Under pressure, Dems hold back Gorsuch support

Centrist Democrats are withholding their support of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch after Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Health care a top policy message in fall campaigns McConnell says deficits 'not a Republican problem' Medicare for All is disastrous for American seniors and taxpayers MORE (D-N.Y.) came out strongly against him.

Gorsuch, who is nominated to fill the vacancy on the court left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, appeared to be coasting to Senate confirmation a few weeks ago.

But after three days of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings put a spotlight on his record, Democratic support for his nomination is looking less certain.

The hearings highlighted a dissenting opinion Gorsuch wrote siding with a trucking company that fired an employee who declined to sit inside a broken-down vehicle in sub-zero weather. The man was showing symptoms of hypothermia.


Democrats also scrutinized Gorsuch’s ruling against a parent who sought to place a severely autistic boy in a special schooling program under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The Supreme Court effectively overturned that ruling while he testified Wednesday by striking down another court decision that relied on his interpretation.

Those rulings aren’t sitting well with centrist Democrats, nor is his refusal this week to endorse Roe v. Wade, the landmark case creating abortion rights, or even Eisenstadt v. Baird, which guaranteed the right to use contraception. 

Republicans control 52 seats in the Senate. They will need the support of eight Democrats to end the filibuster of Gorsuch that liberals are vowing to wage. 

Right now, getting eight votes Democratic votes is looking like a heavy lift. 

“They might not get to 60 [votes], which they’re starting to get anxious about,” said Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenate Dems ask Trump to disclose financial ties to Saudi Arabia Democrats won’t let Kavanaugh debate die Senate poised to confirm Kavanaugh after bitter fight MORE (D-R.I.), a member of the Judiciary Committee.

Another Senate Democratic source said centrists who appeared open to backing Gorsuch after meeting with him personally are now starting to pull back.

President Trump’s sinking public approval rating has begun to undermine his agenda on Capitol Hill — most obviously his plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare — along with his court pick, Democrats say. 

After Gorsuch delivered three days of public testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, including nearly 20 hours of direct questioning, not a single centrist Democrat announced support for him Thursday.

The most likely Democrat to vote yes, Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinElection Countdown: Florida Senate fight resumes after hurricane | Cruz softens ObamaCare attacks | GOP worries Trump will lose suburban women | Latest Senate polls | Rep. Dave Brat gets Trump's 'total endorsement' | Dem candidates raise record B Poll: Dems lead in Indiana, West Virginia Senate races, tied in Nevada McConnell defends Trump-backed lawsuit against ObamaCare MORE of West Virginia, said he wants to meet again with Gorsuch privately before making a decision.  

Republicans were counting on Manchin, who is running for reelection next year in a state that Trump won by 42 points, to be a certain yes on the nominee — but he’s not there yet. 

Other Democrats considered likely to vote for Gorsuch said they are undecided.

“I’m not talking about Gorsuch,” said Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMcCaskill campaign says ‘intern’ who filmed campaign had access to voter data McConnell defends Trump-backed lawsuit against ObamaCare McCaskill calls on GOP opponent to appoint special prosecutor to look into undercover video MORE (D-Mo.), who is up for reelection next year in a state Trump won by nearly 20 points. 

Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampFive takeaways from the first North Dakota Senate debate Live coverage: Heitkamp faces Cramer in high-stakes North Dakota debate Sexual assault survivor named in Heitkamp ad: 'She definitely lost my vote' MORE (D-N.D.), who also faces voters in 2018 in a heavily pro-Trump state, said, “I haven’t decided.” 

She wants to review the tapes of the confirmation hearings and “catch up” before announcing her position. 

Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetEagles player sits out national anthem Trump administration denied it has ‘secret’ committee seeking negative information on marijuana: report Overnight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens MORE (D-Colo.), who introduced Gorsuch, a fellow Coloradan, to the Judiciary panel Monday, said, “I’m thinking about it.” 

Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterElection Countdown: Florida Senate fight resumes after hurricane | Cruz softens ObamaCare attacks | GOP worries Trump will lose suburban women | Latest Senate polls | Rep. Dave Brat gets Trump's 'total endorsement' | Dem candidates raise record B Protesters spell 'LIAR' on Montana mountain ahead of Trump's arrival The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Health care a top policy message in fall campaigns MORE (D-Mont.), who is on the ballot next year in a state Trump carried by 20 points, said he wouldn’t announce a decision until next week. 

“There are some things I wish he had been a little bit more clear on. There are some questions he didn’t answer,” he said. 

While all of those senators are facing competitive reelection races, they are also under intense pressure from members of the liberal grassroots to oppose Gorsuch. Backing the nominee could wind up angering those voters in a midterm election year where turning out the base will be crucial. 

Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyDems target small cluster of states in battle for House Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump officials move to require drug prices in TV ads | 4,000 more people lose Medicaid in Arkansas | New top official for Medicaid Election Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight MORE (D), who is running for reelection in Pennsylvania, a state Trump won, quickly announced to reporters in a call Thursday that he would oppose Gorsuch, citing his opinion against the truck driver.

Schumer vowed Thursday that he will whip his members against the nominee.

“My vote will be no, and I urge my colleagues to do the same,” he said on the Senate floor.

Schumer warned that Gorsuch, who was recommended by two conservative groups, the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, is “someone with a deep-seated conservative ideology.”

Gorsuch this week dodged questions about how he viewed Trump’s controversial travel ban on visitors from several predominantly Muslim countries or whether the constitutional ban on U.S. officeholders accepting gifts from foreign powers applied to Trump’s real-estate empire. 

Sen. Angus KingAngus Stanley KingCollusion judgment looms for key Senate panel People have forgotten 'facade' of independent politicians, says GOP strategist Senate poised to confirm Kavanaugh after bitter fight MORE (Maine), an independent who caucuses with Democrats, earlier this month described Gorsuch’s record as “exceedingly independent.”

On Thursday, however, he said hadn’t made up his mind on his nomination.

Liberal activists, such as filmmaker Michael Moore, warn that Democrats who vote for Gorsuch will face primary challenges.

Heidi Hess, senior campaign manager at CREDO Action, a liberal advocacy group, criticized Bennet Monday after he introduced Gorsuch and “contributed to the lighthearted tone” of the first day of the Judiciary Committee hearings.

“A vote for Gorsuch is a vote to hand the court over to Trump,” she said. “In the same way the vote to hand the Iraq war vote to George W. Bush was a stain on Democrats’ record, we see a vote for Gorsuch as a stain on their record and progressives will hold them accountable.” 

Republicans such as conservative Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzO'Rourke gives 'a definitive no' to possibility of running in 2020 Vicente Fox endorses Beto O'Rourke in Texas Senate race Beto O'Rourke on impeachment: 'There is enough there to proceed' MORE (Texas) have threatened to change the Senate’s filibuster rule if Democrats block Gorsuch. 

They could do so with a simple majority vote, a tactic so controversial it’s called the nuclear option. 

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Memo: Saudi storm darkens for Trump Trump changes tone on Saudi Arabia amid mounting pressure Trump rebukes Saudis, but also gives them more time MORE (R-S.C.) said he’d be willing to consider the nuclear option if Democrats block Gorsuch. 

"Whatever it takes to get him on the court, I will do," Graham said on "The Mike Gallagher Show," as reported by CNN. 

But Democrats are betting that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump says GOP will support pre-existing condition protections | McConnell defends ObamaCare lawsuit | Dems raise new questions for HHS on child separations Poll finds Dems prioritize health care, GOP picks lower taxes when it's time to vote The Hill's 12:30 Report — Mnuchin won't attend Saudi conference | Pompeo advises giving Saudis 'few more days' to investigate | Trump threatens military action over caravan MORE (R-Ky.) will have a tough time persuading 50 members of his caucus to change the rules for the nominee. 

“They might not get it,” a senior Democratic aide said of the prospect of McConnell mustering enough votes to change the filibuster rule.

Schumer has urged Republicans recommend Trump pick another nominee instead of amending the Senate’s rules.