Pelley Hammers Collins: How Can You Be ‘Pro-Women’s Rights’ and Vote for Kavanaugh?

On Sunday’s 60 Minutes, correspondent Scott Pelley conducted a hostile interrogation of Republican Senator Susan Collins, aghast at her decision to support the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. At the same time, he treated Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp as a “rare” hero for voting against Kavanaugh.

Noting that both lawmakers “share a political vulnerability,” Pelley explained: “Heitkamp is a Democrat in conservative North Dakota. Collins is a Republican in a state with many independent-minded voters.” Notice how North Dakota was labeled “conservative,” while liberal voters in Maine were identified as “independent-minded.”

 

 

Turning to Collins, Pelley pressed: “Your decision is not gonna play well back home in Maine.” While Collins acknowledged that was “likely true,” she added: “I did not try to weigh a political calculus to this decision. It’s too important for that. I just had to do what I think is right.”

Pelley then touted left-wing efforts already underway to unseat Collins in 2020 over her decision:

A website went up over these last couple of weeks collecting funds for whoever your opponent may be in 2020. And the deal was that if you voted for Kavanaugh, then the credit card pledges would be processed. If you voted against Kavanaugh, they wouldn’t process the credit card numbers. And something over $2 million was raised.

Collins blasted the attempt to intimidate her: “This is a classic quid pro quo as defined in our bribery laws....I think that if our politics has come to the point where people are trying to buy votes and buy positions, then we are in a very sad place.”

After warning Collins about being in political danger, Pelley pointed out similar peril for Heitkamp: “At this moment, about four weeks before the election, you are running behind your Republican challenger in North Dakota. A political consultant would’ve told you that voting for Kavanaugh would’ve been better for you.”

Like Collins, Heitkamp proclaimed: “...this isn’t about politics. This is about a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court....And I’m not gonna be the person who, um, makes a decision based on whether I get six more years in Washington DC.” Instead of detailing partisan efforts against Heitkamp, as he did with Collins, Pelley hailed: “That may make you rare in the Senate.”

Going back to Collins, Pelley offered more scolding: “You are rare for many reasons, but one of the reasons is you are a pro-choice Republican. Many of your opponents are going to say, ‘She’s pro-choice, she’s pro-women’s rights, and she just sent a man accused of sexual assault to the Supreme Court of the United States.’”

Collins pushed back: “I would have voted no if I disbelieved Judge Kavanaugh, but given his denials and the lack of evidence that this happened, I just did not think that it was fair to ruin the life of this distinguished judge and his family over allegations that cannot be proven.”

Pelley further lectured her: “There are many who believe that Judge Kavanaugh will be the vote that results in abortion becoming illegal in the United States. And I wonder if you’re concerned about that.”

Wrapping up the lengthy segment, Pelley fretted over how the Supreme Court would be able to “reconcile a shift in philosophical balance among the justices with the words carved above the door: ‘Equal Justice Under Law.’”

One week earlier, Pelley devoted an entire 60 Minutes piece to praising Arizona Republican Jeff Flake teaming up with Delaware Democrat Chris Coons and forcing a one-week delay in Kavanaugh’s confirmation for the FBI to investigate claims against the judge. During that interview, Pelley worried: “I’d like to ask both of you what you made of Judge Kavanaugh’s very emotional response and what it may or may not say about his judicial temperament. Does this man belong on the Supreme Court?”

Here is a partial transcript of the October 7 segment with Collins and Heitkamp:

7:12 PM ET

(...)

SCOTT PELLEY: Democrat Heitkamp and Republican Collins often meet in the middle on common ground. They also share a political vulnerability. Heitkamp is a Democrat in conservative North Dakota. Collins is a Republican in a state with many independent-minded voters.

Your decision is not gonna play well back home in Maine.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS [R-ME]: That is likely true. I did not try to weigh a political calculus to this decision. It’s too important for that. I just had to do what I think is right.

PELLEY: A website went up over these last couple of weeks collecting funds for whoever your opponent may be in 2020. And the deal was that if you voted for Kavanaugh, then the credit card pledges would be processed. If you voted against Kavanaugh, they wouldn’t process the credit card numbers. And something over $2 million was raised.

COLLINS: This is a classic quid pro quo as defined in our bribery laws. They are asking me to perform an official act and if I do not do what they want, $2 million-plus is going to go to my opponent. I think that if our politics has come to the point where people are trying to buy votes and buy positions, then we are in a very sad place.

PELLEY: Collins doesn’t face reelection for two years, but Democrat Heitkamp’s situation is much more perilous. She’s up for reelection now. And in August, Judge Kavanaugh’s support in North Dakota was running 60 percent.

At this moment, about four weeks before the election, you are running behind your Republican challenger in North Dakota. A political consultant would’ve told you that voting for Kavanaugh would’ve been better for you.

SEN. HEIDI HEITKAMP: Yeah, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. I think that the politically expedient vote here was a – a yes vote.

PELLEY: Why not then?

HEITKAMP: Because this isn’t about politics. This is about a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court. This is about a responsibility that we have as leaders, a responsibility that we have to exercise the judgment that we were sent here to exercise. I have too much respect for the institution of the Supreme Court. And I’m not gonna be the person who, um, makes a decision based on whether I get six more years in Washington DC. I’m going to make the decision based on what I think about the institutions.

PELLEY: That may make you rare in the Senate.

HEITKAMP: In 2000, when I was running for governor, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. And it was serious. You know, my doctor afterwards told me, “You have a 28% chance of living ten years.” That was 18 years ago. And so, I tell young people, I say, “You have – you have two accounts. You have a bank account, but you have a time account. What are you gonna do with your time? Do I have work that I wanna continue to do? Absolutely. Do I wanna compromise my principles and my conscience for that job? No. And do I wanna compromise the Supreme Court for that job? No.

PELLEY: You are rare for many reasons, but one of the reasons is you are a pro-choice Republican. Many of your opponents are going to say, “She’s pro-choice, she’s pro-women’s rights, and she just sent a man accused of sexual assault to the Supreme Court of the United States.”

COLLINS: I would never vote for someone who had committed sexual assault or who had lied about sexual assault, that’s not a hard call for me. I would have voted no if I disbelieved Judge Kavanaugh, but given his denials and the lack of evidence that this happened, I just did not think that it was fair to ruin the life of this distinguished judge and his family over allegations that cannot be proven.

PELLEY: There are many who believe that Judge Kavanaugh will be the vote that results in abortion becoming illegal in the United States. And I wonder if you’re concerned about that.

COLLINS: I could not vote for a judge who had demonstrated hostility to Roe v. Wade, because it would indicate a lack of respect for precedent. What Judge Kavanaugh told me, and he’s the first Supreme Court nominee that I’ve interviewed, out of six, who has told me this, is that he views precedent not just as a legal doctrine, but as rooted in our Constitution.

MIKE PENCE: On this vote, the ayes are 50, the nays are 48, the nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh of Maryland to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States is confirmed.

PELLEY: The vote was the closest for the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice since 1881. Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in hours later. The Senate is left riven by partisanship. While across the street, the Supreme Court’s new term will try to reconcile a shift in philosophical balance among the justices with the words carved above the door: “Equal Justice Under Law.”

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