Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, one of the key swing votes in Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, has broken with her party and says she will vote against confirming Kavanaugh.
“I believe that Brett Kavanaugh is a good man, I believe he is a good man. But it just may be that in my view he’s not the right man for the court at this time,” she said after Friday’s cloture vote. “This has truly been the most difficult evaluation of a decision that I’ve ever had to make and I’ve made some interesting ones in my political career.”
“The truth is that none of this has been fair,” Murkowski said.
Politico reported that Murkowski has been meeting with sexual assault survivors throughout the week and revealed that she, too, is a survivor of sexual assault. Her decision to vote no against party lines is significant, and a good deal of credit should go to the Native women who have been pressuring her to oppose Kavanaugh.
Alaska’s indigenous groups and make up 15 percent of the state’s population and Murkowski knows that Native people represent a strong part of her base. Even before three women accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, the Alaska Federation of Natives voiced concern over Kavanaugh’s opinions on constitutional protections for Native American tribes.
The state has the highest reported incidences of rape in the country, and according to the Indian Law Resource Center, Alaskan Native Women suffer the highest rate of sexual assault in the country. Native women are victimized at disproportionately higher rates than other women—according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, nearly half have experienced sexual violence or unwanted sexual contact, and about one in three Native women has experienced rape or attempted rape.
“As a woman, mother, and survivor, I’m both terrified of and infuriated by the possibility of a Kavanaugh nomination,” Suzy Walsh of Alaska Grassroots Alliance said in a statement at Capitol Hill in September. “I am begging Senator Murkowski not to appoint a serial sexual abuser to the Supreme Court. At the end of the day, women’s rights are human rights—and Alaskan women deserve better. We all deserve better.”
Murkowski was the only Republican to break ranks and vote against the cloture process, which limits debate to 30 hours before the motion proceeds to a final vote. The motion passed by one vote.