With Rand Paul onboard the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation train, Democratic hopes for Senate Republican defections now depend on occasional party heretics Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. Aside from showing an intermittent willingness to throw off the party yoke, these two lawmakers also happen to be that rarest of phenomena: pro-choice Republicans. So you’d think they’d be at least theoretically open to the possibility of blocking Kavanaugh as a likely fifth vote on the Supreme Court to reverse or significantly modify Roe v. Wade.
Collins and Murkowski remain officially undecided on Kavanaugh, but they sent a pretty strong signal of party loyalty by supporting their party’s efforts to restrict the amount of documentation the judge will be required to supply prior to his confirmation hearings, as the Los Angeles Times reports:
Republican senators expected to hold key votes on President Trump’s nomination to the Supreme Court are showing subtle signs of support for the effort to put Judge Brett Kavanaugh on the bench.
Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine said Tuesday that they were satisfied with the GOP plan to limit the scope of documents to be released regarding Kavanaugh’s record, despite Democrats’ call for a fuller review of the candidate’s work in Washington, particularly his years as staff secretary in the George W. Bush White House.
In effect, these senators are saying: Don’t tell me anything I don’t want to know.
Perhaps not coincidentally, over the weekend the Washington Post reported that Collins and Murkowski weren’t exactly feeling a lot of heat from back home to oppose Kavanaugh, as compared to the furor over health care that led both to oppose last year’s highly partisan effort to repeal and replace Obamacare:
In separate interviews, Collins and Murkowski said constituents view the health-care debate and the Supreme Court very differently.
“The protests are similar, the media campaign is more aggressive this time, but the constituent involvement is less. And I think that’s because health care is so personal and affects everybody,” Collins said.
“A different level of intensity, a different level of intensity. What I was hearing at home were very personal stories,” Murkowski recalled of last summer’s interactions with constituents. “Literally people in tears. The level of just emotional outpouring that made it just — intense is the best word — is different than it is now.”
It’s true that the threat to reproductive rights posed by Kavanaugh is at this point hypothetical, while the other reactionary positions he is likely to take on the Court are complex and remote to the rather large majority of Americans who did not choose to spend three years in law school. But to the extent that Collins and Murkowski find it convenient to stick with their party and its anti-abortion base on one of the most crucial votes they may ever cast, people in Maine and Alaska who have reason to send up alarms about Kavanaugh may regret giving their senators a pass.