She is the daughter of former U.S. Senator and Governor of Alaska Frank Murkowski. Before her appointment to the Senate, she served in the Alaska House of Representatives and was eventually elected Majority Leader.
Murkowski was appointed to the U.S. Senate by her father, Frank Murkowski, who resigned his seat in December 2002 to become the Governor of Alaska. She completed her father's unexpired term, which ended in January 2005. She ran for and won a full term in 2004.
She ran for a second term in 2010. She lost the Republican Party nomination to Tea Party candidate Joe Miller. She then ran as a write-in candidate and defeated both Miller and Democrat Scott McAdams in the General Election, making her the first U.S. Senator to be elected by write-in vote since Strom Thurmond in 1954.
Although Senator Murkowski has won three full terms to the Senate, she has never won a majority of the vote, winning pluralities each time: 48.5% in 2004, 39.5% in 2010 and 44% in 2016.
Murkowski was born in Ketchikan, Alaska, the daughter of Nancy Rena (née Gore) and Frank Murkowski. Her paternal great-grandfather was of Polish descent, and her mother's ancestry is Irish and French Canadian. As a child, she and her family moved around the state with her father's job as a banker.
She earned a B.A. degree in Economics from Georgetown University in 1980, the same year her father was elected to the U.S. Senate. She is a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority and represented the state of Alaska as the 1980 Cherry Blossom Princess. She received her J.D. degree in 1985 from Willamette University College of Law.
She was employed as an attorney in the Anchorage District Court Clerk's office (1987–89). From 1989 to 1998, she was an attorney in private practice in Anchorage, Alaska. She also served, from 1990 to 1991, on the Mayor's Task Force for the Homeless.
In 1998, Murkowski was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives and reelected in 2000 and 2002. She was named as House Majority Leader for the 2003–2004 legislative session, but resigned before taking office due to her appointment to the U.S. Senate. Murkowski sat on the Alaska Commission on Post Secondary Education and chaired both the Labor and Commerce and the Military and Veterans Affairs Committees. In 1999, she introduced legislation establishing a Joint Armed Services Committee.
Murkowski, while a member of the state House, was appointed by her father, Governor Frank Murkowski, to his own unexpired Senate seat in December 2002, which he had vacated after being elected governor.
The appointment caused a controversy in the state. Many voters disapproved of apparent nepotism in the appointment of Murkowski to the Senate. Her appointment eventually resulted in a referendum that stripped the governor of his power to directly appoint replacement Senators.
Murkowski was elected to a full six-year term against former Democratic Governor Tony Knowles in the 2004 election, after winning a primary challenge by a large margin. The two were in a dead heat in polls. The centrist Republican Main Street Partnership, which wanted to run TV ads for Murkowski, was told no air time was left to buy. Near the end of the general campaign, senior senator Ted Stevens shot campaign ads for Murkowski and warned the public that if a Democrat replaced Murkowski, they were likely to receive fewer federal dollars.
Murkowski faced the most difficult election of her career in the August 24, 2010, Republican Party primary election against Joe Miller, a former U.S. magistrate judge supported by former Governor Sarah Palin. The initial ballot count for the primary showed her trailing Miller by a margin of 51–49%, with absentee ballots yet to be tallied. After the first round of absentee ballots were counted on August 31, Murkowski conceded the race, stating that she did not believe that Miller's lead would be overcome in the next round of absentee vote count.
Following the outcome of the primary election, the Murkowski campaign floated the idea of her running as a Libertarian in the general election. But on August 29, 2010, the executive board of the state Libertarian Party voted not to consider allowing Murkowski on its ticket for the U.S. Senate race.
On September 17, 2010, Murkowski said that she would mount a write-in campaign for the Senate seat. Her write-in campaign was aided in large part with substantial monetary aid and assistance from the Native corporations and PACs, as well as support from state teachers' and firefighters' unions.
On November 17, 2010, the Associated Press reported that Murkowski had become only the second Senate candidate (after Strom Thurmond in 1954) to win a write-in campaign, thereby retaining her seat. Murkowski emerged victorious after a two-week count of write-in ballots showed she had overtaken Miller. Miller did not concede defeat. U.S. Federal District Judge Ralph Beistline granted an injunction to stop the certification of the election due to "serious" legal issues and irregularities raised by Miller as to the hand count of absentee ballots. On December 10, 2010, an Alaskan judge dismissed Miller's case, clearing the way for Murkowski's win; however, Miller appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court, and the results were not certified. On December 13, Miller appealed the Alaska Superior Court decision of the prior week to the Alaska Supreme Court. Miller's appeal was rejected by the state Supreme Court on December 22, 2010. On Dec. 28, 2010, U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline dismissed Miller's lawsuit. Murkowski was certified as the winner on December 30 by Gov. Sean Parnell.
After securing the Republican Party nomination by a wide margin, Murkowski was again reelected to the U.S. Senate in 2016. Joe Miller, this time as the Libertarian Party nominee, was again the runner-up in the general election.
The election was unusual in featuring a Libertarian Party nominee who endorsed Donald Trump, running against a Republican incumbent who did not. The Libertarian vice-presidential nominee Bill Weld endorsed Murkowski, citing Miller's support for Trump and "devoted social conservative" views as incompatible with libertarianism.Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies
Subcommittee on Homeland Security
Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies (Chairman)
Subcommittee on Legislative Branch
Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (Chairman)
As Chairman of the full committee, Murkowski may serve as an ex officio member of all subcommittees.
Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
Subcommittee on Children and Families
Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety
Committee on Indian Affairs
Senate Oceans Caucus (co-chairman)
Senate Cultural Caucus
Since winning re-election in 2010, her voting record has become more moderate when compared to her previous years in the Senate. The National Journal, in 2013, gave Murkowski a composite score of 56% conservative and 45% liberal. CrowdPac, which rates politicians based on donations they receive and give, has given Senator Murkowski a score of 2.7C with 10C being the most conservative and 10L being the most liberal. The American Conservative Union has given her a lifetime rating of 59.79% conservative. The Americans for Democratic Action has given her a rating of 35% liberal.
She is generally pro-choice on abortion and supports non-federally funded embryonic stem cell research, although she has cast significant pro-life votes, including ones to ban partial-birth abortions. She is a member of the Republican Majority For Choice, Republicans For Choice, and The Wish List (Women in the Senate and House), a group of pro-choice women Republicans. On March 30, 2017, Murkowski joined Susan Collins to break party lines voting with Democrats against a bill allowing states to defund Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood, which rates politicians' support for pro-choice issues, has given Murkowski a life-time score of 44%. NARAL Pro-Choice America, which also provides ratings, gave her a score of 50% in 2015. In 2014, her score from NARAL was 80%. In 2017, Planned Parenthood gave Murkowski a score of 41%. Conversely, National Right to Life, which opposes abortion and rates support for pro-life issues, gave Murkowski a score of 66% during the 114th Congress.
Murkowski is a signer of Americans for Tax Reform’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge.
The National Federation of Independent Business named Murkowski a Guardian of Small Business for her "outstanding" voting record on behalf of small business owners.
Murkowski opposes affirmative action.
Murkowski supports the right to bear arms, and was one of 46 Senators to vote against expanding background checks to all gun show and internet sales in April 2013.
Murkowski has helped protect and ensure that health care is delivered by the 100 percent Native American-owned and controlled Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and a network of tribally operated hospitals and clinics in rural Alaska hubs and villages. Murkowski is an active member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and served as Vice Chairman of the Committee during the 110th Congress. She is the Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and a member of the Committee on Appropriations, and has a continuing role on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. In 2009, she was honored with a Congressional Leadership Award by the National Congress of American Indians. She is the first Alaskan to receive the award.
Murkowski opposed President Barack Obama's health reform legislation; she voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in December 2009, and she voted against the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. Murkowski has stated numerous times that she would like to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Murkowski voted for H.R. 976, which called for the expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to provide coverage for additional uninsured children. That bill passed both the House and the Senate, but was vetoed by President George W. Bush. She supports health care reforms in her native state, as well, largely because health care costs for Alaskans are up to 70% higher than costs in the contiguous United States.
In 2017, Lisa Murkowski announced that she was opposed to repealing the Affordable Care Act without a replacement plan. She voted against starting debates in the Senate. On July 27, 2017, Murkowski voted 'No' on the Health Care Freedom Act commonly referred to as the 'Skinny' repeal of the ACA. She said the defeated bill did not adequately replace the ACA, and that her constituents had expressed concerns about its impact on their health coverage. Murkowski called for "a more open process" in writing a replacement bill. Her vote was criticized by some Alaska Republicans, while 200 people rallied in Anchorage and marched to Murkowski's office to thank her for her role in protecting the ACA.
Murkowski was one of five Republican senators who voted with Democrats for the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
Murkowski is currently the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. She has given her support to efforts to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). For the 109th Congress, Republicans for Environmental Protection, a group dedicated to environmental causes, gave Murkowski a rating of 2%, noting that in 2006, she voted against S.C. Resolution 83, intended to bolster energy security and lower energy-related environmental impacts, against an amendment to S. 728 that would make the Army Corps of Engineers more accountable for the environmental and economic impacts of their projects, for oil drilling in ANWR, for offshore oil and gas drilling.
Murkowski believes that recent technological developments have made drilling safer and more economical.
Murkowski introduced a bill that would block the Environmental Protection Agency from limiting the amount of greenhouse gases that major industries can produce. In a statement, Murkowski said, "We cannot turn a blind eye to the EPA's efforts to impose back-door climate regulations with no input from Congress."
In the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill(BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico), Murkowski opposed a bill that would have raised the liability cap for oil spills from $75 million to $10 billion. She said that such a large cap would jeopardize various businesses, and that exposing companies to greater risk would make it impossible for smaller companies to compete.
In 2004, Senator Murkowski voted in favor of a federal constitutional amendment to define marriage to be between one man and one woman. She said that would also support an Alaska state law defining marriage as between a man and a woman and that each state should have the right to establish its definition of marriage. Murkowski voted for a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in 2006. According to her spokesman, she wanted to protect the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman that Alaskans added to their state constitution in 1998.
Murkowski supported the repeal of don't ask, don't tell after consideration of the Department of Defense report. "Our military leaders have made a compelling case that they can successfully implement a repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell'," she said. "It is infinitely preferable for Congress to repeal the law, and allow the service chiefs to develop and execute a new policy, than to invite a court-ordered reversal of the law with no allowance for a military-directed implementation. I've heard from Alaskans across the state who believe it's time to end this discriminatory policy, and I agree with them." On December 18, 2010, Murkowski was one of eight Senate Republicans to vote in favor of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010, and one of only four who had voted for cloture.
On March 27, 2013, Murkowski had said that her opinion on same-sex marriage was "evolving". She said she noticed that the country's views on marriage were changing, noting conversations with her children and their friends as an example. She said the country had more important issues to focus on than same-sex marriage.
On June 19, 2013, Murkowski announced her support of same-sex marriage, citing the encouragement of family values and Alaskans' favor of limiting government's power. She became the third sitting Republican United States Senator to do so after Senators Rob Portman of Ohio and Mark Kirk of Illinois. The Human Rights Campaign, in its Congressional Scorecard rating support for LGBT issues during the 114th Congress, gave Murkowski a score of 69%. During the 113th Congress, she received an 88% score.
In February 2017, Murkowski and Senator Susan Collins were the only two Republicans who voted in the Senate against Donald Trump's selection for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. This caused a 50-50 tie broken by Senate president Mike Pence to successfully confirm DeVos' appointment. Earlier in January 2017, Collins and Murkowski both voted for DeVos within the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, passing DeVos' nomination by a vote of 12-11 to allow the Senate to vote on DeVos.
In July 2007, Murkowski stated she would sell back land she bought from Anchorage businessman Bob Penney, a day after a Washington watchdog group filed a Senate ethics complaint against her, alleging that Penney sold the property well below market value. The Anchorage Daily News noted, "The transaction amounted to an illegal gift worth between $70,000 and $170,000, depending on how the property was valued, according to the complaint by the National Legal and Policy Center." According to the Associated Press, Murkowski bought the land from two developers tied to the Ted Stevens probe.
In 2008, Murkowski amended her Senate financial disclosures for 2004 through 2006, adding income of $60,000 per year from the sale of a property in 2003, and more than $40,000 a year from the sale of her "Alaska Pasta Company" in 2005.
Murkowski is married to Verne Martell. They have two children, Nicolas and Matthew.