Sen. Susan Collins of Maine will be a key vote for the confirmation of an eventual nominee to the Supreme Court selected by President Donald Trump. A lot is at stake with the nomination, and Collins, who likes to position herself as a so-called “moderate” Republican, isn’t exactly someone you can count on to do the right thing.
Last December, she voted in favor of the GOP tax bill after introducing three amendments covering state and local tax deductions, medical expenses, and retirement accounts. In June, it took constituent outrage for her to finally act against the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy on immigration, which resulted in kids being separated from their families and tossed into cages. Even then her response was tepid, as the senator wouldn’t support proposed legislation to keep migrant families together.
With Trump’s Supreme Court pick looming—Trump said he’d announce his choice on July 9—many are concerned that the president will select someone who is determined to destroy a woman’s right to have an abortion as set forth in the landmark Roe v. Wade case.
On Sunday, Collins addressed that issue in an interview on ABC’s This Week.
“I’m going to have an in-depth discussion with the nominee, and I believe very much that Roe v. Wade is settled law as it has been described by Chief Justice Roberts. It has been established as a constitutional right for 45 years and was reaffirmed 26 years ago. So, a nominee’s position on whether or not they respect precedent will tell me a lot about whether or not they would overturn Roe v. Wade,” Collins said.
“A candidate for this important position who would overturn Roe v. Wade would not be acceptable to me because that would indicate an activist’s agenda that I don’t want to see a judge have. And that would indicate to me a failure to respect precedent, a fundamental tenet of our judicial system,” she added.
It’s interesting to note that the senator’s comments don’t address the merits of Roe v. Wade or a woman’s right to govern decisions about her own body, but rather they focus on procedure and precedent. It’s a term known as stare decisis, referring to a doctrine of abiding by principles outlined in previous rulings. It also has become somewhat of a talking point over the weekend by Republicans who are seeking to tread lightly around the issue ahead of eventual confirmation hearings and the upcoming midterm elections in November.
On NBC’s Meet the Press, Sen. Lindsey Graham said, “This is not a referendum on Roe v. Wade,” referring to Trump’s Supreme Court pick. “One of the concepts that really means a lot in America is stare decisis. That means you don’t overturn precedent unless there’s a good reason. And I would tell my pro-life friends you can be pro-life and conservative, but you can also believe in stare decisis.”
Collins said she met with Trump and urged the president to expand his list of potential nominees. Before that meeting, Trump reportedly had a list of 25 candidates to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement last Wednesday.
“Some people on the list I can’t support because they have shown disrespect for vital principle of stare decisis,” Collins said, as reported by The Hill. “I’m not going to go into which ones those are but there are people on that list whom I could not vote for.”
Yet again, an underlying pattern can be detected in Collins’ words. It all sounds good, but she’s still relying on Donald Trump and the people around him to keep their word, just as she did on the GOP tax plan. Or, in another analysis, she’s providing herself political cover, as she’s been known to do. Time will tell.