Any Supreme Court nominee who would overturn Roe v. Wade would be unacceptable to her, said US Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), one of the most closely watched lawmakers as Trump moves to nominate a replacement for outgoing Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Trump has vowed to appoint justices that would overturn the landmark case affirming abortion as a constitutional right. His next appointment will determine the court’s majority, leaving abortion rights in the balance as Kennedy retires from the high court.
Speaking to ABC television on Sunday, Collins, a rare pro-choice Republican, said she was going to have an “in-depth conversation” with the nominee and reiterated what she said last week — that she believes Roe v. Wade is settled law.
“It has been established as a constitutional right for 45 years and was reaffirmed 26 years ago,” Collins said. “So a nominee’s position on whether or not they respect precedent will tell me a lot about whether they would overturn Roe v. Wade.”
“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, and that would indicate to me a failure to respect precedent, a fundamental tenant of our judicial system,” she said.
Collins made similar comments in 2005 after former President George W. Bush nominated Sam Alito to the Supreme Court, saying after a meeting with Alito, “I asked him whether it made a difference to him if he disagreed with the initial decision, but it had been reaffirmed several times since then. I was obviously referring to Roe in that question.”
She went on, saying, “He assured me that he has tremendous respect for precedent and that his approach is to not overturn cases due to a disagreement with how they were originally decided.”
During the confirmation process, it was revealed that Alito wrote in a 1985 memo that the government “should make clear that we disagree with Roe v. Wade.” In his confirmation hearings, Alito also refused to call Roe “settled law.”
Despite that, Collins voted for Alito anyway. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the only other pro-choice Republican in the Senate, voted for him, too. And, despite his assurances to Collins in 2007 that he has “tremendous respect for precedent,” Alito voted with the 5-4 majority up holding the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.
It was the first decision from the Supreme Court that allowed for a ban on a kind of abortion procedure that did not include a health exception.
On Sunday, Collins also told ABC that she is urging Trump to expand his list of potential nominees beyond the current 25, and that there are currently some potential nominees on that list for whom she could not vote because they have a history of disrespecting precedent.
Murkowski has been less specific about whether she would vote for any of Trump’s potential nominees.
In a statement Wednesday, Murkowski said she would “carefully scrutinize” Trump’s pick, adding that she believes Kennedy — the swing vote on abortion issues — “held the court together and did right by the Constitution.”