U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said Tuesday she would oppose any Supreme Court nominee advanced by President Donald Trump before the Nov. 3 election as fellow Republicans pushed forward despite opposition from the Maine senator and Democrats.
A vacancy on the court opened up following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal icon who had served on the court since 1993. Trump said he will announce a pick to replace her on Saturday and Senate Republicans appear to have the votes to confirm the nominee notwithstanding opposition from the Maine senator in a tough 2020 re-election fight.
“I would oppose the nominee not because I might not support that nominee under normal circumstances, but we’re simply too close to the election,” Collins told reporters in Washington.
The senator’s comments to reporters came hours after two Republican senators, Mitt Romney of Utah and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, indicated they would support moving forward with a nomination, likely ensuring that Republicans have enough votes to confirm a nominee.
Collins, who has trailed House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, in public polls this year, said over the weekend that she thought the Senate should not vote on a nominee yet and the winner of the Nov. 3 election should get to pick the next justice. She did not explicitly say then what she would do if Republicans brought a nomination to the floor anyway.
Only one other Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, has shared Collins’ views so far, so Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has more than enough votes to confirm a nominee. Democrats have decried the rush to confirm a justice as hypocrisy, noting McConnell blocked President Barack Obama’s final nominee in 2016 on the basis that the Republican-led Senate should not confirm nominees in an election year.
Collins was one of the few Republican senators to meet with Obama’s pick, Merrick Garland, in 2016 and supported considering his nomination then. She told reporters in Washington on Tuesday that since her position “did not prevail” in then, her party should not advance a nomination now, according to a readout of the conversation provided by the senator’s office.
“I now think we need to play by the same set of rules,” Collins said.
Trump was critical of Collins over her opposition to a confirmation vote earlier this week, saying she will be “very badly” hurt by breaking with Republicans on the issue.
If the Senate ultimately votes on a nominee, which seems likely, it would be the first time in Collins’ 24-year Senate career that she would vote against a Supreme Court nominee. She has voted to confirm six of the eight current justices. Two were appointed by Trump, two by Obama and two by former President George W. Bush.