Supreme Court nomination has become a campaign issue

Van Tine Dennis  Sipa USA

Van Tine Dennis Sipa USA

Collins said that in her recent meeting with Trump, she "encouraged the President to broaden his list beyond the list of 25 nominees that has been public for some time".

The advisers also said Trump does not plan to ask potential nominees whether they oppose Roe, or talk about the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller - though issues surrounding that investigation, including whether the president can be subpoenaed or indicted, could land before the court.

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"A candidate for this important position who would overturn Roe v Wade would not be acceptable to me because that would indicate an activist agenda that I don't want to see a judge have", Republican senator Susan Collins told ABC's This Week, referring to the 1973 court decision protecting abortion rights.

Trump said in an interview with Maria Bartiromo on Fox's "Sunday Morning Futures" program that the abortion issue could end up being decided at the state level.

"[Trump] did tell me that he would not be asking that question", Collins said.

Republicans, who control the Senate by a 51-49 margin, only need a majority to confirm Trump's court pick.

"What I want to see is a nominee who, regardless of his or her personal views on the very hard and contentious life issue, is going to respect precedent, regardless", she said.

Trump's ability to replace Kennedy - known as a moderate voice on the Supreme Court - with a more conservative justice has led many to speculate that Roe v. Wade's days as settled law could be numbered.

Trump has said that he views picking Supreme Court justices as the most important thing he will do as president outside of war and peace. The Senate battle over Donald Trump's new Supreme Court nominee is off to a fiery start, even before the president makes his choice.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, a Democrat who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee and appeared on "This Week" after Collins, called Collins' support for Roe v. Wade as settled law and legal precedent "heartening". However, Collins did not specifically name who she would not support. "It has been described as a constitutional right for 45 years and was reaffirmed 26 years ago".

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told NBC's "Meet the Press" show he would not vote for a nominee who has made up their mind about specific cases, including Roe v Wade.

"You're not just voting on if you think Trump should have his nominee", Cantwell said.

But Collins has in the past bucked her party and the president, notably with her opposition in 2017 to Trump's education secretary nominee, Betsy DeVos, and to attempts to repeal Barack Obama's healthcare law.

"You never know how that's going to turn out", Trump said.

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