Shortly after Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) admitted to her home-state paper that she regrets voting for the GOP’s Blunt amendment, which was aimed at rolling back President Obama’s contraception rule, she explained to TPM why the issue has weighed heavily on her — and why she thinks it’s damaging her party.
“I heard a lot [from my constituents] because it was in the news this weekend,” Murkowski told TPM Tuesday afternoon after attending a weekly GOP policy lunch. “I will tell you, it’s not so much just the discussion about contraception that the Blunt amendment precipitated. There’s just an awful lot that’s been going on. There have been some comments made by some of our presidential candidates. There was the incendiary comments made by Rush Limbaugh.”
Her remarks reflect a more widely shared sense among some conservatives and GOP lawmakers that leadership led the party astray in this fight — and that the appetite for pressing ahead with it is diminishing.
Murkowski, a high-ranked senator and former leadership member herself, worries that the sequence of events since GOP leaders twisted arms for Thursday’s losing vote has left her party on the wrong side of the issue, and that the public is taking note.
“I think [these incidents] are just adding to this sense that women’s health rights are being attacked — that in 2012 we’re having a conversation about whether or not contraception should be allowed,” Murkowski told TPM. “I think most thought that we were done with those discussions decades ago. So it’s been kind of an interesting week for women’s health issues.”
Many Republicans tread carefully around Limbaugh. Murkowski by contrast, denounced his recent remarks about Georgetown University Law School student Sandra Fluke as “incendiary,” and called on political leaders — including from her own party — not to hedge their words.
“The comments made by Limbaugh, I was just stunned,” she added. “In the end, I’m a little bit disappointed that there hasn’t been greater condemnation of his words by people in leadership positions.” Including Republicans? “Everybody,” she responded. “What he said was just wrong. Just wrong.”
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.