President Donald Trump is done trying to win the vote of Alaska’s Sen. Lisa Murkowski with charm and is turning to threats. Trump went after Murkowski in an early morning tweet, saying she “really let the Republicans, and our country, down yesterday. Too bad!”
Senator @lisamurkowski of the Great State of Alaska really let the Republicans, and our country, down yesterday. Too bad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017
The president didn’t, however, accuse Murkowski of letting down Alaska.
Under every version of the health care repeal and replacement pieced together by the GOP Alaska seems to suffer the most of any state. Even the so-called “Polar Payoff” that earmarks more than a billion dollars for Alaska’s individual insurance marketplace does little to blunt the concerns about the rest of the bill.
Murkowski is right to be concerned about the process and the health care repeals impact on Alaska. Changes to Medicaid funding and the eventual rollback of enhanced funding for Medicaid expansion will bring real pain to Alaska, and Murkowski is well aware of that.
That’s not to say that the bill can’t be improved for Alaska or even that that improvement won’t come through the debate and amendment process Murkowski voted against.
The problem is even if some out-of-left-field proposal is put forward that protects the 49th state will the process—20 hours of debate and a vote-a-rama—really allow a full review of the legislation?
To put it in Alaska legislative terms, this is like debuting an entirely new capital budget on the floor in a wild attempt to force the other chamber’s hand. It may be a good proposal, but the hurried pace, the opaque process and the blind political pressure doesn’t allow for an honest vetting and thorough understanding of the bill.
Can anyone really, honestly say this is good process? Particularly when process was the chief complaint Republicans levied against the Democrats over the passage of Obamacare.
The health care bill will reshape somewhere between one-fifth and one-sixth of the country’s economy. When so much is at stake, Alaska and the country are let down by this partisan process.
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 26, 2017
Murkowski responded to Trump’s attack in an interview with Kasie Hunt of NBC News as reported by a rough transcript.
Alaska’s senior senator said an elected official’s duty is beyond party and reelection.
“We’re here to govern, we’re here to legislate, we’re here to represent the people that sent us here, and so every day shouldn’t be about a campaign,” she said. “Every day shouldn’t be about winning elections. How about just doing a little bit of governing around here? That’s what I’m for.”
Murkowski is channeling the famous—and increasingly timely—words of Alaska’s late Sen. Ted Stevens: “To hell with politics, just do what’s right for Alaska.”
A lesson for everyone else
The entire GOP establishment in Congress would be wise to learn that lesson. There appears to be little interest in actually improving the country’s health care system in this process, and instead the process is driven by a political promise. We’ve heard plenty about what’s wrong with Obamacare, but little about what will be done to improve it.
Republicans point at CBO reports that show dropping premiums in the future, but that’s because the sickest and poorest won’t be able to afford coverage or the coverage will be essentially worthless with unaffordable deductibles.
Meanwhile, Sen. Dan Sullivan has been more than happy to keep his campaign promise and vote with the party. He voted for the motion to proceed and a procedural vote in favor of the Senate’s health care plan (that nine Republicans including Murkowski opposed). Perhaps he sees it as a way to stay involved and shape the legislation as it moves forward, or perhaps this is the fulfillment of his one-note campaign promise to oppose and repeal all things Obama.
To hell with politics, just do what’s right for Alaska.