Red-state Democrats grapple with Gorsuch

Red-state Democrats grapple with Gorsuch
© Getty Images

Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination means trouble for 10 red-state Senate Democrats.

Facing reelection in 2018, the senators must decide if they want to side with fellow Democrats and filibuster the president’s pick, though they would then risk the wrath of Trump voters at the polls.

Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Senate passes 0B defense bill MORE (D-Ore.) got the fight started even before the Gorsuch announcement, saying Democrats should filibuster any Trump nominee. Other blue-state Democrats, like Massachusetts Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Trump bets base will stick with him on immigration Dems call for action against Cassidy-Graham ObamaCare repeal MORE and Edward MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOvernight Regulation: FTC launches probe into Equifax | Dems propose tougher data security rules | NYC aims to slash greenhouse gas emissions | EPA to reconsider Obama coal ash rule Overnight Cybersecurity: Kaspersky to testify before House | US sanctions Iranians over cyberattacks | Equifax reveals flaw that led to hack Dems propose data security bill after Equifax hack MORE, have followed with their own full-throated opposition to the pick.

Some of their colleagues face harder choices.

There will be enormous pressure on red-state Democrats to oppose Gorsuch at all costs. Liberal activists are threatening to primary Democratic senators if they don’t try to block Gorsuch’s nomination after Republicans stopped a Democratic pick last year.

But for senators from swing states like Florida and Ohio or deep-red states like North Dakota and Montana, filibustering Gorsuch could mean alienating general election voters back home.

Republicans will need 60 votes in the Senate to break a filibuster and give Gorsuch an up-or-down confirmation vote if Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate passes 0B defense bill Overnight Health Care: New GOP ObamaCare repeal bill gains momentum Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea MORE (R-Ky.) ignores President Trump’s call to eliminate the filibuster rule entirely to get Gorsuch through.

Instead, 52 Republicans in the Senate will be looking for eight Democrats to cross party lines and help them break the filibuster. 

Here’s a look at how red-state Democrats have responded so far to Gorsuch’s nomination.


Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell Brown'Hillbilly Elegy' author won't run for Senate Brown, Portman urge Trump administration to move quickly on a steel decision Dems call on DeVos to work with CFPB to protect student borrowers MORE (Ohio)

Brown, a progressive with a populist streak that should serve him well in 2018, was one of the first Democratic senators to announce his opposition to Trump’s pick.

Citing Gorsuch’s positions on LGBT issues, as well as his views on corporate personhood and women’s health, Brown said he will vigorously oppose the president’s Supreme Court pick.

“The people of Ohio deserve Supreme Court Justices who will defend the rights of working families over Wall Street and corporate special interests — and Judge Gorsuch’s record doesn’t pass that test,” Brown said.


Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillGOP sees fresh opening with Dems’ single payer embrace Senators blast internet subsidy program It is time to make domestic terrorism a federal crime MORE (Mo.)

McCaskill is walking a fine line.

A McCaskill spokesperson told The Hill that the senator “supports the ability of senators to filibuster,” as well as the 60-vote threshold for cloture.

But she also believes that every nominee deserves a hearing and a vote.

“We should have a full confirmation hearing process and a vote on ANY nominee for the Supreme Court,” she tweeted.

A conservative group took that to mean that McCaskill opposed the filibuster. The Missouri Democrat later sent out tweets designed to push back against that notion.

“Filibuster = 60 votes procedurally. Different ways of saying the same thing. I support requiring a 60 vote margin for all Supreme Ct nominees,” McCaskill said.


Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampJustice Dept investigating Equifax stock sales: report Dem senator: Trump 'very serious' about infrastructure Trump steps up courtship of Dems MORE (N.D.)

Heitkamp is one of the few Democrats to say publicly that she’ll oppose the filibuster.

Heitkamp told Politico that Gorsuch should “absolutely” get an up-or-down vote.

Heitkamp is running for reelection in a deep-red state. Trump won North Dakota by 36 points in the 2016 presidential election. Republican Sen. John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenAir Force One is Trump’s new boardroom Overnight Finance: Trump strikes debt, spending deal with Dems | Deal shocks GOP | Fed’s No. 2 to resign | Trump keeps tax squeeze on red state Dems | House aims to pass budget next week Trump praises Dem senator during tax speech MORE did even better, winning reelection by 62 points.


Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonDem asks airlines to cap airfares ahead of Hurricane Maria Trump encourages Rick Scott to run for Senate Overnight Regulation: House moves to block methane rule | Senators wrestle with allowing driverless trucks | EPA delays toxic waste rule MORE (Fla.)

Nelson, a three-term senator and popular figure in Florida politics, isn’t tipping his hand.

“The confirmation of a Supreme Court justice is an awesome responsibility that I gladly accept,” Nelson said. “I will base my decision on a full examination of Judge Gorsuch’s judicial record and his responses to senators’ questions.”

Nelson could square off against Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), a close Trump ally, in 2018.


Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyGOP sees fresh opening with Dems’ single payer embrace Trump steps up courtship of Dems Trump having dinner with Schumer, Pelosi on Wednesday MORE (Ind.)

Donnelly is one of the most endangered Democrats in the Senate, as he faces an off-cycle election in a state that Trump won by nearly 20 points in 2016.

He has kept his powder dry on the Gorsuch nomination so far, declining to signal whether he’d support a filibuster or cross party lines to help break one.

“As I have said, part of our job as senators includes considering, debating and voting on judicial nominations, including to the Supreme Court,” Donnelly said. “I will carefully review and consider the record and qualifications of Neil Gorsuch.”


Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterFive things to know about Sanders’s single-payer plan Where Dems stand on Sanders's single-payer bill Overnight Regulation: DeVos ignites backlash with rewrite of campus sexual assault policy l EPA power plant rule decision likely this fall | Panel approves Trump financial regulator nominees MORE (Mont.)

Tester, who led the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2016, will be running for reelection in a state that Trump carried by 21 points.

In an interview with Politico on Tuesday, he expressed deep frustration with the GOP’s blockade of former President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, calling it “wrong and unconstitutional.”

But Tester added that he doesn’t believe Democrats “should play their game.”

“Have a hearing and a vote,” Tester said.


Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseySenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill GOP eying 'blue slip' break to help Trump fill the courts Dems offer alternative to Trump administration's child care proposal MORE (Pa.)

Casey is setting himself up to join the Gorsuch opposition, noting that Trump selected him from a list put together by a right-wing think tank.

“The Supreme Court, under Chief Justice Roberts, has moved far outside the mainstream and has too often favored big corporations at the expense of our workers and middle-class families,” Casey said.

 “I am concerned that far-right groups presented an edict to Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden slams Trump over golf gif hitting Clinton Trump Jr. declines further Secret Service protection: report Report: Mueller warned Manafort to expect an indictment MORE when he was a candidate, demanding that he select a nominee from their approved list. These same organizations have pushed for legal rulings that rig the system in favor of big corporations and against workers, stacking the deck against everyday Pennsylvanians.”

Casey has easily won his two campaigns in Pennsylvania. But the state went red for the first time in almost 30 years in 2016, potentially foreshadowing a tough fight ahead in 2018.


Joe Manchin (W.Va.)

Manchin has a history of bucking his party, and it would be little surprise to see him do so again.

In a statement, Manchin urged senators to “put partisan politics aside and allow the vetting process to proceed.”

Trump won West Virginia by 42 points, but Manchin’s reputation as a centrist who is willing to work with Republicans on some issues could help keep him competitive.


Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill This week: Senate wrapping up defense bill after amendment fight Week ahead: Senate to wrap up defense bill MORE (Wis.)

The Wisconsin Democrat sounds like she is preparing to back the filibuster.

“With this Supreme Court nomination, President Trump has made it clear he has no interest in being a President for all Americans and that he is intent on creating more division in our country,” Baldwin said in a statement. “Instead of putting forward a mainstream nominee for the vacant Supreme Court seat, he has offered someone who will have a hard time earning bipartisan support.”

Trump won a surprising but narrow victory in Wisconsin in 2016, as did Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Sen. Cassidy plans to bring down Medicaid Senate committee schedules hearing on health care block grants MORE (R).

If Baldwin supports the Gorsuch filibuster, Republicans will try to make her opposition an electoral issue in 2018.


Debbie Stabenow (Mich.)

Stabenow has said she will require a 60-vote threshold before giving Gorsuch an up-or-down confirmation vote,.

“I have great concerns about this nominee,” she told MSNBC. “I’ll listen; I’ll meet with him. The cases I’ve seen that he has ruled on I’m very concerned about. But I think the biggest thing is that it needs to be a coming together, and you do that with 60 votes.”

Stabenow suddenly faces a more difficult reelection terrain in Michigan, which went for the GOP presidential nominee in 2016 for the first time since 1988.