Reality Check: What will Lisa do?
Senator Lisa Murkowski finds herself the center of attention once again, this time as the potential swing vote in the confirmation of President Trump’s choice to fill a seat on the Supreme Court.
By now, you know that Judge Brett Kavanaugh is an appellate court judge from Maryland who clerked under retiring justice Anthony Kennedy and has long been involved in Republican politics.
He worked under special prosecutor Ken Starr in the Whitewater case and served as a White House lawyer under President George W. Bush.
Hours before Kavanaugh’s name was announced, Alaskans were outside-- and inside the offices of Senator Murkowski, urging her to reject President Trump’s nomination, regardless of his choice.
The reason? The president had made it clear that he intended to nominate someone to the court he thought would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that made abortion legal and safe in America.
Senator Murkowski has been reliably unpredictable when it comes to being a swing vote.
After being rejected in the Republican Primary in 2010, she won her historic write-in campaign with the support of moderate Democrats, Republicans and Independent voters.
Those would be many of the same people who remind her of that occasionally outside her Anchorage office.
Her independent streak has emerged on crucial votes like the repeal of Obamacare, where she voted against her party’s bill because it protected neither new Medicaid patients in Alaska nor Planned Parenthood, whose funding she has consistently defended.
But, those same voters will not forget Murkowski’s vote in support of the Blunt amendment in 2012, which would have allowed employers to deny health coverage for birth control on religious and moral grounds.
It's a vote Murkowski says she regrets, but a vote that stirred up her independent base.
Now comes another test of Murkowski’s independence. Both she and Maine Republican Susan Collins are being lobbied heavily to once again stand against the President and their party.
The Reality Check here? Those encouraging the Senator to vote no should be prepared to be disappointed.
Why? Because Murkowski has made it very clear that she will not make a decision on Kavanaugh over a single issue.
As for Roe v. Wade, in his 2006 confirmation to the appellate court, which Murkowski approved, Kavanaugh answered the question this way.
“I would follow Roe v. Wade faithfully and fully. That would be binding precedent of the court. It’s been decided by the Supreme Court.”
Whether the judge would welcome an opportunity to change his mind is something we don’t know, nor will he offer during his upcoming hearings.
But, it could be enough to allow Lisa Murkowski to defend her vote to approve Kavanaugh to that crowd of Alaskans outside her door-- if that’s what she chooses.
Because as a U.S. Senator, at least she still has a choice.
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