The Maine senator is one of two pro-choice Republicans whom Democrats hope to sway.
Senator Susan Collins opened up with reporters on Tuesday afternoon about her deliberations concerning President Donald Trump’s nominee to succeed retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, Brett Kavanaugh.
The Maine senator is one of two pro-choice Republicans whose opposition could tank the conservative nominee, given the party’s slim majority in the chamber. Senate Democrats hope to sway Collins, along with Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski, against supporting Kavanaugh. On the other hand, the Republican leadership’s path to confirming the judge could depend on winning support from several red state Democrats. On Tuesday, Collins discussed the Democratic leadership’s strategy, weighed in on Kavanaugh’s judicial experience, and shed light on how she would come to a decision in the months ahead.
Below is a transcript of her conversation with reporters, edited for length and clarity.
REPORTER: The Democrats have been bringing up the issue of health care—
COLLINS: I’ve noticed that they seem to have switched from a focus on Roe to health care in an attempt, I assume, to unify their caucus. The health care issues are very important to me. The justice has already rendered one decision on the Affordable Care Act that, frankly, was criticized by conservatives as not going far enough. So I have already written to the Justice Department, to the attorney general protesting the fact that the Justice Department is not defending the current law, which includes the very important consumer protections that are in the Affordable Care Act.
REPORTER: Is this an easier vote than if Trump had chosen Judge Barrett?
COLLINS: I don’t think I’ll go into a comparison, but certainly when you look at the credentials that Judge Kavanaugh brings to the job, it’ll be very difficult for anyone to argue that he’s not qualified for the job. He clearly is qualified for the job, but there are other issues involving judicial temperament and his political, or rather his judicial philosophy, that also will play into my decision.
REPORTER: Is it OK to ask nominees about previous cases, like Roe v. Wade, specifically?
COLLINS: You know, I will say that it is the height of irony that it was Justice Ginsberg who was the one who first said no hints, no previews, no forecasts on how she would vote… So I find it a bit ironic that now there is this complete reversal by some of the Senate Democratic leaders on what is permissible to be asked and what isn’t. I’m obviously going to probe deeply on a number of issues. It would be a violation of judicial ethics for someone to say how they’re going to vote on a particular case, but there are other ways to get at the issue than asking a question that they would be prohibited by the judicial canon from answering.