As swing vote on ACA repeal, Murkowski draws attention

Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Photo by Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media

Sen. Lisa Murkowski is the target of a new TV ad urging her to vote against Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

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“Sen. Murkowski, you have a deciding vote,” the ad concludes. “Alaskans need you to vote ‘no’ on health care repeal.”

It’s sponsored by Save My Care, a national health care advocacy group trying stop Congress from repealing President Obama’s signature health care law.

Murkowski is a swing vote on health care. She criticizes current law for driving up premiums in Alaska, but she wants to keep some of its provisions, like coverage for pre-existing conditions, expanded Medicaid and funding for Planned Parenthood. She said this week she doesn’t know how she’ll vote because she hasn’t seen any text of the bill her colleagues are working on.

“We don’t know. I don’t know,” Murkowski said.

Murkowski said she learns what might be in the bill from the questions reporters ask her. These days, swarms of reporters follow her through the Capitol, far more than she normally sees.

Murkowski is critical of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to bypass committees and bring a repeal bill directly to the floor. But her dissatisfaction with the process doesn’t mean she’ll necessarily reject the bill.

“I can’t speculate as to how I’m going to vote on something if I have no idea as to its contents,” Murkowski said.

The Senate is reportedly trying to soften some of the effects of the bill the House passed last month. That legislation would slash the generous subsidies that help middle-income Alaskans buy insurance plans. It would phase out funding for Medicaid expansion, a provision that has extended government-funded insurance to 34,000 lower-income Alaskans. The House bill would also lower taxes for people making more than $200,000 a year and reduce the federal deficit by $119 billion over 10 years.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at

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