Murkowski may get seat on education, health committee

Senator hopes to address health care, No Child Left Behind on 'A-list' panel

Posted: Sunday, December 17, 2006

FAIRBANKS - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski has been nominated for a seat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

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The Alaska Republican has been a frequent critic of the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires student performance and teacher qualification standards that many say are unrealistic for Alaska.

"I look forward to being a part of the effort to reauthorize, and fix where needed, the legislation for No Child Left Behind, while working to identify ways to address some of the critical health-care needs of our state," Murkowski said Thursday.

If approved, Murkowski will be the first Alaska senator on the panel.

Murkowski secured the position despite being nominated for continued service on two other "A"-list panels - the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Foreign Relations Committee.

Under Senate Republican caucus rules, Murkowski was guaranteed slots on just two "A" committees. She said last month that joining the health committee might require special consideration from the caucus.

At least three Republican slots opened on the health and education committee for next year. Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., retired. Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, was defeated by Rep. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. In addition, Democrats, whose Nov. 7 election victories have tentatively given them control of the Senate next year, agreed to add a new Republican seat, bringing the total to 10.

Under the latest plan, the health committee will have 11 Democrats, led by Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass. The most senior Republican is Sen. Michael Enzi of Wyoming.

Murkowski last month said she did not want to give up her position on the energy committee because of its importance to Alaska resource issues.

She also wanted to stay on the foreign relations committee, where she chairs the east Asian and Pacific subcommittee.

Committee assignments announced Wednesday must be approved by the Republican conference and then the full Senate. In the past, changes to assignments at those points have been rare.

Murkowski also said Thursday she has been re-nominated to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. The committee is considered a "C"-level panel.

The committee next year will consider updating the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. The act would guide spending of about $3 billion nationally each year, including a large chunk to Alaska.

Congress has been working for years on the update. The House Resources Committee passed a version backed by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, in June, but no further action has occurred.

Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, will retain his positions on all his current committees - appropriations, commerce, homeland security and rules. The first three are "A" committees. Rules is considered a "B" committee.



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