As Mainers rally against Gorsuch, Sen. Collins prepares to nuke the filibuster

As Mainers rally against Gorsuch, Sen. Collins prepares to nuke the filibuster

Even as Mainers are standing up and speaking out against President Donald Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court, Senator Susan Collins seems set to back the use of the “nuclear option” to change Senate rules and eliminate the judicial filibuster in order to confirm his nomination.

Demonstrations against Gorsuch have increased in number and intensity as a vote has approached and Democrats have gradually picked up the forty votes necessary to stage a filibuster and delay his confirmation. Protestors picketed Sen. Collins’ offices last week and activists in Brunswick didn’t let an April snowstorm stop their outdoor rally against the nominee.

“Gorsuch’s record goes strongly against women’s rights. He is anti-choice and has ruled to give employers the ability to withhold insurance coverage for contraceptives. It’s likely he would vote to overturn Roe V. Wade if given the chance, and practically guaranteed that he will seek out opportunities to limit abortion access,” said April Humphrey of Mainers for Accountable Leadership (MFAL), which has helped to organize the events. “We want to say to Senator Collins and Senator King, if you vote for Trump’s anti-choice, anti-gay nominee we will make sure Mainers never forget that you sold out the women and  LGBTQ Mainers to prop up Trump.”

On Monday, 98 Maine lawyers also signed a public letter expressing their opposition to Gorsuch.

But Collins, who previously announced she supports Trump’s nominee, seems set to back Republican Senate President Mitch McConnell in a parliamentary maneuver to strip away the ability of minority Democrats to filibuster judicial nominees, effectively forcing Gorsuch’s confirmation through the Senate.

“If it’s necessary in order to get him confirmed I may have to vote that way, but I certainly don’t want to,” Collins said Monday, according to NBC News.

Collins has previously walked a tightrope in this issue, sometimes decrying judicial filibusters (although she has supported some for Obama-nominated circuit judges) but always advocating for the continued existence of the parliamentary rule. In 2005, she joined a group of fourteen senators who struck a deal to preserve the filibuster while limiting its use, saying that to do otherwise would “poison the well” of bipartisanship in the Senate.

If Collins maintains her course towards the nuclear option, that will likely add to charges of hypocrisy leveled by progressives.

“We call on both of our Senators to oppose the Nuclear Option and to vote to keep the filibuster in place. With one party in control of the White House and both houses of the legislative branch, and with the Presidential Administration under investigation for colluding with a foreign adversary, this is not the time to erode our system’s checks and balances,” said Humphrey in a release last week. “Senator Collins has consistently opposed efforts in the past to eliminate the filibuster. She often cites her commitment to Senate rules and procedures as rationale for unpopular votes. She cannot use her purported commitment to Senate procedures as a rationale for her votes only when it suits her political purposes. After telling us that she voted for Devos in Committee because of her commitment to the process, we expect her to stay committed that process even when it benefits the other party. Otherwise she is a hypocrite who hides behind arcane procedures and rules laypeople are unfamiliar with to attempt to maintain her moderate facade.”

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