McCain having 'conversations' with Dems on Gorsuch nomination

McCain having 'conversations' with Dems on Gorsuch nomination
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Sen. John McCainJohn McCainFrustrated Dems say Obama botched Russia response Coats: Trump seemed obsessed with Russia probe The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (R-Ariz.) is hoping to strike a deal with Senate Democrats to confirm President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, though he's not optimistic, Bloomberg reported Thursday.

"There’s always hope, because maybe we’ll recognize the damage that’s been done to the institution and the American people," McCain told Bloomberg. "I’ll have conversations, but I’m not optimistic."

But the Arizona Republican seemed to dispute the report, telling reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday that he is not involved in negotiations.

He characterized the talks instead as “a few conversations” with Democrats.

"I'm having just a few conversations that I've been having for a long time with my friends on the Democratic side,” he said. “I'm not having negotiations and there is no gang."

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He said the talks are nothing new, and have been going on for months in anticipation of a possible filibuster of Trump’s Supreme Court pick.

"Of course I've had conversations with my Democratic colleagues for months knowing this issue was going to come to a head."

Some Democrats are threatening to block Gorsuch after Republicans refused to hold a hearing for former President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, last year. Now, faced with a possible filibuster, Republicans are warning that they could change Senate rules to confirm Gorsuch with a simple majority vote.

Republicans need at least eight Democrats to vote with them in order to block a filibuster.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSenate Republicans reluctant to rush vote on healthcare bill Manchin: Senate can do 'an awful lot' to improve healthcare bill Sunday shows preview: Senate healthcare debate heats up MORE (D-W.Va.) has said he'll vote to end a filibuster, and Sen. Heidi HeitkampHeidi HeitkampSenate Dem undecided on 2018 reelection run Trump ‘regulatory czar’: Two-for-one rule can work Congress should just say no to more green energy handouts MORE (D-N.D.) has said that Gorsuch should get an up-or-down vote. But no other Democrats have offered any commitments to back Gorsuch, according to The Hill's Whip List.

Bloomberg reported that McCain's talks with Democrats so far have been with Manchin and Sen. Chris CoonsChris CoonsOvernight Regulation: Labor groups fear rollback of Obama worker protection rule | Trump regs czar advances in Senate | New FCC enforcement chief Overnight Tech: Uber CEO resigns | Trump's Iowa tech trip | Dems push Sessions to block AT&T-Time Warner deal | Lawmakers warned on threat to election systems | Senate Dem offers patent reform bill MORE (D-Del.). Sen. Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalOnly Congress can enable drone technology to reach its full potential Overnight Regulation: Labor groups fear rollback of Obama worker protection rule | Trump regs czar advances in Senate | New FCC enforcement chief Dems urge Sessions to reject AT&T-Time Warner merger MORE (D-Conn.) told Bloomberg he's been approached by lawmakers from both sides of aisle on the matter. 

 "Senator Blumenthal has not spoken with Senator McCain about Judge Gorsuch's nomination and has not participated in negotiations," his office told The Hill. 

"Although he has not yet reached a decision, if he does determine that Judge Gorsuch is out of the mainstream, he will seek to block his nomination using all available procedural tools - including the filibuster."

"Senator Blumenthal has not spoken with Senator McCain about Judge Gorsuch's nomination and has not participated in negotiations. Although he has not yet reached a decision, if he does determine that Judge Gorsuch is out of the mainstream, he will seek to block his nomination using all available procedural tools - including the filibuster."
 
Sen. Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeSenate should seek to retain its 'blue slip' tradition for judicial nominees Progressives target Heller and Flake on Senate GOP bill The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill MORE’s (R-Ariz.) office said he was not participating in the talks, despite Bloomberg’s report listing him among the senators involved.

“Sen. Flake is not part of any effort to strike a deal on the filibuster. While he has been urging Democratic colleagues not to filibuster, he has been clear that he will do whatever is necessary to confirm Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court,” Flake’s office said.

McCain said his deal would be similar to the bipartisan Gang of 14 that reached a deal in 2005 to prevent Senate Republicans from doing away with the filibuster on lower-court nominations. 

Under McCain's deal, if Democrats vote to move Gorsuch's nomination forward, they would receive a promise to preserve their ability to block a future nominee. 

"Obviously that would be in the eye of the beholder, but it would have to be something different than this," McCain said.

"I’d say odds are overwhelmingly against [getting a deal]."

- Updated at 3:05 p.m.