Collins: I look for judges who 'respect precedent'

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsBudowsky: Collins, Murkowski and Kavanaugh Senate Judiciary announces Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing NRA will spend M to support Kavanaugh for Supreme Court: report MORE (R-Maine) said on Wednesday that she believes Roe v. Wade is settled legal precedent — and she believes judges should respect precedent. 

"I view Roe v. Wade as being settled law. It’s clearly precedent and I always look for judges who respect precedent," Collins told reporters on Wednesday, referencing the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

Her comments come after Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement announcement quickly reignited talk of a possible fight over abortion.

Kennedy had been the fifth vote in a 1992 case reaffirming Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that established the right to abortion in 1973.

Collins and Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiBudowsky: Collins, Murkowski and Kavanaugh Alaska fishermen worry Trump tariffs will be ‘devastating’ to seafood industry Senate Judiciary announces Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing MORE (R-Alaska) are viewed as two potential early swing votes on Trump's forthcoming nominee. Progressives already are urging voters to push the two senators to oppose a nominee deemed too conservative on abortion. 

Hours after Kennedy's retirement was reported, Murkowski issued a statement saying that Trump's next Supreme Court pick could expect "exacting scrutiny."

"It is my longstanding practice to carefully scrutinize the qualifications of judicial nominees and to cast an independent vote when judicial nominations come before the Senate," Murkowski wrote in a tweeted statement.

"There is no doubt that the President's nominee to succeed Justice Kennedy can expect exacting scrutiny from the Senate and that is the standard I will apply in evaluating the nominee."

Asked if she had concerns about a potential nominee due to their potential for being the swing vote on abortion-related cases, Collins demurred, but signaled she preferred someone moderate. 

"That obviously would be my preference but what I'm most looking for is a Justice that will follow the law and the constitution," she added.

Updated at 8:20 p.m.