GOP senator 'perplexed' by McConnell's Supreme Court strategy

Republican Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsManchin wrestles with progressive backlash in West Virginia Conservatives bankrolled and dominated Kavanaugh confirmation media campaign The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Health care a top policy message in fall campaigns MORE (Maine) said Tuesday she is confused by her party's strategy to block Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland from getting a hearing.

"I must confess that I'm a bit perplexed by his position," she told WGAN, a local radio station, about Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellElection Countdown: Takeaways from heated Florida governor's debate | DNC chief pushes back on 'blue wave' talk | Manchin faces progressive backlash | Trump heads to Houston rally | Obama in Las Vegas | Signs of huge midterm turnout Sanders: Democrats ‘absolutely’ have chance to win back rural America  Trump privately ready to blame Ryan and McConnell if Republicans lose midterms: report MORE (R-Ky.). "I'm not quite sure what his thinking is, but it's clearly one that he believes strongly in."

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While GOP leaders remain committed to not moving Garland's nomination, Collins warned that if Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillicon Valley: Bolton tells Russians 2016 meddling had little effect | Facebook eyes major cyber firm | Saudi site gets hacked | Softbank in spotlight over Saudi money | YouTube fights EU 'meme ban' proposal Dems lower expectations for 'blue wave' Election Countdown: Takeaways from heated Florida governor's debate | DNC chief pushes back on 'blue wave' talk | Manchin faces progressive backlash | Trump heads to Houston rally | Obama in Las Vegas | Signs of huge midterm turnout MORE becomes the next president, she could nominate a more liberal judge. She also raised alarm at the prospect of GOP front-runner Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump to fundraise for 3 Republicans running for open seats: report Trump to nominate former Monsanto exec to top Interior position White House aides hadn’t heard of Trump's new tax cut: report MORE picking the next justice.

"If the [Republican] nominee is, let's say, that it is Mr. Trump, and he becomes the next president, who knows who his nominee would be. He's rather unpredictable," she added. 

A small group of Republicans have floated a lame-duck vote on Garland if their party loses the election, but McConnell has tried to shut down speculation, saying it wouldn't happen.

Collins, who is not on the Judiciary Committee, quickly came out in support of giving the president's pick a hearing, arguing the "normal process" should be followed. 

"It just seemed to me that there was no basis for saying that no matter who the president nominates we were not going to consider that individual," she said Tuesday.

Her comments put her at direct odds with her party's leadership, as well as most of her Republican colleagues. 

While more than a dozen senators have suggested they are open to meeting with Garland, most say they will use a sit-down to reiterate that the court seat should remain empty until next year. 

Asked if she was "catching hell" for her position, Collins suggested she wasn't, but added, "Obviously the leader's not real happy with me." 

"I'm sure there are some that are unhappy with me, but this is a solemn responsibility," she said. 

Collins will meet with Garland next week.