WASHINGTON — Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Tuesday that a reported 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 lied to by Kavanaugh. “I put out a statement,” she said.
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 to Collins said the senator supported passing legislation codifying Roe v. Wade into federal law.
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 on whether Roe v. Wade sets a precedent would influence her decision on whether to back his nomination.
Collins told reporters after her conversation with him that Kavanaugh assured 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.”
The GOP senator announced her decision to back Kavanaugh in a floor speech ahead of the Senate vote, repeatedly stating that 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 50-48 nearly party-line vote in October 2018. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, 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. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., voted for Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
When then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., met with Kavanaugh, NBC News reported he was unsatisfied with the nominee’s answers on Roe v. Wade, saying Kavanaugh refused to say whether that case or Planned Parenthood v. Casey were 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.