The Alaska Dispatch reports that U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke telephoned Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan to tell them that their state’s future with the Trump administration might be in jeopardy if they didn’t vote yes on the “skinny repeal” of Obamacare. Murkowski later said they had “a difficult conversation” and recalled Zinke telling her, “the president is really disappointed in what he perceives to be as your lack of support for healthcare reform.” She stood her ground and voted no on the repeal. It’s notable that she chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which oversees Interior nominations, and is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which controls the funding for Zinke’s department. “In my experience, it is not wise for a cabinet secretary to bully the person who controls his purse strings,” says David Hayes, the former deputy secretary of Interior during the Obama administration.
When a reporter caught up with Zinke, he called the notion that he threatened Murkowski “laughable.” Perhaps, so maybe it’s just a coincidence that the Energy Committee postponed indefinitely a hearing on several key Interior nominations. Oops.