Red-state Democrats grapple with Gorsuch

Red-state Democrats grapple with Gorsuch
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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.

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Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyThe Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Dem senator accuses Trump of 'dangerous tilt towards authoritarianism' Overnight Regulation: Dems punch back in fight over CEO pay rule 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 WarrenDems question potential Kushner real estate deal with Chinese firm Inspector general reviewing HHS decision to halt ObamaCare ads Warren: 'Today is a great day... but I'm not doing a touchdown dance' MORE and Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyThe Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Overnight Regulation: Senate moves to strike Obama-era internet privacy rules Overnight Tech: Senate votes to eliminate Obama internet privacy rules | FCC chief wants to stay out of 'political debate' on fake news | Wikileaks reveals new CIA docs 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 McConnellMitch McConnellThe Memo: Winners and losers from the battle over health care GOP senators pitch alternatives after House pulls ObamaCare repeal bill Under pressure, Dems hold back Gorsuch support 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 BrownDems question potential Kushner real estate deal with Chinese firm The Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Senators war over Wall Street during hearing for Trump's SEC pick 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 McCaskillUnder pressure, Dems hold back Gorsuch support Overnight Defense: General warns State Department cuts would hurt military | Bergdahl lawyers appeal Trump motion | Senators demand action after nude photo scandal The Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee 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 HeitkampHeidi HeitkampUnder pressure, Dems hold back Gorsuch support Overnight Finance: Senators spar over Wall Street at SEC pick's hearing | New CBO score for ObamaCare bill | Agency signs off on Trump DC hotel lease The Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee 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 HoevenSenate panel considers how to fund Trump’s T infrastructure package A guide to the committees: Senate GOP senators unveil bill to give Congress control of consumer bureau budget MORE did even better, winning reelection by 62 points.

 

Bill NelsonBill NelsonThe Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Overnight Tech: Senate votes to eliminate Obama internet privacy rules | FCC chief wants to stay out of 'political debate' on fake news | Wikileaks reveals new CIA docs FCC chairman: Whether NY Times, CNN, NBC are 'fake news' is a ‘political debate’ 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 DonnellyJoe DonnellyThe Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Senators introduce new Iran sanctions Senate Dems: We won't help pass additional health bills 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 TesterJon TesterUnder pressure, Dems hold back Gorsuch support The Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief urges Congress to approve budget boost | Senate fight over NATO addition 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 CaseyBob CaseyUnder pressure, Dems hold back Gorsuch support The Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Friends, foes spar in fight on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee 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 TrumpTrump official and TV surrogate leaving White House: reports Biden: I regret not being president De Blasio blames Trump for 'dynamic of hatred' in US 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 BaldwinOvernight Finance: Senators spar over Wall Street at SEC pick's hearing | New CBO score for ObamaCare bill | Agency signs off on Trump DC hotel lease The Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Dem senator to reintroduce ‘buy American’ legislation 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 JohnsonRon JohnsonLawmakers share photos of their dogs in honor of National Puppy Day GOP targets Baldwin over Wisconsin VA scandal The Hill's Whip List: 36 GOP no votes on ObamaCare repeal plan 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.