With a Senate split nearly evenly between Republicans and Democrats, Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court will probably come down to the two GOP women who have emerged as the chamber's swing votes: Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine. The two senators are moderates compared to the average radical right-wing Republican, and they previously demonstrated that they don't always vote along party lines when they declined to go along with the Affordable Care Act repeal proposal last year. Now, with Kavanaugh facing sexual assault allegations, they'll have another hard choice to make.
Before Christine Blasey Ford alleged that Kavanaugh tried to rape her in the early 1980s, pro-choice activists had already been pressuring Collins to vote against his Supreme Court appointment, fearing he could eventually decide to overturn Roe v. Wade. “A candidate for this important position who would overturn Roe v. Wade would not be acceptable to me, because that would indicate an activist agenda that I don’t want to see a judge have,” Collins said after Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement in July. Since then, activists have sent over 3,000 coat hangers to Collins's office and a PAC has raised $1 million that will go to Collins's eventual opponent if she votes to confirm Kavanaugh.
But Collins hasn't seemed swayed to vote against him, either by arguments about his positions or the accusations. After Ford requested that the FBI investigate her claims before testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Collins wrote:
Senator Murkowski has also previously expressed pro-choice sentiments. In 2003, she joined Collins in voting to endorse Roe v. Wade. As ThinkProgress reported, "Both Collins and Murkowski have been the deciding votes on legislation that would have defunded Planned Parenthood, and just last November, Planned Parenthood honored Collins with an award for her consistent refusal to defund the provider."
After Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court, Murkowski pledged "to cast an independent vote when judicial nominations come before the Senate." The Anchorage Daily News reported that the senator "told several news outlets Thursday that upholding Roe v. Wade—the 1973 decision legalizing abortion nationally—is at the forefront of her mind in her decision about a Supreme Court justice, but it's not the only factor in her decision."
"I am someone who takes seriously allegations of sexual assault," Senator Murkowski said of the Kavanaugh allegation on Monday. "I don't know If there's any 'there' there but it’s my job along with 99 other members to determine if there is... Obviously, if Judge Kavanaugh has lied about what happened that would be disqualifying."
It makes sense that liberals would want Murkowski and Collins to save them from a majority conservative Supreme Court—they basically don't have anyone else to look to. But it says a lot about the current moment that we're finding ourselves looking to these two women to save our country from the misogyny of the men in charge. "If Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski don’t publicly oppose Kavanaugh, their legacy will be putting someone into the Supreme Court as the deciding vote who is hostile to women on all levels," Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder Stephanie Taylor told the Hill. PCCC is responsible for running newspaper ads in Maine and Alaska, asking the senators, "Do you believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford? And do you believe Trump and Kavanaugh when they express hostility to Roe, saying it is not settled law?"
The sad truth is, this kind of demand may be asking too much of Collins and Murkowski. They have crossed party lines to vote in favor of reproductive rights before, but both women also voted in favor of ultra-conservative Neil Gorsuch's Supreme Court appointment last year.
They are Republicans who by and large have the same political considerations as other Republicans, and in DC party affiliation often takes precedence over everything else. We can look to them to block Kavanaugh, but let's face up to the reality that we can't rely on them.
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