Last week Sen. Susan Collins cast a vote for common sense, refusing to deny funding to providers of health care for women. I thank her, and call on her to continue to show leadership by opposing the elimination of the 60-vote threshold for the confirmation of Supreme Court justices.

Senate leaders are contemplating a maneuver to require only 51 of 100 votes – rather than a bipartisan bar of 60 – to advance the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to a final Senate vote. The fallout for the Senate would be devastating, suggesting just one reason this has been dubbed the “nuclear option.”

A 60-vote threshold has been in use for many years; this rule change would endure forever.

One of the things that is often said of Collins is that when it comes to the Senate, she is a traditionalist – and it is one of the attributes many constituents admire. She has spoken out in the past against altering the rules of the Senate, where members in the minority are given more influence than in the neighboring House of Representatives.

“I am not a proponent of changing the rules of the Senate,” Collins said in January after President Trump announced the Gorsuch nomination. “I hope that common sense will prevail and that we will have a normal process for considering this nominee.'”

At a point when the “nuclear” option was discussed two years ago, Collins said, “I certainly would not support further limiting the rights of senators.”


And in 2005, Collins said, “I’m concerned about the effect on the work of the Senate if the constitutional, a.k.a. nuclear, option is pursued.”

The 60-vote bar allows the Senate to check and balance the power of a president, to ensure that the Supreme Court, our ultimate arbiter of federal law, acts independently of the president and one political party.

Anyone given a lifetime appointment to our nation’s highest court should be able to earn 60 votes by showing that he or she is open-minded, committed to fairness, and won’t decide cases based on a partisan agenda. Moreover, 60 votes for confirmation help ensure that a Supreme Court is more balanced, because nominees then need backing from both Democrats and Republicans to win confirmation.

The president has rolled out a national agenda that is extreme and of questionable constitutionality.

Republicans who would trigger the “nuclear option” are putting Trump and their political party first and foremost, ahead of preserving American institutions and protecting the constitutional rights and freedoms of all Americans.

Judge Neil Gorsuch has issued extreme rulings that place him far out of the mainstream of jurisprudence.


For example, he not only supported allowing a private business, craft retailer Hobby Lobby, to claim a religious exemption from compliance with the Affordable Care Act, but would have gone further than his colleagues on the 10th Circuit Court to allow individuals to claim a religious exemption from the law that governs all of us.

In Planned Parenthood Association of Utah v. Herbert, Gorsuch went out of his way to support allowing the governor of Utah to strip funding from the health care provider. Calling Gorsuch’s position “unusual” and “extraordinary,” his colleague Judge Mary Briscoe pointed out that Gorsuch repeatedly “mischaracterized this litigation and the panel decision at several turns.” In other words, Gorsuch was willing to ignore court practice and custom and mischaracterize facts and law to reach a desired outcome.

Such radical hostility to women’s health is deeply concerning, and the Senate should not follow suit by changing a practice that has been in place for two centuries to reach a desired outcome. If Judge Gorsuch’s extreme views mean that he can’t attract 60 Senate votes, changing the rules is not the answer.

I hope Sen. Collins will remember all of these factors – her past convictions, her own policy concerns and the inherent threat to the Senate – and vote against “going nuclear.”

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