"Pro-choice" Susan Collins has voted to confirm 32 anti-abortion Trump judges

Collins still claims Brett Kavanaugh won't vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. She also thinks Maine will re-elect her

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published June 6, 2019 5:30PM (EDT)

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) (Getty/Alex Wong)
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) (Getty/Alex Wong)

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, one of just two Republican senators who claim to be pro-choice, has reportedly voted for at least 32 of President Trump’s anti-abortion judicial nominees. (The other such senator is Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.)

According to a report this week by HuffPost, Collins has voted to confirm more than 90 percent of Trump’s judicial picks, including 32 nominees that NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Democratic PAC American Bridge found had indicated they oppose abortion rights.

“Actions speak louder than words, and no amount of pro-choice rhetoric will change the fact that Senator Collins has voted to confirm over 30 anti-choice Trump judicial nominations,” Maine Democratic party spokesman Alex Stack told HuffPost. “Any pro-choice credibility Senator Collins built up over the past two decades in Washington is officially gone.”

Collins spokeswoman Annie Clark responded to questions from HuffPost by saying that the senator does not consider nominees’ personal or political beliefs when evaluating judicial nominees.

“One factor she does not consider is the nominee’s personal beliefs, political or otherwise. She does, however, evaluate whether a nominee can set aside these beliefs and rule fairly and impartially,” Clark said. She added that Collins has supported more than 90 percent of judges appointed by presidents from both parties. “While this approach might seem novel in today’s hyperpartisan climate, it used to be the norm. By any normal yardstick, Senator Susan Collins is a pro-choice Republican,” Clark said.

Despite this claim, Collins voted to confirm Kenneth Bell as a U.S. district judge for the Western District of North Carolina despite an op-ed he wrote years earlier slamming what he called the “indefensibility of the abortion rights position.”

Last month, she also voted to confirm Michael Truncale as a U.S. district judge for the Eastern District of Texas even though he ran for Congress several years earlier, boasting of his “strong pro-life and pro-family values.”

Collins’ pro-choice claims previously came under heavy skepticism when she voted to confirm conservative Supreme Court justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Collins said in a speech that she believed Kavanaugh would not overturn Roe v. Wade because he “emphatically” assured her that he would not overturn long-established Supreme Court precedent.

She voted to confirm those nominees despite the fact that Trump repeatedly vowed during the 2016 presidential campaign to nominate Supreme Court justices who were “pro-life.” Even after Kavanaugh voted to limit abortion access in Louisiana, Collins insisted that she still believed he would not vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

But Trump’s Collins-approved picks to the Supreme Court have given the anti-abortion movement new life. Numerous states have enacted draconian new abortion restrictions, with Alabama voting to ban nearly all abortion outright, in hopes that the Gorsuch-Kavanaugh court will overturn Roe v. Wade or at least allow much more severe restrictions than the court had in the past.

Even though proponents of the Alabama law and other states’ restriction have literally said they hope to overturn Roe v. Wade following Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Collins said last month that she‘s “not exactly sure why we’re seeing this happen.”

Maine voters seem to know why it’s happening. Collins’ approval numbers in her state have plummeted since her Kavanaugh vote, with her 2020 re-election campaign just ahead. According to a new Critical Insights poll, her approval ratings have slipped from 58 percent last spring to 51 percent in the fall to 41 percent today.

“If I had to speculate on a single factor underlying this slip in Collins’ approval rating, it would be her pivotal role in Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court," said Critical Insights president Ben Domine. “Her approval was both strong and steady prior to her vote last fall, and it has continued to slip since then.”

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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