Analysis: Despite health care vote, Alaska’s senators still align with Trump on most issues

Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski’s voting records show positions in line with party, president

Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan had different views on the U.S. Senate’s recent health care votes, but the record shows both side far more often than not with each other, and with President Donald Trump. (Juneau Empire File) Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan had different views on the U.S. Senate’s recent health care votes, but the record shows both side far more often than not with each other, and with President Donald Trump. (Juneau Empire File)

Let’s go for a drive.

 

I’ll meet you at the Douglas Breeze-In, and we’ll head down the road to Merchant’s Wharf. It’s only 1.2 miles: right out of the parking lot, through the roundabout, across the bridge, right on Egan Drive, and one final right turn into the parking lot.

If that 1.2 miles was a timeline of votes taken by the U.S. Senate this year, the difference between Lisa Murkowski and Donald Trump wouldn’t even get us to the bridge.

The difference between Dan Sullivan and Donald Trump wouldn’t even get us to the roundabout.

Last week, Alaska’s senior U.S. Senator caught national attention for casting three “no” votes on various plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act in whole or in part. The repeal effort was supported by President Donald Trump, most Congressional Republicans, and even Murkowski herself when she ran for re-election in 2016.

Murkowski’s voting record over the past eight months shows those votes are more of an aberration than the past week indicates.

Of 46 significant votes in the U.S. Senate where Trump has made his intentions known, Murkowski has voted along Trump lines 39 times. She has gone against him six times and was absent from one vote.

“People have focused on divisions, but the truth of the matter is Senator Murkowski has supported a number of the President’s nominees and voted in favor of legislation supported by the President,” Murkowski spokeswoman Karina Petersen said by email. “Senator Murkowski is aligned with President Trump on a number of policies, including responsible resource development and overturning burdensome regulations that are overreaching and burying us in red tape.”

Sen. Dan Sullivan has gone against Trump’s position once and was absent from two votes.

“On nearly every issue — increased natural resource production, developing our infrastructure, rebuilding a strong military — President Trump’s agenda is good for Alaska’s and America’s economy and good for our national security,” Sullivan spokesman Mike Anderson said by email. “On those issues, Senator Sullivan will support the president. However, he has and will continue to call on the president to end the insults and to instill more discipline in the White House.”

The 46 significant votes were first compiled by the statistical news website FiveThirtyEight using publicly available data. The Empire confirmed Trump and Murkowski’s votes using the U.S. Senate’s own figures.

It’s important to note that those 46 votes include a large number of confirmations: The U.S. Senate has traditionally acknowledged the president’s prerogative to appoint his or her own cabinet officials by voting “yes” unless there are significant concerns.

Murkowski voted “no” on the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, but approved each one of Trump’s other nominees to office. She and Sullivan were each absent from the confirmation vote for Robert Lighthizer, who was nominated to be U.S. Trade Representative. Lighthizer was confirmed 82-14 on May 11.

It’s also worth noting that it has become rarer for a Senator or Representative in Congress to take a position against his or her party.

According to figures compiled by the nonpartisan news service ProPublica, Murkowski has voted against her party just 6.4 percent of the time since taking office in 2002. That’s triple the party average of 2.1 percent.

Sullivan, conversely, follows the party line almost twice as much as normal. Since taking office in 2014, he has voted just 1.1 percent of the time against the Republican Party.


Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 523-2258.


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