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Dianne Kemp Torresen of Belfast is a former volunteer at the Alliance for Justice Action Campaign.
Susan Collins likes to talk about where she stands on issues important to Mainers, but her votes on hundreds of Trump’s judicial nominees tell a very different story. Her support for Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh was notably disturbing, but they were only the tip of the iceberg compared to scores of other lifetime appointees with troubling records she helped confirm.
Collins voted to approve nominees who held viewpoints that ran counter to the human and civil rights Mainers hold dear. As the Alliance for Justice Action Campaign has catalogued, these judges had demonstrated their willingness to overturn the Affordable Care Act, limit access to abortion, block LGBTQ protections, lift the safeguards that attempt to ensure we all have access to clean air and water, undermine worker safety and compensation and disenfranchise voters. These are not Maine values, but Collins voted for them anyway.
On just 10 occasions, Collins voted no on Trump’s judges. Even then, she didn’t convince any other Republican senators to join her and the judges were confirmed regardless. Collins bears some responsibility for all the decisions these judges and justices have issued, especially those that directly contradict her carefully crafted public stances.
For example, Collins loves to extoll her support for the Affordable Care Act, including its protections for people with preexisting conditions. Yet she voted to confirm Kavanaugh, who wrote what one of his clerks called the “roadmap” to overturning the ACA. She voted for Andrew Oldham, who led Texas’ effort to strike down the ACA.
She supported the nomination of appellate judge Kurt Engelhardt, who went on to become the deciding vote in the decision that kept Republicans’ challenge to the ACA alive. That means Kavanaugh will soon have another chance to strip health insurance away from millions.
Collins claims to defend reproductive rights, but she voted for John Bush or Stephen Clark, both of whom equated Roe v. Wade to the Dred Scott decision that upheld slavery. Collins also supported the confirmations of Jonathan Kobes, J. Campbell Barker, and Mark Norris, all of whom supported state laws that limited access to abortion. Norris, specifically, went so far as to suggest abortion should be banned even if necessary to protect the individual’s life or in cases of rape or incest.
It’s frankly hard to take Collins seriously when she claims to support reproductive freedom. When Justice Kavanaugh recently sided with the minority on the Supeme Court that would have allowed Louisiana’s anti-abortion law to take effect, Collins still defended her vote for him because she believes he wouldn’t overturn Roe. But what good is the right to an abortion if laws like Louisiana’s prevent you from obtaining one?
Publicly, Collins paid tribute to John Lewis’s advocacy, but she supported nominees — like Andrew Brasher and Brantley Starr — who have spent their careers trying to make it harder for citizens to vote by supporting the gutting of the Voting Rights Act and voter suppression efforts like purging voter rolls and requiring voter ID.
These stark contradictions may explain her campaign’s apparent indecision about what to base her re-election platform on. Bafflingly, her campaign put out ads that castigated her opponent Sara Gideon for prioritizing a strong economy, school safety, and protecting the health of Maine families. As Collins vaguely attempts to distance herself from Trump, her top bragging point is that she always shows up for votes — yet she often casts votes that run counter to most Mainers’ beliefs.
Considering how little legislation the Senate considered in recent years, one of the main things she was voting on was judicial confirmations. When it comes time to cast your vote in November, remember that there are now nearly 200 judges with lifetime appointments who will be carrying out Trump’s agenda for decades to come thanks, in part, to Susan Collins.
Dianne Kemp Torresen of Belfast is a former volunteer at the Alliance for Justice Action Campaign, where she researched the records of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees. She has a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law.