Democratic Senator In Deep-Red State Comes Out Against Neil Gorsuch

Missouri's Claire McCaskill says she'll join a planned filibuster against the Supreme Court nominee.

WASHINGTON ― Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who is up for re-election in 2018 in a state President Donald Trump won by double digits, announced Friday that she’ll vote against his Supreme Court nominee, appeals judge Neil Gorsuch.

McCaskill will join Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and a growing list of Democrats intent on denying Gorsuch the 60 votes he needs to clear a procedural hurdle before his nomination can proceed to the Senate floor.

“This is a really difficult decision for me. I am not comfortable with either choice,” McCaskill wrote on Medium, a social publishing platform.

“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,” she added.

McCaskill was struggling with her decision as recently as Thursday, when she declined to talk to reporters about which way she was leaning. She referred to Gorsuch as a “dangerous” nominee, but used the same word to describe the ramifications of blowing up Senate rules to confirm him.

In her Friday statement, the senator wrote that Trump broke a vow to Missouri voters who elected him by outsourcing his Supreme Court choice “to a right-wing group that fronts for large corporations and special interests” — a likely reference to dark-money groups that have spent heavily to boost the Gorsuch nomination in key states.

“He promised he would drain the swamp of the special interests, the lobbyists, and politicians who have overlooked the working people in this country,” McCaskill wrote. “This judicial nomination breaks those promises.”

This judicial nomination breaks those promises. Claire McCaskill on President Trump's nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch

This week, the Missouri incumbent was among four Democratic senators in states Trump carried in the 2016 election who were targeted with pro-Gorsuch ads by the National Rifle Association. She was also targeted in a separate media blitz by wealthy donors aimed at boosting Trump’s agenda.

After the Kansas City Star reported on a secret recording where McCaskill told donors her concerns about Democrats’ hard-line stance on Gorsuch, she quickly brushed off suggestions that she was waffling. 

“My words speak for themselves,” McCaskill told Capitol Hill reporters on Thursday. “Isn’t it refreshing that I say the same thing in private that I say in public?”

With McCaskill and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) joining the opposition to Gorsuch on Friday, Democrats have gathered 38 votes against the nominee ― though two of them, Sens. Patrick Leahy (Vt.) and Ben Cardin (Md.) haven’t yet said they’ll also join the filibuster.

Only two Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), have said they’ll support Gorsuch. Republicans need at least eight Democrats to break the promised Democratic filibuster. Major progressive organizations, including Credo, AllofUs and Friends of the Earth, are petitioning the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to withhold campaign funds from any Democratic senators who break ranks and support Gorsuch.

Even if the Gorsuch nomination fails to gain enough Democratic votes to move forward, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has suggested he’s ready to change longstanding Senate rules for Supreme Court nominees and get the judge confirmed no matter what by next Friday.

Some Republicans who’d rather not go that route and prefer to try to find common ground with the other side to preserve the current rules say they’re worried what next week’s confirmation vote will mean for the Senate’s future.

At this point, there’s been little or no progress,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told The Huffington Post this week. “It makes me very sad. I’ve been involved in past efforts. I’ve failed.”