The Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins gambit – leave the GOP


Democrats have mounted a campaign against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee by targeting two Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and the mythical moderate from Maine, Susan Collins.

If our lives depends on Susan Collins, we’re fucked. Remember how she traded her vote on the GOP tax cut for corporations and plutocrats for her bills to secure subsidies for Obamacare health insurance plans in the federal budget? Yeah, she totally got played by Mitch McConnell — or did she? Was it all just a charade to maintain her mythical moderate persona? — her bills were not included in the federal budget.

And on Saturday, the Trump administration halted billions of dollars in annual payments required under the law to even out the cost to insurers whose customers need expensive medical services. Health Insurers Warn of Market Turmoil as Trump Suspends Billions in Payments.  Another epic failure by the mythical moderate from Maine. Thanks for nothing, lady.

Joan McCarter at Daily Kos asks the pointed question, Once again we have to ask: is Susan Collins a liar, or just stupid?

Republican Sen. Susan Collins is steadfastly playing dumb about whether or not she’ll vote for a Supreme Court nominee from the current occupier of the Oval Office. She’s relying, apparently, on the misguided belief that her constituents are stupid.

“I think I’ve made it pretty clear,” she told MSNBC Wednesday, “that if a nominee has demonstrated hostility to Roe v. Wade and has said that they are not going to abide by that long-standing precedent, that I could not support that nominee.” And what everybody is that Trump is working off of a pre-approved list on which every potential nominee has been screened for their adherence to extreme right-wing ideology, including hostility to abortion. Collins is continuing to try to pretend that if the nominee hasn’t said it out loud, they won’t do it.

Here’s the thing: no Supreme Court nominee has ever said out loud that they would not abide by any long-standing precedent, but especially Roe. Because they wouldn’t get confirmed that way. And the far right knows that. They rely upon the stealth of their nominees. Despite past performance, Collins isn’t so stupid that she doesn’t know that very well.

But she’s still playing her role in this ridiculous kabuki performance. “I’m amazed,” she says, “that people on both sides of the aisle have already committed to voting either for or against a nominee whose identity they do not know,” Collins said. Yeah, well, it’s been pretty widely reported who the top few candidate are, and we know they all have that Federalist Society approval stamped on their foreheads, so it’s not so amazing that folks can made a decision here.

It’s also not like Trump hasn’t made entirely clear what his litmus test is, even if he “promised” Collins that he wouldn’t have that discussion with them when he met with them. The senator is setting herself once again for the unflattering headlines: Is Susan Collins a liar or just stupid?

As the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin makes abundantly clear to the senator, Sen. Collins, everyone on that list will reverse Roe v. Wade:

[I]t’s almost certainly true that a nominee able to pass muster with the Federalist Society and Trump is, in fact, going to vote to overturn Roe. That’s what these politicians and right-wing groups have vowed to do for decades; the hope of overturning Roe was their justification for putting up with Trump. Collins’s career does not give her cover to vote for a Trump nominee; to the contrary, she would betray voters, activists and donors who have supported her throughout her career because she was protective of abortion rights.

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Collins should not rationalize voting for a justice adept at creating ambiguity. The eventual nominee is on the list because savvy vetters know they will not be disappointed.

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It should not be more complicated than this: Voting for a nominee on the Trump list (either the original 20, or the wider 25) opens the door to the criminalization of abortion. Collins might break her pledge and vote to confirm one of these judges approved by Federalist Society. That is up to her. But she should fool no one that voting for one of these judges would not amount to reversing Roe.

Susan Faludi suggests a plan that would really shake up the evil GOP bastard Mitch McConnell’s dastardly plans to dismantle democracy. Senators Collins and Murkowski, It’s Time to Leave the G.O.P.:

[H]ave we forgotten something? Republicans have a one-vote majority in the Senate. Their number includes two female [mythical] moderates, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, both of whom support abortion rights, and one of whom — Ms. Collins — has already declared this week that she would not support a candidate hostile to Roe v. Wade.

A no vote from these two senators might not be enough to offset affirmative votes from endangered red-state Democrats (sniveling cowards!). And the attack on Roe may be pursued through a host of more subtle and incremental assaults, not an out-and-out declared repeal. To save Roe, Ms. Collins and Ms. Murkowski might need to wield a bigger stick. Fortunately, there’s one at hand, and wielding it at this pivotal moment might do good beyond the single issue. They could bolt their party and shift the balance of power in the Senate.

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Ms. Collins and Ms. Murkowski have an opportunity for a principled act of national preservation.

By leaving the G.O.P. — either to join the other party or, more plausibly, to become independents and caucus with the Democrats — Ms. Collins and Ms. Murkowski wouldn’t simply be registering their opposition to a single Supreme Court justice. They’d be taking a powerful stand against their party’s escalating betrayals of the country. The Trump-era Republicans have made screamingly clear what should have been obvious for a long time: The G.O.P. is no longer a comfortable home for anyone who cares about the rights of women — or of minorities, immigrants, L.G.B.T. people, and the poor — or about the Constitution. Ms. Collins and Ms. Murkowski could drop the pretense that dissenting within the party has made one bit of “moderating” difference.

Defection would come at a cost. Both senators would lose precious seniority and powerful committee appointments. But accommodations can be made, and neither necessarily needs the Republican Party to win re-election.

It’s a mistake to doubt the sincerity of Ms. Collins’s and Ms. Murkowski’s dedication to questions of women’s health. Ms. Collins was one of only three Republican senators to vote against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Last year, she and Ms. Murkowski broke ranks to cast the deciding votes against defunding Planned Parenthood. And this year, the two senators again voted with the majority of Senate Democrats to oppose a ban of abortion after 20 weeks. Both have been solid defenders of family planning and birth control. Both have earned high ratings with pro-choice groups — Ms. Collins has been rated higher than 90 percent by groups like NARAL in multiple years. To cave on this particular issue would be a tragic abrogation of personal, as well as political, conviction. Which is why the Supreme Court battle may at last compel both women to abandon the party they should have abandoned already.

A Senate no longer in the Republican grip could rescue women’s reproductive rights on multiple fronts: maternity coverage, access to contraception, teen-pregnancy prevention, breast-cancer treatment. It could protect us from planned eviscerations of Social Security and Medicare, and stop the gutting of Obamacare, the greenlighting of partisan gerrymandering, and the enshrining of an ethically shameless kleptocracy. It would thwart the authoritarian dream of seamless one-party rule across all three branches of government. Even a threat of leaving would send a salutary shock through the party.

Maine Senator (and Congresswoman) Margaret Chase Smith, Ms. Collins’ political foremother and idol … on June 1, 1950, became one of the first members of Congress to denounce the anti-Communist witch hunt of fellow Republican Senator Joe McCarthy. She began her Declaration of Conscience speech: “I would like to speak briefly and simply about a serious national condition. It is a national feeling of fear and frustration that could result in national suicide and the end of everything that we Americans hold dear.” She did not want “to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny — Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear.”

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Ms. Smith could at least appeal to Republican legislators willing to put reason, compassion, and country ahead of party. Trumpist Republicans have no room for such niceties — they care only about winning. Which is why only losing the Senate can get their attention, and slow the party’s extremism.

We are at another watershed moment that could “result in national suicide and the end to everything we Americans hold dear.” As the damage and outrages pile up, it’s important to remember that Ms. Collins and Ms. Murkowski are enabling them with their affiliation, even when they dissent. They could halt the whole charade, and alter the course of history, with a press release.

Well, why not? Leaving the Republican Party because it is now the Trump Party of  crypto-facsist authoritarian xenophobic nationalists and white supremacists is all the rage.

Republican strategist and John McCain’s 2008 campaign manager Steve Schmidt recently renounced his Republican status in a blistering condemnation of what the party has become under Trump. Steve Schmidt: Why I Quit the ‘Vile’ Republican Party: “I won’t share a party label with people who think it’s all right to put babies in internment camps. My fidelity is to my country, not my political party. Country first.”

Neocon conservative commentator Max Boot, who also renounced his Republican status, reviews the recent defections. I left the Republican Party. Now I want Democrats to take over.

Steve Schmidt follows in the illustrious footsteps of Post columnist George F. Will, former senator Gordon Humphrey, former representative (and Post columnist) Joe Scarborough, Reagan and Bush (both) aide Peter Wehner, and other Republicans who have left the party. I’m with them. After a lifetime as a Republican, I re-registered as an independent on the day after Donald Trump’s election.

Explaining my decision, I noted that Trumpkins “want to transform the GOP into a European-style nationalist party that opposes cuts in entitlement programs, believes in deportation of undocumented immigrants, white identity politics, protectionism and isolationism backed by hyper-macho threats to bomb the living daylights out of anyone who messes with us.” I still hoped then that traditional conservatives might eventually prevail, but, I wrote, “I can no longer support a party that doesn’t know what it stands for — and that in fact may stand for positions that I find repugnant.”

I am more convinced than ever that I made the right decision. The transformation I feared has taken place. Just look at the reaction to President Trump’s barbarous policy of taking children away from their parents as punishment for the misdemeanor offense of illegally entering the country. While two-thirds of Americans disapproved of this state-sanctioned child abuse, forcing the president to back down, a majority of Republicans approved. If Trump announced he were going to spit-roast immigrant kids and eat them on national TV (apologies to Jonathan Swift), most Republicans probably would approve of that, too. The entire Republican platform can now be reduced to three words: whatever Trump says.

The GOP has become the personality cult of a dangerous demagogue, Donald Trump.

So what’s it going to be, Sens. Murkowksi and Collins? Will you make “a principled act of national preservation” and leave the Republican Party to thwart the authoritarian dreams of Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump, as Susan Faludi pleads with you to do? Or will you continue your charade of being mythical moderate conservatives who nevertheless enable the extremists in the GOP with your party-line votes, as Joan McCarter mocks?

This is your “Profiles in Courage” moment, senators.

Call and write Sens. Murkowksi and Collins and urge them to assert their independence by leaving the GOP.