Collins Suggests Gorsuch, Kavanaugh Misled Senate on Roe
(Bloomberg) -- Republican Senator Susan Collins suggested Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh misled the Senate on whether they would support overturning the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
“If this leaked draft opinion is the final decision and this reporting is accurate, it would be completely inconsistent with what Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh said in their hearings and in our meetings in my office,” Collins, of Maine, said in a statement Tuesday after Politico disclosed the draft. “Obviously, we won’t know each Justice’s decision and reasoning until the Supreme Court officially announces its opinion in this case.”
Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, another GOP supporter of abortion rights, said she also was surprised by the draft decision.
“It was not the direction that I believed that the court would take based on statements that have been made about Roe being settled and being precedent,” Murkowski told reporters.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday said the draft was authentic but did not represent the final view of the court.
Collins, who provided the pivotal vote to confirm Kavanaugh, said repeatedly she did not think he would overturn Roe because of his statement of support for precedent.
Roe is, “as a precedent of the Supreme Court, entitled to respect under principles of stare decisis,” Kavanaugh said during his confirmation hearing, referring to the legal doctrine that means the court should respect its precedents.
Gorsuch, during his hearing in 2017, called the abortion-rights ruling a “precedent of the United States Supreme Court. It has been reaffirmed.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer went a step further than Collins, saying the justices appointed by former President Donald Trump had “lied to the U.S. Senate and ripped up the Constitution and defiled both precedent and the Supreme Court’s reputation.”
Trump, during his 2016 presidential campaign, said that his Supreme Court nominees would be “pro-life,” and that Roe would “automatically” be overturned once he had made enough appointments. His three appointments solidified the Court’s conservative majority.
Schumer said he intends to force a full Senate vote on legislation that would codify the protections in the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling, though it’s likely to fail.
Collins in February proposed legislation with Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski that would codify abortion rights precedents. While that legislation would likely have the support of a bare majority of the evenly divided Senate if it came up for a vote, it would not have close to the 60 votes needed to advance under the chamber’s filibuster rule.
Collins, Murkowski and another supporter of abortion rights -- Democrat Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona -- have all repeatedly opposed changing the 60-vote rule.
Murkowski declined to comment to reporters when asked if the leaked decision changes her view about keeping the Senate’s filibuster rule. Sinema, in a statement, said Senate rules have been used to block the erosion of women’s access to health care “and are more important now than ever.”
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia also opposes getting rid of the filibuster, but Sinema’s stance in particular has caused fissures within the Democratic Party.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that until Sinema changes her position on the filibuster “she can take a seat talking about ‘women’s access to health care.’”
A House-passed abortion rights bill came up for a procedural vote in the Senate in February and was blocked, 46-48, with Collins, Murkowski and Manchin voting to back a GOP-led filibuster.
Collins said the bill that she and Murkowski sponsored “would in my judgment have broader support” because it’s more narrowly focused.
“But it clearly would make Roe v. Wade and the Casey v. Planned Parenthood decisions the law of the land,” she said.
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