News & Politics

Lisa Murkowski Will Vote 'Present' in Courtesy to Sen. Steve Daines

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, speaks to members of the media after a vote to advance Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court, on Capitol Hill, Friday, Oct. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.) had a pretty major schedule conflict this weekend — one that wouldn’t have been a problem if Democrats hadn’t insisted on redoing the FBI background investigation so that they could then call the investigation stupid — and it could have been a conflict for everyone. But it has worked out, thanks to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the only GOP senator voting the wrong way on Brett Kavanaugh.

Daines was in danger of missing the vote, and maybe changing the totals, because today his daughter is getting married. Despite the jeering from the more rabid on the Right, this is not a lame excuse to miss a vote. The marriage of a daughter is more important than a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. If you don’t know that, you don’t have a daughter. I’d skip my own confirmation to be at my daughter’s wedding. But if Daines didn’t show, it would have been a disaster for the rest of us.

A band-aid came in the form of a rich friend (and fellow member of Congress) who offered Daines a plane. The plan being he could walk his daughter down the aisle, mad dash to the plane, fly like a bat out of hell from Montana to D.C., and still cast his vote. A shaky proposition that depended on everything going off without a hitch.

But it won’t come to that, because Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski, who made the bad decision to vote “no” on Kavanaugh, has extended a courtesy not seen in the Senate in 15 years known as “pairing.”

This is a custom among senators where two lawmakers on opposite sides of an issue — a yes vote and no vote — agree that one of them will vote “present” to cancel out the absence of the other. Since Daines can’t make it, Murkowski votes present, essentially eliminating one vote from each side. It means that neither of them affect the outcome of the vote. Daines can walk his child down the aisle and be there for one of the most important events of her life, and Murkowski doesn’t vote “no” on Kavanaugh.

In comments to Fox News, Murkowski noted it would not “change the outcome, and added, “I do hope that it reminds us that we can take very small, very small steps to be gracious with one another. And maybe those small, gracious steps can lead to more.”

Another benefit will be that, unless someone really pulls a fast one, this means there will be zero “no” votes from the GOP. It will now be a bipartisan appointment (Thanks to Democrat Joe Manchin), and now it will also not be a bipartisan opposition.

Murkowski should have been a “yes,” but even though she is incorrect, it’s still a nice thing to do. Good (enough) for her.