Zinke’s Threats Against Murkowski Are a Charade

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke supposedly called Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) yesterday afternoon following her “no” vote on repealing Obamacare and told her there’s gonna be hell to pay for Alaskans.

Yeah. That’ll show her.

Except for one thing. Murkowski stated for weeks that she was opposed to repealing Obamacare. So if Zinke’s threat was real, and he and his boss had really cared about flipping Murkowski, the time to threaten her would have been before the vote, not after.

Real political payback would involve more than an empty threat from a cabinet secretary auditioning to be Trump’s new Chris Christie. It would include Senate Republicans removing Murkowski as the chair of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, an invaluable perch for any senator west of the Mississippi.

That will never happen because most Senate Republicans have no desire to repeal Obamacare. Murkowski and a handful of other Republicans took one for the team yesterday. The remaining Republicans were thus free to vote for repeal with the same unseemly confidence they had in 2015 when they voted to repeal Obamacare while Obama still held a veto pen.

Murkowski wasted no time peddling her new Joan-of-Arc status, however, which the dullards in Alaska’s local press swallowed faster than starving sockeye salmon. From the Alaska Dispatch News:

[Zinke’s] response follows Trump’s no-holds-barred style of governing, even when it comes to his own party. It is his first strike of retaliation against Murkowski, however, despite her tendency to stray from the party line and the president’s priorities.

Murkowski’s a maverick. But in case you didn’t get the message, the Alaska Dispatch News spelled it out again by repeating Murkowski’s earlier statement on MSNBC:

We’re here to govern. We’re here to legislate. We’re here to represent the people who sent us here. And so every day shouldn’t be about campaigning. Every day shouldn’t be about winning elections. How about just doing a little bit of governing around here? That’s what I’m here for.

So you see, Murkowski does what’s best for Alaska, not the party. But in case you still didn’t get the message, the Alaska Dispatch News made yet another effort to school you:

“I base my votes on what I believe is in Alaska’s best interest,” she said. “So I know that there are those who wish that I would be more in line with following the party platform, but I don’t think it should come as any surprise that there have been occasions that I have not followed the lead of the party.

Missing from the article was any explanation from Murkowski as to why her “yes” vote to repeal Obamacare in 2015 and her “no” vote yesterday were both in “Alaska’s best interest” – probably because no one asked her. She’s “here to represent the people who sent us here,” after all, and that’s all you need to know.

As Erick reported earlier today, much of Washington believes that McConnell and Schumer have already cut a deal. A meaningless “skinny bill” will pass, leaving much of Obamacare permanently entrenched. Everyone will put on a good show, of course. Democrats will denounce Republicans’ cruelty. Republicans, in turn, will crow about how they’ve delivered on their promise to take out Obamacare, “root and branch,” not mentioning the tax increases our Republican Congress will soon enact.

All of this is designed to distract Republican voters from the fact that, by year’s end, “Republicans” in the White House and Congress will be continuing to fund Planned Parenthood and most (if not all) of Obamacare, while refusing to fund the wall and tax cuts. Whether this charade will work depends in no small part on how successfully true conservatives can primary these poseurs next year.

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