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Duckworth, Durbin warn Trump Supreme Court pick may threaten abortion rights

Sen. Tammy Duckworth D-Ill., interviewed by Jake Tapper on CNN's "State of the Union," July 1, 2018. Photo by Lynn Sweet

WASHINGTON – Both Illinois Senators — Democrats Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin — hit the Sunday shows to warn that President Donald Trump’s next Supreme Court nominee could overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion rights case.

And on immigration — with Trump’s family separations at the southern border adding an urgent new dimension to the already sizzling debate — both Durbin and Duckworth are critical of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, but are not joining some other Democrats who want the agency abolished.

ICE “reflects the policies of the White House, of the president,” Duckworth told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“You abolish ICE now, you still have the president with the same failed policies. Whatever you replace it with is just going to still reflect what this president wants to do . . . I think there’s a lot of other things we can do before we get to that point,” she said.

Durbin, in Chicago on Saturday for a rally and march protesting the family separations, stopped short of calling for eliminating ICE. He told CNN, “ICE, what a group of incompetence at this point. They’re focused more on toddlers than terrorists . . . Instead of deporting felons, they want to deport families that are being persecuted by criminal gangs.”

Sen. Dick Durbin in 2018.
Sen. Dick Durbin | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

Democrats are having an internal debate over ICE as factions of the party veer sharply left. Courting progressives, potential 2020 presidential contenders Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren D-Massachusetts, want to dismantle ICE.

ABORTION AND SUPREME COURT BATTLE

Duckworth made her first live Sunday show appearance, with her debut on set with Tapper at CNN’s Washington bureau. As a freshman, Duckworth has not made national Sunday shows a priority.

However, with Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy last week announcing his retirement in July — and with Trump wanting to solidify his hold on his base with a pick perceived as anti-abortion — Democrats are highlighting the threat to abortion rights as the November mid-term elections loom. Trump said he will unveil his nominee on July 9.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, wanted as many female Democratic senators as possible as guests on the five Sunday shows. He phoned Duckworth to personally to ask her to appear, a source told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Duckworth; Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota; and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, were on three of the shows. Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, talked to Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.”

Durbin did a live shot from Springfield in the state capitol standing by the rail ringing the rotunda.

“The president is looking for someone who will overturn Roe v. Wade,” Durbin told Wallace.

“But even equally important, he’s looking for someone on the court who will make sure that they rule that the Affordable Care Act’s protection of those with pre-existing conditions is unconstitutional.”

Duckworth, whose second child was born last April, told Tapper, “Roe v. Wade is important to me. I would not be able to have both of my beautiful children and my newborn daughter without [in vitro fertilization]. And their abolishment of Roe v. Wade could actually deny those of us who use IVF the ability to seek fertility treatments.”

Duckworth followed Tapper’s interview with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, are supporters of abortion rights who could blockade a Trump high court appointment.

Collins said, “I would not support a nominee who demonstrated hostility to Roe v. Wade, because that would mean to me that their judicial philosophy did not include a respect for established decisions, established law.”

Duckworth said senators should be wary of confirmation promises.

Trump’s first pick, Justice Neil Gorsuch told Collins — as he was seeking her confirmation vote at a meeting in her office — that “he is a co-author of a whole book on precedent,” Collins said.

Duckworth noted that Gorsuch voted with the 5-4 majority last week to overturn a precedent set in 1977 in the landmark anti-union Illinois case, Janus v AFSCME Council 31.

Said Duckworth, “Justice Gorsuch told [Collins] that he would respect precedent, and yet he has voted against precedent just this week with the Janus case. If anything, this president, this administration is all about overturning precedents.”