WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans on Tuesday moved to strip Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski of her post as top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, further punishing her as she mounts a write-in bid to try to hold onto her seat.
Murkowski already has stepped down from her leadership role in the GOP caucus and could lose her Energy Committee position as soon as Wednesday if the 41-member Republican caucus votes to remove her in a secret ballot.
The events marked a swift downfall for Murkowski, who in her first full term rose to be Alaska's senior senator and a powerful voice on energy issues and climate change.
A one-time favorite of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Murkowski was promoted to the GOP leadership last year, the only woman among eight men on the leadership team.
McConnell, R-Ky., once vowed to support Murkowski's re-election bid "100 percent," but he told reporters Tuesday there was a question whether it was appropriate for Murkowski to continue her leadership role on the committee, given her defeat in last month's GOP primary for Senate.
McConnell and other GOP leaders have been under pressure from conservatives such as Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who attacked Murkowski in a fundraising letter as a "big tent hypocrite" and "Republican-in-name-only."
North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr is next in line on the Energy Committee, but he also serves as ranking Republican on Veterans Affairs. He would have to give up the Veterans post to take the top spot on Energy.
A spokesman for Murkowski declined immediate comment.
Meanwhile, Murkowski released her first TV ad Tuesday, a 60-second spot that explains why she is running as a write-in candidate after losing the GOP primary to tea party-supported Joe Miller.
"Thousands of Alaskans" reached out to her after the GOP primary and asked her to run, Murkowski declares in the ad. She says the state needs a "fighter" in the Senate and that Alaskans cannot accept the "extreme views of Joe Miller" or the "inexperience of Scott McAdams," the Democratic nominee for Senate.
© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.