McConnell, Schumer square off ahead of Gorsuch votes

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Senate’s top Republican and Democrat on Sunday, April 2nd presaged the floor battle to come this week over Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, offering opposing views on the likelihood of his confirmation that set the stage for a “nuclear” showdown when the chamber votes.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that President Donald Trump’s nominee would soon be seated on the high court.

“Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed this week,” McConnell said. “How that happens really depends on our Democratic friends. How many of them are willing to oppose cloture on a partisan basis to kill a Supreme Court nominee.”

But in a separate interview on the same program, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer predicted he would be able to unite enough Democrats to deny Gorsuch the 60 votes the Republican leadership will need to overcome a filibuster.

“It’s highly, highly unlikely that he’ll get 60,” Schumer said.

If Schumer is able to halt the vote, however, McConnell could move to change the rules of the Senate by invoking what is referred to as the “nuclear option,” which would allow the leadership to overcome a filibuster of Supreme Court nominations with a simple majority, or at least 51 votes. Republicans hold a slim, 52-48 majority in the chamber.

CNN’s whip count as of Sunday morning showed Democrats nearing a critical mass to maintain a filibuster. But Sen. Joe Donnelly, an Indiana Democrat, announced midday Sunday he would support Gorsuch, bringing the total number of Democrats in favor of the nomination to three.

Schumer said President ┬áTrump should withdraw the judge’s nomination and instead submit a compromise candidate after receiving input from Democrats. He also invoked the fate of Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court vacancy, whom McConnell refused to consider.

“Each side didn’t get their nominee,” Schumer said, referring to the past and current impasse. “Let’s sit down and come together.”

McConnell announced last week that, regardless of Schumer’s filibuster threat, the Senate would vote on Gorsuch this Friday before lawmakers leave Washington for a two-week recess.

In an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, echoed McConnell’s comments.

“Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed this week one way or another,” Cornyn said. “I hope the Democrats will provide the 60 votes and we don’t have to worry about the change of rules.”

Here’s what Democrats have said about Gorsuch.

Democrats who will vote for Gorsuch:

1. Sen. Joe Manchin (West Virginia) — “I will vote to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to be the ninth justice on the Supreme Court.” Tweet and statement from 3/30/2017

2. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota) — “After doing my due diligence by meeting with Judge Gorsuch and reviewing his record and testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, I’ve decided to vote in favor of his confirmation.” Statement from 3/30/2017

3. Sen. Joe Donnelly (Indiana) — “After meeting with Judge Gorsuch, conducting a thorough review of his record, and closely following his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, I believe that he is a qualified jurist who will base his decisions on his understanding of the law and is well-respected among his peers.” Statement from 4/2/2017

Democrats who plan to filibuster:

1. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (New York) — “My vote will be ‘no’. … To my Republican friends who think that if Judge Gorsuch fails to reach 60 votes, we ought to change the rules, I say: If this nominee cannot earn 60 votes, a bar met by each of President Obama’s nominees, and President Bush’s last two nominees, the answer isn’t to change the rules, it’s to change the nominee.” — Statement on Senate floor on 3/23/2017

2. Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vermont) — “After careful consideration of Judge Gorsuch’s record, I have concluded that I will not vote to confirm him to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court, and I will not support Republican efforts to change the rules to choke off debate and ram the nomination through the Senate.” — Statement on 3/23/2017

3. Sen. Bob Casey (Pennsylvania) — “I don’t believe that Judge Gorsuch, his judicial approach, would ensure fairness for workers and families in Pennsylvania and indeed across the country, and I will not support his nomination. … If you seek to become a justice of the Supreme Court … you ought to be able to rack up 60 votes … I think that’s the standard you should be able to meet.” — Press call with reporters on 3/23/2017

4. Sen. Ron Wyden (Oregon) — “I will vote no on his nomination and I will vote to sustain a filibuster.” — Statement on 3/23/2017

5. Sen. Patty Murray (Washington) — “After careful consideration, I will be voting against the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch, and I will oppose a cloture motion ending debate.” — Statement 3/24/2017

6. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts) — “I believe Judge Gorsuch’s nomination should be blocked.” — Op-ed in the Boston Globe on 3/20/2017

7. Sen. Jeff Merkley (Oregon) — Merkley has long been supportive of the filibuster and reiterated that on Twitter on 3/29/2017. “I will not stand idly by and allow the people’s government to be stolen. We must restore our #WeThePeople democracy and #StopGorsuch.”

8. Sen. Tom Carper (Delaware) — “Ultimately, I believe that moving forward with Judge Gorsuch’s nomination will send a signal that it’s acceptable to put partisan politics over fidelity to our Constitution. It is not. While I do not believe that two wrongs make a right, I believe this may be our only opportunity to right a historic wrong. Therefore, I am left with no other choice but to oppose Judge Gorsuch’s nomination until we find agreement on moving Judge Garland’s nomination forward at the same time.” — Statement on 3/29/2017

9. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin) — “President Trump and his nominee need to earn 60 votes in the Senate,” said Baldwin. “I will not be one of them.” — Journal Sentinel article on 2/2/2017

10. Sen. Bill Nelson (Florida) — “I will vote no on the motion to invoke cloture and, if that succeeds, I will vote no on his confirmation.” — Statement on 3/27/2017

11. Sen. Cory Booker (New Jersey) — “This is going to be a real test. I’m not sure what’s going to happen, but I’m going to oppose Judge Gorsuch every step of the way. A 60-vote threshold is not something new for Supreme Court nominees to overcome. It helps ensure that presidents seek nominees whose views are in the mainstream.” Interview with NJ.com on 2/5/2017

12. Sen. Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) — “I have concluded that I will not be supporting Neil Gorsuch for this opening and so I very much support a 60-vote threshold.” — Interview with Wolf Blitzer on 3/27/2017

13. Sen. Tom Udall (New Mexico) — “Every recent Supreme Court nominee has received at least 60 votes either for cloture or confirmation. Judge Gorsuch will be subject to the same test, and therefore, I will vote no on his confirmation, including cloture.” — Statement on 3/24/2017

14. Sen. Jack Reed (Rhode Island) — “I will vote no on cloture and no on his nomination.” — Statement on 3/24/2017

15. Sen. Chris Murphy (Connecticut) — “I will oppose both cloture, and if necessary, final passage, on Judge Gorsuch’s nomination,” Murphy wrote in a post on Facebook 3/28/2017

He has also expressed some support for sustaining the filibuster. “Yes I am not for changing the rules of the Senate on Judge Gorsuch’s nomination. Whether we like it or not, the rules of the Senate requires 60 votes for closure and that shouldn’t change for Gorsuch. It’s been the case for every other vote that hasn’t been exempt for that requirement.” — To reporters on 3/27/2017

16. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island) — “Judge Gorsuch needed to convince me he would not join the posse that has relentlessly stretched the law to benefit Republican partisans and corporations at the expense of everyone else. He did not. He will not get my vote.” — Statement on 3/24/2017

He also told reporters on 3/27/2017 that he will vote “no” on cloture, meaning he will be part of the filibuster.

17. Sen. Tim Kaine (Virginia) — “Judge Gorsuch’s selective activism in restricting women’s rights and his framing of women making their own health decisions as ‘the wrongdoing of others’ are jarring and do not demonstrate a philosophy that belongs on the Supreme Court. I will oppose his nomination.” — Statement on 3/29/2017

He has also expressed some support for sustaining the filibuster. “The way I look at it is the Supreme Court is the only position that requires you to get to a 60-vote threshold, which means it mandates that there be some bipartisanship and that is appropriate. Life tenure. Highest court in the land. Should have to get to 60 votes.” — To reporters on 3/27/2017

18. Sen. Kamala Harris (California) — “Exactly yes,” Harris said when asked by David Axelrod for “Axe Files” whether she’s urging Democrats to force supporters to produce 60 votes.

Harris has also said she won’t vote to confirm Gorsuch. “I cannot support his nomination.” — Op-ed in San Francisco Chronicle on 3/24/2017

19. Sen. Al Franken (Minnesota) — “Earlier today, I sat down with WCCO’s Esme Murphy and announced that I will be voting no on Judge Neil Gorsuch because I fear he’d be a part of a U.S. Supreme Court that would put the interests of large corporations before Minnesotans and all Americans.” — Statement on Facebook on 3/26/2017

20. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (Michigan) — “After carefully reviewing his record and listening to his testimony last week in the Senate Judiciary Committee, I have concluded that supporting the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court is not in the best interests of the people of Michigan whom I am proud to represent.” — Statement on 3/28/2017

A spokeswoman for Stabenow confirmed that the senator will also vote “no” on cloture.

21. Sen. Ed Markey (Massachusetts) — “I will not support the nomination of Judge Gorsuch.” — Statement on 1/31/2017

A spokeswoman for Markey confirmed that he will also vote “no” on cloture.

22. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (Maryland) — “After the Senate’s unprecedented abdication of constitutional responsibility with respect to the Garland nomination, we must begin to restore faith in the Supreme Court. That requires a nominee who is widely viewed to be an impartial administrator of justice – someone who is truly in the mainstream and who can earn the support of at least 60 senators. I will insist that this nominee be held to that standard.” — Statement on 3/28/2017

23. Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (Illinois) — “I don’t know the answer to that. … I just announced that I’ll be voting against Gorsuch and for the filibuster — basically require 60 votes.” — To reporters on 3/28/2017

24. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (New Hampshire) — “After meeting with Judge Gorsuch and reviewing his record and testimony, I cannot support his nomination to serve on the Supreme Court .. .As Judge Gorsuch’s nomination comes to the floor, I will support a 60-vote threshold for approval, an appropriate high bar that has been met by seven of the eight current Supreme Court justices.” — Statement on 3/28/2017

25. Sen. Gary Peters (Michigan) — The senator told CNN on 3/28/2017 that he will be voting against cloture and against Gorsuch in the final confirmation vote.

26. Sen. Maggie Hassan (New Hampshire) — “I will vote against this nomination, and I support maintaining the traditional 60-vote threshold for confirming Supreme Court nominees.” — Medium post on 3/28/2017

27. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota) — A spokesperson confirmed to CNN on 3/28/2017 that Klobuchar will oppose Gorsuch’s nomination and supported the 60 vote threshold.

28. Sen. Martin Heinrich (New Mexico) — “…I intend to oppose his nomination and cannot support advancing the nominee under these circumstances.” — Statement on 3/29/2017

29. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (Illinois) — “I cannot vote to confirm him. … I refuse to vote to end debate on a nominee who refuses to provide any answers to my questions.” — Statement on 3/30/2017

30. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (New York) — A spokesman confirmed on 3/31/2017 that the senator is voting no on cloture and no on confirmation.

31. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut) — “In short, he has left us with substantial doubt. … That doubt is why I cannot support this nomination, and why I will work to block it using every tool at my disposal.” — Statement and op-ed on 3/31/2017

32. Sen. Maria Cantwell (Washington) — “Therefore, I cannot support cloture and will not support the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.” — Statement on 3/30/2017

33. Sen. Brian Schatz (Hawaii) — “After careful consideration of Judge Gorsuch’s record and testimony, I have decided that I will not support his confirmation to the Supreme Court, and I will oppose any and all efforts to advance his nomination.” — Statement on 3/31/2017

34. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (Nevada) — “I believe that a nominee of such importance should gain 60 votes to be confirmed. With so many important issues before the court that will impact millions of everyday Americans and, after reviewing his record and testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, I cannot support Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation.” — Statement on 3/30/2017

35. Sen. Claire McCaskill (Missouri) — “While I have come to the conclusion that I can’t support Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court — and will vote no on the procedural vote and his confirmation — I remain very worried about our polarized politics and what the future will bring, since I’m certain we will have a Senate rule change that will usher in more extreme judges in the future.” In a post on Medium, 3/31/2017

36. Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio) — “The people of Ohio deserve Supreme Court Justices who will defend the rights of working families over Wall Street and corporate special interests — and Judge Gorsuch’s record doesn’t pass that test. I cannot support any nominee who does not recognize that corporations are not people.” — Statement on 1/31/2017

Brown’s office confirmed on 3/31/2017 that he is also voting no on cloture.

Democrats who plan to vote no on confirmation but it’s unclear whether they will filibuster:

1. Sen. Pat Leahy (Vermont) — “As of now I do not believe I can support Judge Gorsuch. He did not answer basic Qs & was selected by extreme interest groups w an agenda…I am never inclined to filibuster a SCOTUS nom. But I need to see how Judge Gorsuch answers my written Qs, under oath, before deciding.” — Twitter on 3/27/2017

On 3/28/2017, Leahy said he was still waiting to see the written responses.

2. Sen. Ben Cardin (Maryland) — “I came out today against the nominee, so I’ll be voting ‘no’ on the substance. I’m waiting to see what the Republican leadership (does), how they present the nomination on the floor and how they work with the Democrats. There’s still a lot of anxiety out there because of the way they handled the Garland nomination. So I will wait to see how they handle this nomination before deciding what I will do on procedural votes.” — To CNN on 3/28/2017

Democrats who are unclear on both the filibuster and confirmation

Sen. Mark Warner (Virginia) — He told reporters on 3/28/2017 that he was still reading up on Gorsuch but was concerned about his “evasive answers.”

Sen. Chris Coons (Delaware) — “He will get an up or down vote. Senator Schumer, our minority leader, has said it’s going to be a 60-vote margin. I doubt he’s going to get 60 votes. The question then becomes what do we do? There’s a lot of finger pointing; a lot of Democrats justifiably still very mad about the treatment of Merrick Garland….I don’t think he’s going to get 60 votes.” — Interview on MSNBC on 3/27/2017

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (California) — “Well let’s wait for next week, OK? And then I’ll make myself very clear.” — To reporters on 3/27/2017

Sen. Jon Tester — “Filibuster and the vote on him are the same in my book. It’s always been that way since I’ve been here.” — To reporters on 3/27/2017

Sen. Bob Menendez (New Jersey) — “Still deciding…I’ve said all along that when I come to a conclusion on how I’m voting on Gorsuch, I’ll decide on how I’m voting in the whole process.” — To reporters on 3/28/2017

Independent Sen. Angus King (Maine) — He told CNN on 3/30/2017 that he still hasn’t decided.

Sen. Michael Bennet (Colorado) — He has not announced his decision.