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Senator Lisa Murkowski is a moderate Republican. Since winning re-election in 2010, her voting record has been deemed by some as “more moderate” when compared to her previous years in the Senate. The National Journal, in 2013, gave Murkowski a composite score of 56% conservative and 45% liberal. The National Journal ranked her as the 56th most liberal and 44th most conservative member of the Senate. CrowdPac, which rates politicians based on donations they receive and give, has given Murkowski a score of 2.7C with 10C being the most conservative and 10L being the most liberal. According to GovTrack, Murkowski is the second most moderate Republican Senator and as of 2017 is placed by GovTrack’s analysis to the left of all Republicans, except Susan Collins, and to the left of Democratic Senator Joe Manchin. The New York Times arranged Republican senators by ideology and also ranked Murkowski as the second most liberal Republican. Senator Murkowski has earned a 57.70% Lifetime Score from the American Conservative Union. In 2018, the fiscally conservative PAC Americans for Prosperity gave her a lifetime rating of 75% conservative and the ACU gave her a 52% conservative score in 2017. Americans for Democratic Action gave her a 2018 rating of 20% liberal. According to FiveThirtyEight, which tracks Congressional votes, Murkowski voted with President Trump’s position approximately 74% of the time as of November, 2019. According to CQ Roll Call, Murkowski voted with President Obama’s position on votes 72.3% of the time in 2013, one of only two Republicans voting for his positions over 70% of the time. In 2019, she was one of three Republican Senators, the others being Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah, who refused to sign a resolution opposing the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.
Abortion, reproductive issues, and women’s rights
Murkowski is generally pro-choice on abortion and supports non-federally funded embryonic stem cell research, although she has cast significant pro-life votes, including ones to ban late-term abortions. She does not want to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision. She was a member of the Republican Majority For Choice and is a member of Republicans For Choice and The Wish List (Women in the Senate and House), a group of pro-choice women Republicans. On March 30, 2017, Murkowski joined Susan Collins to break party lines voting with Democrats against a bill allowing states to defund Planned Parenthood. Also in 2017, Murkowski was one of three Republicans, with Capito and Collins, who opposed a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act that included a provision to defund Planned Parenthood. She was then one of seven Republicans, also including Capito and Collins, who voted against a bill to repeal the ACA without a replacement that also would have defunded Planned Parenthood. In 2018, Murkowski again joined Collins, voting with a majority of Democrats, against a bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Planned Parenthood voted to recognize Murkowski for her vote. She opposes defunding Planned Parenthood. Murkowski was one of two Republicans who voted against an amendment to prohibit federal funding from being given to facilities that promote abortion services or family planning. By July 2018, Murkowski was one of three Republican senators, along with Shelley Capito and Susan Collins, who publicly supported keeping the Roe v. Wade decision.
In 2019, Senator Murkowski announced support for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. She has introduced legislation in Congress to remove the previous deadline for the ERA’s ratification in order to allow it to continue to receive support from the necessary number of states. The ERA has been opposed by conservative groups, including major pro-life organizations, due to concerns that the ERA would provide additional protections for abortion rights. Also in 2019, Murkowski was one of three Republicans who did not vote on a bill that required doctors provide medical intervention for infants born after a failed abortion, and her absence was due to scheduling issues. In May 2019, when asked about her stance on an Alabama law banning abortions even in cases of rape or incest, Murkowski responded that she supports exceptions for rape and incest.
Planned Parenthood, which rates politicians’ support for pro-choice issues, has given Murkowski a life-time score of 58%. NARAL Pro-Choice America, which also provides ratings, gave her a score of 50% in 2015. In 2014, her score from NARAL was 80%. In 2017, Planned Parenthood gave Murkowski a score of 41%. Population Connection, which supports voluntary family planning, determined that Murkowski voted with their positions 43% of the time in 2017, 33% in 2016, and 100% in 2014. Conversely, National Right to Life, which opposes abortion and rates support for anti-abortion issues, gave Murkowski a score of 66% during the 114th Congress and a 40% in 2018.
In June 2019, Murkowski and Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand announced the Summer Meals Act of 2019, legislation altering the Summer Food Service Program of the Agriculture Department to grant more children access to summer meals in addition to providing transportation for children in rural and hard-to-reach areas to aid their access of summer meals along with imposing flexibility to the program so children can have more than one meal. Murkowski stated that many children in Alaska and the United States rely on meals from school and attributed federal policies as the reason for difficulty in feeding hungry children.
In February 2012, after Senate leaders reached a compromise to lower the threshold for the number of votes needed to pass bills, Murkowski was one of fourteen Republican senators to vote for legislation that extended a 2 percentage-point cut in the payroll tax for the remainder of the year and provided an extension of federal unemployment benefits along with preventing doctors’ payments under Medicare from being cut.
In January 2019, Senator Murkowski supported both Republican and Democratic bills to end a government shutdown. She was one of six Republicans who broke with their party to vote in favor of the Democratic proposal. In response to United States Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross stating that he did not “understand why” workers had to go to food banks during the shutdown, Murkowski commented, “We saw yesterday the insensitivity of certain remarks a Cabinet secretary that demonstrated to me that he is just so clearly of out of touch, with men and women who get up every day and go do oftentimes pretty menial work at some of these jobs. Iâ€™m talking about the secretary of Commerce. And you know what he said was so disconnected from reality that it stunned me.”
Murkowski is a signer of Americans for Tax Reform’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge. The National Federation of Independent Business named Murkowski a Guardian of Small Business for her “outstanding” voting record on behalf of small business owners. On December 2, 2017, Murkowski voted for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, citing her desire for job growth and tax reduction.
Alaska Native issues
Murkowski is an active member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and served as Vice Chairman of the Committee during the 110th Congress. She is the Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and a member of the Committee on Appropriations, and has a continuing role on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. In 2009, she was honored with a Congressional Leadership Award by the National Congress of American Indians. She is the first Alaskan to receive the award.
Murkowski opposed President Barack Obama’s health reform legislation; she voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in December 2009, and she voted against the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. Murkowski has stated numerous times that she would like to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Murkowski voted for H.R. 976, which called for the expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to provide coverage for additional uninsured children. That bill passed both the House and the Senate, but was vetoed by President George W. Bush. She supports health care reforms in her native state, as well, largely because health care costs for Alaskans are up to 70% higher than costs in the contiguous United States.
In 2017, Lisa Murkowski announced that she was opposed to repealing the Affordable Care Act without a replacement plan. She voted against starting debates in the Senate. She also was one of seven Republicans who voted against repealing the ACA without a replacement. On July 27, 2017, Murkowski voted ‘No’ on the Health Care Freedom Act commonly referred to as the ‘Skinny’ repeal of the ACA. She said the defeated bill did not adequately replace the ACA, and that her constituents had expressed concerns about its impact on their health coverage. Murkowski called for “a more open process” in writing a replacement bill. Her vote was criticized by some Alaska Republicans, while 200 people rallied in Anchorage and marched to Murkowski’s office to thank her for her role in protecting the ACA. In 2018, Murkowski voted with all other Republicans, except Susan Collins, against a resolution to repeal the “short-term health insurance plans” allowed by the Trump administration.
In October 2019, Murkowski was one of twenty-seven senators to sign a letter to Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Schumer advocating for the passage of the Community Health Investment, Modernization, and Excellence (CHIME) Act, which was set to expire the following month. The senators warned that if the funding for the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF) was allowed to expire, it “would cause an estimated 2,400 site closures, 47,000 lost jobs, and threaten the health care of approximately 9 million Americans.”
Same-sex marriage and LGBT issues
In 2004, Murkowski voted in favor of a federal constitutional amendment to define marriage to be between one man and one woman. She said that would also support an Alaska state law defining marriage as between a man and a woman and that each state should have the right to establish its definition of marriage. Murkowski voted for a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in 2006. According to her spokesman, she wanted to protect the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman that Alaskans added to their state constitution in 1998.
On March 27, 2013, Murkowski had said that her opinion on same-sex marriage was “evolving”. She said she noticed that the country’s views on marriage were changing, noting conversations with her children and their friends as an example. She said the country had more important issues to focus on than same-sex marriage.
On June 19, 2013, Murkowski announced her support of same-sex marriage, citing the encouragement of family values and Alaskans’ favor of limiting government’s power. She became the third sitting Republican United States Senator to do so after Senators Rob Portman of Ohio and Mark Kirk of Illinois. In 2015, she was one of 11 Senate Republicans who voted to give social security benefits to same-sex couples in states where same-sex marriage was not yet recognized. The Human Rights Campaign, in its Congressional Scorecard rating support for LGBT issues during the 115th Congress gave Murkowski a 54% score, and during the 114th Congress, they gave Murkowski a score of 69%. During the 113th Congress, she received an 88% score.
In June 2014, along with Bob Corker and Susan Collins, Murkowski was one of three Republicans to vote for the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, a Democratic proposal authored by Elizabeth Warren that would authorize more than 25 million people to refinance their student loans into lower interest rates of less than 4 percent. The bill received 56 votes and was successfully blocked by Republicans.
In February 2017, Murkowski and Senator Susan Collins were the only two Republicans who voted in the Senate against Donald Trump’s selection for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. This caused a 50-50 tie broken by Senate president Mike Pence to successfully confirm DeVos’ appointment. A day earlier, Collins and Murkowski both voted for DeVos within the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, passing DeVos’ nomination by a vote of 12-11 to allow the Senate to vote on DeVos.
In July 2019, Murkowski and Democrat Brian Schatz introduced the Building Indigenous STEM Professionals Act, a bill that would reauthorize and amend a grant meant to assist in the creation or expansion of programs which produce Native Alaskan and Native Hawaiian graduates in science, technology, engineering, and math fields (STEM). Murkowski stated that the ANSEP had aided in producing 800 graduates in the STEM field and that she was proud to introduce a bill that would “expand opportunities in STEM education for indigenous students across the country”.
In December 2010, Murkowski voted for the ratification of New START, a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russian Federation obliging both countries to have no more than 1,550 strategic warheads as well as 700 launchers deployed during the next seven years along with providing a continuation of on-site inspections that halted when START I expired the previous year. It was the first arms treaty with Russia in eight years.
In September 2016, Murkowski was one of thirty-four senators to sign a letter to United States Secretary of State John Kerry advocating for the United States using “all available tools to dissuade Russia from continuing its airstrikes in Syria that are clearly not in our interest” and that there should be clear enforcement by the US of the airstrikes violating “a legally binding Security Council Resolution”.
In March 2018, Murkowski voted to table a resolution spearheaded by Bernie Sanders, Chris Murphy, and Mike Lee that would have required President Trump to withdraw American troops either in or influencing Yemen within the next 30 days unless they were combating Al-Qaeda. Murkowski voted against the resolution again in December, explaining, “The human rights abuses that are taking place in Yemen must stop, and the kingdom must also be put on notice that assassinating journalists will not be blithely dismissed and ignored” but added that she would not “support a resolution that would have undermined U.S. strategic interests in the Middle East, emboldened Iran and leave our country without immediate recourse should the Houthi rebels attack U.S. defense assets and interests in the region.” In March 2019, Murkowski was one of seven Republicans to vote for the resolution withdrawing American forces form Yemen within 30 days unless they were engaging al Qaeda forces. In May 2019, she was also one of seven Republicans voting to override Trump’s veto of the previous Yemen resolution. In June 2019, Murkowski was one of seven Republicans to vote to block President Trump’s Saudi arms deal providing weapons to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Jordan, but also voted for the Trump administration’s additional 20 arms sales.
In June 2019, Murkowski was one of eight senators to sign a letter to Premier of British Columbia John Horgan expressing concern over “the lack of oversight of Canadian mining projects near multiple transboundary rivers that originate in B.C. and flow into” U.S. states Alaska, Idaho, Washington, and Montana. The senators requested British Columbia replicate American efforts to protect watersheds.
In July 2019, Murkowski was one of sixteen Republican senators to send a letter to Acting Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Russell Vought, Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin encouraging them to work with them to prevent a continuing resolution “for FY 2020 that would delay the implementation of the Presidentâ€™s National Defense Strategy (NDS) and increase costs” and that the year long continuing resolution suggested by administration officials would render the Defense Department “incapable of increasing readiness, recapitalizing our force, or rationalizing funding to align with the National Defense Strategy (NDS).”
In July 2019, along with Martin Heinrich, Murkowski was one of two senators to introduce the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony (STOP) Act, a bill that would further penalties within the United States for trafficking objects held sacred by tribes through an increase in prison time from five to ten years for violating the law twice or more and form a framework for collectors to return protected items to tribes without facing penalties. The bill was part of a bipartisan effort to ban collectors and vendors from exporting Native American ceremonial items to foreign markets. Murkowski stated they were “actively preserving the cultural identity and history of our Native populations” through both the protection and repatriation of tribal cultural heritage and that returning the items would aid Native communities in healing from cultural oppression.
In 2007, Lisa Murkowski voted against the McCain-Kennedy proposal to offer amnesty to undocumented immigrants. Later, Murkowski was one of two Republicans who voted for the DREAM Act in 2010. She was also one of fourteen Republicans in 2013 who voted for a comprehensive immigration bill that offered a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. In December 2016, Murkowski was one of five senators to serve as original cosponsors of the Bridge Act, a bill that would authorize at least 740,000 young immigrants who had received deportation reprieves and work permits under the Obama administration to keep those benefits for 3 additional years in the event that they are revoked. In 2018, Murkowski voted in favor of the McCain/Coons comprehensive immigration bill which did not include funding for a border wall as well as in favor of the bill proposed by Collins to grant a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million Dreamers and to include $25 billion for border security; she voted against the Republican bill, backed by President Trump, which would have reduced and restricted legal immigration. After Trump announced a ‘zero-tolerance’ migration policy that separates children from parents Lisa Murkowski opposed the Trump administration’s actions and called the policy “cruel, tragic”. In 2019, Murkowski was among a group of senators introducing bipartisan legislation to oppose Trump’s decision to use an emergency declaration to build a border wall. She was then one of a dozen Republicans who broke with their party, joining all Democrats, to vote for a resolution rejecting Trump’s use of an emergency declaration. On September 25, 2019, she was again one of 11 Republicans who voted to overturn Trump’s emergency declaration on the border.
Murkowski became one of only three Republicans to vote with the Democrats in favor of repealing rule changes enacted by the Republican-controlled FCC. The measure was meant to restore Obama-era net neutrality rules.
Energy and environment
Secretary of State John Kerry and Murkowski discuss the effects of Arctic climate change in Anchorage, Alaska, on August 30, 2015
For the 109th Congress, Republicans for Environmental Protection, a group dedicated to environmental causes, gave Murkowski a rating of 2%, noting that in 2006, she voted against S.C. Resolution 83, intended to bolster energy security and lower energy-related environmental impacts, against an amendment to S. 728 that would make the Army Corps of Engineers more accountable for the environmental and economic impacts of their projects, for oil drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge, for offshore oil and gas drilling. Murkowski is currently the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. She has given her support to efforts to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
Murkowski believes that recent technological developments have made drilling safer and more economical.
Murkowski introduced a bill that would block the Environmental Protection Agency from limiting the amount of greenhouse gases that major industries can produce. In a statement, Murkowski said, “We cannot turn a blind eye to the EPA’s efforts to impose back-door climate regulations with no input from Congress.”
In the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill (BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico), Murkowski opposed a bill that would have raised the liability cap for oil spills from $75 million to $10 billion. She said that such a large cap would jeopardize various businesses, and that exposing companies to greater risk would make it impossible for smaller companies to compete. Murkowski has received over $50,000 from BP.
A major supporter of fossil fuels, Murkowski joined most of her Republican colleagues in repealing the Stream Protection Rule, a regulation which prevented coal companies from dumping coal in waterways.
In July 2015, after an amendment authored by Bernie Sanders to an energy reform bill was rejected by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Murkowski dismissed the amendment as unnecessary due to the resolution approved by the committee earlier in the congressional session along with work done on the same bill: “I think everything that we have done along the way is designed to move us towards that cleaner, more efficient, more responsible, greater focus on our environment, while at the same time ensuring a level of affordability and access to all Americans.”
In December 2016, after President Obama signed an executive order that designated 112,300 square miles from the Bering Strait to north of Bristol Bay as a “climate resilience area” following consultations with Native Alaskan tribes that relied on the maritime ecosystem for subsistence living, Murkowski took issue with the “climate resilience area” term and said that while she strongly backed “meaningful consultation with tribes, this opens the door to a whole host of unknowns, and could easily be misapplied to block even the most responsible Arctic subsistence, activities, and development.”
In December 2016, following President Obama announcing a ban on new oil and gas drilling federal waters in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans and Canada implementing its own ban in its Arctic waters, Murkowski, fellow Alaska senator Dan Sullivan and Representative Don Young called the announcement “an incredibly lopsided trade for the United States” and theorized that it may be a few years before the United States “is bracketed by activity on both sides and importing the oil resulting from it” while noting Russian development underway in the Arctic.
In March 2019, Murkowski was an original cosponsor of a bipartisan bill intended to mandate the Environmental Protection Agency declare per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances as hazardous substances that could be addressed with cleanup funds via the EPA Superfund law in addition to forming a requirement that polluters undertake or pay for remediation within a year of the bill being enacted.
In May 2019, along with Joe Manchin and Martha McSally, Murkowski introduced the American Mineral Security Act, a bill that would codify current methodology that was used by the United States to list critical minerals and require the aforementioned list to be updated at least once over a period of three years. McSally’s office also stated the bill would mandate nationwide resource assessments for every critical mineral.
In June 2019, Murkowski was a sponsor of the Financing Our Energy Future Act, legislation that would make “biomass; renewable fuels; biorefineries; fuel cells; combined-heat-and-power (CHP); carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS); solar; wind, marine and hydrokinetic energy; energy storage; waste heat-to-power; and energy efficient buildings” eligible for master limited partnerships.
In July 2019, Murkowski was one of nine lawmakers to become a founding member of the Roosevelt Conservation Caucus, a group of Republican members of Congress meant to focus on environmental issues with specific priorities including reducing water and ocean plastic pollution, and heightening access to public lands and waters in the United States for outdoor recreation, hunting and fishing.
In October 2019, Murkowski delivered a speech at the 11th North American Infrastructure Leadership Forum where she expressed frustration in regards to the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Pipeline project being held up in Alaska during a regulatory process and cited the need for the U.S. to maintain its present position as an energy superpower.
Murkowski has an A rating from the National Rifle Association for her support of gun rights. The organization endorsed her for her re-election bid for the Senate in 2016, which stated that she had a “proven record” of voting in favor of gun rights. Murkowski supports the right to bear arms, and was one of 46 senators to vote against expanding background checks to all gun show and internet sales in April 2013. She has voted in favor of concealed carry reciprocity law enabling Americans to carry their concealed gun in any state. She also voted against a partial ban of select firearms.
In 2018, Murkowski was a cosponsor of the NICS Denial Notification Act, legislation developed in the aftermath of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that would require federal authorities to inform states within a day of a prohibited person attempting to buy a firearm failing the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Despite voting against marijuana legalization, Murkowski has called upon the federal government to review federal policy that forbids marijuana users, including those in legal states, from owning firearms.
In May 2019, Murkowski was one of four senators to cosponsor the Fair Accountability and Innovative Research Drug Pricing Act, intended to implement a requirement that drugmakers notify the Department of Health and Human Services in addition to submitting a â€œtransparency and justification” report at least 30 days prior to an increase of prices for drugs costing at least $100. Murkowski stated that the legislation would mandate drugmakers produce “a justification for each price increase, manufacturing, research and development costs for the qualifying drug, net profits attributable to the qualifying drug, marketing and advertising spending on the qualifying drug, and other information as deemed appropriate” and cited the need to change the “little to no transparency from pharmaceutical corporations” at a time of prescription costs rising.
Murkowski has cosponsored the bipartisan STATES Act proposed in the 115th U.S. Congress by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Colorado Senator Cory Gardner that would exempt individuals or corporations in compliance with state cannabis laws from federal enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act.
In March 2018, Murkowski and Democrat Jeff Merkley introduced the SAFE Banking Act, a measure within the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act that Merkley had introduced the previous year that would prohibit federal officials from punishing banks simply “because the depository institution provides or has provided financial services to a cannabis-related legitimate business.” Murkowski stated that the SAFE Banking Act was “intended to resolve” uncertainties about the state of the law when financial institutions bank marijuana-related businesses and that states which had made moves to legalize Marijuana “did so with the understanding that markets would be well-regulated and transparent.”
In June 2019, Murkowski was one of eight senators to cosponsor the bipartisan Save our Seas 2.0 Act, a bill unveiled by Dan Sullivan and Bob Menendez intended to spur innovation along with aiding in the reduction plastic waste’s creation and both find ways to use already existing plastic waste to stop it from entering the oceans and address this problem on a global scale. The bill was meant to respond to the plastic pollution crisis threatening oceans, shorelines, marine life, and coastal economies and served as a continuation of the Save Our Seas Act.
In October 2017, Murkowski and Democrat Elizabeth Warren wrote a letter to President Trump applauding his “stated commitment to addressing opioid addiction” and concurring with his position that the opioid crisis deserved an increase in federal spending. Warren and Murkowski expressed that they were “extremely concerned” that Trump had “yet to take the necessary steps to declare a national emergency on opioids, nor “made any proposals to significantly increase funding to combat the epidemic”. The senators wrote that they hoped that Trump would pursue actions supporting his “verbal commitment to fighting the ‘serious problem’ of opioid addiction with action.”
In December 2017, Murkowski was one of nine senators to sign a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer describing opioid use as a non-partisan issue presently “ravaging communities in every state and preys upon individuals and families regardless of party affiliation” and requesting the pair “make every effort to ensure that new, substantial and sustained funding for the opioid epidemic is included in any legislative package.”
In January 2018, Murkowski, Claire McCaskill, and Dan Sullivan wrote a letter to acting Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration Robert Patterson calling on the DEA to issue a new regulation that would authorize certain health-care providers to obtain special registration letting them use telemedicine to prescribe medication for individuals with an opioid addiction.
In May 2018, Murkowski and Democrats Ed Markey and Maggie Hassan introduced legislation requiring federal agencies to form ways of measuring the effectiveness of efforts to address the opioid epidemic over the period of the next 180 days with the intent of “significantly reversing” misuse of opioids and opioid-related deaths within five years.
In June 2019, Murkowski and Democrat Amy Klobuchar introduced the Protecting Personal Health Data Act, legislation mandating the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services create regulations for apps that track health data, wearable devices, and genetic testing kits in addition to forming a National Task Force on Health Data Protection that would evaluate and give a position on potential cybersecurity and privacy risks related to consumer products using customer health data. In a statement, Murkowski cited the need “to keep up with advancements in recent technology” and added that the bill prioritized American consumer privacy.