Folks on the left are highlighting this extraordinary interview that Senator Lisa Murkowski gave to the Anchorage Daily News, in which she admitted she now regrets her vote for the Blunt amendment.
But perhaps the most interesting nugget in the interview is her apparent concession that voters see this battle as one about contraception, and not about religious liberty — which is to say that Republicans may be losing the framing war. From reporter Julia O’Malley’s account:
What Murkowski told me I already suspected. She’s a moderate. She supports abortion rights and contraception coverage. She also doesn’t line up completely with the Catholic Church when it comes to birth control. She regretted her recent vote.
“I have never had a vote I’ve taken where I have felt that I let down more people that believed in me,” she said.
She’d meant to make a statement about religious freedom, she said, but voters read it as a vote against contraception coverage for women. The measure was so broad, it’s hard not to read it that way. I suspect Murkowski saw that, but for reasons she didn’t share with me, voted for it anyway.
By Murkowski’s own admission — it’s parahprased, but there’s no reason to doubt the sentiment, given the larger context — voters are seeing her vote for the Blunt amendment as a vote against access to contraception for women. Partly because of this, Murskowski now regrets her vote.
As Steve Benen notes, “the fact that she voted against a proposal the senator knew to be an awful idea — in order to send an ambiguous `statement’ — isn’t at all encouraging.”
Indeed, this exposes yet again the hollowness of the complaints by GOP “centrists” about how both sides are responsible for creating a polarized atmosphere in Washington that has made bipartisan compromise impossible. As you’ll recall, Olympia Snowe recently cited this as one of her leading reasons for retiring, prompting a round of hand-wringing about the vanishing “center” in Washington.
But here you have a case where a self-described “moderate” Republican didn’t support the compromise solution proposed by Obama even though by her own admission opposing it meant letting down her constituents, who view this issue (she concedes) the way Dems have framed it.
Most polls have shown that broad majorities, including of independents, support Obama’s birth control coverage mandate. If bipartisan “centrist” compromise is no longer possible in Washington, perhaps the fact that self-described moderate Republicans are not willing to vote for centrist compromises — even ones they believe are right on the merits — has something to do with it.