THE BIG IDEA: President Trump’s attacks on Republican senators are finally catching up with him, and Lisa Murkowski will not be bullied.
— A last-ditch effort to keep the Obamacare repeal push alive went down by a vote of 51 to 49 in the wee hours of Friday morning, with three GOP members breaking ranks: John McCain, #Susan Collins and Murkowski.
Mitch McConnell then pulled the legislation from consideration. “It is time to move on,” a dejected majority leader said.
— There is nothing Trump can do any more that will get to McCain. Battling an aggressive form of brain cancer, the maverick was willing to vote “no” on the “skinny repeal” amendment so that other GOP colleagues who were also opposed to the measure could vote “yes” to save face with the conservative base. To this day, Trump has never apologized for saying that the former fighter pilot was not a war hero because he got captured in Vietnam. It gets less attention, but the president also besmirched the Arizona senator’s character by repeatedly accusing him of not taking care of other veterans. McCain has never forgotten.
— A lot of the media coverage in the wake of the vote will focus on McCain, because he’s the most famous, and Collins was always going to vote “no.” But Murkowski’s opposition was equally decisive and perhaps most illustrative of the problems ahead for Trump.
Trump, who won Alaska by 15 points, ripped the state’s senior senator on Twitter Wednesday after she opposed a key procedural motion to open debate on health care:
Later that day, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke called Murkowski and the state’s other Republican senator, Dan Sullivan, to threaten that the Trump administration may change its position on several issues that affect the state to punish Murkowski, such as blocking energy exploration and plans to allow the construction of new roads. “The message was pretty clear,” Sullivan told the Alaska Dispatch News.
Nevertheless, Murkowski persisted. In fact, she took it one step further and demonstrated that she has more leverage over Zinke than he has over her. As chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Murkowski indefinitely postponed a nominations markup that the Interior Department badly wants.