Maine’s junior senator, two-term independent Angus King, has never voted for a Supreme Court nominee.

Since taking office after the 2012 election, King has opposed three picks for the nation’s highest court, each of them nominated by former President Donald Trump.

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson meets with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, during a recent meeting in the senator’s office in Washington, D.C. U.S. Senate Photographic Service

During the past half century, though, Maine’s senators have generally shown a strong preference to vote for the president’s picks, often backing nominees chosen by a president from the opposite party, a trend that may provide some comfort to Democrats as they await a Senate vote on Ketanji Brown Jackson.

All told, since the nomination of John Paul Stevens in 1975, Maine senators have cast 28 votes in favor of Supreme Court nominees and six against. Four of the nay votes were registered during Trump’s single term.

No Maine senator has voted against a Democratic nominee since at least the Truman administration.

In the 52 years since Stevens was appointed, there have been four Democratic nominees voted on by the Senate, each of them approved by both Maine senators, and 17 Republican nominees tapped for the Supreme Court. All but one of them secured the Senate’s backing.

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It is unclear what the state’s two senators will do when they are asked to vote this spring on Jackson, President Joe Biden’s pick to succeed Stephen Breyer, who is retiring. Both senators, though, voted for Jackson last year to fill a seat on the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The state’s senior senator, five-term Republican Susan Collins, backed half a dozen nominees in a row, including two Democratic ones, before taking a stand against Trump nominee Amy Coney Barrett in 2020.

It wasn’t the first time Maine senators of opposing parties had each voted against a nominee. Twice during the administration of Republican President Richard Nixon, Maine’s Margaret Chase Smith, a Republican, and Edmund Muskie, a Democrat, had joined Senate majorities to shoot down controversial GOP nominees.

Collins’ opposition vote on Barrett, though, was based strictly on procedural grounds and did not prevent Barrett’s accession to the Supreme Court. Collins said the GOP had set a precedent four years earlier when its leaders refused to consider Merrick Garland in a presidential election year.

That was the only time among 17 nominations that came to a vote since 1975 where both Maine senators opposed a president’s pick to fill one of the nine seats. There have been 12 times in that period when both senators endorsed a nominee, four of them Democratic picks and eight of them Republican.

Former U.S. Sen. William Cohen, a Maine Republican, voted for nine straight nominees, including two tapped by ex-President Bill Clinton, a Democrat.

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Another Maine Republican, Olympia Snowe, endorsed four consecutive nominees, half of them Democratic ones. Collins, too, cast votes in favor of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, both picked by former President Barack Obama.

Another Maine senator, Democrat George Mitchell, voted in favor of seven nominees, including five Republican choices, and opposed two GOP picks: William Rehnquist and Robert Bork. Bork, nominated by former President Ronald Reagan in 1987, was the only nominee rejected by the Senate since 1975.

King, who caucuses with the Democrats, is likely to cast his first vote in favor of a nominee this year.

Sen. Angus King Submitted photo

After Jackson’s nomination, he said he takes his “constitutional duty of advice and consent on Supreme Court nominations very seriously” and vowed to “give her the same thorough consideration I have given every other Supreme Court nominee put before me.”

He said he would evaluate her record, listen to her testimony before the Judiciary Committee and speak with her directly “to learn more about her judicial philosophy and temperament.”

Collins, whose vote is less certain, called Jackson “an experienced federal judge with impressive academic and legal credentials.”

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After meeting with Jackson this month, Collins issued a statement saying that the two had “a lengthy and very productive conversation” that she thought “went well.”

“We covered a lot of issues,” Collins said, and Jackson “explained in great depth the methodology that she uses as she approaches the cases that come before her. “It’s clear that her credentials and the breadth of her experience are impressive.”

Though Collins is under pressure from conservatives to stand against Jackson, her track record shows she isn’t likely to oppose Biden’s pick.

Collins has repeatedly said, in confirmation battles over the course of two decades, that she is more interested in a nominee’s approach than trying to guess how a prospective justice might vote. She has insisted that she also wants judges who respect precedent.

The first time Collins was confronted with a Democratic choice for the court, Elena Kagan in 2010, she said on the Senate floor that her colleagues “must examine each nominee’s competence and expertise in the law, judicial temperament and integrity as demonstrated throughout his or her professional career.”

“Determining a nominee’s fitness to serve a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court is one of the most critical and consequential responsibilities any senator faces,” she said. “In considering judicial nominees, I carefully weigh their qualifications, competence, professional integrity, judicial temperament and philosophy.”

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“I believe it is also critical for nominees to have a judicial philosophy that is devoid of prejudgment, partisanship and preference. Only then will the decisions handed down from the bench be impartial and consistent with legal precedents and the constitutional foundations of our democratic system,” Collins said.

When she backed Kagan and Sotomayor, Collins acknowledged that she wouldn’t always agree with their rulings on the court, but she thought the pair would do their best to apply the law “impartially without bias or favoritism.”

Collins has bemoaned the way politics has marred the nominating process.

“Playing politics with judicial nominees is profoundly damaging to the Senate’s reputation and stature,” she said a few years ago. “It politicizes our judicial nomination process and threatens the independence of our courts, which are supposed to be above partisan politics.”

Collins warned then that politicizing the process “undermines the public’s confidence in our judiciary.”

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