Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski

Photo via Medill DC/Flickr USDA/Flickr (PD) (CC-BY-SA) Remix by Jason Reed

Stop giving McCain all the glory—these 2 Republican women have fought back since the beginning

Let's not write Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski out of history.


Samantha Grasso


Posted on Jul 28, 2017   Updated on Jan 27, 2021, 3:15 pm CST


Last night, Sen. John McCain of Arizona (almost but not really) singlehandedly took down the Senate’s bill to repeal Obamacare. Voting in the early hours of Friday morning, the maverick walked to the front of the chamber, flashed a thumbs-down, and voted “No,” leaving the Republicans in his dust. He had even told the Senate press corps to “wait for the show” beforehand, when asked how he would vote. And that, my friends, is how McCain, who is currently battling brain cancer, saved the day.

At least, that’s the story from the numerous people celebrating McCain’s “sinking” vote on Twitter, and the various publications who, in the waking hours of Friday morning, have managed to blog about McCain #resisting the Senate’s attempt to launch the “skinny repeal” without a replacement.

It’s almost as if we’ve forgotten the two Republican female senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who made McCain’s “maverick move” even possible.

Collins and Murkowski have publicly stated they would vote against repealing Obamacare without a replacement, and have kept their promises by voting against discussing repealing Obamacare as well as against both the Senate’s proposals. From the start, they’ve even voiced their disagreements with the GOP’s various efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.

And all the while, they’ve gotten absolute shit for their votes and for, as Murkowski put it, attempting to govern constituents instead of voting for campaign points. Last Friday, a Texas representative said if Collins, Murkowski, and then-dissenter Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia) were men, he’d challenge them to a pistol duel.

Regarding Murkowski, a representative from Georgia said on MSNBC, “Somebody needs to go over there to that Senate and snatch a knot in their ass,” a Southern term meaning to beat someone until they learn a lesson.

Even President Donald Trump himself has targeted Murkowski’s vote by tweeting that he let “Republicans, and our country, down.” And Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke also appeared to be doing Trump’s bidding, having threatened Murkowski in the process.

But yet, it is McCain who is praised for casting his vote to stop the skinny repeal—a moment of dramatic glory you could argue was set up by his return to the Senate floor on Tuesday, scarred and making impassioned speeches, before voting in favor of debating the repeal.

Murkowski and Collins, on the other hand, haven’t done any grandstanding. They haven’t made a show. They’ve just stood their ground based on what they thought was the right thing to do and then were attacked for it.

Our praise of McCain exemplifies a pattern of how men are credited for the accomplishments and ideas fueled by women, only for those women to be written out of history altogether. We can’t simply praise McCain’s inconsistency in breaking from his party just because Murkowski’s and Collins’ dissent has phased out of the news cycle.

Yes, McCain’s vote was important, but to forget the women who’ve held firm on their vote for weeks and have been threatened multiple times because of it isn’t just indefensible, it’s unsurprising. We can do better by Murkowski, who has also worked to protect the healthcare of Native Americans in her home state, and Collins, who has consistently had the highest approval rating of any sitting Republican senator. We can praise them for standing against the intimidating beast that is the Republican Party for a damn long time. At the very least, we can treat them like McCain’s equals.

Share this article
*First Published: Jul 28, 2017, 9:57 am CDT