Friday, July 28, 2017

Senator Murkowski’s health care vote comes with significant repercussions for Alaska

The Senate dealt a devastating setback to Trump and Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, defeating the GOP "skinny repeal" bill early Friday morning.

Prior to the vote, Donald Trump and his administration threatened retaliation against Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski if she voted no on the Republican health care plan.

On Tuesday, Murkowski said she spoke to Trump prior to the vote to proceed with debate on the plan.

On Wednesday, after the vote, Murkowski heard from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who she said "shared with me that the president was not pleased." Zinke made it clear that Trump had asked him to pass along the message, Murkowski said.

Early Wednesday, Trump took to Twitter to express displeasure with Murkowski's vote. By that afternoon, each of Alaska's two Republican senators had received a phone call from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke letting them know the vote has put Alaska's future with the administration in jeopardy.

And Thursday she received a call from Zinke, at the behest of the president, to pressure her not to vote no on the health care plan.

Murkowski did not want to divulge the exact content of the phone calls, but that it was clear the intent was to pressure her for her vote.

And on the “Skinny Repeal” plan, Murkowski again voted no.

President Donald Trump isn't going to just let go of Senator Murkowski's no votes. It’s not in him to do that. It’s not clear why Trump decided to come down hardest on Senator Murkowski and not others such as Senators McCain and Collins.

Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan said the call from Zinke sent a "troubling message."

"I'm not going to go into the details,” Sullivan said. But said he fears it will have significant repercussions for Alaska.

“I tried to push back on behalf of all Alaskans…We’re facing some difficult times and there’s a lot of enthusiasm for the policies that Secretary Zinke and the president have been talking about with regard to our economy. But the message was pretty clear.”

With Alaska being 61.2 percent federally owned, Trump could declare drilling and mining off-limits on federal lands and waters. Oil and gas drilling is a central part of the state’s economy and government, accounting for about one-third of its employment.

Senator Murkowski chairs both the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and related agencies. That means she has significant influence in authorizing and appropriating funding for the Department of the Interior.

Trump versus Lisa Murkowski of Alaska should be interesting  Her no vote is an indication that Murkowski is no pushover.