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Murkowski Will Not Vote on Earmark Ban

With her re-election still uncertain, Sen. Lisa Murkowski will not participate in the GOP’s leadership elections or a key vote on a Conference-wide earmark ban when Congress returns next week for the lame-duck session.

Alaska election officials have predicted a final vote count in the Senate contest won’t be known until next week at the earliest. Republican Joe Miller’s legal challenges could delay the process for additional weeks or months. Murkowski lost the GOP primary to Miller but opted to run as a write-in candidate in the general election.

“Sen. Murkowski will be unable to vote in the Republican conference meeting next week due to the fact that her election has yet to be certified,” Murkowski spokesman Michael Brumas said Friday.

Murkowski is expected to attend a luncheon Monday afternoon for Republican Members.

Senators whose elections are still in flux generally do not participate in leadership elections or in other meetings to decide policy. 

The Republican leadership slate is already set for next year, but Members must still decide on an earmark ban proposed by Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.). Senators are set to convene at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday to approve their leaders for the 112th Congress; later that afternoon they will meet to decide on the earmark ban.

Murkowski has long been a supporter of earmarks and would likely have opposed a resolution to ban them.

It remains unclear whether DeMint’s proposal will pass, but either way GOP leaders have started to pursue other ways to cut the deficit. For instance, Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) released two resolutions: one would oppose new unfunded mandates on state and local governments, while the second opposes the creation of new entitlement programs. And National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) plans to propose a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget.

Senate Democrats will also gather Tuesday morning to decide their leaders for the next Congress. Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Conference Secretary Patty Murray (Wash.) are all expected to win approval for two-year terms. Reid will announce later in the week who will serve in a handful of appointed positions, including Policy Committee chairman and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman.

Jessica Brady contributed to this report.

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