Alaska GOP preparing to sanction Murkowski for Kavanaugh vote?

A leftover from yesterday. The question to ask here is “Who has more leverage over the other, Murkowski or her state party?”

Alaska Republican party leaders plan to consider whether to reprimand U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski for opposing Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

The party has asked Murkowski to provide any information she might want its state central committee to consider.

Party Chairman Tuckerman Babcock says the committee could decide to issue a statement. Or he says it could withdraw support of Murkowski, encourage party officials to look for a replacement and ask that she not seek re-election as a Republican.

Good lord. How will Lisa Murkowski win an election in Alaska without her state party’s support?

Trump has been egging them on:

“I think she will never recover from this,” Trump said. “I think the people from Alaska will never forgive her for what she did.”…

Asked whether Palin might mount a credible GOP primary challenge, Trump said, “I don’t know anything about that. It’s four years. That’s a long time. But they will not forget. They will never forget. What she did was unacceptable. Really unacceptable.”

The problem with the PUNISH MURKOWSKI impulse is that she’s better positioned to punish Republicans than vice versa. With the possible exception of Joe Manchin, there’s no one in the Senate who’s more likely to pull a Jim Jeffords by going independent and caucusing with the other party than Murkowski is. I wouldn’t except Manchin, in fact: If he were going to do that, he’d have done it already. If he’s reelected this fall as a Democrat in a state as blood-red as West Virginia, he’ll conclude that he’s invulnerable politically and there’s simply no need to go indie. On the contrary, with favorable Senate maps for Democrats in 2020 and 2022, by remaining a Dem he’ll be well positioned to chair some committees in the near future.

Murkowski, in other words, really might be the most likely Jeffords out of the Senate’s 100 members. It’d be a risk in a state as reliably red as Alaska, but Alaskans aren’t completely allergic to electing non-Republicans. They elected Democrat Mark Begich in 2008, then elected Murkowski herself as an independent (via a write-in!) two years later. In 2014, the year of a big Republican wave, Begich fell fewer than three points shy of winning a second term. Imagine Democrats have a big night next month and we end up with a Senate that’s split dead even at 50 apiece. Under those circumstances Schumer would give Murkowski anything to get her to flip and hand Dems a majority. Any committee chairmanship would be hers for the asking. And Murkowski will be looking at the same 2020 and 2022 maps that Manchin is, thinking that if she doesn’t flip in the next two years there’s a real chance that Schumer will end up with an elected majority anyway in 2021 and he won’t need her vote anymore.

And now the Alaska GOP wants to shove her in his direction by sanctioning her?

You might say, “If she’s destined to go independent anyway then it doesn’t matter if she’s sanctioned. Might as well flip her the bird as she’s on her way out the door.” Right, but between that kiss-off and Trump dumping on her in the papers, it might inspire her to flip sooner than she intended — which would be very perilous for Trump and McConnell if there’s another SCOTUS vacancy before 2020. If Murky flipped tomorrow, we’d start at 50/50 on the new nominee. Amy Coney Barrett, who probably wouldn’t have gotten Murkowski’s vote anyway, almost certainly wouldn’t now. Because Murkowski would be eager to pay dividends to her new caucus, she’d likely start off leaning no on anyone Trump nominates, particularly after he went out of his way to be antagonistic to her. You’d think a president with a Senate majority as fragile as the one he has would be more circumspect about attacking swing votes in his own party. Oh well.

One other thing to remember before sanctioning her: Not only was Murkowski a yes on Gorsuch, she was a yes on the crucial vote to nuke the filibuster that made Gorsuch’s confirmation possible. And unlike her centrist buddy Susan Collins, she was a no on both Sotomayor and Kagan. She usually votes with the party on SCOTUS nominees, in other words, and in the one notable case where she didn’t — Kavanaugh — she ended up causing no harm. (Although she did hand Democrats a talking point that opposition to Kavanaugh was bipartisan, just as his support was thanks to Joe Manchin.) Chase her out of the party and that’s apt to change.

Here’s Sarah Palin commenting on Murkowski’s no vote. Sorry, I mean her present vote.