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Collins: Kavanaugh considers Roe v. Wade 'settled law'

Collins: Kavanaugh considers Roe v. Wade 'settled law'
© Anna Moneymaker

GOP Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate confirms Mallory to lead White House environment council | US emissions dropped 1.7 percent in 2019 | Interior further delays Trump rule that would make drillers pay less to feds Anti-Asian hate crimes bill overcomes first Senate hurdle On The Money: Senate confirms Gensler to lead SEC | Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week | Top Republican on House tax panel to retire MORE (Maine) said Tuesday that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh assured her during their meeting he believes the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion is “settled law."

“We talked about whether he considered Roe to be settled law. And he said that agreed with what Justice [John] Roberts said at his nomination hearing, at which he said that it was settled law,” Collins told reporters.

Her comments come after she had a roughly two-hour, closed-door meeting with Kavanaugh, making it one of his longest one-on-one sit downs with senators.

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Collins is one of the final GOP lawmakers to meet with President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump mocks Murkowski, Cheney election chances Race debate grips Congress US reentry to Paris agreement adds momentum to cities' sustainability efforts MORE’s Supreme Court pick and is widely considered to be a potential swing vote because she’s broken with her party on issues related to health care and abortion.

She isn’t expected to make a decision on Kavanaugh’s nomination until after his confirmation hearing next month.

Collins added on Tuesday that the two had an “excellent” meeting and talked “at length” about legal precedent.

"We talked at length about precedent and the application of stare decisis to the abortion cases," she said, referring to the judicial doctrine of precedent. "We talked about executive power. We talked about the Heller ... gun decision. We talked about his judicial philosophy." 

Liberal outside groups have voiced concerns about Kavanaugh’s nomination because, if confirmed, he’s expected to help swing the court to the right for decades. Kavanaugh was nominated to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was the fifth vote on a 1992 decision upholding Roe v. Wade.

Democrats and their allies appeared unmoved by Collins's comments.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHolder, Yates lead letter backing Biden pick for Civil Rights Division at DOJ Capitol Police officer killed in car attack lies in honor in Capitol Rotunda Rep. Andy Kim on Asian hate: 'I've never felt this level of fear' MORE (D-N.Y.) compared Kavanaugh's answer to a "judicial dodge."

"This is not as simple as Judge Kavanaugh is saying Roe is settled law. Everything the Supreme Court decides is settled law until it unsettles it. Saying a case is settled law is not the same thing as saying a case was correctly decided," Schumer told reporters.

NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue said Collins's reference to Roberts was "troubling."

"With all due respect to Sen. Collins, ‘settled law’ means nothing. It is a bunch of code words, long used by many conservative judges, meant to hide their real beliefs and anti-choice record. This court, led by Chief Justice Roberts, has spent much of the last term relitigating so-called settled law," she said.

Collins has said that she believes precedent is an important factor as she weighs Kavanaugh’s nomination.

She said separately in the wake of Kennedy's retirement announcement earlier this summer that she looks for judges who "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 in June, hours after Kennedy's retirement was announced.

Kavanaugh isn't the first Supreme Court nominee to say they believe Roe is settled.

Questioned during his confirmation hearing about Roe, Roberts told senators at the time that it was "settled as a precedent of the court."

"It’s settled as a precedent of the court, entitled to respect under principles of stare decisis. And those principles, applied in the Casey case, explain when cases should be revisited and when they should not," he said.

Then-Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito told senators during his confirmation hearing that Roe is an "important precedent" for the court.

"I think that when a decision is challenged and it is reaffirmed that strengthens its value as stare decisis for at least two reasons," he added.

Updated at 3:22 p.m.