A pair of Democratic senators announced Thursday they will be voting for 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch to be confirmed onto the Supreme Court, breaking with most of the rest of their party.
The senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, announced their decisions moments apart.
The pair of senators are two of the more moderate Democrats in the Senate, and both represent states that Trump carried by a wide margin last fall.
“During his time on the bench Judge Gorsuch has received praise from his colleagues who have been appointed by both Democrats and Republicans,” Manchin said in a statement. “He has been consistently rated as a well-qualified jurist, the highest rating a jurist can receive, and I have found him to be an honest and thoughtful man. 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.”
In her statement, Heitkamp said her vote to support Gorsuch “does not diminish how disturbed I am by what Republicans did to Judge [Merrick] Garland,” President Barack Obama’s choice to fill the vacant seat last year.
Republicans stalled Garland’s nomination, with Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley refusing to hold hearings.
“Senate Republicans played politics at its worst with an honorable, deeply qualified jurist — arguably the most well qualified nominee in modern history — who had long been supported by Republican and Democratic senators for his unmatched experience,” Heitkamp wrote. “His reward: Republicans refused to give him the fair consideration he deserved — not even a hearing — and his nomination was held open for almost 300 days — by far the longest for a Supreme Court nomination.”
“But I was taught that two wrongs don’t make a right,” she continued. “There isn’t a perfect judge. Regardless of which party is in the White House, the US Supreme Court should be above politics.”
With Heitkamp and Manchin now on board, Gorsuch has at least 54 votes to confirm him on the bench. But with Democratic leaders almost certainly set to enact a filibuster, Gorsuch will either need to reach 60 votes in order to be confirmed to the bench, or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will have to invoke the “nuclear” option and rewrite the Senate rules to kill the filibuster on Supreme Court nominees, an option he has previously expressed little desire to do.
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