Trump Admin Is 'Threatening' Alaska Senators After Health Care Vote

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"The message was pretty clear," an Alaskan senator said of a threatening call from the secretary of the interior.

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U.S. Senate Republicans failed to overturn Obamacare, in a stinging blow to President Donald Trump that may end the Republican Party's seven-year quest to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Republican Senators John McCain, Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) crossed party lines to join Democrats in a dramatic 51-49 vote to kill the bill.

Following the vote, the Trump administration is particularly unhappy with Sen. Lisa Murkowski and is reportedly threatening the state of Alaska with retribution. Murkowski and fellow Alaskan Sen. Dan Sullivan both received a call from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, as Murkowski voted against opening debate on health care legislation.

Zinke reportedly told both senators that their actions will have adverse effects for the state in future. Murkowski refused to comment on the incident; however, Sullivan said Zinke was clear that his message was in response to the vote.

“I'm not going to go into the details, but I fear that the strong economic growth, pro-energy, pro-mining, pro-jobs and personnel from Alaska who are part of those policies are going to stop,” Sullivan said.

“I tried to push back on behalf of all Alaskans. … We're facing some difficult times and there's a lot of enthusiasm for the policies that Secretary Zinke and the president have been talking about with regard to our economy. But the message was pretty clear.”

The “threatening” call comes just a day after Trump expressed disappointment with Murkowski.

 

Murkowski was one of the nine Republicans who voted “no” to repeal and replace Obamacare and she was among the seven who voted against repeal of Obamacare without a replacement. She also encouraged the Republican leadership in the Senate to “take a step back and engage in a bipartisan process” to address the “failures of the ACA and stabilize the individual markets.”

Murkowski, as chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, oversees appropriations and appointee confirmations for the Interior Department.

This is not the first time Trump has gone after people of his own party. Recently, Trump threatened Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, who has been one of the most vocal critics of the Better Care Reconciliation Act within the GOP and is considered as a vulnerable Republican in Congress.

“The other night I was surprised when I heard a couple of my friends — my friends, they really were and are. They might not be very much longer, but that’s OK. I think I have to get them back,” said Trump.

He further added, “You didn’t go out there. This was the one we were worried about. You weren’t there. You’re going to be. He wants to remain a senator, doesn’t he? I think the people of your state — which I know very well — I think they’re going to appreciate what you hopefully will do.” 

Most notably, Trump didn’t make those remarks in a private meeting; he was addressing the press during luncheon for a Republican Senate caucus.

As for Murkowski, she quickly exacted her revenge. She chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and indefinitely postponed a nominations markup for the Interior Department. Her office denied it was retaliation, but as the committee's chair, Murkowski has much more power over Zinke than he has over her right now.

Spotlight: Reuters, Yuri Gripas

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