Centrist Dems won't rule out Supreme Court filibuster

Centrist Dems won't rule out Supreme Court filibuster
© Greg Nash

Centrist Senate Democrats say they are reserving the right to filibuster President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, once they review his record.

America Rising Squared, a conservative group backing Gorsuch’s nomination, circulated an email Tuesday evening claiming six Democrats are “rejecting the liberal push for a filibuster.” 

But while several of those Democrats, including Sens. Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsSunday shows preview: US reaffirms support for Ukraine amid threat of Russian invasion Coons opposes sending US troops to Ukraine: 'We would simply be sacrificing them' On The Money — Labor chief touts efforts to promote job growth MORE (Del.) and Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillBiden, lawmakers mourn Harry Reid Harry Reid, political pugilist and longtime Senate majority leader, dies On The Trail: Trump-inspired challengers target GOP governors MORE (Mo.), have called for a vote on the nominee, they have stopped short of saying they would vote to end the expected Democratic filibuster of Gorsuch. 

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The distinction is key, as the cloture motion to end a filibuster would require 60 votes.

Coons told reporters Wednesday morning that he is only in favor of calling for a vote on Gorsuch in the Senate Judiciary Committee and would not commit to supporting a floor vote at this early stage.

“I think we’ll get to that,” he said, when asked whether he supports holding a vote on ending an expected Democratic filibuster. “He should get a hearing and vote [in] committee.”

Coons said it was “a misunderstanding” to characterize his position as supporting an up-or-down, simple-majority vote on the Senate floor.

He said that Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerForced deadline spurs drastic tactic in Congress Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Predictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure MORE (N.Y.) has announced Democrats will require a 60-vote threshold for Gorsuch, something he did not disagree with. 

“It is a 60-vote threshold vote, that is what it is,” he said.

McCaskill, who is running for reelection in a state Trump won by nearly 20 points, said Tuesday that she would carefully review Gorsuch’s record before making a decision on whether to support a filibuster.

“I will treat this nominee as I have every other nominee, on the merits. Probably waiting until a confirmation hearing to get as much information as possible,” she said. 

She said Democrats should not block Gorsuch just because Senate Republicans refused to schedule a vote on Merrick Garland, whom former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaLabor agency bucks courts to attack independent workers No Hillary — the 'Third Way' is the wrong way Biden should pivot to a pro-growth strategy on immigration reform MORE nominated for the Supreme Court in 2016.

But that doesn’t mean giving Trump’s pick an automatic green light for a final up-or-down vote.

“Folks in my state want me to call balls and strikes based on the individual nominee and their record,” she said. 

Before Trump’s announcement, McCaskill said she anticipated the nomination “with a great deal of skepticism” because she had reviewed the list of 21 potential candidates he floated during the campaign — a list that included Gorsuch — and found them “all pretty extreme.” 

Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinArizona Democratic Party executive board censures Sinema Biden seeks to save what he can from Build Back Better On The Money — Labor chief touts efforts to promote job growth MORE (W.Va.), a third Democrat some activists are counting as a possible vote to quash a filibuster of Gorsuch, said Tuesday — before the nominee was named — that he would support the dilatory tactic if he found the nominee to be out of the mainstream.

“I’m not filibustering for the sake of person, I won’t do that,” Manchin said.

“I will look at their past findings, their past writings, and how they’ve been involved and make my decision. If I’m against that person, I will vote against them for cloture,” he said. 

“I’m not going to be voting for cloture and then have 51 votes to get somebody in,” he said.

Activists are also citing the recent statement of Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), a more liberal Democrat who just won reelection.

He told MSNBC on Tuesday that he “will support having a hearing and a vote” because he said Trump’s nominee “deserves that consideration.”

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But he told CNN on Wednesday that he supports a 60-vote threshold for the 49-year-old Gorsuch because his appointment to the Supreme Court would be for life.

Coons explained to reporters earlier in the day that requiring a 60-vote threshold for confirmation is akin to a filibuster.

“There’s been a lot of back and forth about what a filibuster means for a Supreme Court nomination. Here’s my understanding. It doesn’t mean that we go to the floor and get out the cots and stay there and talk for 26 hours. It is simply a question of whether there is or isn’t a 60-vote threshold,” he said. 

If Gorsuch were to fall short of 60 votes, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell says he made 'inadvertent omission' in voting remarks amid backlash These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 WATCH: The Hill recaps the top stories of the week MORE (R-Ky.) would face the decision of whether to use the “nuclear option” to change Senate rules so that Supreme Court nominees can be confirmed with 50 votes.

Trump encouraged that option Wednesday. 

“If we end up with that gridlock, I would say, if you can, Mitch, go nuclear,” Trump told reporters during a meeting with judicial advocates in the Roosevelt Room. 

"Because that would be an absolute shame if a man of this quality was put up to that neglect," he said of Gorsuch, a federal circuit court judge. "So I would say, it's up to Mitch, but I would say go for it."