Yes, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) did the right thing, the principled thing, in voting “no” on cloture for Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, then “present” in the final vote. “Public confidence. Where’s the public confidence?” she asked in a floor speech after the vote, explaining that the public trust in the government is in tatters. Kavanaugh on the court, she argued, would destroy that confidence in the courts. Principled arguments for what most have deemed an extremely courageous vote.
But was it all that courageous? Sure, she immediately got blowback from the blowhard in the Oval Office who said “she will never recover” and that “the people from Alaska will never forgive her for what she did.” But her real leader, Mitch McConnell, was on hand to slap that down. “She’s about as strong as you can possibly be in Alaska,” he said. “Nobody’s going to beat her.”
A whole bevy of her Republican colleagues piled on. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) even chided Trump or his attack, saying “I don’t think that was a good thing to do. Murkowski’s a good senator. She does what she believes.” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) said “It was just a very personal decision Sen. Murkowski made and she’s not going to be influenced by what anybody else has to say about it. And that was her best judgment she had to make,” and added that they’re still the best of buddies.
Murkowski’s “no” vote was baked in, that was obvious from the careful groundwork laid by stakeholder in Alaska to bolster her. Which makes it clear that just as baked in was Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) “yes” vote. Murkowski could be released on this one by leadership as long as Collins was lined up to vote for him—McConnell could afford to lose one Republican—Murkowski—because he had Vice President Mike Pence for insurance in the event there weren’t Democratic turncoats. Protecting Collins from blowback in Maine, McConnell said immediately following the vote, is his “top priority.” She had that assurance from the get-go.
That’s not to lessen Murkowski’s principles on this one, but she’s still a Republican and will remain a Republican. This vote didn’t endanger her standing there at all.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.