WASHINGTON — Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a moderate who was one of five senators to meet with President Trump on Thursday about the Supreme Court vacancy, said she told him she’s “looking for a nominee that would demonstrate a respect for precedence” and suggested he venture beyond his campaign-era list of 25 judicial candidates approved by the Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation.
“The White House counsel told me that there have been a few additional potential nominees added to that list,” Collins told ABC this morning. “But I think the president should not feel bound by that list and instead should seek out recommendations to ensure that he gets the best possible person.”
The senator said she was “glad to hear” five additional names had been added to the list.
“The president listened very intently to what Lisa Murkowski and I said,” she said, noting the Alaska Republican who is also in favor of abortion rights. “And I got the feeling that he was still deliberating and had not yet reached a decision and that this was genuine outreach on his part.”
Without naming names, Collins said there are people on the original conservative list of 25 she “could not support, because I believe that they have demonstrated a disrespect for the vital principle of stare decisis, which as Chief Justice Roberts has said is a fundamental principle of our judicial system that promotes even-handedness and stability.”
A nominee’s view on “whether or not they respect precedent will tell me a lot about whether or not they would overturn Roe v. Wade,” she said. “A candidate of this import 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.”
Collins said Trump told her he wouldn’t be asking prospective justices their opinion on the 1973 case that legalized abortion.
“I’ve had a number of judges who say to me that good judges are always unhappy with some of their decisions but they make the right call regardless of their personal views. And that’s what I want to see in this nominee,” she added.
Collins told CNN this morning that she doesn’t believe Justice Neil Gorsuch would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, based on conversations they had during the nomination process.
“I had a very long discussion with Justice Gorsuch in my office, and he pointed out to me that he is a co-author of a whole book on precedent. So, 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,” she said.
“And I always have the same kinds of discussions in my office. I do a lot of work on the record of the appointee. And I ask probing questions to try to determine whether they are going to be an activist judge with an agenda, which I don’t want on either the left or the right,” the senator added. “I want a judge who will apply the law to the facts of the case, with fidelity to the Constitution. Roe v. Wade is a constitutional right that is well-established. And no less an authority than Chief Justice Roberts said that repeatedly at his confirmation hearing.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told NBC this morning, “I would tell my pro-life friends, you can be pro-life and conservative, but you can also believe in stare decisis.”
“I’m not going to vote for anybody that tells me they’re going to decide a case before the facts are presented to them. I don’t expect the judge to say, I’m going to overturn Roe v. Wade, or, I will never listen to an argument about abortion. I have a bill that says, because a baby can feel pain at 20 weeks during the birthing process, 20 weeks post-conception, that there’s a compelling state interest to protect a child from an abortion at that period, five months of the pregnancy,” Graham said. “That’s a novel issue that’s never been decided under Roe. So I hope the justices — this one and all of them — will listen to the arguments before they decide.”
Trump told Fox News in an interview aired this morning that he would “probably not” ask Supreme Court candidates about Roe.
“They’re all saying, don’t do that, you don’t do that, you shouldn’t do that. But I’m putting conservative people on,” he said, adding of Roe that “maybe some day it will be to the states.”
“You never know how that’s going to turn out,” Trump said. “That’s a very complex question.”