Senator Collins pivotal in debate over ending 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court confirmations
Mainers wearing hazmat suits visited Senator Susan Collins’ Portland office today to urge her to oppose the so called “nuclear option.”
The move, being considered by Senate Republicans, would change the Senate filibuster rule to remove the 60 vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees. With 44 Senators committed to filibustering President Trump’s nominee, Neil Gorsuch, he will not get the 60 votes required for confirmation via normal procedure. The event was organized by Mainers for Accountable Leadership (MFAL) and Progressive Portland.
“Senator Collins should reject the nuclear option. It’s toxic,” said Steven Biel of Progressive Portland. “We are bringing her this hazmat suit because we hope she will take the lead in cleaning up the mess created by over a year of partisan warfare, starting with the unprecedented blockade of Merrick Garland.”
With both houses of Congress controlled by Republicans and Donald Trump in the White House, MFAL and Progressive Portland believe that this is not the time to erode the system of checks and balances.
“If Senator Collins believes in the Senate rules, she must uphold them even when it benefits the other side,” said April Humphrey of Mainers for Accountable Leadership.
In 2005, when Democrats filibustered a number of former President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees, Senator Collins was one of 14 senators who brokered a bipartisan deal to avert the nuclear option. Then, in 2013, when then-Majority Leader Harry Reid led efforts to eliminate the filibuster for some presidential appointments, Collins said:
I have consistently worked to protect the rights of the minority whether I was serving in the minority or the majority. In 2005, I strongly opposed a Republican plan to employ the so-called ‘nuclear option.’ I was deeply concerned that, by adopting changes in the standing rules by a simple majority, party-line vote, the majority party would have had unprecedented power to limit debate [which] impedes careful consideration of the most important matters before Congress and is not in our country's best interest
“If Neil Gorsuch can’t get 60 votes, then Republicans shouldn’t change the rules. They should change the nominee,” said Jackie McNeil of MFAL.
The group pointed out that because of the narrow Republican majority in the senate, moderates like Senator Collins have enormous leverage to diffuse the partisan conflict.
“Senator Collins and her fellow Senate moderates hold all the cards. They could team with moderate Democrats to insist on a mainstream Republican in the mold of an Anthony Kennedy. The question is whether they want to,” said Biel.