Dear Susan Collins,
Excuse the informality but you are a good girlfriend here in Washington. You come to our get-togethers, raise money for women, share your recipe for muffins with Maine blueberries, and you stood firm on a bill to reimburse teachers who buy school supplies for their students. Brava.
And we have sympathy for you. It’s because you’re reasonable, you’re leaned on. None of your male colleagues are pressured the way you are, or get vile misogynist mail and calls flooding your offices over the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. It must be hard to have your young interns screamed at, and to get 3,000 coat hangers at your state office as a graphic reminder of pre-1973 abortions.
You have a point about the million dollars raised against you this week being a bribe. “If I vote against him [Kavanaugh], the money is refunded to the donors,” you told Newsmax. “If I vote for him, the money is given to my opponent for the 2020 race.” Boiled down, however, isn’t that just a twist on the legalized bribery that is our campaign finance system? Not to worry, anyway. You rocked a $6.2 million haul in your 2014 race.
We’d never act out with props like coat hangers, but we would like to talk. It’s at the risk of hurting your feelings that we tell you that Kavanaugh is just not that into Roe. We know Kavanaugh came by your office and couldn’t have been nicer. You told reporters last week that you believe Kavanaugh will uphold the decision because he told you personally it’s considered “settled law.” But he stopped by everyone’s office and told them what they wanted to hear.
It’s now an unfortunate custom at Senate confirmation hearings that an aspiring jurist cannot give away his opinion on an issue he may later be asked to rule on. He did reveal that some cases were rightly decided, like Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education, but he didn’t put Roe on the list. Then there’s your definition of what settled is.
In a document reluctantly turned over, Kavanaugh questioned the opinion of a legal scholar about how settled Roe is. Was his criticism simply the desire of one person to take issue with another lawyer’s analysis. Or in light of Trump’s pronouncement that he would only nominate a judge who favors overturning Roe, you could see some unsettledness large enough opening to drive a 5-4 decision against Roe, with Kavanaugh’s decisive vote, through. There goes the right to privacy for not having the good sense to be enumerated in the Constitution. Here comes state’s rights. There goes what’s left of Roe.
Listen closely as Kavanaugh dissembles about other things. When asked whether he’d received documents stolen from the Senate Judiciary Committee, he said “No.” The answer, according to emails, is at least maybe and quite possibly an outright yes. He has a strong position on the Affordable Care Act as expressed in his dissent while on the Circuit Court, which would deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. But he had no position in his hearing. That’s a law, Susan, that you voted last year not to kill. Remember?
You’re not usually a girl like so many of us, hearing what we want to hear, trusting without verifying. But you got rolled on this one, and we bring it up only as a warning of what can happen when a politician — which Kavanaugh is — gives self-serving assurances, a “there, there” in your office, and then doing as he wishes later.
You gave away your vote for a tax bill that gutted the Affordable Care Act for empty promises from the president and Mitch McConnell that they would de-gut it later, passing bills to stabilize the insurance market and hold down premiums that were sure to explode. They never intended for that to happen. They needed the money saved for the tax cuts and knew the House would never agree. Just something from the “don’t be fooled again” file before you swallow Kavanaugh’s weak declaration about Roe.
It’s not too late to show the spine lacked by many of your brethren and raise the volume a bit. If Roe is as important as you say, find out what Kavanaugh believes before you vote, get an ironclad reading on Kavanaugh’s position or don’t take the risk of giving him your approval. Settled can become unsettled, and has been.
It’s uncomfortable but not the end of the world — ask Sen. Elizabeth Warren — should McConnell say of you, “She persisted.” He shouldn’t get away with affirming Kavanaugh’s “settled” position on Roe the way he said he’d take care of those insurance premiums for you.
Imagine, Senator, how you’ll feel if Roe gets overturned and you could have stopped it. We’re just saying. That’s what girlfriends are for.
Margaret Carlson is a columnist for the Daily Beast. She was formerly the first woman columnist at Time magazine, a columnist at Bloomberg View, a weekly panelist on CNN’s “Capital Gang” and managing editor at the New Republic. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
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