WASHINGTON — A third Democratic senator announced his support on Sunday for President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, though Republicans still face the difficult task of gaining enough Democratic votes to confirm Gorsuch without potentially having to change long-standing Senate practice.
The senator, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, is among a group of 10 Democratic senators who represent states that voted for Trump and who are up for re-election in 2018. So far, two others — Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota — have announced their support for Gorsuch.
That leaves Republicans, who hold 52 seats in the Senate, five Democratic votes short of breaking any filibuster mounted by Democrats. If the Republicans do not have enough votes to break a filibuster, they could invoke the nuclear option, allowing them to eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees and hold a floor vote. Gorsuch could then be confirmed by a simple majority.
Donnelly said in a statement that he would vote for Gorsuch because “he is a qualified jurist who will base his decision on his understanding of the law and is well respected among his peers.” Donnelly said he believed that the Senate should keep the 60-vote threshold to end a filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee.
Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who caucuses with the Democrats, said on the CBS program “Face the Nation” that he planned to decide Tuesday or Wednesday how he would vote. “I think the 60-vote margin requires some level of bipartisanship, and whether it’s on legislation or a major appointment like this, that it isn’t bad for the country that you have to have people and ideas that have some level of buy-in from both parties,” he said.
But Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. — a state won by Trump — said Sunday evening that he would oppose Gorsuch, dealing a big blow to Republicans’ hopes of reaching 60 votes.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a vote for Monday on whether to send Gorsuch’s nomination to the Senate floor. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that Gorsuch would be confirmed this week.
“How that happens really depends on our Democratic friends, how many of them are willing to oppose cloture on a partisan basis to kill a Supreme Court nominee — never happened before in history, the whole history of the country,” McConnell said.
The top Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York, said on the same program that Republicans would not secure 60 votes.
“So instead of changing the rules, which is up to Mitch McConnell and the Republican majority, why doesn’t President Trump, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate sit down and try to come up with a mainstream nominee?” Schumer said.
McConnell said any change to the precedent on filibustering Supreme Court nominees would not endanger the filibuster that can be used for legislation, calling it “a long-standing tradition of the Senate.”
Another Senate Republican leader, John Cornyn of Texas, defended McConnell’s approach.
“If they filibuster Neil Gorsuch, they are going to filibuster everyone that this president might propose,” Cornyn said on “Face the Nation,” referring to Democrats. “They realize that this is their last gasp to try to prevent him from being confirmed. But they won’t.”
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. — a state that voted for Trump — announced Friday that she would oppose Gorsuch’s confirmation.
McCaskill published a post on Medium in which she described the “difficult decision” she faced. “I am not comfortable with either choice,” she wrote, but then added: “I cannot support Judge Gorsuch because a study of his opinions reveal a rigid ideology that always puts the little guy under the boot of corporations. He is evasive, but his body of work isn’t.”
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