Collins: Kavanaugh vote ‘right up there’ among hardest decisions ever made

Collins: Kavanaugh vote ‘right up there’ among hardest decisions ever made
© Greg Nash

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCollins offering bill to boost battery research as GOP pushes energy 'innovation' Biden says Congress must move to protect abortion rights Women's civil rights are not a state issue MORE (R-Maine) said in an interview to be broadcast Sunday that her vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was one of the toughest decisions she's ever made, but expressed unwavering confidence in his ability as a judge.

"It's certainly ranks right up there. There's no doubt about it. There have been ... very difficult decisions, but this was a tough one," Collins said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Collins delivered a lengthy speech on Friday, giving an in-depth defense of Kavanaugh and explanation for why she planned to vote "yes" on his nomination. She told CBS that the response has been "overwhelming."

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"I've heard from people that I haven't heard from in many, many decades," Collins said. "And I heard from a lot of protesters, as well as people who support my decision."

Republican colleagues were quick to praise Collins's speech, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push Iraq War looms over Trump battle with Iran 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests MORE (R-Ky.) and former President George H.W. Bush among those who offered her support.

Democrats and liberals quickly turned on Collins, who had been seen for months as a crucial swing vote in the fight over Kavanaugh's confirmation. Donations and solicitations quickly poured in for someone to challenge the Maine Republican when she comes up for reelection in 2020.

Collins's GOP colleague, Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiCongress must press Interior secretary to act on climate change Senate panel approves Interior nominee over objections from Democrats Women's civil rights are not a state issue MORE (Alaska), opposed Kavanaugh's nomination, citing the judge's comments at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in which he denied allegations that he sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford.

Kavanaugh claimed the allegations were part of an "orchestrated political hit" and suggested Democrats were opposing his nomination because of anger over the 2016 election. 

While some, including Murkowski, said the comments raised questions about Kavanaugh's judicial temperament and impartiality, Collins said she did not take issue with the judge's tone.

"I thought Judge Kavanaugh’s denial at the second hearing was very powerful," Collins said. "His anger and his anguish, I think is — are understandable given that he's been accused of being involved in gang rapes of women. I mean that is a devastating allegation. So I think it was understandable that he was reacting as a human being as a father — as a father of two young girls."

Collins said the growing number of 5-4 Supreme Court decisions in general are concerning, but went on to cite Kavanaugh's record on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit as evidence he won't make the high court more partisan.

"That doesn't mean that I agree with every decision that he's made, but there's just no indication that he has not acted in an impartial independent way despite the experience he went through in getting on that court," Collins said.