Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman: Publisher's Notebook: Murkowski to Kavanaugh vote critics, “I voted my conscience.”

US Senator Lisa Murkowski is back in her home State of Alaska making the rounds visiting with her constituents and providing updates from Washington DC. A combined Mat-Su Valley Chamber of Commerce luncheon was one of those stops. Chamber members from Wasilla, Palmer and Houston gathered at Everett’s Restaurant in Wasilla to hear Murkowski speak.

One of the benefits of living in Alaska is the accessibility to our public officials including those who represent us on a national level. Murkowski addressed many initiatives on her docket. H.R. 4 The FFA reauthorization bill has passed the House and now sits with the Senate. Murkowski declared that the bill would modernize airports, improve infrastructure and safety. Opioids was another topic discussed. Congress passed in her words the most substantive package addressing the epidemic. Among other topics discussed was her awareness that Alaska is unique economically and she is working to find solutions for Alaska to take advantage of the strong economy in the lower 48.

Mat-Su Health Foundation Chief Executive Officer, Elizabeth Ripley, thanked Murkowski for defending the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion pointing out the economic development benefits the Mat-Su Valley has seen. Murkowski thanked her for pointing out those benefits. “When it comes to the affordable care act, there was some discussion a couple of months ago whether or not there would be yet another effort in the Congress before the end of this year to repeal and replace the ACA. I can tell you with a very high degree of certainty that we will not see that. There has been nothing that has been put forward as a replacement. Unless we can walk through what the impact would be for Alaska and the other forty-nine states…if you fully repeal without a replacement we have to be honest about what this means to us and for us. There have been efforts from the administration to give better flexibility.” She pointed out that part of that flexibility is removing the portion of the ACA that demands everyone have coverage.

What you will see around the State is the opportunity if you desire to take advantage of short-term plans.” She pointed out that with these short-term plans there is risk that Alaskans may not know what they are buying and that needs to be clear to the consumer.

“I believe pretty strongly that those who have preexisting conditions are able to find coverage.” As Murkowski goes around the State speaking to people she states that affordable health care is the number one issue discussed. “I am not going to be supporting something that does not work for a State like ours, that does not demonstrate that we understand and we care for those who have higher or special needs as so many of our vulnerable people have.”

After she addressed the joint chamber meeting- one of many engagements she scheduled in the valley. She and I had a brief meeting concerning the Chief Justice Kavanaugh appointment and what is like for her personally to be in the national spotlight.

Murkowski says the reception from Alaskans on her first trip home since the Kavanaugh vote has been great. She has been on a whirlwind tour to various communities around the state. “What I have received is a lot of thank you for making it through a difficult process. Not everyone agrees on my final vote regarding Kavanaugh but what I have heard consistently is a respect for how I approached it. My process was very methodical, very thorough, very deliberative. I asked more questions and demanded more information. Ultimately, I made a determination and I articulated why I came down the way that I did. Given all of the politics that is at play right now and a time where we approach mid-term elections. People seem to be so cleanly divided.”

“One of the things I found so frustrating was that before Kavanaugh had even been announced some on my side of the aisle said he should be in and some on the other side of the aisle said there’s no way he should be in.” Murkowski said slapping her hand on the table. Emphasizing how closed minded each party was on the issue.

“We should have an obligation to go through a vetting process. There will be some who say but wait a minute he went through a process once before when was nominated to be on the circuit. That is true but he has never been nominated to be a United State Supreme Court Justice, one of nine. Basically, I started all over. I think that Alaskans have appreciated the thoroughness and the deliberation in which I approached it. There are many who have said I would have gone the other way but I respect how you approached it.”

Answering her critics in the Republican party who believe that Murkowski betrayed the voters she responded, “I recognized that here in the State of Alaska when it came to the Kavanaugh vote the polling that was out there showed 47% supported him and 47% opposed him. I knew going into the vote that I was going to make exactly one half of Alaskans happy and one half of Alaskans upset. I had to exercise my best judgement. I had to vote my conscience and I did that. I hope that Alaskans believe that is part of my responsibility. They have elected me to do the hard job and sometimes the hard job is not cleanly and clearly identified. That I’m going to have to weigh things in a careful and balanced way and then make the best judgement decision I can. I cannot make everybody happy. For the hardline conservatives they may be upset at this vote. The next vote that may come along they may be quite happy with me.”

“My job is to serve not just Republicans. My job is to serve all Alaskans. They were cleanly divided on this issue.”

What is it like for Murkowski to have the national spotlight shine so brightly on her? Is she comfortable being in that position?

“My spotlight is here. Alaska is what I care about and these are the people I work for and these are the issues that get me up in the morning. I’m not very comfortable in the national limelight. You don’t see me on the Sunday news shows. You don’t see me seeking this notoriety. I’m just there to do the job that needs to be done for the people I work for. It’s been somewhat suffocating at times and that part of it has been hard.”

“Then I come home and I get filled back up again. Alaskans are honest with you. They’ll just tell you how they’re feeling. They’ll look at you say, you know Lisa you look tired today.” She said with a smile. “It’s a reminder to me that I better get to bed by ten o’clock instead of getting my homework done.”

“It doesn’t get any better than being here. I work hard and I’m good with hard work.”

“Take a look.” As she pointed to the view from the deck of Everette’s restaurant over looking Wasilla Lake. “You can’t believe where you get to live.”

By:  Dennis Anderson
Source: Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman