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Political Brew: Examining Senator Collins' approach to a Supreme Court nominee

With the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, what should Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins do?

MAINE, USA — Former Democratic state senator and former Mayor of Portland Ethan Strimling joins former Republican state senator Phil Harriman this week.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who spent a career fighting for justice and gender equity, died on Friday.

Within hours, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that there will be a vote on a Trump nominee-- despite McConnell's insistence four years ago that no justice should be confirmed in a presidential election year. And President Trump has signaled he will make a swift nomination.

This would seem to be a moment of truth for Senate Republicans -- and Maine Sen. Susan Collins in particular as she stands for re-election.

Ethan Strimling believes "It's the height of hypocrisy that Mitch McConnell, who refused to consider a nomination from Barack Obama because it was 10 months out from election day, that he would now be considering a nomination from President Trump six weeks out."

Phil Harriman feels, politics aside, it isn't practical to act before election day, saying "I don't know how you get someone vetted, nominated, hearings and votes done in the next five weeks."

Both feel Sen. Collins has an important role to play here.

Strimling says Collins is on a hot seat.

"If she's smart," says Strimling, "she'll try to use some of the bipartisanship that she claims she has and go to her colleagues and make clear to Mitch McConnell we do not want this to become a big political football. We need to let this settle down."

And Harriman agrees, saying that if "President Obama had the chance to appoint someone, and McConnell wouldn't let it happen, he shouldn't do it in this instance, just for the sake of democracy and common decency."

This past week, Gov, Janet Mills (D-Maine) signed a curtailment order to maintain budget stability amid large projected revenue shortfalls caused by the pandemic.

But Harriman says that order only slows down the flow of money and that Mills "really hasn't yet addressed the crisis that we are heading into."

Strimling agrees with Harriman that the legislature needs to come back into session, saying "I don't think Maine people like it that they're sitting at home not trying to figure out how to help."

Harriman thinks Speaker of the House Sara Gideon, who is the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, has to take some of the blame for the inaction of the legislature, saying Gideon "doesn't want to spend the month of October, every day, in legislative session casting votes that could negatively impact her senatorial campaign."

The National Rifle Association has endorsed Republican challenger Dale Crafts in the Congressional race in Maine's second district.

But the local Sportsman's Alliance of Maine has not endorsed a candidate.

In a radio interview this week, SAM executive director David Trahan said both Crafts and Democratic Rep. Jared Golden have A+ rankings, indicating that gun control is unlikely to be an issue in that race.

Harriman points out that Crafts has served on the board of the Sportsman's Alliance, "which tells me that that must've been a very difficult decision for them not to endorse" him.

Strimling says the SAM decision is a pretty big deal.

"I expect part of it is because Jared Golden on the issue of guns has been much more moderate, much more in the vein of Mike Michaud," Strimling says. "But I expect they also recognize that Golden is probably going to win this race. Dale Crafts has not run a very good campaign, people barely know who he is."

Phil Harriman and Ethan Strimling appear on the weekly podcast "Agree to Disagree" on www.newscentermaine.com.

Political Brew airs Sundays on The Morning Report.