Murkowski: Kavanaugh debate now about ‘victims and their ability to tell their story’

Sen. Lisa Murkowski is one of the few Republican who may be a swing vote on the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. (Photo by Emily Russell)

The big hearing in the U.S. Senate is tomorrow. Christine Blasey Ford is expected to testify about a drunken attack she claims Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh inflicted on her when they were in high school. The confirmation vote in the full Senate is likely to turn on two Republican votes – Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Alaska’s own Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

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Alaska Public Media’s Washington correspondent Liz Ruskin, has been talking to Murkowski all week about the case. Here’s an edited version of Ruskin speaking to Alaska News Nightly Host Casey Grove.

GROVE: The left has been very vocal, urging Sen. Murkowski to vote no on Kavanaugh. Has she given any signs that she might buck her party and vote against him?

RUSKIN: Not that I’ve seen! Yesterday she seemed for a minute to be calling for the FBI to investigate. That had the anti-Kavanaugh crowd celebrating. Murkowski later clarified that she thinks all the allegations should be investigated, but by the Judiciary Committee staff, which she says is set up for such inquiries. And that disappointed the left and had conservatives super-happy.

GROVE: How is she handling the pressure?

RUSKIN: She seems to be in good spirits, mostly. Around the Senate, she’s been answering reporters’ questions, maybe not to their satisfaction because everyone is really looking for clues as to how she’ll vote and she’s not supplying any. There was one moment where she had just, you know, had it.

GROVE: Yeah, tell me about that.

RUSKIN: I have some tape for you I’ll play. A group of reporters jumped into her train car –

GROVE :This is the train that runs under the Capitol?

RUSKIN: Right, an underground train from the Capitol to the Senate office buildings. An MSNBC reporter asked her a kind of big-picture question. It was whether we’re at a turning point in history and whether that’s a factor in her decision. And she answered that. And then a Bloomberg reporter asks her a really pointed question about Kavanaugh and Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion case.

And she kind of deflated and took this really long pause. (She said she was trying to get her head out of one question and into the other.)

“And you know what?” Murkowski said. “I think I’m done answering the questions for right now. Is that OK?”

GROVE: Liz, was she mad?

RUSKIN: No, it was more like a sudden loss of cabin pressure. But the reporters switched to just chatting with her and she rallied for a few more questions.

GROVE: So what’s her answer about whether this “Me Too” moment puts us at a turning point in history?

RUSKIN: Oh, she says we’re having a cultural moment. The discussion about Kavanaugh she says is still about whether is qualified but here’s what she told me:

“It’s now a greater dialog, a national conversation, about women who’ve become victims and their ability to tell their story.”

GROVE: Is Murkowski saying that’s unfair to Kavanaugh?

RUSKIN: She says there’s a lot here that’s unfair here, to him, and to the women accusing him. She says that’s just where we are. But she clearly doesn’t like where we are.

GROVE: Have you got much of a sense of how she’s feeling about this vote or feeling about all of this?

RUSKIN: Not really (as it relates to how she’ll vote). But I did ask her a personal question.

“A lot of American women are saying that they’ve had me-too moments,” I said. “And I’m wondering if you have.”

She answered with an immediate and emphatic “yes.” And that’s about all she wanted to say about that.