Two Democrat senators announced on Thursday their intention to support the confirmation of President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.
Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota became the first Democrats to cross the aisle, giving Republicans two of eight Democratic votes needed to confirm Gorsuch without a conflict in the Senate next week.
Senators Manchin and Heitkamp face reelection next year in states that voted for Trump in the 2016 election.
Manchin met with Gorsuch for a second time Wednesday night, and released a statement saying, “I hold no illusions that I will agree with every decision Judge Gorsuch may issue in the future, but I have not found any reasons why this jurist should not be a Supreme Court justice.”
Heitkamp said that Gorsuch “has a record as a balanced, meticulous and well-respected jurist who understands the rule of law.”
Should Gorsuch be confirmed by the Senate to fill the vacancy left by the February 2016 death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court’s nine-seat conservative majority would be restored.
Conversely, Senators Maria Cantwell of Washington and Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada said on Thursday that they would cast votes against Gorsuch. Their no votes mean 34 of 48 Democrats in the 100-seat Senate oppose Gorsuch.
Most Democrats have claimed that they would support an effort to block a confirmation vote through a filibuster which requires 60 votes to allow a confirmation vote.
Some are seeking to avoid that unpopular tactic, including Chris Coons of Delaware.
“I’m open to anyone who’s got a reasonable suggestion for how we might slow what seems to be an inexorable path towards changing the rules,” Coons said on Thursday.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on sending the nomination to the Senate floor on April 3. Republican Senate leaders hope to have Gorsuch confirmed on April 7.
Since Republicans control the Senate 52-48, they must convert eight Democrats to block a filibuster. The confirmation vote only requires a simple majority.
Twelve Democrats, including Coons, have not yet announced if they would vote against Gorsuch or support a filibuster.
Some Democrats contend that Republicans “stole” a Supreme Court seat in 2016 when the Senate refused to consider Democratic former President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland.
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