Murkowski channels her ‘inner Ted’

When Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, visited Homer on July 7, I asked her if she had any plans to run for U.S. president.

“No,” she said, almost shouting. She explained that she couldn’t run for president because to do so meant advocating for all the United States. Her heart belongs with Alaska.

I’d asked because in the past six months, Alaska’s senior senator has been acting downright presidential. On health care reform, she has laid out an approach taken by Republican Party presidents like Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower: solve problems in a bipartisan manner and that serve the needs of Americans and not just the party faithful.

Last week, Murkowski, joined by Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, proved that again when she voted last Thursday against one last Republican Party attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“I voted no on the healthcare proposal last night because both sides must do better on process and substance,” she said in a statement on July 28.

Anyone surprised by Murkowski hasn’t been paying attention when she said she wouldn’t vote for repeal that wasn’t discussed openly, harms Alaskans and cuts Medicaid. Murkowski told Homer exactly that on her visit. Murkowski said she wouldn’t vote to repeal ACA just for the sake of repeal.

“Just to repeal it doesn’t do anything except allow for people to say, ‘By gosh, we’re going to repeal it — we’ve repealed it,’” Murkowski told several journalists at a press conference in Homer.

Anyone surprised by Murkowski also forgot who she learned from in the U.S. Senate — the late Ted Stevens. Uncle Ted knew how to pass bills that benefited Alaskans. He also had a long memory for senators who slighted him. When Stevens wanted to let his colleagues know he was not to be trifled with, he put on his Incredible Hulk tie. You didn’t want to see Uncle Ted mad. You wouldn’t like him when he was mad.

In 2014 for Ted Stevens Day, the fourth Saturday every July, Murkowski delivered a message saying Alaskans “had seen me put on my Hulk scarf and channel my inner Ted Stevens to fight in the Senate for what is important to Alaska.”

“Every now and then you have to let your inner Ted shine through,” Murkowski said.

President Donald Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke got a taste of that when they tried to intimidate Murkowski for bucking the Republican Party on her health care votes. Murkowski, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, postponed indefinitely a hearing on confirmation of several Trump Department of Interior appointments. You don’t want to see Murkowski mad. You wouldn’t like her when she is mad.

Alaska Republicans fuming that Murkowski betrayed them also should remember that she got re-elected in 2010 in a historic write-in campaign she won with the support of rural Alaskans, moderate Republicans and Democrats, and independents. The message should have been clear then, but Murkowski reiterated her position last week.

She works for all Alaskans, every one of us. She’s not just showing the steel spine she’s always had — Murkowski is channeling her inner Ted.

– Michael Armstrong, editor