Former Gov. and Sen. Frank Murkowski speaks on a range of subjects during an interview with the Juneau Empire in May 2019. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)

Former Gov. and Sen. Frank Murkowski speaks on a range of subjects during an interview with the Juneau Empire in May 2019. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)

Opinion: Frank Murkowski should endorse Biden to save the Senate

“I don’t expect Joe Biden to be able to repair the Senate by himself.”

  • Saturday, September 12, 2020 11:26am
  • Opinion

By Rich Moniak

After months of bipartisan cooperation on pandemic legislation, Congress has resumed their preferred operating mode of putting partisan loyalty ahead of the compromise necessary to pass major legislation. Predictably, President Donald Trump tweeted ““DEMOCRATS ARE HOLDING THIS UP!” Dividing Americans happens to suit his endless campaign style of governing and strategy.

“Congress is not fulfilling its constitutional duties” 70 former U.S. senators wrote in an open letter just before our economy ground to a halt. And while they focused on the chamber where they served, the Republican members among them can help fix the problem by endorsing Joe Biden for President.

There was little to no opposition in the five pandemic bills Congress passed before the end of May. Among those was the $2.7 trillion CARES Act, which included $600 per-week expanded unemployment benefits and a moratorium on evicting renters.

On May 15, the Democratic-controlled House passed another one worth $3 trillion. Majority leader Mitch McConnell declared it dead on arrival. That wasn’t a surprise, because only one Republican supported it. But McConnell didn’t work with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to form a bipartisan committee to develop a better bill.

Instead, at the end of July, the full senate voted to begin debate on the House bill. But not until after they returned from their August recess. By that time the expanded unemployment benefits and eviction moratorium had expired.

In the middle of August, Senate Republicans floated a $1 trillion proposal that Democrats rejected. Now they’ve come back offering a smaller relief package.

In the meantime, McConnell watched with approval as President Donald Trump signed four executive orders that offered some relief while others deferred payroll tax obligations and student loan payments until after Jan. 1.

The partisan gridlock that enabled Trump to effectively legislate through executive order is precisely one of the complaints the former senators lobbed at their successors.

“By design” they wrote, “the Senate is the place where Americans with all their competing interests and ideologies are represented and where champions of those positions attempt to advance their causes and work through their differences. Many call the legislative process “sausage making.” That is a fair assessment. Legislating is often messy, but it is America’s way of holding together a diverse nation.”

[Congressional delegation responds to Trump criticisms, protests]

They were recalling a time when both parties accepted independence among its members, the news media was respected, and the social media echo chamber didn’t exist.

Among those who signed the letter, 19 served three or more terms that that began in the 1970s. William Cohen from Maine left the Senate to serve as Defense Secretary for President Bill Clinton. John Warner supported gun control and equal rights regardless of sexual orientation. Both were Republicans. Sam Nunn was a Democrat who supported prayers in school and opposed Clinton’s proposal to allow homosexuals to serve openly in the military.

Frank Murkowski ’s contribution to the letter likely includes some of the anecdotal frustration the group heard from unnamed “sitting members” who are “doubting whether there is any point in continuing to serve.” His daughter, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, is currently one of the most independent members of the Senate.

There’s a former senator who served with both Frank and Lisa Murkowski who probably would have signed the letter — that is if he wasn’t running for President. I don’t expect Joe Biden to be able to repair the Senate by himself. He’ll need the American people to put aside their ideological and tribal differences to make that happen.

But he won’t try to divide us the way Trump does. When Trump’s former defense secretary, leveled that criticism at him in June, Sen. Murkowski called James Mattis’s words “true, and honest, and necessary and overdue.” And she hoped it would help others in her party be “more honest with the concerns that we might hold internally.”

Our senior senator doesn’t need to share her observations about Trump with her father. Frank can see that for himself. And if he really wants to help “restore the Senate to its essential place in our constitutional system” he should endorse his former Senate colleague for to be our next president.


• Rich Moniak is a Juneau resident and retired civil engineer with more than 25 years of experience working in the public sector. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a letter to the editor or My Turn.


More in Opinion

Opinion: A balanced approach is needed for oil tax rates

For the good of Alaska and the future of the state, please vote no on Proposition 1.

People gather for a candlelight vigil for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg near Dimond Courthouse on Saturday, Sept. 19. People shared remarks about some of Ginsburg’s most famous decisions during the event. Some expressed hopes her seat would not be filled until after Election Day. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Opinion: Loyalty to Alaska citizens not to the Republican Party, please

This is not a rush decision to be made in a month before election.

Have something to say?

Here’s how to add your voice to the conversation.

Opinion: Panic and lying are the new ‘gold standard’

The pandemic has caused more U.S. deaths in a year than in all U.S. conflicts since the Civil War.

Opinion: Alaska and America’s very survival are at stake this election year

There’s only one choice for this Marine and others who treasure our democracy.

Opinion: Election transparency is right for Alaska

A message from some North Dakota grandmas.

Opinion: Let’s honor RBG and shine up our precious democracy

We the people can help by voting Yes on 2 on Nov. 3, or as soon as our mail-in ballots arrive

Opinion: Ballot Measure 1 — The Very Fair Share Act

I am betting the oil industry can afford to pay a greater share.

This Sept. 6, 2020, photo shows mist from Nugget Falls refracting light to create a prism-like effect. “Like many children I watched this summer, mine enjoyed climbing the glacially smoothed rock slopes up to the visitor center or down to the water at Photo Point. And hiking to Nugget Falls,” writes columnist Rich Moniak. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Opinion: The river of nostalgia

“Nostalgia ripens with age. It takes years to build a thick catalogue of cherished memories.”

Most Read