Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, also known as the “Iron Lady”, once said, “If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.” This principle was on full display last week when the U.S. Senate was wrestling to find a deal to end the federal shutdown and avert defaulting on our loans. Only the women of the Senate were not asked by their respective leadership to resolve the crisis; they just stepped in, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
As noted in USA Today, “The male Senate leaders may have tied the bow on a deal aimed at ending the government shutdown, but credit for shaping the package is being given to a group of women, led by Sen. Susan Collins, (R-Maine)”. Frustrated with the lack of progress, on Sen. Collins on Oct. 6 released a three-point plan that she thought both parties could sign onto and dared her colleagues to come up with something better. A few days later, two more female Republican Senators signed on: Alaska’s Murkowski and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, of New Hampshire, leading to a bipartisan group to negotiate a framework for a way out of the deadlock.
Apparently Sen. Murkowski joined in despite her sense of negative consequences back home. “I probably will have retribution in my state,” she told New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman in an Oct. 14 article, “Senate Women Lead in Effort to Find Accord”. “That’s fine,” Murkowski continued. “That doesn’t bother me at all. If there is backlash, hey, that’s what goes on in D.C. but in the meantime there is a government that is shut down. There are people who are really hurting.”
This display of determination and willingness to find a way out for the good of the country soon attracted two powerful women on the Democratic side of the aisle — Senators Barbara Mikulski, of Maryland, and Patty Murray, of Washington. Together these five women formed the nexus of a 13-member Senate bipartisan committee who hammered out the final deal to end the government shutdown. Even though women make up only 20 percent of the Senate, they had about half of the membership of this successful bipartisan committee.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that women were so heavily involved in trying to end this stalemate,” Sen. Collins said. “Although we span the ideological spectrum, we are used to working together in a collaborative way.”
Instead of retribution, Sen. Murkowski should receive widespread praise for reaching out collaboratively and, in the end, for playing such an important role to end the federal shutdown. Appearing on NBC’s Today Show, Sen. Murkowski continued her call to end partisan bickering and politics as usual. “This should not be about someone’s speakership,” she said on the show. “This should not be about the next election. This should be about the future of our country, where we are right now.”
With Sen. Murkowski’s recent actions she demonstrated she’s willing to take action by putting the country first, not just talking about it. She has not only done Alaska women proud but all of Alaska.
Perhaps when the next meltdown comes, Sen. Murkowski and her colleagues should be asked outright to get the deal done. That’s what Margaret Thatcher would have likely done.
• Kate Troll is a long-time Alaskan with more than 22 years of experience in fisheries, coastal policy and energy policy. She serves on the Juneau Assembly and resides in Douglas.