Murkowski Says She’s Staying With GOP Despite Party Frustrations
(Bloomberg) -- Senator Lisa Murkowski said she’s sticking with the Republican Party following speculation she might become a Democrat after she questioned her future in a GOP so closely aligned with former President Donald Trump.
The Alaskan, who’s up for re-election in 2022, answered “yes” on Friday when asked if she’s committed to staying aligned with Senate Republicans, who became the minority party in the chamber on Wednesday.
“I can be very discouraged at times about things that go on in my own caucus, in my own party,” she said. “I think every member feels that. But I have absolutely no desire to move over to the Democratic side of the aisle. I can’t be somebody that I’m not.”
Murkowski sparked questions about whether she might change parties when she told a home-state newspaper that Trump should resign after inciting the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. She also questioned her future as a Republican if the party didn’t distance itself from the outgoing president.
“I want him to resign. I want him out,“ Murkowski told the Anchorage Daily News on Jan. 8. “He has caused enough damage.”
“If the Republican Party has become nothing more than the party of Trump, I sincerely question whether this is the party for me,” she added.
If Murkowski, a moderate who supports abortion rights and opposed repealing the Affordable Care Act, were to become an independent and caucused with Democrats, the chamber would go from a 50-50 split in the new Congress to a 51-49 Democratic majority.
In her comments to reporters on Friday, Murkowski said that while she’s sticking with the GOP, the party has some soul-searching to do now that Trump is out of power.
“Where is the Republican Party?” she asked. “Who really exemplifies the heart of the party right now? I think in many, many ways we are a party that is really struggling to identify.”
Murkowski said she wants to work with the Biden administration and will continue in her role as “someone who is not afraid to be in the middle,” while also working against policies she opposes -- in particular, energy policies that hit her home state’s oil industry.
She also said that she didn’t vote for Trump in November’s election but wrote someone else in. She declined to say who, except to laugh and say, “He didn’t win.”
Murkowski regularly drew Trump’s attention because of her frequent votes with Democrats.
Earlier this month, before his account was suspended, Trump tweeted “Great!” on a post mentioning a potential primary challenge for Murkowski in 2022. The tweet also referred to other Republican senators who’d opposed his efforts to overturn the November election.
Even as part of the Republican Party, Murkowski is a uniquely independent senator. She lost a primary in 2010 but won as a write-in candidate, attracting votes from Democrats and unaffiliated voters in the state known as the Last Frontier.
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