Susan Collins says she doesn't regret Kavanaugh vote 'in the least'

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCongress eyes tighter restrictions on next round of small business help The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Stagwell President Mark Penn says Trump is losing on fighting the virus; Fauci says U.S. 'going in the wrong direction' in fight against virus GOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday MORE (R-Maine) said she does not regret her vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughKavanaugh rejects Illinois GOP request to block rule banning large gatherings McGrath fends off Booker to win Kentucky Senate primary Trump's mark on federal courts could last decades MORE, despite the vote becoming a key issue among Democrats hoping to unseat her when she is up for reelection next year. 

“I do not regret my vote in the least,” she said in an interview with The New York Times published Saturday.

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Collins cited Kavanaugh’s abortion record during his tenure on the high court.

Though he voted to uphold a Louisiana law restricting abortion access, he declined to take up a case that posed a threat to Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized the procedure nationwide.

The Maine Republican has become a top target for Democrats looking to flip Senate seats in 2020 following her vote to confirm Kavanaugh to the high court last October. She recently gained a formidable Senate challenger in Sara Gideon, the Democratic Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, who has targeted Collins over her backing of Kavanaugh. 

“At one point, maybe Sen. Collins was different, but she doesn’t seem that way anymore: taking over a million dollars from drug companies and the insurance industry and voting to put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court,” Gideon said in her campaign announcement.

Collins, who has been in the Senate since 1997, has sought to defend her reputation as a moderate amid an intense effort by progressives to recruit candidates to challenge her.

“I’m an important voice for the nation in an increasingly polarized environment,” she told the Times. “There are so few members left in the center.” 

“It’s ironic to me that I am among [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerPublic awareness campaigns will protect the public during COVID-19 Republicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names Overnight Defense: House panel votes to ban Confederate flag on all Pentagon property | DOD report says Russia working to speed US withdrawal from Afghanistan | 'Gang of Eight' to get briefing on bounties Thursday MORE's [D-N.Y.] top targets when there is no one who works more across the aisle,” she added.

Betsy Sweet, who unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018, and Bre Kidman, an attorney, are also challenging Collins for her seat.