Sen. John McCain is getting most of the blame from the right and praise from the left for his vote to scuttle Senate legislation to repeal parts of Obamacare, but another GOP member is coming under fire for reneging on her vow to repeal the law and offering a weak explanation for her reversal.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, campaigned twice on ditching Obamacare and even voted for the straight repeal in 2015, when the bill was vetoed by President Obama.
This year, Murkowski opposed the motion to proceed on the health care debate and then consistently rejected a wide variety of GOP amendments, including the “skinny repeal,” which McCain famously opposed. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, was the other no vote. Of the three, only Collins opposed the 2015 repeal as well.
After seven years of railing against Obamacare, why did Murkowski end up as a deciding vote to save it?
“Number one, she’s a big government leftist. Anything that grows government, grows federal control, she’s for,” said Joe Miller, who ran against Murkowski in 2010 and 2016.
In 2010, Miller defeated Murkowski in the Republican primary, only to see Murkowski launch and narrowly win a write-in campaign in the general election. In 2016, Miller was a late addition to the Libertarian ticket and came in second to Murkowski by a wider margin, while still outpacing the Democrat in the race and a well-funded independent candidate.
Murkowski’s approach to the recent Obamacare repeal votes is especially galling to Miller, given the prominence of the issue in their 2010 campaign.
“Most Alaskans that have political contact remember what she did in 2010. She actually called me out and said I was a liar about her position on Obamacare because we had a YouTube clip of her waffling statements on Obamacare. We said, ‘Look this gal isn’t really for full repeal,'” said Miller.
“So she doubled down and said, ‘Yes, I am for full repeal.’ Of course, what did she do when push came to shove? She actually voted not to repeal even on the skinny act,” added Miller.
Murkowski voted for repeal less than two years ago, so has something changed or was that earlier vote purely political?
“When the vote actually counts, you know how she’s going to vote. She knew at that point, of course, that Obama was going to veto it. So there was no cost to what we would call her principles – those of expanding government. That was entirely a consequence, in our assessment, of knowing where the outcome of that vote was going,” said Miller.
Murkowski added more confusion to her shifting position on Obamacare by refusing to explain why she did it. After the early morning vote, Murkowski dodged efforts by The Daily Caller to get some answers.
“I am really very tired, and so you’re asking for a very thoughtful response. I actually appreciate your question, but rather than respond to each and every individual request from all of these cameras around me, I’m going to take a pass,” said Murkowski.
After laughing heartily at Murkowski’s comments, Miller said he was not surprised.
“That is so typical Lisa Murkowski. That’s what she does. I mean what do you you do when you’re confronted with a lie?. You evade. You don’t answer the question, and that’s what she’s done there,” said Miller.
“She knows who she is. She’s not motivated by any principle of good government. She motivated by principles that at least constitutional conservatives and libertarian-oriented people are against,” said Miller.
Miller believes the vast majority of right-leaning voters in Alaska want a full repeal of Obamacare and he suspects they won’t forget what Murkowski did.
“I think it’s woken up a segment of Alaska. Hopefully, they’ll remember it in five years but we’ll wait and see,” said Miller.
“If this continues to incur cost to the average American as it already has in increased health care costs, increased premiums, and loss of benefits, then of course the memory is still going to be there,” said Miller.
But while Miller is perfectly happy to point out his frustrations with Murkowski, he says the problem is bigger than one senator or even the three GOP members who killed health care reform for the short term.
“I think it’s wrong to just focus entirely on Murkowski, although that’s kind of my area of expertise since I ran against her. It’s really the system of government in D.C.” said Miller.
Miller minces no words when it comes to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, whom he blames in part for the results in 2010 and for the failure of the Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or ACA.
“I saw what he did to me in 2010. Mitch McConnell is the reason that the United States has Lisa Murkowski. He and his colleagues stirred up [the write-in campaign] with Lisa Murkowski to defeat us,” said Miller.
“I think Mitch McConnell likes the ACA. I think it’s all a scam when he says he is against it. If you think he didn’t count the votes before that vote, then you really don’t know Mitch McConnell,” said Miller.
“This is an ingrained problem with people out there that call themselves conservative Republicans, or Republicans, and they have absolutely no principles that are connected with the party platform, and they’re scamming the voters,” said Miller.
Miller says a successful repeal of Obamacare would put the GOP in dominant political position. Instead, he says the party is in huge trouble.
“The Republican Party needs to get it’s head screwed on straight. Leadership is where it starts. Right now there is none. I think if we had done the right thing on ACA, there’s a real chance that it could have grown in the future. I don’t see that now,” said Miller.
In addition to the changes Miller wants to see at the national level, he is also intent on ripping control of the Alaska GOP from big government Republicans like Murkowski.
“I think she can be defeated. It’s going to take a real grassroots effort in Alaska to clean up a lot of stuff in this state. The establishment has controlled the state for a number of decades. Every once in a while we’ll see a brief glimpse of sunshine. We has Gov. (Sarah) Palin for a couple of years. But for the most part, that’s not happened. It’s time for a change and maybe this is what’s going to do it,” said Miller.