Donnelly becomes third Democrat to back Gorsuch

Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyDems search for winning playbook GOP anxious with Trump on trade Blue wave of 2018 stops in Indiana and Missouri MORE (D-Ind.) said Sunday that he will support the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, becoming the third moderate Democrat to break with his party and back President Trump’s nominee.

“After meeting with Judge Gorsuch, conducting a thorough review of his record, and closely following his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, I believe that he is a qualified jurist who will base his decisions on his understanding of the law and is well-respected among his peers,” Donnelly said in a statement.

Donnelly said the Senate should keep its 60-vote requirement for breaking a filibuster on Supreme Court nominees in place, a reference to Republicans suggesting they may resort to the “nuclear” option. 

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Republicans, vowing to confirm Gorsuch “one way or another,” have indicated, however, they may alter the Senate rules so that ending debate on Gorsuch would only need a 51-vote simple majority. They currently hold a 52-person majority in the upper chamber and would need five additional Democrats or Independents to back Gorsuch if the rules are not changed.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats will need to explain if they shut government down over illegal immigration White House: Trump remarks didn't derail shutdown talks Schumer defends Durbin after GOP senator questions account of Trump meeting MORE (D-N.Y.) said he will lead the fight in resisting Gorsuch.

Democrats, still reeling after former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaMcCarthy: ‘No deadline on DACA’ Democrats will need to explain if they shut government down over illegal immigration Trump’s first year in office was the year of the woman MORE’s nominee to the court was blocked by Republicans from getting a hearing or a vote last year, have largely come out against Gorsuch. Thirty-eight Democrats have said they will oppose his nomination.

Democratic Sens. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampPawlenty opts out of Senate run in Minnesota GOP's Cramer won't run for ND Senate seat GOP Rep. Cramer 'trending' toward ND Senate run MORE (N.D.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinMcConnell to Dems: Don't hold government 'hostage' over DACA Lawmakers see shutdown’s odds rising Senate campaign fundraising reports roll in MORE (W.Va.) last week announced they will support Gorsuch's nomination.

Donnelly, like the other two Democrats, is up for re-election in 2018 in a state Trump won by a significant margin during the 2016 presidential election.

Trump won Indiana by 19 points, West Virginia by more than 40 points and North Dakota by 35 points.

--This report was updated at 2:11 p.m.