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Collins, Manchin suggest they were misled by Kavanaugh and Gorsuch on Roe v. Wade

NBC News logo NBC News 6/24/2022 Sahil Kapur
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WASHINGTON — Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., criticized the Supreme Court's ruling Friday to eliminate the constitutional right to an abortion, after they voted to confirm Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, two key votes in the decision to overturn a half-century-old precedent.

“This decision is inconsistent with what Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh said in their testimony and their meetings with me, where they both were insistent on the importance of supporting long-standing precedents that the country has relied upon," Collins said in a statement.

She blasted the ruling as "a sudden and radical jolt to the country that will lead to political chaos, anger, and a further loss of confidence in our government."

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Manchin said he's "deeply disappointed" in the justices.

"I trusted Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh when they testified under oath that they also believed Roe v. Wade was settled legal precedent and I am alarmed they chose to reject the stability the ruling has provided for two generations of Americans," he said.

Kavanaugh and Gorsuch provided critical votes to assemble a Supreme Court majority to eliminate Roe v. Wade.

Critics of Manchin and Collins described them as naive, if not willfully ignorant of what some said at the time was the likely endgame if the two conservatives were added to the court.

Kavanaugh told the Senate at his 2018 confirmation hearing that the Roe decision "is important precedent of the Supreme Court that has been reaffirmed many times." Gorsuch, at his 2017 hearing, said of Roe that "a good judge will consider it as precedent of the U.S. Supreme Court."

Supreme Court justices have the power to reverse the court's precedents when a relevant case comes before them. Neither of the two Republican nominees said at the time whether Roe was correctly decided. Conservative judicial advocates who promoted them have fought for decades to eliminate Roe v. Wade.

On Friday, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh signed the majority opinion by Justice Samuel Alito calling Roe "egregiously wrong and on a collision course with the Constitution from the day it was decided."

The 6-3 ruling split the Republican appointees from the Democratic picks, with Chief Justice John Roberts concurring in the judgment to uphold a Mississippi law banning abortion at 15 weeks, but not in overturning the 1973 abortion rights decision. He wrote that he’d have preferred “a more measured course” in the case.

Manchin said that even though he considers himself "pro-life," he would "support legislation that would codify the rights Roe v. Wade previously protected."

Collins also said she wants Congress to “do what the Court should have done — provide the consistency in our abortion laws that Americans have relied upon for 50 years.”

Last month, Collins and Manchin voted to reject House-passed legislation that would enshrine Roe v. Wade protections into law, fretting that it went too far. That bill failed 49 to 51, short of the 60 needed for passage.

Collins has offered a narrower bill, which reproductive rights advocates say falls short of protecting the right to abortion.

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