Do you remember the arguments that took place just a few months ago around the Republican tax cut bill, and specifically the attack on the Affordable Care Act which was buried within this bill? The tax cut act that was passed will ultimately deprive thousands of Mainers of health care insurance and drive up premiums for many of those that remain insured. Senator Susan Collins initially stated she would not vote for the tax cuts unless these provisions were removed from the bill, and then said she would only vote for the tax cuts if a couple of other bills mitigating the health insurance damage were first passed, and then said she would only vote for the tax cuts if there was a commitment to pass these mitigating bills immediately after the tax cuts were passed, and then, in the face of a clear statement from Paul Ryan, the Republican leader of the House, that these mitigating bills stood no chance in the house, she voted for the tax cuts anyway, and has subsequently allowed the timeline on the mitigating bills to extend into never-never land.

We appear to be going through the same cycle of obfuscation and deception once again with the Kavanaugh nomination to the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh has authored opinions that are clearly contrary to a woman’s right to control her own body, and specifically contrary to the right to abortion embodied in Roe v. Wade (he has, for example, cited “many precedents holding that the Government has permissible interests in favoring fetal life, protecting the best interests of a minor, and refraining from facilitating abortion”). Senator Collins has said that her support for any candidate is conditional on upholding Roe v. Wade. During a two-hour conversation with Kavanaugh, she was told that he viewed Roe v. Wade as “settled law.” This is far from saying that Roe v. Wade was correctly decided. In fact Kavanaugh has repeatedly refused to state this, and has expressed support for the dissenting opinions. Senator Collins knows perfectly well that “settled law” is not a commitment to defend Roe v. Wade. It is just as meaningless as the “commitments” the Senator secured on health insurance during the tax bill debate. Nevertheless, she appears to be positioning herself to use the “settled law” statement as a fig leaf to justify a vote for Kavanaugh and to cover another abandonment of a so-called “core” position.

We have been here before with respect to the Supreme Court. As part of his confirmation hearings last year, and at least in part to secure Senator Collins’ vote, Neil Gorsuch repeatedly declared his deep respect for legal precedence. During his first year on the Supreme Court he voted to overrule three Supreme Court precedents (Janus v. AFSCME, Abbott v. Perez and South Dakota v. Wayfair).

It may be possible to give Susan Collins the benefit of the doubt on the tax cut bill, and to believe she was hoodwinked by the Republican leadership, but it is not possible to extend this to the Kavanaugh nomination. If she is to maintain any credibility as a moderate Republican who puts the interests of her constituents ahead of voting a party line that is increasingly driven by extremists, she needs to find the courage to vote for the women of Maine and against the Kavanaugh nomination.

Terrie Frisbie, Newcastle