WASHINGTON - Two Democrats facing tough re-elections in GOP states said Thursday they will vote for President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, even as the Senate Democratic leader strongly warned Republicans against changing Senate rules to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York had tough words for his Republican counterpart, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, in an interview with The Associated Press.
“He’s bound and determined to change the rules and trample on Senate tradition” in order to get a conservative justice approved, Schumer said of McConnell. “Let the public judge whether that is a good thing.”
Schumer spoke shortly after Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota became the first Democrats to announce their support for Gorsuch, a Denver-based appellate judge. They join all 52 Senate Republicans, who argue Gorsuch is impeccably qualified to join the high court and accuse Democrats, and Schumer in particular, of playing politics by opposing him.
The Senate confirmation vote is expected late next week. Unless 60 senators support Gorsuch, which would require six more Democrats to join Heitkamp and Manchin, Republicans would have to unilaterally change Senate rules to allow Gorsuch to be confirmed with a simple majority vote in the 100-member Senate.
That scenario is looking increasingly inevitable, even though it is known on Capitol Hill as the “nuclear option” because it would amount to a dramatic departure from Senate norms of bipartisanship and collegiality. Although McConnell has yet to formally announce plans to take the step, Republican senators fully expect it and are prepared if regretful.
Schumer conducted back-to-back interviews with several major news outlets Thursday to argue that it will be the fault of Republicans, not Democrats, if the rules change happens.
“Senate Republicans are acting like if Gorsuch doesn’t get 60 votes they have no choice but to change the rules,” Schumer said. “That is bunk.” He claimed that Trump should produce a more mainstream nominee, instead.
As for Manchin and Heitkamp, Schumer said: “I’ve made my arguments to every member, including them, and each member is going to make his or her own decision.”
In all, 34 Democrats and counting have said they will oppose Gorsuch.