Columns

Murkowski to Trump: 'I'm Not Voting for the Republican Party,' But People of My State

President Trump is flanked by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), right, and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) as he meets with Republican senators on healthcare in the East Room of the White House on June 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Two of the three Republican senators who stopped the last shot at repealing and replacing Obamacare before the Senate left for its summer vacation said that their votes represented fidelity to the people of their states, not to party.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski (D-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) explained to CNN this morning that they came under intense pressure, including from the White House, to vote with the majority of the GOP, but felt they had to stick to their guns.

“I see myself as someone who has an obligation to represent the people of Maine, and sometimes that means casting uncomfortable votes — votes that will make my party uncomfortable and even angry at me,” Collins said.

“You want to vote to do the right thing,” added Murkowski. “And so worrying about the consequences, are you fearful of repercussion from your party, a tweet from the president, a backlash from your leadership, you should — I don’t believe that we should be motivated or discouraged from taking the positions that are important to the people that we represent in our respective states.”

The two senators, along with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), doomed the GOP’s vote on “skinny” repeal of Obamacare. Murkowski said, without elaborating, that she and President Trump had “a very direct call”; Trump later targeted her on Twitter, saying she “really let the Republicans, and our country, down.” Collins said the lobbying directed at her included a private meeting with Vice President Mike Pence. Murkowski said that when senators were being lobbied during a visit to the White House, she “made a statement to the president, with my colleagues and with his team there, that I’m not voting for the Republican Party — I am voting for the people of Alaska.”

“I remember being so proud of you for saying directly to the president what your obligations were,” Collins chimed in. “And that’s the way I feel, too. The people of Maine don’t expect me to be a rubber stamp.”

The Maine senator added that the “issue of family planning services, cancer screening, well-women care probably does resonate with us more than with our male colleagues” — but “every senator has to make his or her own decisions, so I wouldn’t judge my colleagues.”

The senators opened up about their conversation with McCain on the Senate floor the night of the “skinny” defeat.

“I so remember when both Lisa and I were talking with John McCain on the Senate floor and he pointed to both of us and he said, you two are right on this issue,” Collins said.

“We had one of those conversations that you’ll think of years down the road where he said where he said people might not appreciate what has happened right now as being a positive. Maybe our colleagues are not going to be viewing this as a positive right now,” Murkowski said. “But time will prove that having a pause, having a time out for us to do better is going to be good for the country. And it was a good, good, strong John McCain message.”