Lisa Murkowski Explains Her Vote Against Brett Kavanaugh

Over the last several weeks, there has been much discussion about Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and her vote regarding the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.


Yesterday, Murkowski announced her decision to oppose Kavanaugh’s confirmation — though she also revealed that, rather than voting “no,” she will “pair” with Senator Steve Daines’ (R-MT) and vote “present,” since Daines is missing the vote due to his daughter’s wedding.

Washington Post reporter Libby Casey, who was previously Alaska Public Radio Network’s Washington correspondent, posted a thread of tweets regarding Murkowski’s history in Alaska and the issues that were most likely affecting her views on Kavanaugh:

Casey tweeted:

LET’S TALK about and her NO proceedural vote on . I look forward to hearing more from the Senator in her own words. In the meantime, some thoughts. She is a Republican, make no mistake. But she’s also a Republican not beholden to Party. 1

In 2010 Murkowski won a WRITE-IN CAMPAIGN (you try remembering how to spell M-U-R-K-O-W-S-K-I) against a right wing Republican who had primaried her. He had GOP $$ and establishment support (including in Senate) as the primary winner. She won. 2

Since then Murkowski handily won her 2016 election, including with mainstream GOP voters, and isn’t up for reelection until 2022. That’s a long runway. 3

Sen Murkowski is loyal – both politically and earnestly – to Alaska Native supporters for many reasons, including their role in 2010 write-in race. Major AK Native organization opposed Kavanaugh, even before sexual assault allegations… 4

org against , concerned he won’t recognize AK Native rights. He wrote a 1999 op-ed questioning whether Native Hawaiians are “Indians” under Constitution. That could lead to losses of rights. More by + 5

6 Sexual assault is a crisis in Alaska. Including + especially sexual assault of Alaska Native women. A set of horror stories of what women have endured is emerging after the heartbreaking murder of 10 year old girl. Story by +

7 Murkowski has been public about her disappointment in some of President Trump’s behavior and comments over the years re: women, etc. After Mr Trump mocked Christine Blasey Ford this week at a rally, Murkowski said “I am taking everything into account.”

8 Sen Murkowski is aware of the optics of “old white men” pushing forward without a more fulsome FBI investigation, as tweeted this morning.

9 Murkowski was personally lobbied – and spoke with – scores of women against Kavanaugh here in DC on sponsored travel. They’re tweeting about what it meant for them to meet with her, and really feel heard.

10 Murkowski is known for her own measured temperament and for thinking before she speaks (sometimes to the frustration of reporters – and probably fellow GOPers – who JUST WANT TO KNOW HER PLANS. Ha.) Contrast that with the perception that Kavanaugh lost self-control last week.

11 As chair of Energy Cmte, and as someone willing to bargain, Sen Murkowski has brought home wins important to Alaska Republicans during Trump Presidency. Opening (a decades-long goal), loosening land restrictions and regulations.


The thread continues here.

In Murkowski’s speech about her vote, she did indeed bring up the importance of protecting Alaska Natives and speaking with sexual assault survivors.

She said that she did not believe Kavanaugh would be a threat to Alaska Natives, because “Alaskan tribes are included on the list of federally recognized tribes and the fact remains that Native Hawaiians are not.”

She also said, “In Alaska, and the presiding officer knows in your state, the levels of sexual assault that we see within our Native American and our Alaska Native communities, the rates are incredibly devastating.

Those issues weren’t the only ones that Murkowski considered. Ultimately, it seems as though Kavanaugh’s testimony impacted Murkowski, and she based her vote on preserving the integrity of the Supreme Court:

The reason I could not support Judge Kavanaugh in the cloture motion the afternoon, is that in my role and my responsibility as one Senator on this floor, I take this obligation that we have in the role of advice and consent as seriously as anything that I am obligated or privileged to be able to vote on. And so I have a very high standard. I have a very high bar for any nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States.

The Code of Judicial Conduct Rule 1.2 requires that a judge ‘act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.’ And I go back and I look to that. It is pretty high, it is really high, that a judge shall act at all times—not just sometimes when you’re wearing your robe—in a manner that promotes public confidence. Public confidence. Where’s the public confidence?

“So it is high. And even in the face of the worst thing that could happen, a sexual assault allegation; even in the face of an overly and overtly political process, a politicized process; even when one side of this chamber is absolutely dead set on defeating his nomination, from the very get-go, before he was even named; even in these situations, the standard is that a judge must ‘act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.’

He’s clearly a learned judge, but in my conscience, because that’s how I have to vote at the end of the day, with my conscience, I could not conclude that he is the right person for the court at this time.


Many Republicans may be angry with Murkowski because of her vote, believing that she betrayed the party or that she declared Kavanaugh guilty despite the lack of a trial, but Murkowski made it evident she considered many factors, including but not limited to Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation.

And Casey’s thread serves as a reminder that other reasons for a Senator to vote against Kavanaugh do exist and that Senators are elected to represent their states.

More than 100,000 people in Alaska wrote in Murkowski’s name in 2010 to lead her to a victory over both the Republican and Democrat candidates; she represents both Republicans and Democrats.

And it is clear that Murkowski is taking her senatorial responsibilities just as seriously as her duty to represent all Alaskans. Even if — when — it means bucking the Republican Party.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.


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