Murkowski on Health Care ‘No’ Vote: ‘Time Will Prove’ Having a Pause, Time Out to Do Better Is Going to Be Good for the Country

Friday on CNN’s “New Day,” Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) defended their “no” votes a week ago against the so-called “skinny” repeal of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

CNN’s Dana Bash asked the two about Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who at the last minute joined Collins and Murkowski to vote against the repeal.

Murkowski argued that eventually, time will prove that their votes to be the right ones.

Partial transcript as follows:

DANA BASH, HOST: And I was watching you with your desks next to each other and you could sort of sense a bit of relief that each of you had that you had one another. Did I read that right?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I will say that I was very happy that Lisa was literally sitting next to me as we were voting from our seats which, as you know, is unusual and is used for only very important votes.

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: To have that weight, that responsibility, knowing that your vote really is that pivotal, it does help to know that there is another kindred soul close by.

BASH: You are both heroes to a lot of people and heretics to a lot of people. How do you see yourselves?

COLLINS: Well, I see myself as someone who has an obligation to represent the people of Maine, and sometimes that means casting uncomfortable votes –votes that will make my party uncomfortable and even angry at me.

MURKOWSKI: You want to vote to do the right thing. And so worrying about the consequences, are you fearful of repercussion from your party, a tweet from the president, a backlash from your leadership, you should — I don’t believe that we should be motivated or discouraged from taking the positions that are important to the people that we represent in our respective states.

BASH: Can you give me a sense of the kind of pressure that you had and how you handled it? How did that bear itself out? Phone calls?

COLLINS: Well, phone calls, meeting. I had a private meeting with the vice president at one point.

BASH: Is it hard at that point? You ran on repealing Obamacare. This is the time, the bell’s ringing, go.

MURKOWSKI: I had an opportunity when we were at the White House, the second time when we were over there, and it was a very directed appeal that we need to come together as Republicans.

I made a statement to the president, with my colleagues and with his team there, that I’m not voting for the Republican Party. I am voting for the people of Alaska.

COLLINS: I remember being so proud of you for saying directly to the president what your obligations were, And that’s the way I feel, too.The people of Maine don’t expect me to be a rubber stamp.

BASH: If you were male senators, do you think that it would be such a priority for you to make sure that Planned Parenthood is not cut?

COLLINS: That’s a really good question. The issue of family planning services, cancer screening, well women care, probably does resonate with us more than with our male colleagues.

And to me, it was so unfair to single out the one Medicaid provider and say to women in particular,you can’t choose which health care provider you want to go to.

BASH: I want to borrow a phrase from the first female Secretary of State, who talked about cojones. And a lot of people are saying that you two have more cojones than a lot of the guys around here. You buy that?

COLLINS: I — you know, every senator has to make his or her own decisions, so I wouldn’t judge my colleagues.

MURKOWSKI: I absolutely agree.

BASH: You guys have some pretty stiff spines.

COLLINS: That I’d go with.

BASH: Did Senator McCain come to you before he cast the last vote against the health care bill? Did you know?

COLLINS: Well, I so remember when both Lisa and I were talking with John McCain on the Senate floor and he pointed to both of us and he said, you two are right on this issue.

MURKOWSKI: Yes, yes.And to have the conversation that we had after the vote –we had one of those conversations that you’ll think of years down the road where he said where he said people might not appreciate what has happened right now as being a positive. Maybe our colleagues are not going to be viewing this as a positive right now.

But time will prove that having a pause, having a time out for us to do better is going to be good for the country. And it was a good, good, strong John McCain message.

BASH: I’ve seen Congress and Congress people when they have some political fear of their president.And he tried to intimidate you on Twitter, you know, very directly, specifically maybe having his interior secretary call you.

MURKOWSKI: You can’t live in fear that the direction that you’re going to take, that you believe is truly in your state’s best interest.

BASH: Did you feel that he was trying to intimidate you?

MURKOWSKI: I would just say that the president and I had a very direct call.

BASH: Do you think that there’s been a shift among your Republican colleagues as it relates to the president?

COLLINS: Many of us are still very interested in the president’s agenda.

MURKOWSKI: Finding those areas where we are working together, partnering, this is what we should be doing. If there’s rhetoric that is out there that is not constructive to governing, I think it is important to speak up, and I think you are starting to see a little bit of that.

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