The fate of the Supreme Court could ride on these 2 senators


Sen. Susan Collins took a notable phone call Thursday as she enters the eye of the Supreme Court confirmation storm: It was White House counsel Don McGahn, sounding out the moderate Maine Republican in what she called a “preliminary discussion” of the high court vacancy.

Republicans control the Senate by a single seat and Arizona Sen. John McCain has been absent for months. That means any single GOP senator has enormous sway over President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick.

None matter more than Collins and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who also received her own call from McGahn on Thursday. Then on Thursday evening, the two were part of a small group of bipartisan senators to meet directly with the president himself.

A year ago, the two moderate Republicans, along with McCain, stopped Obamacare repeal in its tracks while helping to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Now, as they weigh how to replace the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, the two are about to be squeezed more than ever — by liberals seeking a Republican to stop the court from outlawing abortion rights, among other potential conservative rulings, and by their fellow Republicans looking for a show of party unity on a hugely consequential vote.

But the two senators said Thursday they won’t simply fall in line behind whomever Trump nominates.

“There’s pressure because of the gravity of such a nomination,” Murkowski acknowledged. “I am not going to suggest that my opportunity as a senator in the advise and consent process is somehow or other short-cutted just because this is a Republican president and I’m a Republican.”

“No matter how I vote there are going to be people who are furious at me,” Collins said. She added that she views her vote as immune from partisan pressure because “it’s a Supreme Court nominee. It’s not the assistant deputy secretary for weights and measures at the Commerce Department. This is a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land. It matters.”

[Read More]