Alaska's Sen. Lisa Murkowski campaigned not once, but twice, on promises to drive a stake into "Obamacare's" heart. When she finally got her chance, she choked. She joined with Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain and Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins to keep it alive.
In doing so, she set many Alaska Republicans' hair afire and earned a halo from the political left and AARP, whose impressive political clout and lobbying helped give us "Obamacare" in the first place.
In addition to her campaign promises to kill the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Murkowski went further. She safely voted for a successful repeal measure in 2015 that unsurprisingly was vetoed by then-President Barack Obama.
None of this should surprise anybody. It there were no "Obamacare" to fight over, politicians on both sides of the aisle would have to invent something just as divisive. It has been politically pivotal.
Says The Intercept's Lee Fang:
"It is hard to overestimate the role of the Affordable Care Act in the Republican resurgence.
"Over the last seven years, the GOP has won successive elections by highlighting problems with Obamacare, airing more than $235 million in negative ads slamming the law, and staging more than 50 high-profile repeal votes. In 2016 every major Republican presidential candidate, including Donald Trump, campaigned on a pledge to quickly get rid of it."
Yet it survives. Repeal of the ACA has been the cornerstone of Republican and Democratic political strategy since it was passed in the dead of night in 2010, with nary a GOP vote. Republicans want it gone because it is big government, with its mitts on one-sixth of the economy. Democrats fight to protect it for the same reason.
Billions of dollars, legions of voters and countless political fortunes are up for grabs in the protracted, raucous and ongoing free-for-all over Obama's signature health care law. It is a huge business and, as Sun Tzu noted, "In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity."
Now that the GOP controls both chambers of Congress and the White House — well, kinda — it has a problem. The posturing for the folks back home, the running up the repeal flag for the rubes, has Republicans in a tough spot. In the past, they could safely vote for repeal knowing it meant nothing. Now that they can, they dare not. Murkowski is but one of them.
This time around, she opposed a motion to proceed on the health care debate and then rejected Republican amendments one after another, including a "skinny repeal," a narrowly focused bill that would have eliminated "Obamacare's" onerous "individual mandate," which fines, er, taxes Americans who do not have insurance.
The Republicans' very public failure — Murkowski's failure — to address "Obamacare" in a meaningful way could spell trouble for a party that built its recent success on promise after promise to kill the law and fix this nation's health care system.
Failed U.S. Senate hopeful Joe Miller, a Republican who lost to Murkowski, twice, told World Net Daily's Greg Corombos the GOP is hurting itself.
"The Republican Party needs to get its head screwed on straight," he said. "Leadership is where it starts. Right now, there is none. I think if we had done the right thing on ACA, there's a real chance that it could have grown in the future. I don't see that now."
Murkowski did not do herself or her party any favors when she declined immediately to detail her reasons for voting against repeal. She would say only, "because both sides must do better on process and substance." She says she wants an open committee process to deal with the law and is committed to reforming the "flawed" statute.
"I have repeatedly said that health care reform, and especially major entitlement reform, should go through the committee process, where stakeholders can weigh in and ideas can be vetted in a bipartisan forum," Murkowski said in a news release.
A cynic might think it is just more of the same ol' blah-blah-blah, that in the end her vote helped keep a deeply flawed, expensive, economy-busting health care system afloat. When it fails – and the left's idea from Day One was that it eventually must – this nation will be another long step toward a single-payer health care plan with all the lousy, impersonal services that promises Americans.
While your view of her votes likely depends on whether you are hurt or helped by "Obamacare," Murkowski promised Alaskans again and again she would pull the plug on it. No tweaking. No reforming. No scrubbing. No hedging. Repeal. What her votes will mean for her and the GOP in the coming years is anybody's guess.
What is certain is this: For whatever reason, good or bad, she broke her word to Alaskans.
Paul Jenkins is editor of the AnchorageDailyPlanet.com, a division of Porcaro Communications.
The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to email@example.com.