Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) have become the first two Democrats to publicly announce that they will vote “Yes” to confirm Judge Neil Gosruch as the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
The dueling announcements is evidence of just how much pressure the 2018 election is exerting on Red State Democrats who know they will be in for a bruising battle to retain their seats. While Manchin and Heitkamp are among the more conservative Senators in the Democrat Party, they can be generally counted on to support liberal opposition to the GOP (and Trump) agenda. Even with the support they are lending to Judge Gorsuch the two Senators are in grave danger of becoming “former Senators.”
The vote to confirm Judge Gorsuch will take place next Friday and while the GOP is likely cheering the announcements from Manchin and Heitkamp, they know there is still work to be done. If the GOP wants to avoid using the “nuclear option” to confirm Judge Gorsuch, they’ll need at least 6 more Democrats to join them in supporting his nomination. Otherwise, the GOP won’t have 60 votes and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will trigger the nuclear option, allowing the GOP to confirm Judge Gorsuch with just 50 (+1) votes. The nuclear option is not something the GOP wants to unleash, but it was made available to them when former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) unlocked the mechanism several years ago in an effort to make it easier to push President Barack Obama’s agenda. Now, they are regretting the short-sightedness of the move.
We can expect at least 4-5 more Democrats to announce their support for Judge Gorsuch later this week, as there are several other vulnerable Democrats running for reelection in states that Donald Trump recently won, and they know they’ll need all the good will with their voters that they can get. The question is… will the GOP be able to find 1 more Democrat vote to help them confirm Judge Gorsuch without being forced to use the nuclear option?
Only time will tell.
Here’s Joe Manchin’s statement of support:
I will vote to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to be the ninth justice on the Supreme Court. pic.twitter.com/MpVbaqf0LB
— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) March 30, 2017
“Senators have a constitutional obligation to advice and consent on a nominee to fill this Supreme Court vacancy and, simply put, we have a responsibility to do our jobs as elected officials. Just as I did when Merrick Garland was nominated, I met with Judge Gorsuch and evaluated his qualifications to be a justice on the Supreme Court. Judge Gorsuch has been questioned by the Judiciary Committee; Senators have met with him; and soon, we will cast our votes. After considering his record, watching his testimony in front of the Judiciary Committee and meeting with him twice, I will vote to confirm him to be the ninth justice on the Supreme Court.
“Supreme Court jurists should have an extensive career in law, a record of upholding the Constitution in their rulings, an established judicial philosophy and an appropriate temperament. Judge Gorsuch’s legal career has spanned from Harvard Law School, earning a doctorate in legal philosophy at Oxford, clerking for two Supreme Court Justices, working for the Department of Justice, practicing law with a private firm, and being appointed to the bench of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals over ten years ago. Throughout Judge Gorsuch’s career, he has come to his legal rulings objectively, through the letter of the law rather than through his own opinion.
“During his time on the bench Judge Gorsuch has received praise from his colleagues who have been appointed by both Democrats and Republicans. He has been consistently rated as a well-qualified jurist, the highest rating a jurist can receive, and I have found him to be an honest and thoughtful man. I hold no illusions that I will agree with every decision Judge Gorsuch may issue in the future, but I have not found any reasons why this jurist should not be a Supreme Court Justice.”
Here is Heidi Heitkamp’s statement:
I will vote for Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Here's my full statement: pic.twitter.com/pDdhde7mGF
— Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (@SenatorHeitkamp) March 30, 2017
“After doing my due diligence by meeting with Judge Gorsuch and reviewing his record and testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, I’ve decided to vote in favor of his confirmation. He has a record as a balanced, meticulous, and well-respected jurist who understands the rule of law.”