U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, will support the Republican tax reform plan, she announced in a written statement Wednesday afternoon.
“After thoroughly reviewing the good work of the Finance Committee, I intend to support the reconciliation legislation that is now before the Senate,” she wrote in the statement provided to the Empire.
The statement followed a conversation between Murkowski and Capitol reporters. In that conversation, Murkowski said she was inclined to be a “yes” vote on the reform proposal drafted by the U.S. Senate.
“She intends to vote for the Senate’s tax reform bill,” Murkowski spokeswoman Karina Petersen told the Empire by phone.
The proposal, moving toward a vote later this week, would lower federal taxes for millions of Americans and increase the national debt by $1.4 trillion over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
According to the CBO breakdown, wealthier Americans will benefit the most from the cuts. Those making between $100,000 and $200,000 per year receive the most benefit, while those making between $0 and $30,000 per year may see their expenses go up in 2019. By 2027, after some cuts are phased out, Americans making less than $75,000 will be paying more.
Much of that increase comes from a provision in the Senate measure that eliminates the federal mandate to have health insurance. That requirement is believed to be crucial for the sustainability of the federal health program known as Obamacare.
In an opinion column published in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and Anchorage Daily News earlier this month, Murkowski said she supports the elimination of the individual mandate.
In her statement Wednesday, Murkowski said Congress “must enact healthcare reforms to help stabilize the individual market,” and that she supports a bipartisan reform bill currently in the Senate.
Murkowski’s decision is significant because the tax plan has been hotly opposed by Democrats, and some moderate Republicans in the U.S. Senate have indicated lukewarm support for the idea.
Congress includes 52 Republicans and 48 Democrats. That means only three Republicans need to switch sides to kill the tax reform proposal.
While U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, has been a reliable party-line voter, Murkowski has been willing to cross party lines. Earlier this year, she sided with Democrats and a handful of other Republicans to derail a healthcare reform bill she opposed, helping kill the measure.
This time, she’s staying with her party.
“Because the bill includes provisions originating in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Alaskans can expect to see me co-managing it with my colleagues,” Murkowski said.
Murkowski is chairwoman of that committee, and the tax proposal includes a key item drafted by her: A provision calling for the federal government to open a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas drilling.
Outside Murkowski’s Juneau office on Wednesday, 11 protesters gathered in the rain for a lunchtime gathering to voice their objections to the tax bill.
John Sonin, a regular writer to the Empire’s editorial pages, said drilling in the refuge isn’t appropriate, and the tax cut benefits the rich at the expense of the poor.
A man standing next to Sonin gestured to a child standing among the protesters and explained that the cost of the tax cut won’t be felt immediately, but the consequences will come.
“We’re all old,” he said. “He’ll be the one paying for it.”
• Contact reporter James Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 523-2258.