Some In GOP Saw Vindictiveness In Plans For Murkowski
Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010
Republican leadership did not strip Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski of her ranking member post on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee Wednesday because a few members of the caucus thought it would be vindictive, since they deem her likely to not win re-election in November, GOP sources said.
Republicans' decision Wednesday to not remove her from the panel leadership post came as a surprise after reports Tuesday indicated she was already unofficially ousted. They did vote to make Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming the next vice chairman of the conference, a leadership position Murkowski resigned from last week after deciding to remain in her Senate race as a write-in candidate.
"The conference took no other action today," Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said Wednesday, noting that Murkowski's position on the energy panel and whether she should be removed from it was discussed. He would not say whether action would be taken on Murkowski's position before the Senate leaves for the campaign season. "There is no other meeting of the conference scheduled," he said.
The GOP source said Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, the energy panel's second-most senior Republican, or another Republican could assume the leadership position after November. Burr is up for re-election and although the contest is close, he is favored to win. Barrasso follows Burr in committee seniority.
By not removing Murkowski from her panel leadership post, GOP leadership has kept at bay any political fallout the removal could have had on the party's unity. With tea party-backed candidates winning primaries all over the country, Democrats have sought to paint the Republican Party as fractured. By not ousting Murkowski for this period before the election, Republicans have taken away an easy political talking point that Democrats -- and Murkowski herself -- could have used to say GOP leadership is causing rifts within the caucus and siding with the tea party candidates.
So now Murkowski remains as the top Republican on the energy panel even while running against the GOP's candidate. Alexander Wednesday underscored that the party stands behind Republican nominee Joe Miller.