During a two-hour meeting in her Senate office with the Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh on Aug. 21, 2018, Senator Susan Collins of Maine pressed him hard on why she should trust him not to overturn Roe v. Wade if she backed his confirmation.
Judge Kavanaugh worked vigorously to reassure her that he was no threat to the landmark abortion rights ruling.
“Start with my record, my respect for precedent, my belief that it is rooted in the Constitution, and my commitment and its importance to the rule of law,” he said, according to contemporaneous notes kept by multiple staff members in the meeting. “I understand precedent and I understand the importance of overturning it.”
“Roe is 45 years old, it has been reaffirmed many times, lots of people care about it a great deal, and I’ve tried to demonstrate I understand real-world consequences,” he continued, according to the notes, adding: “I am a don’t-rock-the-boat kind of judge. I believe in stability and in the Team of Nine.”
Persuaded, Ms. Collins, a Republican, gave a detailed speech a few weeks later laying out her rationale for backing the future justice that cited his stated commitment to precedent on Roe, helping clinch his confirmation after a bitter fight. On Friday, Justice Kavanaugh joined the majority in overturning the decision he told Ms. Collins he would protect.
His seeming turnabout in the case on Friday prompted Ms. Collins and another senator, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who gave Justice Kavanaugh crucial votes for his narrow confirmation to vent their anger, saying they felt their trust had been abused. Their indignation was echoed across the Capitol by lawmakers who said the court’s decision on Friday helped drain what was left of any credibility Supreme Court nominees have in their confirmation hearings.
“I feel misled,” Ms. Collins said in an interview, adding that the decision was in stark contrast to the assurances she had received privately from Justice Kavanaugh, who had made similar, if less exhaustive, pronouncements at his public hearing.
Mr. Manchin, the only Democrat to vote for Justice Kavanaugh, also expressed similar sentiments about Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, who made his own strong statements about adhering to precedent during his confirmation in 2017.
“I trusted Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh when they testified under oath that they also believed Roe v. Wade was settled legal precedent and I am alarmed they chose to reject the stability the ruling has provided for two generations of Americans,” said Mr. Manchin, who himself is anti-abortion. [Continue reading…]