09:29, July 01 44 0 theguardian.com

2018-07-01 09:29:20
Trump anti-abortion supreme court pick 'not acceptable', says Collins

As battle lines are drawn in the coming fight over Donald Trump’s next supreme court nominee, a senator who could help to decide the nominee’s fate warned on Sunday that a justice who would seek to reverse federal abortion rights protections “would not be acceptable”.

“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,” Republican senator Susan Collins told ABC’s This Week, referring to the 1973 court decision protecting abortion rights.

Trump has said he will announce his pick to fill the seat of retiring justice Anthony Kennedy on 9 July. He was due to begin interviewing candidates from an existing 25-strong list this weekend, from his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey.

Collins said Trump had told her personally he would not ask potential nominees about their position on Roe, despite his having said as a candidate that he would take a nominee’s willingness to reverse Roe as a litmus test. Vice-president Mike Pence, an outspoken evangelical Christian, has called for Roe to be relegated to “the ash heap of history.”

“I would not support a nominee who demonstrated hostility to Roe v Wade,” Collins told CNN’s State of the Union, “because that would mean to me that their judicial philosophy would not include a respect for established decisions, for established law, and I believe that is a fundamental tenet of our judicial system.”

She added: “Roe v Wade is a constitutional right that is well established.”

Almost every Republican in the Senate, which will confirm the successful nominee, is expected to vote with Trump as a matter of course.

But Collins has in the past bucked her party and the president, notably with her opposition in 2017 to Trump’s education secretary nominee, Betsy DeVos, and to attempts to repeal Barack Obama’s healthcare law.

Collins has also frequently voted with the president, however, including on a crucial December 2017 vote in favor of a tax cuts package that ended the healthcare law’s individual mandate. She voted for Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first supreme court pick. On Sunday she told CNN she did not believe Gorsuch would seek to undermine Roe, because Gorsuch had authored a book on judicial precedent.

“Someone who devotes that much time to writing a book on precedent, I think understands how important a principle that is in our judicial system,” Collins said.

Collins and fellow senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are the only two nominally pro-choice Republicans in the Senate. Both voted in favor of a 2003 legislative amendment to endorse Roe. In 2002, according to Talking Points Memo, Collins said: “The Republican party should be as synonymous with protecting a woman’s right to choose as the Democratic party is with expanded government or raising taxes.”

The Republicans hold only a 51-49 majority in the Senate, meaning any defections from the supreme court nominee could be costly, especially as Senator John McCain, who is receiving treatment for cancer in his home state of Arizona, may not be on hand for the confirmation vote.

But Trump may not need every Republican if he can pick off some Democrats. Three senators – Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota – who voted for Trump’s first supreme court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, met with Trump on Thursday to talk about the new court vacancy.

All three are up for re-election in November in states where Trump won handily.

Topics