Sen. Susan Collins said Tuesday that she will support Judge Neil Gorsuch for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court and called on her fellow senators not to stage a filibuster in an attempt to derail his nomination.

The Maine Republican announced her decision in a nearly 20-minute speech on the Senate floor.

Collins cited Gorsuch’s academic and legal credentials in saying that she will back President Trump’s pick to fill the vacant seat on the court.

Collins, who met with Gorsuch in February, said she is convinced that the federal appeals court judge will follow the law, rather than his personal views, in deciding cases before the court. She also said she senses that Gorsuch respects the separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the government, and that he is in the mainstream of judicial thought because he has sided with the majority in 99 percent of the cases he has heard.

She also made a point of saying that in a discussion with Gorsuch, she asked him how he viewed precedents. Many critics of Gorsuch have said they are worried that he would cast the deciding vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 court decision that eliminated most state laws barring abortions.

Collins said Gorsuch told her, “A good judge always starts with precedent and presumes that the precedent is correct.”

Collins spoke out against the possibility of a filibuster that some Democrats have threatened in a bid to block Gorsuch’s confirmation.

“Unfortunately, it has become Senate practice of late to filibuster almost every question before this body simply as a matter of course,” Collins said. “But that would be a serious mistake in this case, and it would further erode the ability of this great institution to function.”

Collins noted that she was part of a group of 14 senators who met about judicial nominations in 2005 and said that a filibuster should only be pursued in “extraordinary circumstances.”

‘TIME TO … RISE ABOVE PARTISANSHIP’

“The Senate should resist the temptation to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee who is unquestionably qualified; the temptation to abandon the traditions of comity and cooperation; the temptation to further erode the separation of powers by insisting on judicial litmus tests,” she said. “It’s time for the Senate to rise above partisanship and allow each and every senator to cast an up-or-down vote on this nominee.”

Maine’s other senator, Angus King, has not announced how he will vote on the Gorsuch nomination.

King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, held a “listening session” in Portland in early March to get a sense of how the public viewed the nomination. He also attended parts of Gorsuch’s appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, but hasn’t said which way he will vote and whether he will support a filibuster or vote to cut off debate and move to a vote.

The Judiciary Committee this week decided to delay a vote on Gorsuch, but is expected to make a decision Monday. It’s not clear how quickly it would then move to the full Senate for a decision.

Neither King nor Collins is a member of the committee.

MAINE ORGANIZATIONS OPPOSED

Before Collins announced her decision, a coalition of Maine organizations called on both Maine senators to reject Gorsuch.

The opponents, including the Maine AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund, the Maine Women’s Lobby, Equality Maine, the Maine NAACP and Sierra Club Maine, sent letters Tuesday to King and Collins urging them to vote “no” when Gorsuch’s confirmation comes up for full Senate action.

“Neil Gorsuch’s record demonstrates that he will not protect our rights as Americans or as Mainers,” the letter sent by the Maine organizations said. “As groups dedicated to protecting these communities and issues in Maine, we urge Senators Collins and King to stand up for their constituents, thoroughly examine Neil Gorsuch’s record, and reject his nomination for the Supreme Court.”

The groups argue that the Supreme Court with Gorsuch would roll back legal protections for women, workers and gay, lesbian and transgender individuals.

But a group of 49 Maine lawyers wrote King and Collins over the weekend, urging them to support Gorsuch. That letter was signed by state Rep. Ken Fredette, R-Newport, the Maine House minority leader, and two former chief counsels to Gov. Paul LePage, among others.

Collins cited the letter in announcing her decision.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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