Jul 1, 2018

What we're watching: Abortion rights the focus of Trump's SCOTUS pick

As President Trump gears up to announce his nominee to replace Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court, the court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which overturned many state and federal restrictions on abortion rights, is in the spotlight.

The big picture: There's debate about whether the next Supreme Court justice would vote to overturn Roe, given the court's shift to a stronger conservative majority. Republican Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), who is pro-choice and one of the Senate's key swing votes in the SCOTUS confirmation process, told CNN's Jake Tapper that she would not vote for a nominee who "demonstrated hostility" toward the decision.

Trump said he won't ask nominees how they'd vote regarding Roe in an interview with Fox News' Maria Bartiromo. "I'm told I probably shouldn't," he said.

The backdrop:

  • On the campaign trail, Trump suggested he would use Roe as a litmus test for nominees. And Vice President Mike Pence famously declared in 2016 that a Trump win would mean that the decision would be "consigned to the ash heap of history where it belongs."
  • Trump met with Collins and Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) — all of whom could be a defining vote given their views on abortion and commitment to precedent — as well as red-state Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W. Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), and Joe Donnelly (Ind.) at the White House last week to gauge the qualities they're looking for in a potential nominee.
  • Collins told Martha Raddatz on ABC's "This Week" Sunday morning that the President assured her he would not ask potential nominees about Roe.

Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) told Raddatz about the red-state senators: "These are senators who are going to do the right thing. Yes, they have bucked our party time and time again ... They do what they feel is best for their state."

  • She added that Democrats can make a case to hold the confirmation vote until after the midterm elections, just as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did in 2016, blocking President Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told Chuck Todd on NBC's "Meet the Press" that legal precedent is what matters to him the most on the issue of abortion rights:

"Well, I'm pro-life. And the job of a judge is to call, decide cases before the court. But one of the concepts that really means a lot in America is stare decisis. That means you don't overturn precedent unless there's a good reason. And I would tell my pro-life friends you can be pro-life and conservative, but you can also believe in stare decisis. Roe v. Wade, in many different ways, has been affirmed over the years. But I would hope the justice that sits on the Court, all of them, would listen to the arguments on both sides before they decided. But stare decisis is a well-known concept in our law."

Go deeper: How SCOTUS could start rolling back abortion rights.

Go deeper