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Abortion order creates awkward questions for Maine's Susan Collins

Susan Collins predicted Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh would protect Roe v. Wade precedent. She was wrong.

The heist began in earnest five years ago. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly, and President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland, a center-left, compromise jurist — who'd been recommended by Senate Republicans — to fill the vacancy.

The Senate's GOP majority responded by imposing an unprecedented high court blockade for a nearly a year. The party's ostensible moderates, including Maine's Susan Collins, went along with the scheme.

As Election Day 2016 approached, several Republican senators said they intended to extend the blockade for at least another four years if the Democratic ticket won the presidential election. The party's ostensible moderates, including Collins, said nothing.

After Donald Trump took office and chose Neil Gorsuch to fill the high court's vacancy, effectively completing the theft of a Supreme Court seat, Senate Republicans patted themselves on the back. The moderates, including Collins, went along with the scheme, expressing confidence that Gorsuch would leave the Roe v. Wade precedent intact.

A year later, Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the nation's highest court. Maine's senior senator went out of her way to vouch for the conservative jurist and his commitment to precedent. The New York Times reported at the time:

"Protecting [the right to an abortion] is important to me," said Ms. Collins, who said a two-hour, face-to-face session with Judge Kavanaugh and an hourlong follow-up call, as well as an exhaustive review of his opinions, had persuaded her that he would not overturn Roe v. Wade. "His views on honoring precedent would preclude attempts to do by stealth that which one has committed not to do overtly."

Kavanaugh received 50 votes. Collins was one of them.

Two years later, after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's passing, the Republican Party's heist entered its final phase: Shortly before the 2020 presidential election, Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. GOP senators conveniently cast aside all of the deeply held principles they pretended to cherish in 2016 and confirmed her eight days before Election Day.

This time, Collins balked — she was in the midst of a difficult re-election campaign at the time — but her party, indifferent to principle and propriety, confirmed Barrett anyway.

Around midnight last night, Americans were reminded of the consequences of the Republican Party's scheme: Five Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices, including each of Trump's three nominees, gave the green light to a ridiculous Texas abortion ban, crafted by GOP state policymakers who thumbed their nose at legal precedent.

As a result, Roe v. Wade protections no longer exist in the nation's second largest state.

Two of the five justices in the majority — Gorsuch and Kavanaugh — were confirmed thanks in part to Collins' confirmation votes. The Maine senator assured the public that both would respect precedent, including on matters related to reproductive rights.

Last night, they did not.

I'll look forward to Collins' response, if she has one. If recent history is any guide, she'll express tacit "disappointment" and "concern," and perhaps wring her hands about the developments she apparently did not expect.

But the Republican senator's concerns will have no consequences — unlike the Supreme Court order from the justices she helped put on the bench.