WASHINGTON — Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Tuesday that a Supreme Court draft opinion circulated in February that suggests Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh would be among the majority of conservative justices to support overturning Roe v. Wade went against what they said during their confirmation hearings.
“If this leaked draft opinion is the final decision and this reporting is accurate, it would be completely inconsistent with what Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh said in their hearings and in our meetings in my office,” Collins said in a statement released by her office.
She added, “Obviously, we won’t know each justice’s decision and reasoning until the Supreme Court officially announces its opinion in this case.”
Collins ignored repeated questions from reporters on Capitol Hill on Tuesday morning about whether she felt Kavanaugh had lied to her. “I put out a statement,” she said.
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In December, after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Mississippi abortion case that is the focus of the draft opinion — which was reported by Politico and confirmed as authentic by the Supreme Court — an aide said Collins supported passing legislation to codify Roe v. Wade into federal law.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who noted that she introduced such legislation with Collins in February, said Tuesday that her “confidence in the court has been rocked” by the draft opinion.
“If the decision is going the way that the draft that has been revealed is actually the case, it was not — it was not the direction that I believed that the court would take based on statements that have been made about Roe being settled and being precedent,” she told reporters.
Ahead of the Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation hearings in 2018, in which he faced — and repeatedly denied — accusations of sexual assault, Collins met with him in her office to discuss his views. At the time, Collins, who supports abortion rights, said his opinion about whether Roe v. Wade set a precedent would influence her decision about whether to back his nomination.
Collins told reporters afterward that Kavanaugh reassured her that the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling protecting a woman’s right to an abortion is “settled law.”
“We talked about whether he considered Roe to be settled law,” Collins said. “He said that he agreed with what Justice Roberts said at his nomination hearings, in which he said that it was settled law. We had a very good, thorough discussion about that issue and many others.”
Collins announced her decision to back Kavanaugh in a floor speech before the Senate vote, repeatedly saying Kavanaugh had indicated multiple times that he wouldn’t support reversing Roe v. Wade.
“In his testimony, he noted repeatedly that Roe had been upheld by Planned Parenthood v. Casey, describing it as ‘precedent on precedent,'” she said. “When I asked him would it be sufficient to overturn a long-established precedent if five current justices believed it was wrongly decided, he emphatically said ‘no.'”
Collins joined her GOP colleagues in confirming Kavanaugh in a nearly party-line 50-48 vote in October 2018. Murkowski, who opposed his nomination, voted “present” as a courtesy to Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., who supported Kavanaugh but missed the vote to attend his daughter’s wedding. Both Collins and Murkowski voted in favor of Gorsuch’s confirmation.
NBC News reported that when Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York met with Kavanaugh, he was unsatisfied with Kavanaugh’s answers about Roe v. Wade, saying Kavanaugh refused to say whether the case or Planned Parenthood v. Casey had been correctly decided.
“He would not say ‘yes.’ That should shivers down the spine of any American interested in reproductive freedom for women,” Schumer said.
Ali Vitali contributed.