Murkowski breaks with GOP 12 times to confirm Biden nominees

Senator Lisa Murkowski speaking at the August 26, 2020, opening ceremony for the Operation Lady Justice Task Force Cold Case Office in Anchorage, Alaska. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)
Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaking in Anchorage last year. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

As the U.S. Senate votes on President Biden’s political nominees, Lisa Murkowski is cementing her reputation as a centrist.

A dozen times, Sen. Murkowski has voted to confirm Biden appointments that most Republicans rejected. That’s out of 33 confirmations so far this year. 

Alaska’s senior senator was the only Republican to support Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general this week. Murkowski said Gupta impressed her during a discussion they had about the terrible levels of domestic violence and sexual assault inflicted on Alaskans, particularly Alaska Native women.

“As we discussed these issues, I felt that I was speaking to a woman who had not only committed a professional life to try to get to the base of these injustices, to try to not just direct a little bit of money, put a program in place and walk away and call it a day, but to truly try to make a difference,” Murkowski said on the Senate floor before the vote.

Republican critics of Gupta call her a left-wing idealogue, and Murkowski took flak for her vote right away. Conservative challenger Kelly Tshibaka issued a statement saying Murkowski’s confirmation vote “hurts Alaska & America.”

Democrats did not need Murkowski’s vote on Gupta, or any of the other nominations so far. Had Murkowski voted “no,” Vice President Kamala Harris was on hand to bring the vote to 51.

RELATED: Haaland confirmed to lead Interior; Alaska senators vote yes

Breaking party ranks is nothing new for Murkowski. She does it more than most senators. She is No. 2 in number of votes cast that stray from the party, according to a ProPublica data base. (The top Senate aisle-crosser, per ProPublica: Susan Collins, R-Maine.)

Sen. Dan Sullivan ranks 10th for voting against the party majority. He has voted for six Biden nominees that most Republican senators rejected. They include Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas . 

Sullivan also voted against two Biden cabinet secretaries that most Republicans supported — Janet Yellen at Treasury and Tom Vilsack at Agriculture.

The Senate will vote on many more Biden nominees in the months ahead. Approximately 1,400 positions require Senate confirmation.

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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 lruskin@alaskapublic.org.

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