If you took seriously the partisan and pundit rhetoric outside of Alaska -- and, from certain factions inside Alaska -- you'd think Alaska's U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski was a Democrat.
During this so-called lame duck session of Congress, Alaska's senior senator, a Republican, has sided with President Barack Obama on some key issues -- yes to repeal the "don't ask don't tell" policy banning gay troops from serving openly, yes to an Obama-backed compromise tax cut bill, yes to the arms treaty with Russia, and yes to the DREAM Act, which would have given provisional legal status to illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
We can see the anti-Murkowski camp shaking their collective finger at Alaskans who voted for her in the November general election. We can hear the chorus saying: "We told you so." Actually, the senator can hear them herself, if she looks on her Facebook page occasionally.
Frankly, we couldn't be more relieved. The old Lisa Murkowski is back.
For a certain amount of time there, especially with Obama's election, Sen. Murkowski seemed to be veering off toward the ultra-obstructionist faction of the GOP, the faction that grew increasingly obstinate toward doing anything if the idea came from a Democrat. Whether it was health care or attempts to boost ourselves out of the recession, Republicans -- like it or not -- were increasingly being seen as the party of "No," and Murkowski was right there in the midst of it.
That was not the same Murkowski we knew in the late 1990s as the state representative for East Anchorage. In the state House, Murkowski quickly became known as a centrist, practical on economic issues and compassionate on social issues. Those qualities won her the House Majority leadership post, which she would've assumed had she not gone to Washington in 2002.
We're not surprised at the stands Sen. Murkowski has taken on these issues of late. Her votes represent a pragmatic view and a statesmanship sorely lacking in the nation's capital in recent years. We're also not surprised that she's gone the opposite way of most Congressional Republicans, who still seem to be playing an "all-or-nothing" tactic toward legislating.
Of all the political polls taken before and after this year's general election, the one consistent answer among voters was that they wanted Congress to work together to get something done. Beltway gridlock remains among voters the single most despised aspect of Washington politics. Voters want representatives to work among themselves to get good things done for the folks back home.
Sometimes, that means compromise. Sometimes, that means working across the aisle. All the time, it means having some trust, especially in oneself.
That's the old Lisa Murkowski, the Murkowski we remember.
In short: Lisa Murkowski is voting with her own head and her own heart, just as she used to. Good to have her back.
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