Republicans keep Murkowski in place on Senate committee

GOP colleagues refuse to oust the Alaska senator as ranking Republican on the energy panel, even though she lost to a 'tea party' candidate in the primary and is now a write-in candidate.

September 22, 2010|By Lisa Mascaro, Tribune Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski was spared her position as the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday as her colleagues declined to oust her, despite her independent campaign for reelection in Alaska after losing the Republican Senate primary last month.

Murkowski had already submitted her resignation in party leadership as vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference after losing her primary in Alaska to "tea party" candidate Joe Miller.

But her peers declined in a closed-door meeting to take action on removing her as the ranking Republican on the energy committee – out of respect for her tenure rather than support for her campaign.

"She's still a senator, regardless of what happens, and that she's our friend," said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R- Utah).

When asked if their decision was an acknowledgement that she might pull out her election, Hatch said, "Oh heavens no, I don't think anybody believes that she can win."

Party leaders have said unequivocally they will be supporting Miller's campaign, not hers.

Next in line for the energy post would have been Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina.

The Republican senators voted by acclamation to elect Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming to replace Murkowski as vice chairman of the Republican Conference. He was the only candidate running.

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