor determines who does or does not work as an executive in the municipal government; the Assembly has no say,” Flynn said.

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Attorney General rejects abortion initiative

From Sean Cockerham in Anchorage ---

The new state attorney general has found a ballot initiative essentially seeking to outlaw abortion in Alaska to be unconstitutional.

“The proposed bill meets the ‘clearly unconstitutional’ standard because it would supersede a woman’s constitutional right to privacy,” said the opinion, which was released late yesterday. “This right is a federal constitutional right recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade.”

Attorney General John Burns is recommending the lieutenant governor refuse to certify the "Natural Right to Life" initiative.

The proposal tries to make it Alaska law that “the natural right to life and body of the unborn child supersedes the statutory right of the mother to consent to the injury or death of her unborn child.”

The main sponsor is Clinton Desjarlais of Anchorage. He had another initiative rejected as unconstitutional this summer that tried to say “an abortion may not be permitted in this state.”

Another group of sponsors had pushed an initiative seeking to oppose abortion by declaring fetuses to be "legal persons." But the sponsors failed on Nov. 5 to turn in their signatures within a year after filing the initiative, as is required.

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APOC staff files complaint against Edgmon (Updated with complaint against Bill Thomas as well)

Alaska Public Offices Commission staff is also charging Haines Republican Rep. Bill Thomas with transferring too much money from his 2008 campaign to his 2010 re-election effort.

All state House candidates are only allowed to carry $5,000 from one campaign to the next. APOC says its audit shows Thomas carried over $15,291 --- putting him $10,291 over the limit.

The Thomas complaint isn’t being addressed at this week’s APOC meeting so doesn't appear on the agenda, unlike the Edgmon complaint. But there’s a reference to it in APOC’s latest newsletter, which says that a staff report is due Feb. 4.

APOC is also continuing to investigate a separate complaint that was made by blogger Linda Kellen Biegel against Thomas.

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Original post --

From Sean Cockerham in Anchorage --

Rep. Bryce Edgmon carried over too much money from his 2008 campaign to his re-election bid this fall, according to a complaint by staffers for the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

State House candidates are only allowed to carry over $5,000 from one campaign to the next. APOC said its audit showed Edgmon, a Democrat from Dillingham, transferred $11,010.

“This resulted in an apparent violation wherein the campaign carried over $6,010 in violation of the statute,” said a memo from APOC attorney Amy Robinson.

APOC commissioners will consider the matter at a meeting this week.

There are a variety of things candidates can do with unused campaign money, including donations to a political party or charity. Some can be used for a public office expense account.

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Parnell says pay raise is "reasonable"

From Sean Cockerham in Anchorage –

Gov. Sean Parnell has no plans to turn down the $20,000 raise he has coming.

The state salary commission first proposed to give the governor a $50,000 raise, but ended up paring it down to $20,000 on Friday.

“The governor is pleased the commission recognized the initial proposal was an excessive rate for the position. He believes the final proposal is reasonable given the pay freeze that has been in effect for the past 6 years,” Parnell spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said in an email this afternoon.

The Legislature could overturn the salary increases, but there’s little chance that’s going to happen.

The salary commission decided Alaska governors should make $145,000 instead of $125,0000. The commission also decided to raise the salary of the lieutenant governor from $100,000 to $115,000.

The raises are to go into effect in 2012.

The Legislature created the salary commission in 2008. Sarah Palin, who was governor at the time, appointed the four current members of the commission. Parnell reappointed one of them, Gordon Harrison, when his term came up last year.

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Alaska senators on the Arizona shootings

Both of Alaska's U.S. senators issued written statements today on the shootings in Tucson.

From the office of Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska:

“I join Alaskans and other Americans in being shocked over the horrifying events that unfolded in Tucson, Arizona today. It is a sad day in our country when a public servant and her constituents cannot gather to discuss important issues without fear of violence.

“As we learn more about this tragedy and the details of what occurred, I will continue to keep Representative Giffords, the other victims of this senseless violence and all of their families in my thoughts and prayers.”

From the office of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska:

“I join all Alaskans in condemning this horrific attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords at a constituent event today in Tucson. I mourn those who lost their lives in this senseless and tragic act of violence, and my thoughts and heartfelt prayers go out to Congresswoman Giffords, the other victims and their families.”

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Decision coming today on raise for the governor (updated with decision)

UPDATE---

The salary commission members decided the governor should get a raise, but not the extra $50,000 they had been talking about.

They decided to raise the governor's salary by $20,000 instead.

The governor's salary would go from $125,000 to $145,000. The commission decided the lieutenant governor should go from $100,000 to $115,000.

The raises start in 2012 unless the Legislature objects.

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Original post:

From Sean Cockerham in Anchorage –

The state salary commission will make its decision today on giving the governor a $50,000 raise and the lieutenant governor $35,000.

The commission earlier made a preliminary decision to raise the governor’s salary from $125,000 to $175,000. It proposes to raise the lieutenant governor’s pay from $100,000 to $135,000. Once the panel makes its final decision, the raises go into effect in 2012 unless the Legislature objects.

The commission will have its last public hearing on the proposals today.

It will meet after the hearing is over to decide on going ahead with the raises.

Gov. Sean Parnell has been silent so far on the raises and only three people showed up to testify at last month's public hearing.

Today's meeting will be 1 p.m. at the Anchorage Legislative Information office, 716 W. 4th Avenue, Suite 220.

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Murkowski sworn in as U.S. senator

From Erika Bolstad in Washington D.C. –

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who came back from a primary loss to win re-election in an unprecedented write-in campaign that resolved itself only last week, was escorted to her swearing-in ceremony Wednesday by her father, Frank Murkowski.

The elder Murkowski, a former U.S. senator from Alaska and a former Alaska governor, appointed his daughter to the U.S. Senate seat in 2002 after he resigned it to become governor. Arm-in-arm, they walked together to the front of the Senate chamber to applause; as soon as she took the oath of office, he gave her a kiss on the cheek. (Afterward, he told family members who'd gathered to celebrate that he would be happy to buy them the Senate's traditional bean soup in the cafeteria.)

Murkowksi throughout her campaign wore the same rubber wristband stamped with her motto: "fill it in, write it in." Wednesday, she prepared to retire it for a shiny new one. Her husband for Christmas gave her a gold bangle emblazoned with the campaign slogan.

On Wednesday, she joined a Senate that remains in Democratic hands, but with less of a majority than two years ago. Democrats hold 53 seats in the Senate, enough to block legislation from the Republican-led House, but not enough for a 60-vote, filibuster-proof margin.

In the House Wednesday, Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, prepared to assume his 20th term as the state's sole congressman. In the chamber Wednesday afternoon awaiting to cast a vote on the new Speaker of the House, he sat next to one of the other longest-serving House Republicans: Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla.

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New attorney general starts work

The Associated Press --

JUNEAU — Alaska's new attorney general is now officially on the job.

John J. Burns had been transitioning from his job as a corporate and insurance defense attorney in Fairbanks to the new role since Gov. Sean Parnell announced his appointment late last month.

A spokesman for the state Department of Law said Burns' first official day was last week.

Burns replaces Dan Sullivan, who Parnell picked to lead the state Department of Natural Resources.

The picks are subject to approval by the state Legislature.

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Alaskans split on Don't Ask, Don't Tell

From Bill White in Anchorage --

Local pollster Ivan Moore recently surveyed Alaskans statewide on their position on ending the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.

The results: A split down the middle. Forty-three percent favored repeal, 42 percent opposed, 15 percent not sure. His poll of 618 people has a margin of error of plus-minus four percentage points.

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Ethics panel rules that Bob Lynn crossed the line (Updated with response from Lynn)

From Sean Cockerham in Anchorage ---

The Legislative Ethics Committee has found "probable cause" that Rep. Bob Lynn violated ethics law by essentially using his state-paid constituent newsletter to campaign for re-election.

The committee also found that the South Anchorage Republican shouldn’t have put his legislative contact information on his campaign web site, and that he shouldn't have mailed out a “Telephone Handy Dandy” card with contact information for some local businesses. Those businesses included three movie theaters, ACS, GCI and the Daily News.

The panel said that was an improper use of state resources to benefit private businesses.

The ethics committee said Lynn shouldn't face any punishment. The committee said it “strongly recommends” that Lynn have the state ethics administrator look over his newsletter next year before he sends out to his constituents.

The committee doesn't say who filed the complaint against Lynn.

The decisions on the complaint were made by the House ethics subcommittee, since Lynn is a member of the state House.

The panel found “probably cause” that four of the allegations were violations of the ethics law. Click here to read the findings.

Lynn, like the rest of the legislators, sent out a state-paid newsletter to constituents after the legislative session ended this spring. These newsletters are generally updates on what the Legislature did.

The ethics committee said Lynn crossed the line into campaigning by including the statement “Reporting a Fact: I have filed for a new term as your State Representative.” The panel also said Lynn shouldn’t have used the newsletter to say that he hoped to be in the Legislature the next year, and to talk about what he planned to accomplish if he did come back.

The panel, in finding that Lynn also shouldn’t have put his legislative contact information on his campaign web site, pointed out that all legislators had been specifically told not to do that.

The ethics committee dismissed other allegations, including that Lynn’s “Telephone Handy Dandy” card had no legislative purpose and that he had sent it out to promote “politically friendly” businesses.

The panel also dismissed an allegation complaining that Lynn’s newsletter discussed the upcoming primary election and “characterized the political positions of some, but not all the Republican candidates for Governor and Lt. Governor.” The ethics panel did say, though, there may be a “perception of impropriety” in talking about those candidates in the newsletter.

The panel said it “encourages Rep. Lynn and other legislators to voluntarily refrain from this practice to avoid an appearance of campaigning or advocating for a particular candidate.”

I called Lynn and asked what he thought of the findings. He said he would email me a response. I will post it when I get it.

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(Update) --

Lynn just sent a response saying the complaint was "initiated by my primary election (and subsequent official write-in) opponent."

"I'm not perfect, and the Ethics Committee affirmed it," Lynn said in his response.

His primary opponent, Steve Pratt, said in a phone interview that he couldn't confirm if he filed the complaint. Pratt said he thinks all information not released by the ethics committee, including the name of the complainant, is supposed to remain confidential and he doesn't want to violate that.

Lynn said he wrote the newsletter himself and was trying to make it interesting by including controversial issues and some self-deprecating humor. He noted four of the allegations were dismissed.

"But my ex-opponent did score 'gotcha' on some of his allegations. For example, I needed to fill a half-inch by one-inch space, bottom of page two. Couldn't think of anything else to put there but I goofed by writing "Reporting a fact: I am seeking a new term in the legislature,'" Lynn responded.

Lynn said he included some business phone numbers on the "Telephone Handy Dandy" card for the convenience of his constituents, in addition to phone numbers for the police and fire departments.

He also said he included a disclaimer "For Legislative Business Only" when listing his legislative office phone on his campaign web site.

"Even though the complaints may have emanated from my opponents 'gotcha politics' -- personal slip ups are my responsibility("the buck stops here")," Lynn wrote in his response.

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UPDATED: Murkowski, Begich vote for DADT repeal

From Erika Bolstad in Washington D.C. –

With both of Alaska's senators voting for it, the Senate repealed the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bars openly gay people from military service.

Both voted Saturday morning to end a filibuster, which paved the way for an afternoon vote on the repeal. It passed 65-31.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, joined seven other Republicans in supporting the repeal.

"Our military leaders have made a compelling case that they can successfully implement a repeal of 'don’t ask, don’t tell,'" she said. "It is infinitely preferable for Congress to repeal the law, and allow the service chiefs to develop and execute a new policy, than to invite a court-ordered reversal of the law with no allowance for a military-directed implementation. I’ve heard from Alaskans across the state who believe it’s time to end this discriminatory policy, and I agree with them."

Earlier, both she and Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, voted to allow debate on the DREAM Act, the other controversial topic in front of the Senate on a rare Saturday session. The measure, which gives students in the U.S. illegally a chance to become residents, failed 55-41. Murkowski was one of three Republicans to support allowing debate to go forward on it; five Democrats voted against it.

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Begich: Sorry about those earmarks, Alaska

From Erika Bolstad in Washington D.C. --

Earmarks have taken a hit in recent weeks, and only in Alaska would a senator apologize for not being able to deliver them. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaksa, did just that, though, in a letter to Alaska organizations that had earmarks in an omnibus spending bill that fell apart last night.

"I am disappointed, plain and simple, since we have worked in a bipartisan manner to create a bill that contains projects as requested by nearly every Senator," he wrote. "My requests for Alaska support local programs and projects that will support our communities and create good jobs."

The omnibus bill, which would have kept the federal government operating, died Thursday night in the Senate -- in part because Republican senators objected to it. It was larded with upwards of $8.3 billion in earmarks, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a budget watchdog group. Many of those earmarks were attached by those same Republican senators who objected to the bill, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. McConnell had 48 earmarks worth $112 million in the bill, according to the budget watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, never said how she would have voted on the bill, but she, too, had plenty of earmarks in it. The Taxpayers for Commonsense database shows she had $112 million in earmarks in the legislation. Begich landed $60 million, according to the group's database.

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, also had millions of dollars in earmarks in the legislation, a move that flouted the House GOP moratorium on earmarks.

And the three had dozens of earmarks they all sponsored together. The list is long, but here are some examples: a $500,000 appropriation for the Alaska Climate Center; $1 million for the Sitka Blue Lake Hydroelectric expansion project; and $8 million for the Port of Anchorage Intermodal Expansion Project.

Congress is expected to pass a continuing resolution by Tuesday that keeps government going at what essentially is its current spending level through September. It will not include earmarks.

For those who still might need a primer on earmarks, they're spending projects that lawmakers drop into the federal budget, often with little or no scrutiny – and their era may be drawing to a close. The fiscal 2010 budget contained $16 billion worth of earmarks, about 1 percent of all federal spending. This year's omnibus bill was down to $8.3 billion.

Responding in part to voter anger over the deficit, and costly government programs in the economic stimulus bill, House Republicans last month voted on an earmark ban that will take effect when they assume control of the chamber in January. A GOP moratorium in the Senate followed, although it clearly did not apply to the omnibus bill that collapsed Thursday night. Murkowski did not support that GOP moratorium.

The full text of Begich's letter is after the jump.

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Obama: Great strides made in Indian Country, but more work to be done

From Erika Bolstad in Washington D.C. –

President Barack Obama told hundreds of people gathered for his second Tribal Summit that great strides have been made in improving health care and education in Indian Country, but that much remains to be done, including improving safety and economic opportunities.

All 12 Alaska Native Corporations were invited to today's Tribal Summit, which was attended by more than 500 people representing more than 320 tribes.

Obama told those gathered for the summit that he intends to keep the promise he made on the campaign trail: to make sure native communities have a voice in the White House.

"I said that so long as I held this office, never again would Native Americans be forgotten or ignored," he said. "And over the past two years, my administration, working hand in hand with many of you, has strived to keep that promise."

He also said that he wants to "hear more from you about how we can strengthen the relationship between our governments, whether in education or health care, or in fighting crime or in creating jobs."

"And that’s why we’re here today," he said. "That’s a promise I’ve made to you. I remember, more than two years ago, in Montana, I visited the Crow Nation -- one of the many times I met with tribal leaders on the campaign trail. You may know that on that trip, I became an adopted Crow Indian. My Crow name is 'One Who Helps People Throughout the Land.' And my wife, when I told her about this, she said, 'You should be named 'One Who Isn't Picking Up His Shoes and His Socks.'"

Obama also said the U.S. will lend its support to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The U.S. voted against the declaration when the General Assembly adopted it in 2007, according to the AP, arguing that it was incompatible with existing laws.

More from Obama's opening remarks, after the jump. The closing remarks will be broadcast live by the White House.

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Young votes against "don't ask, don't tell" repeal

From Erika Bolstad in Washington D.C. --

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, voted against repealing the ban on allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the military.

Fifteen Republicans supported the bill, which passed the House of Representatives 250-175.

The standalone bill goes next to the Senate, which had failed to pass the measure last week when it was attached to a broader military authorization bill. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who said last week she supports the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" ban on gays in the military, is seen as one of the swing votes on the measure. However, last week she voted against the underlying defense authorization bill, which failed 57-40.

Democrats needed 60 votes to proceed with debate on the bill, which includes language that would lead to the policy's reversal. Murkowski and several other Republicans who support the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" had said they would vote to move the bill forward for debate -- but only if they were allowed additional time for debate and more leeway to propose amendments.

Murkowski is expected to support a standalone bill -- with one caveat. All 42 Republican senators said in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that they wouldn't agree to let any legislation come to a vote until they had considered tax cuts and government spending bills. The tax cut bill passed today, but the Senate is still wrangling over the spending bill.

Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, supports doing away with the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, and voted last week to proceed with debate on the authorization bill that included the repeal language.

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Tax compromise passes Senate, with support of Alaska's senators

From Erika Bolstad in Washington D.C. --

The U.S. Senate passed a $858 billion tax-cut deal 81-19 this afternoon, with Sens. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, supporting it.

The plan, negotiated by the Obama administration and congressional Republicans, would extend for two years the Bush-era tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003. It would cut the Social Security payroll tax for workers by 2 percentage points next year as well as provide 13 months of jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed. It would tax individual estates valued at more than $5 million at a 35 percent rate.

The legislation goes to the House of Representatives, which is expected to vote on it tomorrow.

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