"Watch the show," John McCain said quietly to reporters as he entered the room in which a vote on a "skinny repeal" on Obamacare was about to take place. With one stunning and unexpected "no," McCain once again became a national hero — this time, one who returned from brain surgery in a blaze of glory to stop millions of Americans from being denied access to basic health care. And yet, the firm and consistent opposition to the "skinny repeal" bill from Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins — who voted "no" alongside McCain, but not unexpectedly — was lost amid exaltations that McCain was a "maverick." Murkowski and Collins' "maverick" moments during the health care battle, however, far eclipse McCain's contribution.
Unlike McCain, who seemingly supported the "skinny repeal" bill when he returned to Washington to vote to debate the measure, Murkowski and Collins had established their positions at the outset. At several points throughout their career, they have quietly defined the term "maverick" in a way that McCain only got on board with at the last possible moment.
Whether they're banding together to vote against states' right to defund Planned Parenthood, or against beleaguered education secretary Betsy DeVos — or, on their own, standing up to the president and homophobic policies — here are some of the ways they've owned the term.
1. A History Of Resistance
Both Murkowski and Collins had a history of resistance within their own party: Both senators voted against Trump's pick for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, forcing Mike Pence to step in to get DeVos selected.
2. Murkowski Stood Up To Trump IRL...
Earlier this week, according to sources who spoke with the New York Times, Murkowski was pushed by Trump to support the repeal of Obamacare at a private lunch. The paper quotes her as saying: "With all due respect, Mr. President, I didn’t come here to represent the Republican Party. I am representing my constituents and the state of Alaska.”
Writes the Times: "Mr. Trump did not appreciate the pushback."
3. ... And Was Called Out On Twitter
Adding another name to the near-infinite list of people he's insulted via Twitter, Trump tweeted about Murkowski following their meeting.
This did not deter Murkowski, either.
4. Murkowski Deftly Defended Planned Parenthood
Living up to her promise to go against the party where necessary to support the people of Alaska, Murkowski supported funding for Planned Parenthood earlier this year. "I will not vote to deny Alaskans access to the health services that Planned Parenthood provides," she said publicly in February. In a Facebook post, she had written:
I have long supported Planned Parenthood because I believe it offers important family planning, cancer screenings and other health services to thousands of men and women in Alaska and across the country. But my support is not unconditional. If Planned Parenthood or its affiliates have engaged in illegal activity it is not to be condoned.
Today the Senate voted to take up a measure to address funding for Planned Parenthood. Like many Alaskans, I have watched and been appalled by the Planned Parenthood videos and have asked its leadership, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct an immediate, thorough and transparent series of investigations to find out if the law has been broken.
That is why I have co-sponsored an amendment with Senator Collins and Senator Kirk that would do three important things: it would maintain funding for the other valuable services that Planned Parenthood provides, it would require the investigations that I requested be conducted within 90 days, and it would discontinue funds to those affiliates who have engaged in any illegal and reprehensible behavior. Had the cloture vote succeeded, I had received assurances that our amendment would be considered.
I think this is a more targeted approach than broadly defunding an organization that has provided a wide range of services to 21,000 Alaskans.
The Alaska Dispatch News notes that Alaska was set to be the state most directly harmed by the "skinny repeal" bill.
5. Murkowski Was Allegedly Threatened
As if the stress of the above wasn't enough, the administration allegedly put pressure on Murkowski to help repeal Obamacare — or pay the price. On Thursday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke called Murkowski to threaten to cut funding or access to Alaska projects in retribution if she did not follow the party's lead.
Murkowski's fellow senator, Sen. Dan Sullivan, blew the whistle on Zinke's call. Murkowski played down what he described as "threats."
Speaking to reporters, Murkowski said: “I’m a pretty strong and independent individual. I listen to the input from all sides, whether it is the president, whether it is certainly the secretary of interior where we have much, much in common, and always absolutely, the people of Alaska."
And as for Collins...
6. Collins Is Already A Political Anomaly
At present, Collins is the only Republican senator representing a New England state. She describes herself as a "moderate."
7. Collins Didn't Want Trump To Be President...
In August, Collins penned a piece in the Washington Post about not voting for Trump, even as a lifelong Republican. She wrote:
I will not be voting for Donald Trump for president. This is not a decision I make lightly, for I am a lifelong Republican. But Donald Trump does not reflect historical Republican values nor the inclusive approach to governing that is critical to healing the divisions in our country.
8. ... And She's Opposed His Policies
Collins was one of a handful of Republicans who openly and vocally opposed Trump's travel ban. “I think that the travel ban is too broad and that is why it has been rejected by the courts,” she said in a CBS interview in April.
9. Both Women Voted Against A Planned Parenthood Measure
Back in March, Collins and Murkowski were united once again in breaking from party lines: This time, to vote against a measure that would give states permission to defund Planned Parenthood.
10. Collins Has Also Stood Up For LGBTQ Rights
Back in 2010, Collins was the key Republican sponsor of the push to repeal "don't ask, don't tell" — the landmark anti-gay policy that barred LGBTQ Americans from openly serving their country in the military.
11. The NRA Has Given Collins A Failing Grade
Collins has been given a C+ by the National Rifle Association.