In just a few weeks, the U.S. Senate begins one of its most important deliberations in recent history. If 53-year-old Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the Supreme Court, there will be major reverberations for all of us and our children for decades. So why does Susan Collins, a potential swing vote on the nomination, seem so willing to give Kavanaugh a free pass, even as the warning signs multiply? As Mainers, we should be worried about the nominee and the Senator.

From the start of his career, Kavanaugh entrenched himself in a remarkable way in partisan beltway ideology — darling of the far-right Federalist Society, campaign operative for Bush-Cheney, hired gun in Bush v. Gore, Bush White House insider. He did not change when he was rewarded with robes.

It’s hard to picture Collins and Kavanaugh shooting the breeze over lobster roll and beer. Collins is a legislator of the people. She knows, loves and respects her roots — the people of Maine and the great state itself. Her best instincts are moderate, consensus-building, attuned to working families.

Those instincts are part of a Maine political tradition of independent thought and compassionate action, from Smith to Muskie to Mitchell to Cohen to Snowe. Collins’ chapter is unfinished. But to meekly approve Kavanaugh, to let the Federalist Society and Trump do her vetting for her, to roll over for Mitch McConnell, would be to sever herself from that tradition forever.

There’s no pretending that Kavanaugh would not overturn Roe v Wade. Yes, he gave Collins the cover she wanted this week by calling Roe “settled law,” but what does that mean? It does not mean that he will preserve the right to choose as it is now. It does not mean that he won’t allow states to erode Roe to the point where it is overturned in all but name.

Chief Justice Roberts also called Roe “settled law,” but then voted to uphold the restrictions in Whole Women’s Health. Giving Kavanaugh a free pass for mouthing “due respect” for precedent would be a betrayal of every woman in Maine who would make that decision for herself and trusts Collins to remain pro-choice.

Trump promised a nominee who would attack the right to choose, and he delivered. Advise and consent does not allow for duck and cover. A vote for Kavanaugh is a vote against choice. Full stop.

As goes the right to choose, so go other liberty interests. Roe is part of a line of Supreme Court cases that recognize our constitutionally guaranteed right to be free of unwarranted governmental intrusion into our personal lives in an array of intimate decisions about marriage, birth control, sex, raising children and education. The arch-conservative approach of the Federalist Society is meant to roll us back to at least the 1950s, when states could tell us not to use birth control and not to marry someone with different color skin.

Tourism feeds Maine’s economy and the natural beauty of our state feeds our souls. Kavanaugh jeopardizes both. He is hostile to the power of administrative agencies to make rules enforcing federal law, including laws that keep our air, water and land clean. He has been on the wrong side of decisions involving mercury, hydrofluorocarbons, methane and other heat-trapping gases. His biggest complaint seems to be that compliance with strict rules is just too expensive for big corporations. The planet and our children can’t afford that kind of thinking.

Kavanaugh’s hostility to the regulatory power of federal agencies will also hurt Mainers at work. His approach favors big business over small, management over workers. By undercutting OSHA and the EEOC, for example, he devalues both safety and a workplace free of discrimination and harassment.

One more danger, among many: health care. ACA is imperfect but it took us out of the dark ages of HMO-ed, rationed, inhumane, corporate medicine. It reined in costs. It insured 20 million more Americans. It’s given our young adult children a few more years of coverage as they get on their feet. In short, it’s worked — and no one’s got anything better. In opinions and law review articles, however, Kavanaugh has proven hostile to the ACA. Mainers are of sound mind when it comes to health care: we think it should be affordable, decent and accessible. Now is not the time to toss it all out and blindly start anew — too many will suffer.

Finally, the 800-pound gorilla: Trump. A mercurial president unrestrained by his own party, tradition, principle or the truth is at the center of an investigation into Russia’s interference with the election that made him president by the slimmest of margins. All around him, his closest aides (campaign chair and co-chair, personal attorney, national security advisor, so far) are pleading to or being convicted of felonies.

There is a dark cloud over this nomination. We know that documents from Kavanaugh’s White House years are being withheld. We know as well that after acting as a pit bull investigator of a sitting president, Kavanaugh conveniently shifted and now says a sitting president should be insulated not only from indictment, but from investigation. In Kavanaugh, Trump sees what he could not get in Comey or Sessions or Rosenstein — a free pass.

Sen. Collins must not give Kavanaugh a free pass of his own.

Kevin Curnin of Topsham is a partner in the law firm Stroock & Stroock & Lavan and is director of its Public Service Project, which he founded in 2001. He directs the firm’s pro bono and social justice work in New York, Washington, D.C., Miami and Los Angeles. He is a current board member and immediate past president of the Association of Pro Bono Counsel, which shares experience advocating on issues of civil rights, human rights, immigration, housing, reproductive rights, access to justice and voting rights, among other current social justice issues.

Kevin Curnin


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