MAYBE THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN A LITTLE NICER TO MURKOWSKI…. Last month, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) was the only Republican to vote with Democrats on repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the tax deal, the DREAM Act, and New START ratification.

Fortunately, it appears the Alaska senator isn’t quite done being a thorn in her party’s side. Yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) boasted that he would force the chamber to take up the House bill repealing the entirety of the Affordable Care Act. Soon after, Murkowski argued publicly that it’s time for her party to move on.

“I don’t believe that there are votes sufficient in the Senate to repeal health care reform….We’re in this situation where there is some messaging going on…. The real question is how much time do we as a Congress spend on this messaging?

“We’ve got a situation where our economy continues to be in the tank, the longest extended period of high unemployment since World War II…. As important as making sure that we’re reigning in our health care costs — spending a lot of time on the messaging vote? I don’t think that’s what the American public wants us to do…. I don’t think what people want is kind of the messaging that’s going on.”

To be sure, Murkowski hasn’t exactly become responsible when it comes to the substance of health care policy. She was as awful as the rest of her party a year ago, and it’s almost certain she’d vote with her party again if repeal comes up for a vote.

But Murkowski’s remarks are great anyway, precisely because she’s doing what Republicans never do: she’s calling the GOP leadership for ridiculous gamesmanship. The substance on health care notwithstanding, Murkowski is publicly questioning her own party’s priorities and judgment.

I don’t imagine all of this will be well received by Republican leaders, but don’t forget, Murkowski not only doesn’t care, she actually has an incentive to annoy them.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.