GOP senators say Supreme Court nominee should respect "precedent"

GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins voiced the need to preserve Roe v. Wade but does it mean anything?

Published July 1, 2018 12:21PM (EDT)

FILE - In this June 21, 2016, file photo, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.  (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
FILE - In this June 21, 2016, file photo, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

On Sunday morning two GOP senators seemed to express support for Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that criminalized abortion restrictions, and suggested it would be wrong to overturn "precedent."

In an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she would not back a nominee that was "hostile" towards Roe v. Wade.

"I would not support a nominee who demonstrated hostility to Roe v. Wade because that would mean to me that their judicial philosophy did not include a respect for established decisions, established law," she explained.

Collins said President Donald Trump recently told her in a meeting that he would not ask a Supreme Court justice nominee if they would overturn the landmark ruling.

"The President really was soliciting my views on the type of nominee that I was looking for," Collins said. "I emphasized that I wanted a nominee who would respect precedent, a fundamental tenet of our judicial system."

Collins also added that she believed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was nominated by Trump last year, would not support overturning Roe v. Wade.

She explained, "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."

However, before being elected to office, Trump vowed that Roe v. Wade would be overturned "automatically."

"If we put another two or perhaps three justices on, that is really what will happen," Trump said during a 2016 presidential debate. "That will happen automatically in my opinion. Because I am putting pro-life justices on the court. I will say this. It will go back to the states and the states will then make a determination."

In an interview that aired Sunday morning, Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo asked Trump if he would ask nominees how they would vote on Roe v. Wade beforehand. Trump said he "probably" wouldn't ask them.

"That's a big one, and probably not. They're all saying, 'Don't do that -- you shouldn't do that,' but I'm putting conservative people on (the court) and I'm very proud of Neil Gorsuch, who has been outstanding. His opinions are so well-written and so brilliant."

He added, "I'm going to try and do something, but I don't think I'll be so specific."

Collins' remarks were similar to that of Sen. Lindsey Graham's, who said, "you don't overturn precedent without good reason."

"I would tell my pro-life friends: you can be pro-life and conservative, but you can also believe in stare decisis," Graham explained.

With the announcement of Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement last week, many Democrats and pro-choice advocates have felt that a second nominee Supreme Court nominee for Trump would not only mean the end of abortion protections, but also other women's health services such as birth control.

Despite Trump's incendiary abortion rhetoric, a Pew Research Center poll from last year showed that 59 percent of U.S. adults support legal abortions.

The comments from both Graham and Collins hardly go far enough to ensure any real protections for Roe v. Wade, as it would be highly unlikely for either to delay the nomination process. For years red states have worked towards eroding abortion access, and some don't believe lawmakers such as Graham and Collins deserve to be trusted. Both Graham and Collins have criticized Trump in the past, but nonetheless pushed forward his agenda.

By Charlie May

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