Aftermath Of Birth Control Vote Turns Awkward

WASHINGTON -- A vote on a birth control coverage bill has caused a bit of awkwardness between Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R) and Mark Begich (D).

Murkowski was one of three Republicans who voted with Senate Democrats on Wednesday to advance a bill that would have required all for-profit companies to cover birth control regardless of the owners' religious beliefs. The bill fell short of the 60 votes it needed to overcome a Republican filibuster. But when Begich said in a statement that he was proud to have stood with Murkowski on the issue, she demanded to be removed from his press release.

Murkowski's spokesman, Matthew Felling, told The Huffington Post that while the senator did vote in favor of proceeding to a debate on the birth control bill, she did not vote to pass it and would need to see the final bill before making up her mind.

"Yesterday was a procedural vote, and we did not think that [Begich] made that clear in his release," Felling said. "He also spoke on behalf of Senator Murkowski, and we did not think it was appropriate for a senator to characterize the motivations and intent of another senator."

Begich's office had to send a new statement and press release hours after sending the first one. The original release noted that Murkowski had voted with Begich in favor of the measure.

“I am proud to stand with Senator Murkowski, because we both know that Alaskan women want to make their decisions about reproductive care based upon the recommendation of their doctors – not the religious beliefs of their bosses," Begich said in the original statement. "This bill is common sense and I will keep fighting to protect all Alaskans’ privacy – including women’s access to affordable birth control and other critical health care services.”

Begich and Murkowski are both relatively moderate senators and have voted together 80 percent of the time -- a fact Begich's campaign has touted. But Murkowski is trying to distance herself from Begich, and his office agreed to send out a corrected statement Wednesday night that left Murkowski out.

This is not the first time a birth control bill has put the moderate Republican in a tough spot. Murkowski supported a Republican-sponsored measure in 2012 that would have allowed employers to opt out of covering any health services to which they religiously object, but she later told the Anchorage Daily News that she deeply regretted the vote.

"I have never had a vote I've taken where I have felt that I let down more people that believed in me," Murkowski said.



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