Sen. Susan Collins of Maine described the Senate Democrats’ filibuster of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch and the subsequent change in Senate confirmation rules by Republicans as “a profoundly sad day for this greatest of American institutions.”
In a statement issued Thursday after she and her Republican colleagues in the Senate voted to invoke the so-called “nuclear option,” Collins lamented the loss of an ethos she said was built upon trust, compromise and restraint.
Collins said she had been involved in efforts with members of both parties over the past two weeks to broker an agreement that could have averted the nuclear option scenario and allowed for an up-or-down vote on Gorsuch’s nomination. She urged her Senate colleagues to reflect upon the decisions the Senate makes that are increasingly being influenced by partisan politics and how that climate can be improved.
“If Senators are going to address the problems facing the nation and the world, we are going to first have to address the problems facing the United States Senate,” Collins said in the statement. “Change will require restoring the unwritten ethos that has made this body a model for the world for 230 years.”
Members of both parties expressed concerns Thursday over the controversial change to Senate rules, saying it could potentially lead to even more partisan animosity in the future. The change, which passed 52-48 along party lines, allows filibusters of Supreme Court picks to be broken with only 51 votes rather than 60 votes.
Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent, joined Democrats in their judicial filibuster Thursday morning, which blocked Gorsuch’s nomination under the previous 60-vote threshold. Four Democrats crossed party lines to side with the Republicans during the vote.
King said in a statement issued Thursday that the 60-vote threshold “incentivized compromise” and that invoking the nuclear option “has eliminated one of (the Senate’s) checks against polarization and partisanship.”
“While I still believe we need to reform the way the Senate works so that we can break the logjam in Washington and do our jobs on behalf of the American people, it seems to me that, for major policy decisions like a lifetime appointment, it is not unreasonable to require 60 votes in order to garner broader, more sustainable bipartisan support, which I think is in the best interest of the nation,” King said.
Maine’s Republican Party criticized King for supporting the filibuster, accusing him of not living up to his role as an independent.
“By siding with liberal Democrats, Sen. King has placed himself far to the left of moderate Democrats in the U.S. Senate supporting Judge Gorsuch,” said Jason Savage, executive director of the Maine Republican Party.
Gov. Paul LePage, who has said he might run against King in 2018, also chimed in.
“With this vote, Angus King has proven he sides with the extreme liberals in the Democratic Party and against common sense governing,” LePage wrote on his Facebook page.
Collins regretted the failure of the effort to forge a compromise on the Gorsuch vote.
“Unfortunately, there is so little trust between the two parties that it was impossible to reach an agreement,” she said. “… The majority of my Democratic counterparts simply disagree with the notion that the filibuster should only be used in the nomination process under extraordinary circumstances.
“Under the extraordinary circumstances standard, there would be absolutely no basis for filibustering this nomination,” Collins said. “Judge Gorsuch has sterling academic and legal credentials. He has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to precedent and the rule of law. He is an intellectually gifted judge, who has received the American Bar Association’s highest rating.”
Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: