Despite the slim Republican majority in the House and Senate, the Trump administration has been having trouble advancing its agenda. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, voted against the ‘skinny’ Affordable Care Act repeal plan earlier this week. The White House is grumbling over yet another failure to get health care reform underway. According to reports, the Trump administration is reportedly threatening to withhold federal support for a major project in the senator’s state.
According to reports, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke called Murkowski on Wednesday and said that if she didn’t stand in line with the GOP on health care reform, the federal government may withhold support for major economic development projects in Alaska.
Murkowski stood with fellow Republican Senators Susan Collins (Maine) and John McCain (Arizona) in her vote against the GOP’s plans to overhaul the health care system. The opposition ended up killing the vote for debate.
President Donald Trump had mocked Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, last month for doing the same. Trump tweeted, “Any senator who votes against debate says you are fine with ObamaCare.”
The president also asked if Heller would like to ‘remain a senator’.
According to Zinke, “the president wasn’t pleased with the vote that she took” with regards to health care. President Trump himself tweeted his disappointment on Wednesday, saying Murkowski “really let the Republicans, and our country, down yesterday”.
“I think it’s very clear based on my conversation with the secretary that he was just sharing the concern that the president had expressed to him to pass on to me,” said Murkowski on Thursday in a statement. “He was very direct, in terms of encouraging me to vote to proceed…. It was a difficult conversation.”
Sen. Murkowski is also the chairperson of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. After the expression of disappointment from the White House, she cancelled the vote planned for Thursday. She attributed this to a ‘hiccup’ in the process, not retaliation for her health care vote.
Murkowski is sticking to her guns. “The president and I do not disagree on the need for health care reform,” she said. “The status quo with health care in our country is not acceptable.”
A lobbyist tells The Hill that it is unlikely a feud will play out between Alaska and the White House. With Alaska’s oil production and Murkowski’s position as chief congressional overseer and appropriator for Interior, getting spiteful could be a mistake that comes back to haunt the president.
“Zinke may have been asked to make the call to remind Sen. Murkowski about how administration support’s going to be for her agenda. But she has as many levers, if not more, on their agenda,” the unnamed lobbyist told The Hill. “To spite Alaska over this, all Trump would be doing is spiting his own agenda in regards to more U.S. energy, mining and the like.”
Murkowski isn’t up for re-election until 2022, and has seniority in the Senate, putting her in a strong position. “We’re here to govern. We’re here to legislate. We’re here to represent the people who sent us here. And so every day shouldn’t be about campaigning. Every day shouldn’t be about winning elections. How about just doing a little bit of governing around here? That’s what I’m here for,” Murkowski said Wednesday.
Source: Yahoo, The Hill