AND CONGRESS, AND THE REPUBLIC, FOR THAT MATTER
It cannot have been easy, but Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski has been here before, with a pivotal vote and pressure from the Left.
This time, it wasn’t about a Supreme Court Justice’s confirmation or an Education secretary nominee. It was about the Supreme Court itself and its very credibility with the American public.
Today in the Senate, Murkowski voted against the introduction of witnesses and more documents in the impeachment trial of the president. Senator Dan Sullivan was already a “no” vote, and was being ignored by the political pressure groups.
There were consequences: Instantly, Murkowski was excoriated by the Left on social media, while her colleague Mitt Romney was just as instantly disinvited from the 2020 Conservative American Union CPAC 2020 conference.
The final vote was 51 against witnesses, and 49 in favor. Only Sen. Susan Collins and Romney crossed over from the Republican position to the Democrat position, leaving Murkowski once again in a situation that had profound implications:
If Murkowski had voted for documents and witnesses, there would have been a tie, and Chief Justice John Roberts would have been called upon to break the tie, putting the Supreme Court right in the middle of what is clearly a partisan battle, one that began in 2017, when Donald Trump took the oath of office.
In no small way, this Murkowski vote mattered. She had the pivotal vote.
And Sen. Elizabeth Warren made it easy. Warren had, just Thursday, posed a question aimed directly at the Supreme Court Justice, challenging his credibility on national television, as she forced him to read it aloud:
“At a time when large majorities of Americans have lost faith in government, does the fact that the chief justice is presiding over an impeachment trial in which Republican senators have thus far refused to allow witnesses or evidence contribute to the loss of legitimacy of the chief justice, the Supreme Court and the Constitution?”
Roberts read the question, and then paused. A sense of shock went through the Senate. He kept his composure. Warren, as readers know, is running for president and so has a dog in the fight.
In describing why she was a “no” vote, Murkowski today indicated that having the Supreme Court Chief Justice being asked by Warren to wade into the politics at hand was bad for the Republic.
“It has also become clear some of my colleagues intend to further politicize this process, and drag the Supreme Court into the fray, while attacking the chief justice,” Murkowski wrote in advance of the vote today.
Murkowski was prescient. As soon as Warren’s question was read by the very man who would have had to break the tie, social media ads started tagging Roberts from the group called “Demand Justice,” an anti-Justice Kavanaugh group.
The political pressure from the Left was shifting from Murkowski to the Supreme Court Justice himself:
The Senate tie would have put Roberts in a position of making one of three choices: Break tie to have witnesses, in which case he’d be in the middle of the trial to follow; break tie against witnesses; or refuse to rule altogether. Whichever way he would rule, he was going to get hammered.
The decision by Murkowski to vote “no” is consistent with her wanting to protect our institutions. If the House is so broken, and the Senate is now embroiled in the House’s dysfunction, the last thing Murkowski would want is to drag the third branch of government into what’s a bitter partisan battle.
Murkowski took a stand to save the pillars of the republic. Readers may send her a note at this address.