There is at least one big crack in the Senate GOP’s blockade on considering President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee: Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).
The Maine moderate has already said that there should be public hearings for the nominee, but on Tuesday she upped her criticisms of GOP leadership’s position that the next president should choose the successor to the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
“That’s a sincere belief, but it’s not one that I hold,” she said on Maine’s Newsradio WGAN, as flagged by ThinkProgress. “The President, whether Republicans like him or not, is our President until next January, until Inauguration Day and 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.”
Collins said she did not know how the decision was made for Republicans to take that hardline stance, adding that it was “inappropriate” that “both sides” launched a “political battle” so quickly after Scalia’s death.
Nonetheless, she continued to criticize Republicans’ unprecedented decision not to meet or hold a hearing for the nominee, D.C. Circuit Court Chief Judge Merrick Garland.
Hearings and meetings “are the best way to thoroughly understand a nominee’s views,” Collins said. “Undoubtably, there will be issues that would arise in a hearing that would provide grounds for people who don’t want to vote for Judge Garland or in those who do.”
She also noted that Garland, a moderate who has won praise from politicians across the spectrum, was likely a better deal for Republicans than the hypothetical nominee a President Hillary Clinton would put forward, or even the nominee of a Republican President Donald Trump. She said she was “perplexed” by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) calculus.
“If the next president is a Democrat, then the balance [of the court] could be tipped way further than Judge Garland,” Collins said. “If the nominee is Mr. Trump, and he becomes the next president, who knows who his nominee would be. He’s rather unpredictable.”
Asked if she was catching flak for breaking away from the party line, she said, “Not really.” Collins also said she’d talked to an unnamed Republican colleague who had agreed to meet with Garland.
“He was saying how much better that he felt about going ahead with the meeting because that’s the way the process should work,” she said.
“The leader’s not real happy with me,” Collins also said.