The move reflected a remarkable about-face for Collins, whose deciding vote for Justice Brett Kavanaugh amid unfounded accusations of rape—along with her eloquent and unequivocal defense of the judge—made her a target of radical leftists.
Even prior to that 2018 vote, Collins likely faced an uphill re-election bid as the last Republican senator in all of New England.
She has a longstanding reputation for straddling the center, and was one of the deciding GOP votes, alongside the late Arizona Sen. John McCain and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski in a failed effort to repeal Obamacare early in the Trump presidency.
Murkowski—the only Republican to cast a vote against Kavanaugh—has also said she’s against voting on a nominee before the election.
But opposition by Collins and Murkowski wouldn’t be enough to stop majority Republicans from pushing a Trump pick through the chamber with centrist Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah on Tuesday expressing support for a pre-election vote.
Echoing the rationale provided earlier by Murkowski, Collins told reporters she’ll vote “no” because of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to consider a Supreme Court nomination by President Barack Obama when Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016.
That was nine months before that year’s presidential election.
McConnell said then that the voters should decide which president should make a nomination. This time, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died 46 days before Election Day.
Collins tells reporters that the Senate should now follow “the same set of rules.”
McConnell and others who thwarted Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland have since clarified that when the opposing party controls the Senate, that effectively serves as a check on the presidency.
By contrast, Republicans gained Senate seats during the 2018 midterm election for President Donald Trump’s current term.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press