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.

Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyOPINION | Shailene Woodley: US should run on renewable energy by 2050 Gore wishes Mikulski a happy birthday at 'Inconvenient Sequel' premiere Callista Gingrich touts Trump's commitment to environment despite Paris deal pullout 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 WarrenSanders keeping door open on 2020 Scaramucci deletes old tweets bashing Trump Trump's new communications chief once called him a 'hack' MORE and Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyOPINION | Shailene Woodley: US should run on renewable energy by 2050 Dems urge 'transparent and inclusive' nuke policy review Senate confirms former Boeing VP as deputy Defense secretary 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 McConnellTrump backers eye GOP primary challenges for Flake, Heller Senate spending plan boosts House moderates Cruz: Tax reform chances ‘drop significantly’ if healthcare fails 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 BrownGOP Senate candidate attacks Anti-Defamation League for ‘witchhunt' on far right Senate Banking leaders introduce flood insurance bill Major progressive group endorses Martha McSally challenger 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 McCaskillFederal Election Commission must not shy away from Russia probe Senate Dems warn potential Missouri GOP recruit with opposition research dump GOP rep declines Senate bid challenging McCaskill 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 HeitkampRegulatory experts push Senate leaders for regulatory reform Why governors hold power in the battle for GOP healthcare votes Vulnerable senators raise big money ahead of 2018 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 HoevenMcCain absence adds to GOP agenda’s uncertainty McCain diagnosis looms over GOP healthcare talks This week: ObamaCare repeal faces latest setback in Senate MORE did even better, winning reelection by 62 points.


Bill NelsonBill NelsonGore wishes Mikulski a happy birthday at 'Inconvenient Sequel' premiere Honda recalls 1.2 million cars over battery fires Vulnerable senators raise big money ahead of 2018 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 DonnellyIndiana GOP rep: Likely primary opponent 'lying about my family' Dem senator to sell stock in family company that uses outsourced labor Vulnerable senators raise big money ahead of 2018 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 TesterVulnerable senators raise big money ahead of 2018 'Kate's Law' battle shifts to the Senate, testing Dems Democrats go in for the kill on ObamaCare repeal 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 CaseyDem leaders amp up calls for bipartisan ObamaCare fixes Let’s not roll back bipartisan progress on global food security Vulnerable senators raise big money ahead of 2018 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 TrumpFranken: Trump Jr., Manafort need to testify under oath Trump lawyer: Pardons are not being discussed Special counsel investigators pushing Manafort for cooperation: report 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 BaldwinSteel industry urges House panel to adopt 'Buy America' rules Major progressive group endorses Martha McSally challenger Vulnerable senators raise big money ahead of 2018 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 JohnsonCruz: Tax reform chances ‘drop significantly’ if healthcare fails GOP frets over stalled agenda Conservatives target Congress, not Trump, after healthcare collapse 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.