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Mr. Stevens Goes to Washington
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Winter 2000

Mr. Stevens Goes to Washington

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As often happens in these matters, the King Cove road showed up as a Stevens rider on an appropriations bill and resolving the impasse turned critical; if Congress was to send the Interior Department a 1999 budget to keep its doors from closing, the road issue had to be settled. King Cove residents were prepared to build the road at their expense; all they wanted was a land trade so that they could cut the road through the refuge.

Katie McGinty, then the head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, trekked into Stevens' ornate appropriations committee office on the first floor of the Capitol with an offer from the president that the administration thought looked pretty good. If Stevens would yank the rider, the White House would see to it that medical emergencies would never be a problem in King Cove again because a fully staffed medical clinic would be built there.

Stevens flatly rejected McGinty's offer, saying he was prepared to fight the issue all the way to the Oval Office unless the administration got serious about a road. A few days later, Erskine Bowles, then Clinton's chief of staff, called on Stevens in an effort to settle the issue. Bowles pulled out a paper and read from a list of three options. The administration would do the clinic. If that wasn't acceptable, it would build a year-round airport in King Cove. And if that still was not acceptable, the administration would finance a new road or ferry system that skirted the refuge.

"We'll take them all," Stevens snapped.

Stunned, Bowles accepted. King Cove would get $20 million for a new road, $15 million for a new airport and $2.5 million for a medical clinic outfitted with the most modern telemedicine equipment available.

Says Stevens: "I don't like to be in the position of defending $37.5 million being spent. But if that is what it takes to help our people, that is the way it has to be."

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