Maine Sen. Susan Collins — one of the two moderate Republicans who’s viewed as a key swing vote in the Supreme Court fight — has her meeting with nominee Brett Kavanaugh Tuesday, and she’s planning to ask about his stance on Roe v. Wade.
Collins, along with Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, is seen as a pivotal Republican vote that Kavanaugh will need in order to advance his confirmation. Because of the GOP’s slim 51-49 majority in the upper chamber, if even one Republican senator were to withdraw his or her backing, Kavanaugh’s nomination could theoretically be in jeopardy.
Collins has previously said that she would not back any Supreme Court nominee who’s hostile toward Roe v. Wade — although she’s also expressed skepticism that justices like Neil Gorsuch and John Roberts would actually vote to overturn the precedent set by the abortion case.
Democrats have sought to use the preservation of abortion rights as one of the rallying cries aimed at uniting their caucus and winning over Collins and Murkowski, both of whom have spoken up in support of the landmark 1973 decision.
Collins on Monday told Bloomberg’s Steven Dennis that she specifically plans to press Kavanaugh about his praise of former Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s dissent, which called for leaving abortion rights up to the states, in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute last fall. “I’m going to talk to him about that,” Collins said.
During his confirmation hearing for the DC Circuit in 2006, Kavanaugh said he would respect precedent on Roe, but declined to offer his personal views on the subject. Democratic leaders have argued that his vetting by the Federalist Society — a conservative organization led by a well-known anti-abortion advocate — should be reason enough for concern.
“I have not seen anything that is disqualifying, but I have seen a number of issues that raise questions that I need to explore with him and that’s what I’ll do tomorrow,” Collins added regarding her review of Kavanaugh’s extensive paper trail. Murkowski has indicated that Kavanaugh’s position on Roe will also be a consideration as she weighs his nomination. Both senators’ initial reactions to Kavanaugh’s nomination didn’t seem to suggest an inclination toward blocking him.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is due to meet with Kavanaugh later today as well. He’ll likely push the nominee on both abortion and health care — the other main issue Democrats have stressed in their efforts to block him.