SCARBOROUGH — Sen. Susan Collins of Maine on Friday said that she remains undecided on whether she will vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Collins acknowledged that many are lobbying her and want to know where she stands. Though she has read or watched most of Kavanaugh’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, she has yet to review all of the material presented during the hearing.
After a week of grilling Kavanaugh, the committee wrapped up the confirmation hearings Friday. Collins is in the spotlight as a rare pro-abortion rights Republican who could vote “no” in a Senate where Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority. Another pro-abortion rights Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, also is being closely scrutinized on Kavanaugh.
Many pro-abortion rights groups are sounding the alarm that Kavanaugh would be likely to overturn the 1973 landmark abortion case, Roe v. Wade, or approve restrictions that would significantly limit a woman’s right to choose. President Trump has said he would select a Supreme Court nominee – a lifetime appointment – who would vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade.
A group called Mainers Against Kavanaugh has scheduled a rally at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in downtown Portland to encourage Collins to vote “no.”
While progressive groups are turning up the pressure on Collins, the senator said she is going through careful deliberations.
“I know it’s frustrating to the press, but until I finish my review I’m going to defer my decision-making,” Collins said outside of Abbott Laboratories, a Scarborough company that manufactures diagnostic tests for the health care industry. “I have been involved in confirmation hearings for six Supreme Court justices. I have always waited until hearings are done and until I have reviewed the paperwork and cases, et cetera.”
Collins did have many positive remarks about Kavanaugh, including that she believes he would respect the precedent established by Roe v. Wade and earlier Supreme Court cases that ruled in favor of women’s privacy.
“He often describes Roe as precedent upon precedent,” Collins said.
Collins said an email made public Thursday that Kavanaugh wrote in 2003 as an attorney working for former President George W. Bush doesn’t concern her because Kavanaugh was summarizing the opinion of others and not stating his personal view. In the email, Kavanaugh wrote: “I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since Court can always overrule its precedent, and three current Justices on the Court would do so.”
Collins said based on her conversations with Kavanaugh, Roe would be difficult to overturn because of the principle of respecting precedent.
“Roe v. Wade is a case that was decided in 1973 so it’s 45 years old. It was reaffirmed 26 years ago. If you look at how much a part of our society Roe is you could argue it would be very difficult to overturn,” Collins said.
The Supreme Court is now evenly divided 4-4 between conservative and liberal justices.
When asked about a controversy regarding whether Kavanaugh lied under oath during his 2004 confirmation hearing to be a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court, Collins said she wasn’t aware of the issue. Democrats are charging that Kavanaugh lied about whether – while working for the Bush administration in 2003 – he handled the “vetting process” for another judge, appeals court Judge William Pryor. Kavanaugh said he wasn’t involved in the process during his 2004 confirmation hearing, but newly surfaced emails from that time suggest that he was.
Collins said she would examine the issue this weekend.
“If in fact (Kavanaugh) was not truthful, then obviously that would be a major problem for me,” Collins said.
Meanwhile, Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, in a Friday phone interview with the Press Herald, said he’s “very skeptical” of Kavanaugh, and that Roe v. Wade would be in jeopardy if he were confirmed. King said even if Roe v. Wade is not overturned outright, Supreme Court cases could limit abortion rights to such an extent that Roe would become meaningless.
“It could be whittled away to the point of being rendered a hollow shell,” King said.
King said he also objects to Kavanaugh’s “expansive” view of the power of the executive branch, while having a much more narrow interpretation of the rights of private citizens. King said Kavanaugh would be a “far right” judge replacing a more centrist justice, Anthony Kennedy.
Also on Friday, Kennebunk High School sophomore Hunter Lachance, 15, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about Kavanaugh’s stance on air quality.
Lachance was one of several people brought before the Senate to discuss various aspects of potential Kavanaugh rulings on the Supreme Court.
Lachance has asthma, and he said he is “concerned that the Supreme Court could make major decisions in the next few years that will cause air pollution in Maine to increase if Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed.”
Lachance said Kavanaugh’s record on environmental protections is worrisome.
“I’m deeply concerned that if Brett Kavanaugh is on the Supreme Court, he would vote to weaken laws that protect my health, because he already has. In a 2012 ruling, he rejected the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule based on the Clean Air Act’s ‘Good Neighbor’ provision, which regulates air pollution that crosses state lines,” Lachance said. “According to the EPA, this rule reduces sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollutants, and will prevent 34,000 premature deaths.”
“During his time on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Mr. Kavanaugh has repeatedly struck down other Clean Air Act protections. This worries me a lot because clean air is a life-or-death issue for so many people like me. We need a Supreme Court that will protect clean air because lives depend on it.”