Temporary Deal To End Federal Shutdown Expected To Pass

The 16-day federal government shutdown appears to be nearing an end, and Alaska’s Republican Senator, Lisa Murkowski, is getting a good deal of the credit.

She was one of the first to join a group of senators who began crafting an agreement that led to the measure the Senate passed tonight and the House is expected to approve.

The agreement temporarily reopens the government and lifts the debt ceiling while making only a minor change to the Affordable Care Act.

Murkowski says she’s still against the President’s health reform law, as are the majority of constituents who’ve called her office, but she says the effort to defund the law by shutting down the government was doomed from the start.

murkowski-office1“If there’s anything we’ve learned over the past couple months is that we need to make sure that the expectations that we set are somewhat achievable,” Murkowski said. “I think it’s important that we do what we can to reign in aspects of this law that I don’t think are workable.

Three of the Senate’s female Republicans, led by Susan Collins of Maine, started working on solutions the first weekend of the shutdown. Ultimately they grew to a group of 14, six of them women.

Murkowski says she’s not sure their gender played a role, but suggests maybe they had a lower tolerance for nonsense, or they just had cooler heads.

“At one point I said OK, everybody put your coffee down because everyone was just a little too high strung and tempers were flaring,” Murkowski said. “And I think there was a calming effort that some of the women brought which I think allowed us to continue.”

Murkowski says the right-wing may try to make her pay for her moderation come election time, but she says she can’t let fear of a future attack ad keep her up at night.

The agreement only extends government spending until mid-January and the debt ceiling until early February.

Murkowski says the real work begins now to reach agreements on spending bills and avoid a replay of the standoff.

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Liz Ruskin covers Alaska’s congressional delegation, federal agency decisions that shape life in the 49th state, money in politics and elections. She has deep roots in Alaska and this is her third stint in Washington, a city she has grown to love.

She was born in Anchorage and is a West High graduate. She studied political science at the University of Washington and has an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri in Columbia. During graduate school, she moved to Washington to intern as a D.C. correspondent. But for her first real journalism job, she moved back to Alaska to work at the Homer News. She was there for three years before taking a job at the Anchorage Daily News. Over the course of nine years in Anchorage, she covered City Hall, courts, state politics, and Native and rural affairs.

Then, in April 2001, she moved back to Washington to work in McClatchy Newspaper’s D.C. bureau as a correspondent for the Anchorage paper. She stayed in the position for five years.

She took a year off for a journalism fellowship at the University of Colorado in Boulder, then freelanced for several years from the U.K. and Japan, in print and radio.

When a vacancy occurred in APRN’s one-person Washington bureau, she jumped at the opportunity. Liz has been APRN’s Washington, D.C. correspondent since October 2013.

lruskin (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  | About Liz