White House threatens to retaliate against Alaska if their senator votes against Trumpcare

Bully tactics.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Manuel BalceĀ Ceneta
CREDIT: AP Photo/Manuel BalceĀ Ceneta

On Wednesday morning, President Trump criticized Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) on Twitter, accusing her of letting “Republicans, and our country, down” by voting against a motion to proceed on health care discussion the day before.

But that wasn’t all. According to a report in Alaska Dispatch News, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke called Murkowski and the junior senator from Alaska, Dan Sullivan (R), to inform them that Murkowski’s vote “had put Alaska’s future with the administration in jeopardy.”

Sullivan told the Dispatch News that Zinke’s Wednesday call sent a “troubling message.”

“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.”

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Murkowski didn’t comment to the Dispatch News, but during an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday morning, she said she and other senators are “here to represent the people who sent us here, and so every day shouldn’t be about campaigning.” (Murkowski was just reelected last year.)

Zinke’s communications with Sullivan and Murkowski represent a continuation of the tactics Trump has used to prod Republican senators vote for health care legislation, despite the devastating impact the legislation would have on their constituents.

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During remarks to reporters following a Republican health care luncheon at the White House last week, President Trump threatened to end Sen. Dean Heller’s (R-NV) tenure in the U.S. Senate if he didn’t vote in favor of Trumpcare.

With Heller sitting directly next to him, Trump gestured in his direction and said, “He wants to remain a Senator, doesn’t he? Okay.”

Heller, who is up for reelection next year, let out a groan.

Some of these hardball tactics appear to be working. Heller voted in favor of the motion to proceed on Tuesday, despite the fact that more than 276,000 of his constituents have health care coverage due to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, which most versions of Trumpcare would phase out. (Alaska also took advantage of the Medicaid expansion.)

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The White House wasn’t the only source of threats issued Wednesday against Murkowski and the other Republican senator who voted against the motion to proceed, Susan Collins (ME). During an MSNBC interview, Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) expressed frustration with Republicans who voted against Trumpcare like Murkowski and Collins, and — without naming names — said that “somebody needs to go over there to that Senate and snatch a knot in their ass.”

“I’m telling you, it has gotten to the point where — how can you say I voted for this last year but I’m not gonna vote for it this year,” Carter added. “This is extremely frustrating for those of us who have put so much into this effort.”

Carter’s comment came days after Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) told a Corpus Christi radio station that he finds it “absolutely repugnant” that “the Senate does not have the courage to do some of the things that every Republican in the Senate promised to do.” Farenthold singled out female senators in particular and suggested he’d like to resolve things with a gunfight.

“Some of the people that are opposed to this [i.e., repealing Obamacare] — there are some female senators from the northeast,” Farenthold said. “If it was a guy from south Texas I might ask them to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr-style.”