“I’ve concluded she’s the sort of person we want on the Supreme Court,” Murkowski said of Barrett. “While I oppose the process that led us to this point, I do not hold it against her.”
The decision by Murkowski to ultimately support Barrett leaves Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) as the only Republican who will vote against Barrett. Collins did not consider Barrett’s nomination on the merits and developed her position from a strong opposition to a confirmation right before the election.
Collins and Murkowski were the only Republicans who initially came out against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plans to fill the vacancy left by the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Democrats have denounced the swift confirmation drive for Barrett after McConnell blocked Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland in 2016.
Murkowski opposed the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in 2018, drawing the ire of President Donald Trump but faced little blowback from within her party. She ultimately voted “present” on Kavanaugh’s final confirmation vote despite her opposition, so that Kavanaugh supporter Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) could attend his daughter’s wedding.
Murkowski will be up for reelection in 2022 and conceivably could have voted either way and kept her seat; in 2010 she lost her GOP primary but won the general election as a write-in candidate. Murkowski slipped out a side door when she left the floor, sidestepping a pair of reporters in an otherwise empty Capitol.
The moderate Republican senator met with Barrett earlier this week and they discussed voting rights, the politicization of the Supreme Court and even the conservative nominee’s approach to challenges to Roe v. Wade. Murkowski, who generally backs abortion rights, concluded that Barrett does not have a “predetermined agenda” and had done enough to win her vote.
Murkowski informed GOP leaders of her decision shortly before her speech, said Senate Majority Whip John Thune of South Dakota.
Yet Murkowski did seem somewhat torn about the entire endeavor, as she weighed Barrett’s credentials and the Senate’s endless tit-for-tat over the Supreme Court.
“I recognize that confirming this nominee is not going to heal, it’s not going to salve the wounds that these institutions have endured,” she said on the Senate floor Saturday. “But neither will threats that should the balance of power in this chamber change [to Democratic], that everything is on the table, including the end of the legislative filibuster and packing the court.”