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

Republican Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsLobbying World Senators want assurances from attorney general pick on fate of Mueller probe 5 themes to watch for in 2020 fight for House 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 McConnellOval Office clash ups chances of shutdown On The Money: Trump, Dems battle over border wall before cameras | Clash ups odds of shutdown | Senators stunned by Trump's shutdown threat | Pelosi calls wall 'a manhood thing' for Trump Mellman: Enemies of democracy 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 ClintonRoger Stone challenges Dems to produce WikiLeaks evidence Steve King asks Google CEO for names of employees to see if they're liberals O'Rourke edges out Biden in MoveOn straw poll 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 TrumpHouse Republicans move to block Yemen war-powers votes for rest of Congress Trump says he's considering 10 to 12 contenders for chief of staff Michael Flynn asks judge to spare him from jail time 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.