Susan Collins Is Just Going to Pretend Brett Kavanaugh Didn’t Lie to Her Face


In 2018, Senator Susan Collins went out of her way to vouch for Brett Kavanaugh. Taking to the Senate floor, the Maine lawmaker delivered a 45-minute defense of the Supreme Court nominee—who had been credibly accused of a high school sexual assault, which he denied—and told colleagues: “We’ve heard a lot of charges and countercharges about Judge Kavanaugh. But as those who have known him best have attested, he has been an exemplary public servant, judge, teacher, coach, husband, and father…. In evaluating any given claim of misconduct, we will be ill-served in the long run if we abandon the presumption of innocence and fairness, tempting though it may be.”

Of course, taking it upon herself to argue for Kavanaugh’s innocence wasn’t the only cringeworthy part of Collins’s remarks. There was also the section of her speech devoted to noting her faith in Kavanaugh not overturning Roe v. Wade. “Protecting this right is important to me,” Collins said, explaining that a two-hour, face-to-face meeting with Justice Beer Bong, plus an hourlong follow-up phone call, had convinced her that he would preserve the landmark decision. “His views on honoring precedent would preclude attempts to do by stealth that which one has committed not to do overtly.”

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No one who actually cares about the right to choose believed this at the time, and such claims now look extra absurd following Kavanaugh’s performance as the Court heard oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case that has presented its conservatives with the opportunity to gut Roe. As law professor Mary Ziegler writes:

It was Justice Kavanaugh’s comments that alarmed me the most on Wednesday. He appears to have bought into the idea that the Constitution is neutral on abortion, the suggestion being that doing so would be both better for the Court’s legitimacy and be the only principled interpretation of the Constitution. “This court should be scrupulously neutral on the question of abortion, neither pro-choice nor pro-life,” he said. The Court once described fairness in the abortion debate as striking a balance between the state’s interest in protecting fetal life and pregnant people’s interest in autonomy and equality. Now, Justice Kavanaugh seemed to suggest on Wednesday, fairness means reversing Roe.


Which makes Collins’s full-throated support of Kavanaugh, given her alleged support of reproductive rights, look pretty stupid! And she seems to know it:

Of course, the senator from Maine—who also voted to confirm Donald Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, who is expected to help dismantle Roe as well—still wants people to think she’s an ardent defender of a pregnant person’s right to choose, which is why her office told reporters yesterday that Collins “supports the right to an abortion and believes that the protections in the Roe and Casey decisions should be passed into law. She has had some conversations with her colleagues about this and is open to further discussions.” Which would be exciting news for people who believe in bodily autonomy if not for the fact that (1) in September, she announced her opposition to the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021, which, if passed, would codify reproductive rights, and (2) she knows a similar bill, tailored to her liking, will never pass as long as the filibuster, which she refuses to abolish, still exists.

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