Collins Says She Can’t Back Judge Who Would Strike Roe v. Wade

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump shouldn’t pick someone for the Supreme Court who doesn’t respect legal precedent, including the “settled” 1973 decision that legalized abortion, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said.

“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,” Collins said Sunday in an interview on ABC’s “This Week.”

Collins said she urged Trump during a meeting last week to broaden the list of 25 possible justices he released during the campaign, and that the White House subsequently told her five more people had been added to it.

“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,” Collins said. “There are people on that list whom I could not support.”

Collins is among small group of U.S. senators whose support is seen as crucial to securing the confirmation of a new Supreme Court Justice following the retirement announcement of Justice Anthony Kennedy.

The Maine senator has said previously that she wouldn’t support someone who pledges to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in the U.S. It’s settled law, and justices must respect legal precedent, she said.

Graham’s View

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that he wouldn’t vote for a nominee who promises to overturn a case before the facts are presented. Graham said he also supports the concept of stare decisis, meaning a respect for legal precedent.

“That means you don’t overturn precedent unless there’s a good reason,” Graham said. “And I would tell my pro-life friends you can be pro-life and conservative, but you can also believe in stare decisis.”

Leonard Leo, a former vice president of the Federalist Society who has advised Trump on judicial nominations, also expressed support for the idea of a justice upholding precedent in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”

“I don’t think at the end of the day it’s about Roe v. Wade,” Leo said. “It’s about having judges on the court who are going to interpret the constitution the way it’s written, and part of interpreting the constitution is taking into account major precedents, and that’s going to happen.”

Not That Specific

Trump said on Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures” that he “probably” wouldn’t ask his potential nominees about how they would vote on the abortion law. He said he’s been told he shouldn’t be that specific in his questions, though he will be putting a conservative on the court.

Senator Richard Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, said he thinks Trump is looking for a justice who will overturn the abortion law, as well as rule that protections under President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul against denying insurance to those with pre-existing conditions are unconstitutional.

“Donald Trump is looking for a justice who’s going to rule in his favor,” Durbin said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Meeting with Senators

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a tweet Thursday that Trump had met with Collins and fellow Republicans Chuck Grassley of Iowa, chairman of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, as well as Democrats Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Manchin, Donnelly and Heitkamp are Democrats from states Trump won in 2016. He has targeted them for defeat in November’s midterm elections. That makes them more likely than other senators in their party to support his nominee for the court.

With Republicans controlling the Senate 51 to 49, Democrats must prevent any defections and win over at least one Republican if they hope to block a nominee.

Trump said Friday he had narrowed his search to about five finalists, including two women, and will announce his pick on July 9. Trump said that he may interview one or two candidates this weekend at his resort in Bedminster, New Jersey.

A person familiar with the process said White House officials are focused primarily on five federal appeals court judges -- Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, Thomas Hardiman, Raymond Kethledge and Amul Thapar.

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