Alaska senators discuss relations after split healthcare vote
A push to repeal Obamacare has divided the Republican party in Congress -- and Alaska's own senators-- on a vote last month.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski was one of three 'no' votes that blocked a so-called skinny repeal from making it to the floor. Senator Dan Sullivan voted for it.
"This was very difficult. This was a very difficult decision for, certainly for me. Certainly for Senator Sullivan," Murkowski told KTVA Wednesday, as she toured an Anchorage senior center.
"There's occasional votes where you have disagreements, or you vote different ways, " said Sen. Sullivan in an interview from his office in Washington D.C.
Disagreements among same-party senators are rare. Besides Alaska, only one other Republican state had a split vote: Sen. John McCain, of Arizona, voted against the bill, while Sen. Jeff Flake, from the same party, voted for it.
"Some were a little surprised that the senators from the same state didn't agree," former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich said.
Begich says when he was in office, he and Murkowski tended to vote as a team.
"Lisa was not a Republican, I wasn't a Democrat, we were, when it came to Alaskan issues, what was the best thing for Alaska," Begich said.
Both Murkowski and Sullivan say they discussed the vote beforehand. But afterward, Sullivan went public about possible backlash from the Trump administration because of Murkowski's vote. Sullivan told the Alaska Dispatch News, "I tried to push back on behalf of Alaskans... but the message was pretty clear"
"It seemed a little odd, I can't recall a time when I served in the Senate, and I was from the opposite party, that I ever did that to my colleague, you just don't do that," Begich said of Sullivan's statement. "When I was in the Senate, you know, from the Obama administration, they'd call and they'd put that pressure on, but you have to be strong and push back hard because if you don't they'll just kind of maneuver you around."
Sullivan says he wasn't trying to pressure Murkowski.
"I was pushing back on the Secretary, and you know, we're moving forward on that," Sullivan said.
So how is the relationship between Republicans now?
"Sen. Sullivan and I, Congressman Young, the Alaska delegation work as a team on so many of the priorities, as a state," said Murkowski.
"I work with Sen. Murkowski closely on everything," said Sullivan. "And Don Young, having all of us working together -- which we do, the vast vast majority of the time with regard to our votes -- is important."
Alaska's delegation appears to be weathering whatever storm was kicked up in Washington.