life after roe

Senate’s Biggest Sucker Complains About Being Suckered

In happier times. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senator Susan Collins’s frequent expressions of “disappointment” and “concern” over the unsurprisingly extreme actions of her own party are so commonplace that they have become a meme among liberals. At times, the Maine Republican seems to be either living in an alternate political universe or playing the role of a well-intentioned naïf on purpose.

Collins was at it again on Tuesday. In a statement reacting to the leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, Collins expressed shock (or faux shock?) that she had been misled by two conservative justices she voted to confirm, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch. (Collins did vote no on Donald Trump’s third Supreme Court Justice, Amy Coney Barrett, but she said her decision stemmed from the timing of the nomination.)

Collins memorably provided the pivotal vote for Kavanaugh in 2018, delivering a fiery speech that largely defended him from Democratic attacks. Her apparent certainty that Kavanaugh would not fundamentally mess with abortion rights was so strong that she was practically singing it from the rooftops:

During his confirmation hearings, Kavanaugh said that Roe was “settled as a precedent of the Supreme Court” and noted that it had been “reaffirmed many times over the past 45 years.” Gorsuch was considerably more evasive during his hearings, though he did say of Roe that “a good judge will consider it as precedent of the United States Supreme Court, worthy of treatment as precedent, like any other.”

But just about everyone agrees — with the exception of perhaps one other senator — that confirmation hearings long ago veered away from providing much insight into a judge’s actual philosophy. They have turned into partisan circuses in which potential justices must pretend to play the role of neutral arbiters — the classic example being John Roberts’s contention that he was just on the Court to call “balls and strikes.” And hostility toward Roe has long been probably the most important litmus test for Republican-appointed justices, especially after judges such as David Souter turned out to be much more liberal than conservatives had expected.

It’s still possible that Kavanaugh will shift his position before the actual decision is made public. (Gorsuch almost certainly won’t.) But if the conservative majority holds, there would be only one way to restore national abortion rights: passing legislation, which would mean abolishing the filibuster. Naturally, Collins is a no on that.

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Senate’s Biggest Sucker Complains About Being Suckered