Did Kavanaugh lie to Susan Collins about overturning Roe?

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

Short answer: Of course not. Neither Kavanaugh nor any other justice would pledge privately to rule a particular way in a future case. To do so would be unethical.


…although Kavanaugh did pledge *publicly* to rule a particular way in certain future cases in yesterday’s Dobbs concurrence.

Longer answer: If this NYT story is accurate, he strongly implied to Collins that he wouldn’t dump Roe. “Lie” is too strong a word, but you can understand why she feels misled.

Jazz has a post coming up about the political predicament in which Collins now finds herself. She’s one of two pro-choice Republicans left in the Senate but she voted to confirm Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch despite the likelihood that each would vote to overturn Roe. When the left challenged her on those votes, Collins answered that she was confident they would uphold precedent, citing statements they made publicly and privately. You’re either a liar or a sucker, the left replied.

After yesterday’s ruling, she’s now forced to explain whether she’s a liar or a sucker.

“She’s a sucker, not a liar,” her staff is suggesting this morning, leaking notes of her private meeting with Kavanaugh before he was confirmed in 2018 to prove that she was deceived.

During a two-hour meeting in her Senate office with the Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh on Aug. 21, 2018, Senator Susan Collins of Maine pressed him hard on why she should trust him not to overturn Roe v. Wade if she backed his confirmation…

“Start with my record, my respect for precedent, my belief that it is rooted in the Constitution, and my commitment and its importance to the rule of law,” he said, according to contemporaneous notes kept by multiple staff members in the meeting. “I understand precedent and I understand the importance of overturning it.”

“Roe is 45 years old, it has been reaffirmed many times, lots of people care about it a great deal, and I’ve tried to demonstrate I understand real-world consequences,” he continued, according to the notes, adding: “I am a don’t-rock-the-boat kind of judge. I believe in stability and in the Team of Nine.”


One problem in trusting this account is that it’s self-serving, based on material from Collins’s own office that’s only now being shared when she’s in a tough spot. How much do we trust those notes to reflect accurately what Kavanaugh (and Collins) said at the time?

Specifically, how much do we trust them not to have omitted key bits of what Kavanaugh told her? I can believe that he told her he respects precedent and wouldn’t lightly overturn it. But did he also remind her that certain egregious precedents, like Plessy v. Ferguson, were rightly overturned decades after they were decided because the Court has a duty to correct major injustices? Every judge in America respects precedent broadly speaking, yet every judge in America has specific precedents they’d love to see overruled.

If and when a left-leaning Supreme Court comes for Dobbs, stare decisis won’t give them any pause, I promise.

Having said that, though, if Kavanaugh really did reply to specific questions from Collins about Roe with “I am a don’t-rock-the-boat kind of judge,” that’s … pretty misleading. Particularly since the question before the Court yesterday didn’t require them to fully overrule Roe. Kav could have joined Roberts by limiting Roe instead of overturning it, upholding 15-week abortion bans without addressing (yet) whether a total ban on abortion is constitutional.


So maybe Collins isn’t a liar, just a sucker who was lied to. I’ll be curious to see how she votes on the next Republican nominee for the Court down the road.

Speaking of pro-choicers who are disillusioned by an ally’s position on Dobbs, I got a kick out of this Mediaite piece about the left’s Strange New Respect for Liz Cheney fading after she endorsed yesterday’s ruling.

Trying to save democracy from Trump and his authoritarian goons just isn’t enough, it appears:

Heh. It *is* a little surprising that she didn’t bite her lip about the decision, now that she’s aggressively campaigning for Democratic votes back home. Presumably she thought she needed to say something to remind centrist Republicans in Wyoming that she’s still with them on policy to counter the MAGA propaganda that she’s a RINO. She’s trying to walk an electoral tightrope in which speaking out against Trump brings in the lefties and speaking out in support of the conservative agenda brings in the righties, hypothetically forming a winning coalition in her primary.


Although … she’s not quite in lockstep with the conservative agenda in all particulars. Behold the list of House Republicans who voted in favor of the Senate gun bill:

I joked about Cheney voting in favor of the bill a few days ago, never believing that she’d do it. She did. Having cover from John Cornyn and 14 other Senate Republicans makes it easier for her to argue to Wyoming Republicans that her vote was well within the conservative mainstream — in theory. In practice, her GOP bona fides are already under such deep suspicion on the right that her gun vote will become just another reason to oust her in her primary.

I’ll leave you with Bill Maher grudgingly tipping his cap to conservatives for never giving up and eventually succeeding on a 50-year mission to remake the Court.


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