Murkowski weighs Tanden’s fate with Alaska on her mind

Murkowski isn’t letting anything on, telling reporters on Monday that she had a good meeting with Tanden but is still weighing her nomination. She spoke for a long period with Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) on Monday evening; both have denounced the Biden administration’s pause on new oil and gas exploration on federal lands.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and several swing-vote Republicans have announced opposition to Tanden, in part because of her frequent Twitter attacks in the past, making Murkowski the deciding vote at the moment. The White House is standing by its nominee amid Tanden’s mounting troubles.

As Murkowski deliberates, the confirmation process for Tanden has been stalled. Committee votes on her nomination have been postponed until there’s at least a path to getting her 50 votes on the floor, with Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont undecided.

Democratic sources said senators on the panel don’t want to vote on Tanden until it’s clear she can be confirmed. If Murkowski were to join all 49 Democratic caucus members other than Manchin, Tanden’s nomination could prevail — and the Republican would hand the Biden White House a major victory.

What Biden could give Murkowski in terms of her home state’s energy industry is unclear. Backtracking on early moves to pause drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and temporarily halt new lease sales for oil and gas drilling on federal lands would mean breaking major campaign promises for Biden.

Murkowski noted in a January statement that while she supports moving toward “clean, sustainable energy” that “inhibiting Alaska’s resource development will only hamper our ability to recover” from the ongoing pandemic that has ravaged the state.

Anthony Adragna contributed reporting.