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Commentary: Voters must stop the breathtaking, ignorant arrogance of Collins and Murkowski

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Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) supported an Obama-era regulation that prevented states from withholding state monies from Planned Parenthood. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Conservatives have long criticized Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) for being liberal, but the fact that both of them keep surviving re-election indicates that perhaps liberal Republicanism is exactly what their voting constituency wants.  However, one of the votes cast in the Senate last week shows that neither has any respect for the Constitution or the voters of any state, including their own, and that neither is fit for office.

I am referring, in this case, to their vote against overturning an Obama-era regulation that prevented states from withholding state taxpayer funds from Planned Parenthood, a resolution that passed only due to Vice President Mike Pence's tie-breaking vote.

Let us stipulate for a moment that Murkowski and Collins are pro-choice, as is their right. I don't agree with it, but not everyone agrees with me, and some senators represent states where a majority of voters are pro-choice. These senators are, of course, free to vote for whatever pro-choice policies they want and even to impose pro-choice litmus tests on judicial nominees, if they please. I think the tendency to do this is poisoning our national politics, but I long ago stopped trying to reason with pro-choicers about this point.

Let us also stipulate that Murkowski and Collins favor taxpayer funding of abortion, as is their right. This position is drastically outside the American mainstream — polls repeatedly show that huge majorities of Americans, including almost half of self-identified pro-choicers, oppose taxpayer funding of abortion — but as long as Collins, Murkowski and the Democrats can keep getting re-elected despite being way outside the mainstream on this issue, more power to them.

Generally speaking, however, when Murkowski, Collins, and the Democrats vote in favor of taxpayer funding of abortion, or of Planned Parenthood, they do so with respect to federal taxes. In other words, taxes that have been properly levied by Congress and passed into law, and for which each senator and representative must answer to their constituents. It may be immoral and outside the political mainstream for Collins and Murkowski to favor the confiscation of income from residents of all 50 states and spend it on Planned Parenthood without their will, but at least doing so falls within their constitutional purview as United States senators.

The vote in question, however, did not concern federal taxpayer dollars at all, but rather state taxpayer dollars. In other words, taxes that have been levied and collected at the behest of state legislatures. We are talking here about property taxes, sales taxes, state income taxes, and the like. Money, in other words, that state legislators and governors need to balance budgets — which they cannot do by simply printing money like the federal government can. Collins, Murkowski, and the Democrats amazingly voted to actually prevent states from not spending their own taxpayer money on Planned Parenthood.

Now, keep in mind, voting for this resolution would not have prevented any state from spending their taxpayer money on Planned Parenthood. If the legislatures of New York and California (or Maine or Alaska or wherever) really believed that Planned Parenthood was so important that they should get state tax money, they could still do so. Voting against the resolution, on the other hand, would have meant that if a state like Texas or Florida or Arizona or wherever decided they did not want to give Planned Parenthood any of their tax money — even for purely fiscal reasons — they could not have done so.

The arrogance required to cast such a vote is truly galling. Where do Collins and Murkowski get off telling the legislatures of states they don't even represent how to spend their money? Where do United States senators from Alaska and Maine believe they get the power to dictate a line item in the budgets of all 50 states, regardless of what that line item is?

Forget, for a moment, how you feel about Planned Parenthood or abortion. Imagine instead that United States senators had voted to require all states to include $500,000 in their annual budget for McDonald's, or Bed Bath & Beyond, or some other relatively non-controversial company instead. How ridiculous would such a law be? How would any senator defend such a vote to their constituents, or to anyone? Why is the calculation any different just because the private company at issue is Planned Parenthood?

For that matter, how would Collins and Murkowski feel if Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.) managed to get a federal bill passed requiring Alaska to give $500,000 of their taxpayer dollars to Arkansas-based Wal-Mart? I imagine they would immediately discover outrage at the arrogance and presumption of the senators from Arkansas, and yet they are willing to do the exact same thing to all 50 states. 

Any United States senator who is so arrogant as to presume to dictate budgetary matters that do not even pertain to the states they represent has no respect for the Constitution and is thus unfit for office. Further, by casting votes like this, they invite interference from other states in their own state's budgetary matters, which certainly is not what the good people of Alaska or Maine want. In other words, they are also terrible representatives of their constituencies. Let's hope those constituencies wise up and vote them — and every other senator who voted against this resolution — out of office soon.

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