Yes, then no: Murkowski explains her debt ceiling votes

July 24, 2018 in Washington, DC
Sen. Lisa Murkowski is pursued by reporters in the U.S. Capitol in 2018 (Al Drago/Getty Images)

As a moderate, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski sometimes votes with the Republican fold, sometimes against. And sometimes she does both on the same issue, as she did this month on raising the debt limit.

Last week, Murkowski broke with most of her party when voted to make it easier for the Senate to pass an increase in the national debt limit. 

“Because it was the right thing to do,” Murkowski told reporters.

Without an increase, the government would run out of money to pay military and civilian salaries, debt payments and other spending Congress has already agreed to.

Murkowski said a credit default would send a bad signal to America’s adversaries. The measure she helped pass last week lowered the voting threshold to a simple majority, eliminating the chance of a filibuster on a debt limit bill.  

But this week, Murkowski stuck with her party as she voted no on the debt increase. 

Murkowski said she agreed with something Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said a few months ago: if Democrats were going to push ahead with their spending plans, they’d have to pass the debt hike on their own. 

“What I was willing to do was to ensure that there was a process to go forward to allow them to do just that,” she said.

She didn’t want a default, but Democrats didn’t need her vote to avoid one, so Murkowski said she used her no vote was a protest of their spending plan.

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

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.

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