Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said on Sunday she would not support a replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy who would oppose the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion rights nationwide.
“I would not support a nominee who demonstrated a hostility to Roe v. Wade,” Collins said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
She reiterated that view on ABC’s “This Week,” describing Roe v. Wade as “settled law.”
“A candidate for this important position who would overturn Roe v. Wade would not be acceptable to me because that would indicate an activist agenda that I don’t want to see a judge have,” Collins said.
The GOP holds a 51-49 majority in the Senate, and lack of support from two Republicans would require President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to find a Democrat to confirm a replacement for Kennedy. In the instance of a 50-50 tie, Vice President Mike Pence would cast the deciding vote.
Collins also said that she hoped Trump would consider candidates who are not on the shortlist of judges he used to choose Neil Gorsuch early in 2017 to take the high court seat left vacant by the death of Antonin Scalia.
“I told [Trump] that I was looking for a nominee that would demonstrate a respect for precedent,” Collins said on “This Week.”
On Thursday evening, Trump invited Collins and four other moderate senators ― Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.). ― to the White House to discuss the vacancy. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, was also in attendance.
Collins said that, at that meeting, she also suggested to Trump “that he broaden his search beyond the list of 25 nominees” that produced Gorsuch.
The president, however, has indicated that he will stick to that list and will announce his pick on July 9.
Collins said Trump told her that he would not ask a prospective Supreme Court nominee about their stance on Roe. “The president told me he would not ask that question,” she said on “State of the Union.”
That may be a moot distinction, given as Trump’s list of prospective judicial nominees was crafted with the assistance of The Federalist Society, a conservative legal think tank that is deeply hostile to reproductive rights. It is unlikely that any nominee drawn from that list would look kindly on Roe.
Kennedy’s retirement is widely viewed as the most significant Supreme Court vacancy in a generation, marking the departure of the court’s swing vote on a range of issues, including abortion, LGBTQ rights and health care.