Murkowski keeps top committee slot

The Senate GOP has chosen Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming as vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. He replaces Sen. Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, who stepped down from the leadership post after announcing her write-in bid for re-election.

But Republican Senators decided to allow Murkowski to keep her position as ranking member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, despite their anger over her write-in candidacy. Murkowski has ignored the GOP establishment’s pleas that she step aside for Joe Miller, who beat Murkowski in the Alaska GOP Senate primary. Republicans fear she will draw votes away from Miller, creating an advantage for Democratic candidate Scott McAdams. Despite her refusal to quit the race, Republican senators voted Wednesday to let her keep her post on the committee.

They also voted to select Barrasso to replace Murkowski in the leadership circle.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called Barrasso, “one of our hardest-working members,” and GOP Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander, of Tennessee, said Barrasso’s “skills and his conservative principles will make him an excellent participant in Republican leadership.”

Barrasso is an orthopedic surgeon and state senator who was appointed to the U.S. Senate in 2007 when Sen. Craig Thomas died of leukemia. Barrasso then won a special election in 2008 to finish Thomas’s term, which expires in 2012.

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