Threats Failed to Sway Heroic Women Who Saved Healthcare

After the late-night defeat of the GOP’s attempt to take healthcare away from who knows how many millions of Americans, there is a fair amount of praise being heaped on Senator John McCain. If one listens to the typically patriarchal platitudes for a male – courageous, committed, maverick etc – it might appear that he was the only Republican interested in saving the lives of many of those untold millions who still have healthcare, for now. McCain’s vote was important, but no more important than, and certainly not as courageous as, those of two female Republican Senators.

What is woefully being under reported is the heroic action of two Republicans, Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and it is down to sexism. Their votes to preserve healthcare for millions of Americans did not come without extreme pressure from Trump that makes their break from the cruel Republicans much more courageous, brave, and “mavericky” than John McCain’s. As an aside, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that McCain’s no vote was a vindictive and pointed “f*ck you” to Trump for his comments last year disparaging Senator McCain’s military service record including being held captive in a North Vietnamese prisoner of war camp for five years.

So as it turns out, the two Republican ladies drew the wrath of more than just the bully in the Oval Office for not toeing the party line and voting with their consciences according to their regard for Americans they were elected to represent.

Last week this “really big” man representing Texas in the House of Representatives, Blake Farenthold, lashed out at the Senate’s lethargic effort to repeal “Obamacare” and leaving tens-of-millions without healthcare.  But instead of blaming the deliberately secretive process, massive outcry from the public, and cruelty to millions of Americans, he naturally attacked Republican women.

According to this “extraordinarily big” man, if those “repugnant” female Republican senators were men, they would be facing him in a gunfight out in front of the capital. That is the kind of pressure Senators Collins and Murkowski faced and yet they still did what only one Republican man had the “courage” to do; serve the people and preserve medical care for tens-of-millions of Americans.

What really incited “big” Texas Farenthold to want a shootout with other Republicans was his claim that any Republican senator who failed to vote with the barbarians was breaking their 2016 campaign pledge. Farenthold said:

[It was] “repugnant that the Senate does not have the courage to do some of the things that every Republican in the Senate promised to do. Some of the people that are opposed to this … are some female senators from the northeast. If it was a guy from south Texas I might ask them to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr-style.

Something Farenthold may not be aware of is that not only is the state represented by Murkowski not in the Northeast,  no Republican in the House or Senate, including himself, or the punk in the White House, campaigned on a promise to take healthcare away from upwards of 30 million Americans – they just didn’t.

And in Murkowski and Collins’ cases, they certainly didn’t campaign on stripping healthcare access and reproductive choice from low-income women; something that has always been a major evangelical goal behind all seven years of the Republican Obamacare repeal effort.

Ms. Murkowski’s no vote was particularly courageous after being publicly harassed and threatened by Trump and his sycophant running the Interior Department, Ryan Zinke. The top man at Interior threatened Murkowski that the Trump administration would withhold funding for infrastructure and energy-related projects important to Alaska if she didn’t vote the way Trump demanded. The message from the Trump administration was that there would be punitive retribution against Alaska residents for Senator Murkowski’s vote against the GOP’s health care repeal legislation.

Predictably, the tough guys in the GOP would not speak up in Ms. Murkowski’s defense for voting her conscience, or call out Trump for what any sane person would deem bullying, “extortion” and “blackmail.” Where the men in the Republican ranks failed, Democrats in the House stepped up and are seeking to initiate an investigation and lawsuit into Trump’s “hit man” Zinke for calling Senator Murkowski to warn her that the administration’s support for energy projects in the state are now at risk because she failed to vote as ordered.

The House Democrats led by Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources committee, were joined by a pair of conservation groups, the Center for Western Priorities and the Western Values Project, to alert Zinke and Trump that they “crossed the line” with their threats of political blackmail. Representative Grijalva said:

Running a department of the federal government means you serve the American people as a protector of their rights and freedoms. It doesn’t mean you serve the president as a bag man for his political vendettas. Threatening to punish your rivals as political blackmail is something we’d see from the Kremlin.

The Western Values Project filed a “Freedom of Information Act” request seeking all internal documents related to Secretary Zinke’s calls to Murkowski as well as any others that he made to other GOP senators for the purpose of “political blackmail.” The executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, Jennifer Rokala, said in a statement:

Ryan Zinke is revealing himself as Trump’s hitman. He’s now threatening to hold public lands and energy policy hostage over a health care bill. This is the U.S. government, not the Corleone family.”

Plenty of Americans would argue that under Trump the government is a veritable mafia crime organization, except that typically organized criminals would not target women for attacks, blackmail or extortion, or Aaron Burr-style gunfights.

It is notable that John McCain did the right thing in voting to preserve healthcare for tens-of-millions of Americans, but it was not heroic or courageous as no small number of media outlets claim. However, the two Republican women, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins were courageous when one considers the undue pressure and threats they absorbed from the thugs in the Trump administration, and the veiled threat from the “big man” from Texas. What reveals the level of cowardice, and patriarchy, in the Republican ranks was a gross lack of support for two of their own who voted like no small number of Republicans wanted to, but were too terrified of the punk in the White House and his thugs.

If the media has to hand out praise to any Republican for stepping up for the people they represent, then they have to first acknowledge the courage of two Republican Senators for standing up to the bully in the White House and voting according to their conscience; something only two Republican women were willing to do under duress and threat and something Senator McCain did not have to endure.