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In response to Texas’s wildly unconstitutional abortion ban, SB:8, which the Supreme Court refused to block and is widely seen as a direct attack on Roe v. Wade, Senate Democrats (most of them) have put forward a bill that would codify the landmark ruling into law. The bill would need a filibuster-proof majority to pass in the Senate, and if it were to have a prayer of a chance it would need the support of Republican Senators who have claimed to be pro-choice in the past, such as Susan Collins of Maine. Alas Collins, in her typical fashion, swiftly threw cold water on the bill, saying she could not support it because of its “extreme” language.
Jennifer Haberkorn, who reported the story for The LA Times, tweeted, “Sen. Susan Collins, who supports abortion rights, says she would oppose Senate Dems’ bill to legalize abortion nationwide through viability because other provisions go too far,” which raises the question of how we’re really defining the word “support” these days. If “support” means merely to say you’re in favor of something, on a purely philosophical level, then sure, Collins supports abortion rights. If “support” means to actually do something to back up that theoretical idea, like take action to protect reproductive rights when they are endangered, then Collins is full of it. The only surprising thing about Susan Collins refusing to back this bill is that anyone was surprised.
Collins is a master at talking out of both sides of her mouth. Somehow she has maintained a reputation as a moderate while acting as a Republican loyalist. The public accepts as naïveté or short-sightedness that which could likely be better explained by simple duplicity. She is not guileless, she is canny. When Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court, and liberals worried he would help to overturn Roe v. Wade, Collins justified her vote to confirm him by assuring the public that she was confident he regarded Roe as “settled law.” Even though then-President Donald Trump had always promised to appoint judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade.
Likewise, after voting to acquit Trump in his first impeachment trial, Collins reasoned that, “The president has been impeached. That’s a pretty big lesson,” opining that Trump would have learned from his mistakes. As we can all see, he did not (though this did not stop Collins from voting to acquit Trump again in his second impeachment).
These are just two of the most well-known cases, but they are exemplary of Collins’ talent for making mealy-mouthed concessions to the moderate position while continuing to act in lockstep with the most extreme ends of her party. To her exceptionally small credit, Collins did not vote to confirm Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a relatively meaningless gesture knowing that Barrett would almost certainly be confirmed by the rest of her colleagues anyway. And according to FiveThirtyEight’s analysis of her voting record, Collins voted with Trump 65.1 percent of the time overall — not very extraordinary for a Republican Senator, until you take into account Collins’ expected score of 44.1 percent. In other words, Collins’ support for Trump surpassed expectations by 21 points.
After four years of her famed furrowed brow and “deep concern,” it beggars belief that Collins actually supports or believes in anything. She has taken no stands, put forward no productive bills, defied Trump only when it was politically expedient to do so, and hidden behind flaccid rhetoric whenever challenged. She said she could not support the Democrats’ abortion rights bill because the language was “extreme,” as if the law currently in effect in Texas was not the most extreme assault on abortion since before Roe v. Wade was decided. “I support codifying Roe,” she said. “Unfortunately the bill … goes way beyond that. It would severely weaken the [conscience] exceptions that are in the current law.” If she will not support a bill codifying Roe, what else is to be concluded but that Collins does not support codifying Roe?
No, Susan Collins is not wishy-washy at all, though I believe she’s content to have us all think so. She is a loyal Republican and an active threat to abortion rights, no matter what she claims to support.