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 MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Hillicon Valley: NSA warns of new security threats | Teen accused of Twitter hack pleads not guilty | Experts warn of mail-in voting misinformation Merkley, Sanders introduce bill limiting corporate facial recognition 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 WarrenBiden campaign says no VP pick yet after bike trail quip Biden edges closer to VP pick: Here's who's up and who's down Democratic convention lineup to include Ocasio-Cortez, Clinton, Warren: reports MORE and Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeySanders offers bill to tax billionaires' wealth gains during pandemic Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Budowsky: Why I back Kennedy, praise Markey 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 McConnellTrump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Coronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority Coronavirus talks collapse as negotiators fail to reach deal MORE (R-Ky.) ignores President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeWine tests negative for coronavirus a second time Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Beirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally MORE’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 BrownOvernight Defense: Guardsman to testify Lafayette Square clearing was 'unprovoked escalation' | Dems push for controversial Pentagon nominee to withdraw | Watchdog says Pentagon not considering climate change risks to contractors Democrats urge controversial Pentagon policy nominee to withdraw Chamber of Commerce, banking industry groups call on Senate to pass corporate diversity bill 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 McCaskillDemocratic-linked group runs ads in Kansas GOP Senate primary Trump mocked for low attendance at rally Missouri county issues travel advisory for Lake of the Ozarks after Memorial Day parties 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 Heitkamp70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents Susan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama Pro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA 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 HoevenBipartisan senators seek funding for pork producers forced to euthanize livestock House Republicans threaten pushback on Saudi Arabia amid oil market slump Overnight Energy: Trump rollback of Obama mileage standards faces court challenges | Court strikes down EPA suspension of Obama greenhouse gas rule | Trump floats cutting domestic oil production MORE did even better, winning reelection by 62 points.


Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William Nelson Trump, facing trouble in Florida, goes all in NASA names DC headquarters after agency's first Black female engineer Mary W. Jackson NASA, SpaceX and the private-public partnership that caused the flight of the Crew Dragon 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 DonnellyEx-Sen. Joe Donnelly endorses Biden Lobbying world 70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents 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) TesterThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - At loggerheads, Congress, White House to let jobless payout lapse Overnight Defense: Senate poised to pass defense bill with requirement to change Confederate base names | Key senator backs Germany drawdown | Space Force chooses 'semper supra' as motto Democrats call for expedited hearing for Trump's public lands nominee 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 Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Fred Upton says it is 'tragic' to see Americans reject masks, social distancing; Russia claims it will approve COVID-19 vaccine by mid-August People with disabilities see huge job losses; will pandemic roll back ADA gains? 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 Trump 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 BaldwinDemocrats try to force Trump to boost medical supplies production Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Biden: I'll have a running mate picked next week 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 JohnsonBlumenthal calls for declassification of materials detailing Russian threat to US elections Democrats try to force Trump to boost medical supplies production GOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe 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.