ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — The sidewalk in front of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s office in downtown Anchorage was quiet Tuesday, but it’s been a scene of many demonstrations of late.
That’s because Murkowski is seen as a swing vote in the confirmation of President Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh. Murkowski hasn’t said how she will vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation and the mystery has been fueling activity from both sides.
The pro-Kavanaugh side has brought up gun rights and other conservative issues. The anti-Kavanaugh side is concerned he will oppose abortion rights and voting rights. The different sides have been running television commercials, holding town-hall style meetings, and demonstrating.
Groups have also traveled to Washington to meet with Murkowski. Jessie Menkens, with the Alaska Primary Care Association, said in a telephone interview Tuesday on her way to Washington that she’s not directly opposing Kavanaugh but wants to be sure that Murkowski knows how important health care is to Alaskans — including Medicaid, which was expanded under the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as “Obamacare.”
Murkowski broke ranks with the GOP when she was one of three Republicans to vote against repeal of the ACA last year— another was Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican who returned to Congress for the vote after undergoing surgery for cancer. McCain died on Aug. 25.
Even if Murkowski and the third “no” for repeal, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, vote against confirmation, the Senate could end up in a tie, which would mean Vice President Mike Pence would cast the tie-breaking vote.
Amber Lee, spokeswoman of Protect Our Care in Alaska, an organization supporting the requirement that pre-existing medical conditions be covered as they are under Obamacare, said Tuesday that it was unclear who, if anyone, could replace McCain.
“At this point, I don’t know who that other vote is going to be.”
Later on Tuesday, it was announced that former three-term Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, a Republican, has been picked to replace McCain in the Senate.
Kyl returns to the Senate from a Washington lobbying firm, and has reportedly been helping guide Kavanaugh through the confirmation process, serving as what he referred to as Kavanaugh’s “sherpa” at a press conference Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Protect Our Care has been organizing anti-Kavanaugh demonstrations.
On the other side, the Alaska office of Americans for Prosperity has held town-hall meetings and organized phone banks, trying to get Alaskans to call Murkowski in support of Kavanaugh.
Jeremy Price, state director of Americans for Prosperity, said that Alaskans are conservative and voted in favor of President Trump in 2016. He said he hoped Murkowski would listen to those constituents.
But Lee said recent polls have shown that a strong majority of Alaskans also support continuing coverage of pre-existing conditions.
Murkowski seems more willing to listen than Alaska’s other Republican senator, Dan Sullivan, who announced his support for Kavanaugh in July.
“Sullivan has already made up his mind and Murkowski is still weighing her options,” Lee said.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held its first committee hearing on Kavanaugh’s confirmation Tuesday, and is set to resume on Wednesday.
Murkowski has said she wanted to learn what the hearings revealed before deciding how she’ll vote.