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Doing what's right for Alaska doesn't make you a RINO. It makes you a leader.

News-Miner opinion: It is almost inconceivable in a state so vitally dependent on federal dollars that its Republican congressional delegation, successful beyond imagination in snaring billions of those dollars over the years, is pasted with the pejorative “Republican in Name Only” label for getting more.

Welcome to Alaska.

The latest flap is over the recently passed $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. With its passage some Republicans accused Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, along with Congressman Don Young, of being RINOs because they supported the measure, even helped develop it for passage in August. Some in the GOP went so far as to call for their ouster from committee assignments.

Murkowski fired back, characterizing opposition to the measure from those seeking to deny President Joe Biden a victory as “petty,” further stirring the pot.

Use of the term RINO gained popularity after Teddy Roosevelt, President Howard Taft and Sen. Robert La Follette, a progressive leader from Wisconsin, battled for control of the Republican Party in the early 1900s. Each accused the others of not being Republican enough. The RINO sobriquet later was hurled at Ronald Reagan — for signing 11 tax increases into law and granting amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. Even Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona were called RINOs.

The invective’s use has blossomed in the Trump era, requiring seemingly little more than disagreement with the former president or his followers to earn the insult. Murkowski has clashed with Trump several times in the past, even voting to convict him in his second impeachment trial, and he has vowed to campaign against her re-election next year.

It is easy to see how the battle over the massive infrastructure bill could trigger Republicans and others who believe in smaller government and less spending.

If you were to argue federal government spending is out of control and state congressional delegations only make it worse by working to take home federal dollars to their states, exacerbating the national debt, you easily could make the point. If you were to argue that federal dollars only extend federal control because of the money’s attendant requirements and strings and demands, you easily could make that point, too.

But those ships sailed eons ago. States such as Alaska have become too heavily dependent on the money to leave it in the federal treasury.

Alaska, a state with diminishing revenues and where needs inexorably exceed funding, will receive billions of dollars from the infrastructure measure, with money for everything from the state’s ferry system, to roads, airports, broadband in rural areas and to rehabilitating the state’s aging bridges.

This state’s budget annually already contains billions of federal dollars, used to underwrite such things as Medicaid, education and transportation. In the past few years, the federal contribution has skyrocketed because of an infusion of Covid-19 relief funding.

In a state with so many needs and so few sources of revenues, it is difficult to comprehend how a congressional delegation becomes a target for trying — successfully — to obtain available federal dollars that likely would have gone elsewhere if not here.

Many Alaskans do not want to be taxed, nor do they want to surrender any portion of their annual Permanent Fund dividend to the state. Meanwhile, Alaska continues to have education, transportation and social needs far beyond its means, and its infrastructure is wearing out. It would seem to us the annual infusion of federal dollars — and the infrastructure bill’s immeasurable help in addressing many of Alaska’s serious problems — is a blessing.

Perhaps those most critical of Murkowski, Sullivan and Young for their efforts should be asking themselves what they would be willing to give up without federal funding?

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The Daily News-Miner encourages residents to make themselves heard through the Opinion pages. Readers' letters and columns also appear online at Contact the editor with questions at or call 459-7574.

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