Path to 60 narrows for Trump pick

Senate Democrats emboldened by the GOP’s failure to repeal and replace ­ObamaCare are increasingly coming out against President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, narrowing Neil Gorsuch’s path to confirmation.

Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonTom Brady to Biden: '40 percent of the people still don't think we won' Rubio, Demings rake in cash as Florida Senate race heats up How transparency on UFOs can unite a deeply divided nation MORE (D-Fla.) on Monday announced he would vote against ending debate on Gorsuch’s nomination.

Nelson, one of several Democrats to announce their opposition on Monday, was a significant blow to Gorsuch because he represents a state won by President Trump and faces reelection in 2018.

He’s also one of three Democrats remaining in the Senate who voted to end debate on Justice Samuel Alito’s nomination in 2006.


“I will vote no on the motion to invoke cloture and, if that succeeds, I will vote no on his confirmation,” Nelson said Monday.

Gorsuch’s prospects for ending a filibuster got a boost later on Monday when Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSenate rejects GOP effort to add Trump border wall to bipartisan infrastructure deal Youth organizations call on Biden to ensure 'bold' climate investments Democrats barrel toward August voting rights deadline MORE (D-W.Va.) told a reporter for NBC that he would vote to end debate on the nomination. Manchin said he had not yet decided whether he will back Gorsuch’s nomination.

Still, Nelson’s decision suggests Democrats are seeing better political prospects in opposing Trump and Gorsuch than in backing him and risking the ire of the left.

In a similar sign, Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenate panel advances first three spending bills McConnell lays out GOP demands for government-funding deal The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge MORE (D-Vt.), a former chairman of the Judiciary Committee, appeared to walk back comments that hinted he might oppose a filibuster against Gorsuch.

After telling a Vermont news outlet that he was “not inclined to filibuster,” Leahy tweeted that Gorsuch would be filibustered unless he “provides REAL answers to written Qs & senators have ample time for review & debate.”

Democrats are under enormous pressure from liberal groups to oppose Gorsuch after Republicans last year blocked Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Republicans need to find eight Democrats to vote to end debate to break a filibuster against Gorsuch.

Doing so would prevent them from having to use the nuclear option — voting to change the Senate’s rules to prohibit a filibuster against the Supreme Court nominee.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Trump asks court to block release of tax returns to Congress | Private sector adds 330K jobs in July, well short of expectations Senate panel advances first three spending bills McConnell lays out GOP demands for government-funding deal MORE (R-Ky.) has signaled his willingness to take this step if Democrats block Gorsuch, who emerged relatively unscathed from last week’s confirmation hearings and is seen by Republicans as well-qualified for the court.

A path remains for the GOP to get to 60.

All 52 Republican senators will back ending debate on Gorsuch.

And a number of Democrats have not said how they will vote.

They include senators who are up for reelections in states won by Trump.

And while Trump’s victory over Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBriahna Joy Gray: Progressives like Turner should reconsider running as Democrats Biden wishes Obama a happy birthday Ohio special election: A good day for Democrats MORE in Florida was close, he dominated the Democrat in North Dakota, Indiana, Montana and Missouri as well as West Virginia.

Those states are home to five of 2018’s most vulnerable Democratic incumbents: Sens. Manchin, Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampJoe Manchin's secret Supreme Court battle could wreak havoc with Biden's 2020 agenda Effective and profitable climate solutions are within the nation's farms and forests MORE (N.D.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillGiuliani to stump for Greitens in Missouri McCaskill shares new July 4 family tradition: Watching Capitol riot video Joe Manchin's secret MORE (Mo.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Cuomo defiant as Biden, Democrats urge resignation Biden's ATF nominee on shaky ground in Senate New hurdle slows trillion infrastructure bill MORE (Mont.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellySupreme Court battle could wreak havoc with Biden's 2020 agenda Republicans fret over divisive candidates Everybody wants Joe Manchin MORE (Ind.). Four of the five have kept a tight lip on whether they’ll back Gorsuch.

The two other Democrats who backed Alito are Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperKey Senate Republican praises infrastructure deal Biden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet Top Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure MORE (Del.), who says he will oppose Gorsuch, and Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellAir travel hits pandemic high The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions Graham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate MORE (Wash.). Cantwell’s spokesman told the Seattle Times that she’s undecided and will meet with Gorsuch this week.

Republicans pounced on Nelson’s decision, pledging that the Supreme Court will be fodder for the 2018 Senate battle. 

“Senator Bill Nelson proved to Floridians today that he no longer shares their values and instead is more politically aligned with the liberal elite of Washington,” said Katie Martin, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

But Nelson is not the only Democrat up for reelection in 2018 who opposes  Gorsuch. 

Sens. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownNew spotlight on secretaries of state as electoral battlegrounds Top Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure Schumer's moment to transform transit and deepen democracy MORE (Ohio), Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseySenate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines Biden celebrates anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act Lawmakers introduce bipartisan Free Britney Act MORE Jr. (Pa.) and Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinWhite House trying to beat back bipartisan Cornyn infrastructure amendment Managing the US dollar to pay for congressional infrastructure plans Duckworth, Pressley introduce bill to provide paid family leave for those who experience miscarriage MORE (Wis.) have also all come out against Trump’s nominee, a signal they believe they are better off siding with their party’s base.

Another Democratic vote to watch is Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetLawmakers can't reconcile weakening the SALT cap with progressive goals How Sen. Graham can help fix the labor shortage with commonsense immigration reform For true American prosperity, make the child tax credit permanent MORE, who represents Gorsuch’s home state of Colorado. He’s facing sustained pressure to back Gorsuch, whom he helped introduce at the committee last week.

If Republicans flip Bennet and the five most vulnerable red-state 2018 Senate Democrats, they’d just need two more to confirm Gorsuch.  

Other targets include Leahy and Sens. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenOvernight Defense: Police officer killed in violence outside Pentagon | Biden officials back repeal of Iraq War authorization | NSC pushed to oversee 'Havana Syndrome' response Bipartisan bill would create NSC position to oversee 'Havana syndrome' response Graham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate MORE (D-N.H.) and Angus KingAngus KingBiden's ATF nominee on shaky ground in Senate GOP skepticism looms over bipartisan spending deal White House cyber chief backs new federal bureau to track threats MORE (I-Maine).  

King, who is up for reelection, hasn’t announced a decision on Gorsuch’s nomination and immediately distanced himself from a filibuster.

Shaheen isn’t up for reelection but is from a politically purple state. A spokeswoman told The Hill on Monday that she is undecided and is “currently reviewing hearing transcripts.”

Gorsuch’s nomination is expected to come to the Senate floor next week, after Democrats on the Judiciary Committee delayed an initial vote on his nomination until Monday. Under the committee’s rules, any one senator can request that a nomination be held over the first time it appears on the agenda.

Republicans want to clear Gorsuch’s nomination before they leave for two weeks and have warned they could delay the Easter recess to confirm him. 

And McConnell again threatened to go nuclear on Monday.

“This much is clear: If our Democratic colleagues choose to hold up this nominee, then they’re acknowledging that they’ll go to any length to block any Supreme Court nominee of a Republican president,” he said.