Since President Trump took office, Democrats have become pretty predictable. Like the sun rising each day, you can count on Democrats to oppose everything Trump. Even Trump’s cabinet picks have been subjected to bitter partisan fights in the Senate, no matter how qualified.
The upcoming battle over the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court promised to be much of the same. Shortly after hearings, Democrats signed up one by one in a vow to filibuster his confirmation.
However, at least two Senate Democrats have now come out and threatened that predictability, inching Gorsuch ever closer to his seat on the Supreme Court.
From The Hill:
Sen.Joe Manchin (W.Va.) announced Thursday that he will back Judge Neil Gorsuch, becoming the first Senate Democrat to throw their support behind President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.
“I will vote to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to be the ninth justice on the Supreme Court,” Manchin tweeted.
Manchin’s announcement meant that Gorsuch was only 7 Democrats away from being in the clear:
Thirty-three Senate Democrats have come out against Gorsuch’s nomination, according to The Hill’s Whip List, with Republicans signaling that they are willing to change Senate rules to confirm him with a simple majority if eight Democrats don’t back him.
But even before announcing his support, Manchin said he would vote to limit debate on Gorsuch and move his nomination forward, defying Senate Democratic leaders.
Shortly after Manchin publicly broke ranks, a second Democrat issued a similar statement:
Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) became the second Democratic “yes” vote on Gorsuch.
Both Senators face reelection campaigns in states Trump won rather easily, making these Senators vulnerable to Republican challengers. Targeting similar Democrats could be enough to confirm Gorsuch:
Other red-state Democrats facing potentially tough reelection bids — including Sens. Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.) — remain undecided on Gorsuch, and have not yet said whether they will join fellow Democrats in trying to filibuster the nominee.
Senator Claire McCaskill recently told a group of Democratic donors that filibustering Gorsuch could come with huge repercussions. Although she isn’t seen as likely to support the filibuster, she is still undecided on whether or not she will join her two colleagues with a yes vote.
Getting 60 votes is required to end the filibuster and force a vote on Gorsuch, a number that requires eight Democrats to break ranks with leadership. Otherwise, Senate Republicans would need to change Senate rules in order to push the confirmation through. As it stands now, only six more Democrats are needed to avoid that option.
[Note: This post was written by Michael Lee. Follow him on Twitter @UAMichaelLee]