With the retirement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy setting the stage for President Trump to appoint a new pro-life justice to the Supreme Court, two Republican senators — both women — are potentially poised to determine the future fate of abortion rights for Americans nationwide.
Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, are rare Republicans in that they’ve both advocated for women’s right to choose — and even helped to stop the Republican appeal of the Affordable Care Act last year after they both registered objections to a provision that would have stripped funding from Planned Parenthood. With John McCain recused from voting due to cancer treatment, Republicans only hold a majority of 50-49 in the Senate. Following President Trump’s pledge to nominate a pro-life candidate that would give conservatives on the court a decisive majority, it will take at least one Republican defector for Democrats to block his nominee — a fact that has caused leaders from both parties to begin maneuvering to see whether Collins or Murkowski would be willing to support a pro-life nominee despite their pro-choice stances.
As soon as Thursday night, Collins and Murkowski were at the White House speaking with Trump to talk about the vacancy in the Supreme Court. Earlier that day, Collins said she had told White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, that Trump should consider options besides the pro-life jurists currently on his list.
“I believe in precedent,” said Collins. “In my judgment, Roe v. Wade is settled law, and while I recognize that it is inappropriate to ask a nominee how he or she would rule in any future case, I would certainly ask what their view is on the role of precedent and whether they considered Roe v. Wade to be settled law.”
The question of whether Democrats can even form a unified bloc to stop Trump’s nominee is a hardly a settled matter either. Three Democrats broke ranks to confirm the nomination of Justice Gorsuch, and 10 Senate Democrats are up for re-election in states won by Trump. Collins and Murkowski, it should be noted, were also among those who voted to support Gorsuch’s nomination.
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