Lisa Murkowski Regrets Voting For Blunt Amendment

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski joined Republicans in voting for the Blunt Amendment last week, which would have overturned the HHS mandate adopted in January and given employers a wide latitude in declining to cover certain items in employee health insurance based on religious conscience. The Amendment failed, of course, when the GOP was unable to garner the 50 votes needed to defeat the Democratic Majority’s Motion to Table. Then, she went home for the weekend:

Over the weekend, Sen. Lisa Murkowski learned the hard way not to get between women and birth control.

Back from Washington, D.C., for the start of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race, the senator kept running into female voters who wrote in her name in the last election — moderate women who did not always vote Democrat or Republican. These women were coming unglued.

The reason: Murkowski’s support for a measure that would have allowed not just religious employers, but any employer, to opt out of providing birth control or other health insurance coverage required by the 2010 health-care law for moral reasons.

I called her office Friday looking for an interview but didn’t expect to get one. Then an email arrived from her account on Saturday, agreeing to meet me Sunday night at the Millennium Hotel.

We talked for 45 minutes. What Lisa Murkowski told me I already suspected. She’s a moderate. She supports abortion rights and contraception coverage. She also doesn’t line up completely with the Catholic Church when it comes to birth control. She regretted her recent vote.

“I have never had a vote I’ve taken where I have felt that I let down more people that believed in me,” she said.

She’d meant to make a statement about religious freedom, she said, but voters read it as a vote against contraception coverage for women. The measure was so broad, it’s hard not to read it that way. I suspect Murkowski saw that, but for reasons she didn’t share with me, voted for it anyway.

(…)

Murkowski was a leading voice among Republicans supporting religious organizations that said the administration’s accommodation didn’t go far enough. Murkowski aligned herself with the church position in a letter to the Catholic Anchor newspaper published Feb. 23.

“Unfortunately, the Obama administration unilaterally determined that religious hospitals, charities and schools will be required to go against their deeply-held — and constitutionally-protected — beliefs when offering health care services to current employees,” Murkowski wrote.

But when I talked to Murkowski, her position had softened. She said she voted for the Blunt Amendment (proposed by Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt), to send a message that the health care law needed a stronger clause for religious conscience. It was supposed to be a vote for religious freedom, she said, but to female voters back home it looked like a vote against contraception. The language of the amendment was “overbroad,” she said.

“If you had it to do over again, having had the weekend that you had with women being upset about the vote, do you think you would have voted the same?” I asked.

“No,” she said.

Murkowski said she believes contraception should be covered and affordable, except when it comes to churches and religiously affiliated organizations, like some universities and hospitals. She sponsored a contraception coverage bill as a state legislator in 2002. That bill exempted “religious employers.” She said her position hasn’t changed.

“I have always said if you don’t like abortion the best way to deal with it is to not have unwanted pregnancies in the first place,” she said. “How do you do that? It’s through contraception.”

I pointed out that her support for birth control conflicts with the Catholic mandate against it.

“You know, I don’t adhere to all of the tenets of my faith. I’m a Republican, I don’t adhere to all of the principles that come out of my party,” she said. “I’m also not hesitant to question when I think that my church, my religion, is not current.”

One wonders if Republican Senators from other states faced similar reactions from constituents when they returned home.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Gender Issues, Quick Takes, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Hey Norm says:

    Let’s see…this morning OTB has posts up regarding the GOP alienating Hispanics and Women. Which group, that isn’t old well-off white or suburban, is next?

  2. Hey Norm says:

    Oh yeah…and I forgot about the post regarding old well-off white suburban men exerting control over a leader in forming Conservative policies.

    Anyone notice a common thread?

  3. LaMont says:

    I can not stand it when a conservative says President Obama “unilaterally determined that religious hospitals, charities and schools will be required to go against their deeply-held — and constitutionally-protected — beliefs when offering health care services to current employees…”, as Murkowski puts it, without acknowledging the amendment President Obama made to correct this for the religious organizations. To not acknowledge the change which indeed takes the religious organizations off the hook for providing health care for something against their religious beliefs make Murkowski the average “Talking Point” conservative unwilling to acknowledge the facts for the sake of driving home a philosophical point! In spite of all that she stood for, she gave in to the political division which hinders the ability to move forward on issues that are more important to average people – particularly to Murkowski’s constituents as she apparently has come to find out. Yes, this happens on both sides of the aisle. However, it is my opinion that conservatives have recently taken this to a poisonous level which accomplishes no tangible benefit for real issues at hand!

    My two cents…

  4. legion says:

    Lisa Murkowski Regrets Voting For Blunt Amendment getting within shouting distance of her constituents

    FTFY.

  5. Peacewood says:

    Murkowski ClearlY is repentAnt.

  6. Jib says:

    I dont understand how pols think that they can back out of something like this and not do more damage. She clearly had some sort of political calculus that told her to vote for Blunt. Now she says she did not mean it. So she pissed off voters who are against Blunt by voting for it. Now she pisses off voters who support Blunt by saying she did not mean it. Along the way she just admitted to everyone that she cant be trusted one way or another.

    She is not up for re-election until 2016 so she cant be worried about a primary challenge nor the general election. I guess she is hoping everyone will forget about this in 4 years.

    4 years is a lifetime in politics so she is probably right.

  7. carmen salgado says:

    Women don’t forget about these issues. We’ve been fighting this war for years. What she needs to remember is that “hell have no fury like a woman’s scorned.”