Repub­li­can women keep Trump in check

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The stunning col­lapse of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s health re­forms was due in large part to the de­fi­ance of two Repub­li­can women who re­sisted re­lent­less White House pres­sure to toe the party line. While Sen­a­tor John McCain’s re­volt grabbed the head­lines, the votes of the lesser-known Su­san Collins and Lisa Murkowski proved de­ci­sive in sink­ing Trump’s goal of re­peal­ing Oba­macare.

Dur­ing his pres­i­den­tial run against Hil­lary Clin­ton, Trump faced flak over his be­hav­ior and com­ments to­wards women. And af­ter Fri­day’s health de­ba­cle, crit­ics again ques­tioned Trump’s at­tempts to in­tim­i­date Collins and Murkowski, ei­ther via his top lieu­tenants or the bully pul­pit of Twit­ter. While sev­eral male Repub­li­can col­leagues who voiced con­cerns about the di­rec­tion of the re­peal ef­fort ul­ti­mately caved to Trump’s de­mands, it was Collins and Murkowski who stood firm. A wa­ver­ing McCain’s dra­matic last-minute ki­bosh of the lat­est ef­fort to re­peal Oba­macare would not have been pos­si­ble with­out the per­sis­tence of the fe­male sen­a­tors from Maine and Alaska.

Scare tac­tics

Each has faced ag­gres­sive arm-twist­ing and call­outs by Trump, scare tac­tics from his cabi­net, even threats of vi­o­lence from a Repub­li­can con­gress­man, Blake Far­en­thold, who said he would chal­lenge “some fe­male sen­a­tors” to a duel if they were men rather than women, be­cause they were block­ing health care re­form. The mount­ing pres­sure against Collins and Murkowski served as a re­minder of some of Trump’s con­tro­ver­sies from his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

He smeared a fe­male re­porter who mod­er­ated his first de­bate, at­tacked Clin­ton as an “en­abler” for her hus­band’s mar­i­tal in­fi­deli­ties, used crude ban­ter at cam­paign events, and of course there was the “Ac­cess Hol­ly­wood” tape, where he was heard us­ing graphic lan­guage to boast of as­sault­ing women. Now in power, he can’t shake the fact that women have blocked his sin­gu­lar leg­isla­tive ini­tia­tive.

Among the Se­nate’s 52 Repub­li­cans, five are women. Collins and Murkowski have been the most con­sis­tent op­po­nents to the Oba­macare re­peal plans. They both also voted against his nom­i­nee for education sec­re­tary, ar­gu­ing she was not qual­i­fied for the post. When Trump made nasty and den­i­grat­ing re­marks about a fe­male MSNBC news host in June, Murkowski, age 60, and Collins, 64, led the con­dem­na­tion.

“Stop it!” Murkowski blasted to him on Twit­ter. Collins’s rep­ri­mand was sim­i­lar. On health care, the pair ar­gued that the var­i­ous plans of­fered threat­ened to ad­versely im­pact mil­lions of Amer­i­can fam­i­lies on Med­i­caid. They also cast votes against ear­lier Se­nate plans that would have left tens of mil­lions more Amer­i­cans unin­sured.

‘Stand­ing strong’

Collins’s op­po­si­tion goes back to 2015, when she was the only cur­rent Repub­li­can sen­a­tor who voted against a sim­i­lar par­tial re­peal bill. She and Murkowski were the only Repub­li­cans to op­pose a mo­tion to pro­ceed to the health care bill de­bate that col­lapsed this week, prompt­ing an an­gry tweet from Trump.

Murkowski “re­ally let the Repub­li­cans, and our coun­try, down yes­ter­day. Too bad!” he said in an omi­nous tweet. The in­tim­i­da­tion ratch­eted up dra­mat­i­cally when In­te­rior Sec­re­tary Ryan Zinke called Murkowski, re­port­edly to warn her that the ad­min­is­tra­tion was pre­pared to with­draw its sup­port for ex­panded oil drilling in Alaska and some of her other pri­or­i­ties. He threat­ened the wrong law­maker.

Murkowski chairs the Se­nate En­ergy and Nat­u­ral Re­sources Com­mit­tee, and she im­me­di­ately de­layed sev­eral ad­min­is­tra­tion nom­i­na­tions up for the panel’s con­sid­er­a­tion. She is no po­lit­i­cal pushover ei­ther. Dur­ing Murkowski’s 2010 re-elec­tion bid, she lost her Repub­li­can pri­mary to a Tea Party-backed chal­lenger. Un­de­terred, she mounted a write-in cam­paign and re­tained her seat. Murkowski’s and Collins’s pas­sion­ate po­si­tions against their own party earned re­spect from across the aisle. “Thanks for stand­ing strong through­out,” tweeted Demo­cratic Sen­a­tor Michael Ben­net. An­other Se­nate Demo­crat, Mazie Hirono, told CNN that she re­cently spoke with Murkowski, who of­fered ad­vice about deal­ing with bul­lies: “fight back.” —AFP

WASH­ING­TON: US Sen­a­tor Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) heads for the Se­nate Floor for a vote at the US Capi­tol. —AFP

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