After the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Maine’s long-term Republican Senator, Susan Collins, was one of the first to break ranks with party leadership on holding hearings for the upcoming court nominee.
Collins became noteworthy for playing the mediator role between high-ranking Republicans opposed to holding hearings and the lesser those facing contentious battles for reelection in November who occupy seats in swing states where they could potentially be dethroned.
Immediately after Scalia’s passing, Collins attempted to appeal to her Senate Republican colleagues, arguing that they must collectively move forward with the regular process concerning nominations.
Yesterday, Collins went public yet again, after an hour-long meeting with Obama’s nominee, Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland, saying that she is “more convinced than ever” that Garland deserves a hearing.
“It was an excellent meeting that allowed us to explore many of the issues that I would raise with any nominee to the Supreme Court,” Collins said during the seven-minute press conference. “The meeting left me more convinced than ever that the process should proceed. The next step, in my view, should be public hearings before the judiciary committee, so that the issues that we explored in my office can be publicly aired, and so that senators can have a better opportunity to flesh out all of the issues that we discussed.”
Collins said emphatically that after vetting Garland on issues of the Second Amendment, executive overreach and the role and perceptions of the court, Garland proved to be knowledgeable and his responses were thorough and impressive.
However, while it is clear that Collins intends on staying above the partisan debate, it remains clear that Garland’s record goes against many issues that conservatives view as non-negotiable.
Like Collins, Garland has a unique record of his own, one that is far from what the President and other liberals deem as “moderate.” In 2007, while serving on the D.C. Circuit, Garland voted to overturn a court decision that struck down an incredibly restrictive gun law passed in the District of Columbia that barred citizens from possessing a handgun, even if kept within the home for the purpose of self-defense.
Garland sought to reconsider that decision and succeeded, siding with Judge David Tatel, one of the most liberal judges on the D.C. Circuit. Both showed extreme discontent for individual gun rights in their decision. Had the rest of the court sided with Garland and Tatel, D.C. vs. Heller, one of Scalia’s most notable achievements in protecting the Second Amendment on the high court, may never have come to fruition.
Appointing Garland as Scalia’s successor would likely result in the overturning of the Heller case, directly changing the landscape of gun rights in America. The position of the four liberal justices in the Heller decision was that the Second Amendment does not protect an individual’s right to keep and bear arms, but that it is rather only a collective right of the militia.
The people of Maine overwhelmingly support the Second Amendment, and do not want to risk having their constitutional rights stripped from them with a Garland appointment.
While Collins qualified her statement of support for Garland by noting that she would have to witness hearings to make a decision on his approval, I find her comments regarding Garland as a moderate to be troubling, especially in light of his track record. While he may be a reasonable candidate on many issues aside from the Second Amendment, we need to ensure that Scalia’s seat is replaced with another constitutionalist to protect his decisions and his legacy.
Proceeding with the hearings to confirm Garland is one thing, but to vote in favor of his appointment would tarnish Scalia’s legacy and everything that conservatives have worked to protect inside of our nation’s most inviolable documents.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that this battle is larger than one nomination and that it won’t be settled until November.