Brett Kavanaugh, U.S. Supreme Court associate justice nominee for U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., U.S. (Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg)

Collins Says Kavanaugh Told Her Roe Case Is ‘Settled Law’

(Bloomberg) -- Senator Susan Collins said Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh told her he agrees that the court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion is “settled law” during a key meeting ahead of confirmation hearings early next month.

The Maine Republican said she talked with him “at length” about his decision in a separate abortion related case that came before him on the D.C.-based federal appeals court as well the Roe case. She didn’t elaborate on whether she viewed Kavanaugh’s remarks as indicating he would uphold Roe in a future case.

"We talked about whether he considered Roe to be settled law,” Collins said. Kavanaugh, she said, agreed with Chief Justice John Roberts’ remarks during his confirmation “in which he said it was settled law.”

Collins met for about two hours with President Donald Trump’s nominee, one in a series of private interviews with senators seeking to tease out how he would rule if confirmed to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kavanaugh, who is meeting Tuesday with other senators as well, did not talk to reporters after the session with Collins.

Collins called the conversation “very helpful,” but that she won’t make a final decision until after the Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, which is scheduled to begin Sept. 4.

Collins of Maine, along with Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, is one of two undecided Republicans who support the Roe ruling that women have a right to an abortion. Collins has said she wouldn’t support a nominee who was openly hostile to Roe, and Murkowski has said Roe is a factor in her evaluation process, but not the only factor.

Among Kavanaugh’s other meetings Tuesday was a visit with Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, who dismissed the “settled law” comment as meaningless. Roe is “settled law until they unsettle it,” he said of the court.

After the meeting, Schumer said Kavanaugh wouldn’t give “any reassurance” that Roe was “correctly decided.” He also refused to say whether a president could be subject to a subpoena, an issue that could come before the court as a result of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Trump said in the past he would be picking justices who would overturn Roe, and Kavanaugh could be the deciding vote in future abortion cases.

"We talked at great length about precedent and the application of stare decisis to the abortion cases. We talked about executive power. We talked about the Heller gun decision. We talked about his judiciary philosophy," Collins said. "We talked about which judges he admires most or feels he is most similar to."

Murkowski separately said she will meet with Kavanaugh later this week. Both she and Collins said Tuesday they haven’t seen anything disqualifying in their research on Kavanaugh.

Without Collins or Murkowski, Kavanaugh would need the vote of a Democrat to win confirmation in the Senate, where Republicans have a 51-49 majority.

None of the Democratic senators have yet said they would vote for him, though at least 23 have publicly said they would vote against his confirmation. At least a dozen have stayed in the undecided camp, including several Democrats who face re-election in states Trump won, such as Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

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