Here Are the Democrats to Watch in the Major Supreme Court Battle

February 2nd 2017

Leigh Cuen

President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Denver Judge Neil Gorsuch, has left-wing voters up in arms.

Gorsuch is a staunch conservative "textualist," often compared to the late Antonin Scalia, and progressive movements have popped up this week demanding Democrats block his nomination. 

Yet despite public demand for all-out opposition, several congressmen remain undecided.


Protesters gathered outside the Brooklyn residence of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday night, shouting phrases like “Grow a spine, Chuck!”

The following day, Schumer made a speech on the Senate floor announcing he would use the "filibuster" to prevent Gorsuch's nomination. "On a subject as important as a Supreme Court nomination, bipartisan support should be a prerequisite. It should be essential," he said according to USA Today.

"Filibuster" is a procedural move the minority party in the Senate uses to indefinitely delay votes on both confirmations and pieces of legislation. The Senate essentially allows for unlimited debate which can only be brought to an end through another procedural move called "cloture." Democrats, now the minority party facing a Republican president, can withhold their votes to ensure that debate doesn't come to an end and Gorsuch never comes up for a vote. 


But it’s unclear whether Democrats will unite to fight this nomination.

There are almost 25 Democratics seats in the Senate up for election in 2018, including 10 which happen to be in traditionally conservative states that Trump won. According to Politico, Democratic lawmakers like Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Claire McCaskill of Missouri recently told reporters they are still on the fence about whether they would support a filibuster. On Wednesday, McCaskill tweeted her support for a “full confirmation hearing process and vote” for any Supreme Court nominee.

Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia told The Weekly Standard on Tuesday that he outright opposes the idea of a filibuster. Several Democrats feel Gorsuch is a qualified candidate, uniquely so as far as Trump nominations go, and that they need to invest in finding allies across party lines instead of turning every nomination into a slow-moving battle.

Delaware Sen. Chris Coons told NPR “Senator Schumer has already said he will insist on a 60-vote margin for this vote. That is technically, quote, unquote, ‘a filibuster.' What I'm focused on is the first step which is ensuring that Judge Gorsuch gets the full and thorough hearing and vetting in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

Using the filibuster could have consequences.

President Trump reportedly told Republicans to "go nuclear" by re-writing the rules of the Senate to require only a simple majority to confirm Gorsuch. CNN reported that lawmakers have avoided that option because it wouldn't just push Gorsuch onto the bench; it would also change the confirmation process for future Supreme Court nominees.

More liberal Democratic lawmakers, like Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, have publicly stated that won't stand down in the Supreme Court fight, even if it leads to Republicans going nuclear. 

“Should [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell be able to bully Democrats into going along with a judge who is not a consensus nominee? No,” Warren said, according to the Boston Globe. “They’re threatening. They’re bullying and the only thing we can do is stand up.”