Politics

Republican Senator: I’m ‘Perplexed’ At Mitch McConnell’s Decision To Block Merrick Garland

CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) flanked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on the right.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) says Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell is “not real happy” with her.

That’s because Collins is part of a growing group of Republican Senators who have decided to openly defy McConnell and meet with Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court.

Since former Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February, McConnell has pledged to block any Obama-nominated justice by not holding hearings, meetings, or a floor vote.

But Collins is pushing back. In an interview with Newsradio WGAN in Maine on Tuesday, she explained why she disagrees with McConnell’s strategy to fill the empty Supreme Court seat.

“Obviously, the leader’s not real happy with me,” Collins said, adding that she was “a bit perplexed” by McConnell’s position:

Let’s say that Hillary Clinton is the next president of the Untied States. I personally believe that she would be likely to choose a nominee who is to the left of Judge Garland. I know Senator McConnell cares deeply about the balance of the court…. If the next president is a Democrat, than the balance could be tipped way further than Judge Garland, based on what I know about him so far. …

If the nominee is Mr. Trump, and he becomes the next president, who knows who his nominee would be. He’s rather unpredictable. So, I’m not quite sure what [McConnell’s] thinking is, but it’s clearly one that he believes strongly in. And, as he says, it’s the principle, not the person. To me, the person makes all the difference.

Listen to the whole interview here:

When it comes to McConnell’s strategy to block Garland, Collins was one of the earlier defectors.

Shortly after Scalia’s death in February, Collins said she would give her “full attention” to whoever President Obama decided to nominate. After Garland’s official nomination earlier this month, Collins urged her fellow Republicans to “follow regular order” and go through the nomination process, even if it meant rejecting Garland in the end.

On Tuesday, Collins said she’s continued to urge her Republican colleagues to meet with Garland.

“I talked to one of my colleagues just this week who has decided to meet with Judge Garland, and I had encouraged him to do so,” Collins said. “And he was saying how much better that he felt about going ahead with the meeting, because that’s the way the process should work.”

While most Republicans senators are sticking with McConnell, more than 25 percent have agreed to hold meetings with Garland, according to NBC News.

Collins said that she hasn’t yet made a decision on whether she would vote for Garland. The appeals court justice is widely considered a moderate, and is the oldest person to ever be nominated to the Supreme Court. Collins said she’d need to know more about Garland before casting a vote — and that Senate hearings would be the best way to learn about his record.

“I’ve always found that one-on-one meetings with nominees and the in-depth hearings we have in the judiciary committee are the best ways to thoroughly understand a nominee’s views,” she said. “Undoubtedly there will be issues that would arise in a hearing that would provide grounds for people who don’t want to vote for Judge Garland, and those who do.”

Collins said she’ll be meeting with Garland next week.