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2:33 PM Tue, Nov. 20th

Collins would oppose court pick with Roe v. Wade ‘hostility’

Sen. Susan Collins

Sen. Susan Collins

WASHINGTON (AP) – Republican Sen. Susan Collins, a key vote on President Donald Trump's pick for the Supreme Court, said Sunday she would oppose any nominee she believed would overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.

The White House is focusing on five to seven potential candidates to fill the vacancy of retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, a swing vote on the court. The Maine senator said she would only back a judge who would show respect for settled law such as the 45-year-old Roe decision, which has long been an anathema to conservatives.

"I would not support a nominee who demonstrated hostility to Roe v. Wade because that would mean to me that their judicial philosophy did not include a respect for established decisions, established law," Collins said.

Such a judge, she said, "would not be acceptable to me because that would indicate an activist agenda."

Trump spent the weekend at his New Jersey golf club conferring with his advisers, including White House counsel Don McGahn, as he considers his options to fill the vacancy that might make precedent-shattering court decisions on abortion, health care, gay marriage and other issues.

The president told reporters Friday that he was homing in on up to seven candidates, including two women, and would announce his choice on July 9.

Trump is expected to begin his search in earnest this week at the White House and said the process could include interviews at his golf club before he reaches a final decision following the Fourth of July holiday.

During his 2016 campaign and presidency, Trump embraced anti-abortion groups and vowed to appoint federal judges who will favor efforts to roll back abortion rights. But he told reporters on Friday that he would not question potential high-court nominees about their views on abortion, saying it was "inappropriate to discuss."

The Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, but anti-abortion advocates hope Roe v. Wade will soon be overruled if Trump gets the chance to appoint a justice who could cast a potentially decisive vote against it.

Without Kennedy, the high court will have four justices picked by Democratic presidents and four picked by Republicans, giving Trump the chance to shift the ideological balance toward conservatives for years to come. Both Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump's first pick to the high court, have indicated more broadly that they respect legal precedent.

On Sunday, Leonard Leo, an outside adviser to Trump on judicial nominations, said he expected Trump to select a nominee who is mindful of precedent but who is also more "originalist and textualist." That judicial approach typically involves a more literal interpretation of the Constitution as compared to broader rulings such as Roe.