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Palin joins Alaskans in Congress with State of the Union response

Alaska Dispatch

It's likely that most members of Congress issued some sort of response to Tuesday night's State of the Union address by President Obama, the first of his second term. It's even more likely that many senators up for re-election in 2014 responded, along with much of the Republican majority in the U.S. House, which has been resistant to much of Obama's agenda since winning control away from Democrats more than two years ago.

Count Alaska's federal delegation -- all three of them -- among those with something to say.

Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, offered a line-item response to the president's key themes, saying that he agreed on many issues but that others needed more focus, among them small business tax relief and additional energy exploration on federal lands (about 60 percent of Alaska is managed by the federal government).

"I wish the President had spent more time talking about how to help small businesses grow by giving them greater access to federal contracts and reducing the overwhelming load of government regulations," Begich said in a prepared statement.  

Begich on energy: "When it comes to energy, all Alaskans know that not only does America have the potential to control our own energy future, but Alaska’s vast energy resources are a key component to getting there.  I was specifically pleased to hear the President recognize the value of revenues generated from oil and gas production, but before we start creating new ways to use those funds, we need to make sure that the communities directly impacted from production are taken care of first.  That is why I just reintroduced my Alaska-focused revenue sharing bill to ensure that Alaska gets its fair share -- just like the Gulf Coast states.  The President said himself that he would “keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits” -- I will hold him to that and look forward to continued progress working with the Administration and developing Alaska’s vast energy resources."

Begich is perceived by the national Republican leadership as one of many vulnerable Democrats up for election in 2014. He's likely to be a target of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which fields GOP candidates for the 100-member Senate, particularly since Alaska for decades voted Republican in national politics, until Begich beat the late Sen. Ted Stevens by a few thousand votes in 2008.

Rep. Don Young, Alaska's at-large representative in the U.S. House, also commented on Obama's energy policy:

"On energy, the President failed to mention projects like the Keystone XL Pipeline or development in ANWR, both of which would create thousands of jobs and dramatically improve American energy security.  Instead, he tried to take credit for increased American oil and gas production, which largely took place on state and private land and in spite of the federal government’s bureaucratic red tape," Young said via prepared statement.

Young had more to say, here.

In a prepared video response, Sen. Lisa Murkowski said this year's State of the Union was "not one of (Obama's) better speeches." While she described some of the energy issues addressed by Obama as "a positive," she said that the overall economic message was lacking.

"I was disappointed," Murkowski said. "I have stated that the number one issue for us as a Congress and as a nation is to get our fiscal affairs in order. In order for us to be strong economically and work towards real job creation, we have got to deal with our debt and fiscal issues. Unfortunately, I did not hear the President speak clearly to those issues.”

Murkowski's full response, here.

Palin: Obama's 'gotta be kidding me'

And while the official Republican response came from up-and-coming Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, a likely candidate for the White House in 2016, another Alaskan with broad name recognition and a long tradition of criticizing President Obama got in on the action, too.

Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP vice-presidential nominee and former Alaska governor, live-blogged a blistering response on Twitter at her handle, @SarahPalinUSA, offering a spirited response to Obama's speech. She even started a State of the Union hashtag, #SOTUgottabekiddingme

Read Palin's responses here.

When the president discussed the importance of wage parity between men and women, Palin responded that women in the White House make less than men. When Obama spoke of a "thriving middle class," Palin offered several statistics that from her perspective are hurting the working class. Palin tweeted that gas prices have risen 96 percent since Obama's first election and that health-insurance premiums have risen 24 percent during that time.

Palin's influence in conservative politics has been on the wane since her decision to forego the 2012 Republican nomination fight. She's since lost her role as a FOX News commentator, though her political action committee remains active, with nearly $1.2 million in the bank.

Palin can use that money to influence midterm elections in 2014, by donating to candidates, or to re-enter politics herself, perhaps with a run against Begich.