Murkowski votes to remove threat of credit default while Sullivan blasts Biden’s COVID vaccine mandate

pillars and dome of u.s. capitol
U.S. Capitol. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan took a stand last week against COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Specifically, he attended a Republican news conference to blast President Biden’s vaccine requirement for private companies.

“It’s remarkable, because what he is now saying is, ‘If you don’t listen to me, I’m going to require employers to fire your employees.’ That is a 180-degree turn from where we all were, as a Congress, in the previous administration,” Sullivan said.

More quietly, Sen. Lisa Murkowski voted to overturn the vaccine-or-test mandate, too. All Senate Republicans did. She didn’t make a speech about it.

Alaska’s U.S. Senators typically stake out opposite ends of the Republican spectrum. Sometimes they differ on substance, and sometimes just style. Last week, it was both.

The Republican resolution to kill the vaccine mandate cleared the Senate 52-48, with the help of two Democrats. It was a symbolic move. The House isn’t likely to consider reversing the mandate, and even if the resolution did pass the House, Biden would surely veto it. But symbols mean something. 

One of the significant yet under-the-radar votes Murkowski took last week was a one-time rule change so that Democrats can raise the debt limit by a simple majority vote. It ends the possibility of a Republican filibuster to protest Biden’s economic agenda. 

Reporters asked her afterward why she voted yes on the procedural step.

“It was the right thing to do, because the last thing in the world this country needs is a default,” she said.

Murkowski cited the tension with Russia over Ukraine and told reporters Congress shouldn’t send any signals that it is shaky on backing credit in the United States.

That vote, like others she’s taken that are perceived as helping Democrats, will likely come up as she campaigns for re-election next year.

“You know what? I have to do the right thing every single day,” she told a reporter. “I don’t think about the implications for re-elect.”

She was one of 14 Republicans who helped take the rule change over a procedural hurdle Thursday. Sullivan voted no.

According to a scoreboard maintained by ProPublica, Sullivan has voted against his party 13% of the time this year. Murkowski has strayed from the Republican line more than three times as often. 

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at Read more about Liz here.

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