According to a new article in the Huffington Post Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska may be forced to vote against Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. But the reason for this is not that Murkowski is pro-choice while Kavanaugh is anti-abortion.
The reason is that Murkowski’s seat in the Senate was dependent on votes of Native Alaskans, and they are fiercely opposed to Kavanaugh’s nomination. It was because of tribal communities that she won re-election in 2010, so if she harms them it could threaten her future.
In 2010 Murkowski lost the GOP primary to a tea party challenger. She then ran as an independent, and started a write-in campaign, and to everyone’s surprise, actually won the election. She won because of the support of Alaska Natives, not because of the support of the Republican Party, and she hasn’t forgotten that.
According to a person close to the senator:
“If the Alaska Native community raises its decibel level on matters from subsistence to civil rights, that would register with Sen. Murkowski.”
Local Alaska tribes and constituents have a lot of influence in shaping Murkowski’s decisions, and she has been hearing from them.
Four Alaska tribal councils have contacted Murkowski, asking her to oppose Kavanaugh. Letters were sent to her from the heads of the Hughes Tribal Council, the Ruby Tribal Council, the Tanana Tribal Council and the Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government.
On top of that, on Friday, the leader of the Tlingit and Haida Tribes of Alaska, with more than 30,000 voters, posted a letter on Facebook on behalf of the tribes. In that letter they urged Murkowski to vote no on Kavanaugh.
“We are concerned moving his nomination forward due to his unsound views and the potential injury that his misperceptions would wreak upon your Native Alaskan constituents, our Native Hawaiian friends and fellow indigenous peoples,” wrote Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson, the tribal president.
There are three reasons that many Alaskans, including most Native Alaskans, oppose Kavanaugh:
- Concerns about his record on climate change, which is already causing real damage in Alaska. Kavanaugh in 2017 held that the Environmental Protection Agency lacks the authority to regulate hydrofluorocarbons, chemicals linked to global warming.
- Concerns about his record on voting rights. Kavanaugh voted in 2012 to uphold a South Carolina voter ID law that disenfranchised more than 80,000 minority registered voters.
- A case the Supreme Court is reviewing in November that could devastate Alaska Natives’ subsistence fishing rights. The case, Sturgeon v. Frost, raises questions about who has the authority to regulate water in national parks in the state ― the federal government or the state of Alaska. Kavanaugh agrees with four existing Justices that federal power should be limited, and this would take “destroy the way of life for tribal communities who rely on subsistence fishing in protected federal waters.”
“This would be a death knell to us in Alaska, absolutely,” said Heather Kendall-Miller, an Alaska Native and an attorney with the Native American Rights Fund. “If this goes down, Alaska will be in a state of chaos when the fishing season begins. There will be lots of civil disobedience. It will be explosive.”
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.