Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is brushing off reports that he threatened Alaska over Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenate leaders face pushback on tying debt fight to defense bill Congress should reject H.R. 1619's dangerous anywhere, any place casino precedent Democratic frustration growing over stagnating voting rights bills MORE’s (R-Alaska) vote on healthcare reform last week.
Zinke spoke with Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) last week before the Senate failed to pass a GOP replacement plan for ObamaCare. Sullivan said the call was “troubling,” adding that Zinke mentioned Murkowski’s vote could have an impact on economic development work in the state.
The contents of the calls kicked up a firestorm, including Democratic requests for an investigation into Zinke’s conduct. But speaking to reporters in Nevada this weekend, Zinke said the reports were “laughable.”
“I talk to Sen. Murkowski and Sen. Sullivan all the time,” Zinke said, according to E&E News. “A lot's been said about a lot of things. But I talk to them all the time. We get along well."
Asked if he had threatened the Alaskans, Zinke replied: "The moon has been characterized as a threat, too, so I think it's laughable."
Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and inspector general to investigate the secretary's calls to Murkowski and Sullivan. Ethics experts and government watchdogs also said they raise questions.
Murkowski downplayed the matter, telling reporters last week that what Zinke “shared with me was that the president was not pleased.”