FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) talks to reporters as she arrives for a Senate healthcare vote on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S.on July...
Yuri Gripas

Collins still doesn’t expect Kavanaugh to vote to overturn Roe v Wade


The Rachel Maddow Show, 8/16/18, 9:51 PM ET

Tape hints Kavanaugh opposes marriage equality, abortion rights

Rachel Maddow shares a new tape of Donald Trump Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh discussing Antonin Scalia’s opposition to marriage equality and abortion rights, characterizing them as “new rights” not guaranteed by the Constitution.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) did an interview with Showtime’s “The Circus” late last week, and while I haven’t seen the full episode, the network released a video excerpt about the debate over Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination. Pay particular attention to this exchange between the Maine Republican and John Heilemann:

HEILEMANN: It could be that you’ll be the vote who decides whether to put that guy on the Supreme Court or not, when you also know that he may be the person who repeals Roe v. Wade.

COLLINS: First of all, I do not believe he’s going to repeal Roe v. Wade.

The clip went on to show the senator saying she remains undecided on the Kavanaugh nomination, though Collins added she’s “very close” to making a decision.

It’s worth emphasizing for context that Maine’s senior senator is one of only a few pro-choice GOP lawmakers still in Congress. What’s more, nearly three months ago, about a week before Brett Kavanaugh was introduced as Donald Trump’s nominee for the high court, Collins declared that she “would not support a nominee who demonstrated hostility to Roe v. Wade.”

The challenge comes with understanding why the veteran Republican lawmaker is so confident in how Kavanaugh will rule when it comes to the reproductive rights she’s long supported.

Trump, for example, assured the Republican base that he would choose Supreme Court justices who would overturn the Roe precedent, and he picked from a list of conservative jurists vetted by a far-right advocacy group that had this question, among others, in mind when evaluating would-be nominees.

The religious right movement, meanwhile, is championing Kavanaugh’s nomination, confident that he’ll advance the Christian conservative agenda from the high court.

Collins, however, seems convinced that they’re all going to be disappointed. The conservative movement may be convinced that Kavanaugh, if confirmed, would overturn Roe, but the Maine senator genuinely seems to believe the right is wrong.

The question, of course, is why. The answer seems to be Kavanaugh’s personal assurances to Collins that he sees the matter as “settled as a precedent of the court” and “settled law.”

And while that’s nice, it’s also true that the Supreme Court can, and often does, reject the findings of previous courts and establishes new precedents.

As we discussed a few weeks ago, it’s not that Kavanaugh is lying, so much as he’s playing a little rhetorical game. Sure, he sees Roe as “settled,” insofar as previous justices issued a landmark ruling. But the Supreme Court has overruled settled precedents hundreds of times. All it takes is five justices to agree a previous decision was wrong.

And given what we know of Kavanaugh’s record, he wants to be one of those five.

If and when that happens, it’s likely Collins would issue a statement expressing her disappointment, though by that point, it would be too late.

Supreme Court and Susan Collins

Collins still doesn't expect Kavanaugh to vote to overturn Roe v Wade