Sens. Collins, Cantwell: Leave Roe v. Wade Alone

Susan Jones | July 2, 2018 | 5:58am EDT
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The vacancy on the Supreme Court was a major issue discussed on the Sunday news-maker shows. (Photo: U.S. Supreme Court)

( - As President Trump prepares to name his Supreme Court nominee, Democrats and some Republicans are urging him to choose someone in the "mainstream" who will not reverse the controversial 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion on demand.

"I would love President Trump to pick somebody in the mainstream of American views who (is) going to hold up years and years and years of precedent," Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) told NBC's "Meet the Press" with Chuck Todd on Sunday.

"So I think that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle know that this vote could be a -- one of the key votes of their entire career. And they know that, no matter what spin comes out of the White House, if they vote for somebody who's going to change precedent, it could be a career ending move."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), interviewed by Chuck Todd on Saturday, also endorsed precedent, while stating that he is pro-life:


"Well, I'm pro-life. And the job of a judge is to call -- decide cases before the Court. But one of the concepts that really means a lot in America is stare decisis. That means you don't overturn precedent unless there's a good reason.

“And I would tell my pro-life friends, you can be pro-life and conservative, but you can also believe in stare decisis. Roe v. Wade, in many different ways, has been affirmed over the years. But I would hope the justice that sits on the court, all of them, would listen to the arguments on both sides before they decided. But stare decisis is a well-known concept in our law."

Graham said he would vote no on any candidate who decides a case before hearing the facts:

"I don't expect the judge to say, I'm going to overturn Roe v. Wade; or, I will never listen to an argument about abortion. I have a bill that says, because a baby can feel pain at 20 weeks...20 weeks post-conception, that there's a compelling state interest to protect a child from an abortion at that period, five months of the pregnancy.

“That's a novel issue that's never been decided under Roe. So I hope the justices -- this one and all of them -- will listen to the arguments before they decide,” Graham said.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was one of six senators who met with President Trump last Thursday to discuss the Supreme Court vacancy.

"I told him that I was looking for a nominee that would demonstrate a respect for precedence, a longstanding a vital tenet of our judicial system," Collins told ABC's "This Week" with Martha Raddatz. "I also suggested that he broaden his search beyond the list of 25 nominees. The White House counsel told me that there have been a few additional potential nominees added to that list.

“But I think the president should not feel bound by that list and instead should seek out recommendations to ensure that he gets the best possible person.”

Collins told Raddatz, "There are people on that list whom I could not support, because I believe that they have demonstrated a disrespect for the vital principle of stare decisis, which as Chief Justice Roberts has said, is a fundamental principle of our judicial system that promotes even-handedness and stability. I'm -- I'm not going to go into which ones those are, but there are people on that list whom I could not vote for."

Collins refused to give details of what she described as a "private discussion" with the president:

"Obviously I mentioned judicial temperament, integrity, intellect, experience, qualifications, fidelity to the rule of law and the constitution. But most important of all, a respect for precedence...The president listened very intently to what (Sen.) Lisa Murkowski and I said. And I got the feeling that he was still deliberating and had not yet reached a decision and that this was genuine outreach on his part."

Collins supports the Roe v. Wade ruling, and Martha Raddatz asked her, "What will you do to ensure that remains in place with the nominee?"

"I'm going to have an in-depth discussion with the nominee, and I believe very much that Roe v. Wade is settled law, as it has been described by Chief Justice Roberts. It has been established as a constitutional right for 46 year -- 45 years, and was reaffirmed 26 years ago,” Collins said.

“So a nominee’s position, whether or not they respect precedent, will tell me a lot about whether or not they would overturn Roe v. Wade. A candidate for this important position who would overturn Roe v. Wade would not be acceptable to me, because that would indicate an activist agenda that I don't want to see a judge have. And that would indicate to me a failure to respect precedent -- a fundamental tenet of our judicial system.”rr

Gorsuch wrote a book on 'precedent'

At  his confirmation hearing in March 2017, then-Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch discussed the value of precedent in the U.S. legal system.

In fact, Gorsuch noted, he wrote an 800-page book on the “mainstream consensus view” of 12 judges on the topic of precedent.

Gorsuch told the Senate Judicary Committee that "precedent is a very important thing" for a judge. "We don’t go reinvent the wheel every day.”

He said a “good judge” will take various factors into consideration when examining any precedent,  including its age , whether it has been reaffirmed over the years, and whether the underlying doctrine remains relevant.

“You start with a heavy, heavy presumption in favor of precedent in our system,” Gorsuch said; “and yes, in a very few cases, you may overrule precedent. It’s not an inexorable command, the Supreme Court said.”

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