Interviews

Sen. Thune: Dems not backing Gorsuch are worrying about 2018

On 'Your World,' South Dakota lawmaker on the upcoming confirmation vote for the Supreme Court nominee

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," April 6, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right, Neil Gorsuch is on his way to the Supreme Court. That, we know. But it will be largely with Republican support, and not a whole lot of Democratic support.

That was telegraphed and well-expected before this so-called nuclear option.

What is remarkable is the number of Democrats in states that Donald Trump won comfortably were still emboldened to take this route, in other words, still emboldened not to vote for the guy and have vowed not to.

All right, South Dakota Republican Senator John Thune on what he makes of that.

Obviously, it's extreme on both sides, and it will be that way now. But what do you make of some on the other side, Senator, who feel well within their comfort zone to go ahead and do this?

SEN. JOHN THUNE, R-SOUTH DAKOTA: Right.

There are four Democrats, Neil, what are going to vote for Gorsuch.

CAVUTO: Right.

THUNE: There are a lot more, as you said, who should and are not.

And I think a lot of it has to do with people are -- they're worried about being primaried. They're worried about getting primaried on the left. The word was out among a lot of the outside groups, the left-leaning outside groups that, if you don't filibuster Gorsuch, if you vote for Gorsuch, we're going to bring -- you're going to get a primary.

And so I think there was a good amount of that going on out there. And some of the Democrats, too, who I think held the line and voted with Schumer on this are people who are close to Senator Schumer.

So, there are a lot of factors that go into a decision like this. But, at the end of the day, I think a lot of it had to do with pressure from the outside groups.

CAVUTO: Or maybe they're reading polls. Right? They're obviously looking at the election last November. But some of them have been seeing approval ratings for Congress in the aggregate, which includes Republicans and Democrats, I must stress, that have declined, and for the approval ratings of the president himself that have come down.

And they're feeling their oats. They're feeling that there's not going to be much to hurt them. What do you think?

THUNE: I think there's probably a good amount of that that goes into the calculation.

But, you know, that can change quickly. And when you're in a state that structurally has a right of center-lean, your right-of-center electorate, then eventually, if things start to improve, if we get on track, get a couple of accomplishments -- and, frankly, confirming Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is a fairly significant accomplishment -- then I think it gets harder for these Democrats in states like that when they have to defend that record going into an election year to be able to do that and do it effectively.

I think, at some point, these Democrats have to demonstrate a willingness, irrespective of what the polls might say today, that they're willing to work with the Republicans in the Congress, with the new president, to get some results for the people that they represent.

If they don't do that and these races become ideological races in states like those, they are going to have a hard time winning.

But, like I said, everybody comes to different conclusions.

CAVUTO: Yes, absolutely.

THUNE: And is willing to take some certain amount of risk in their own political circumstances.

But I think that voting against Gorsuch is not a smart move if you represent a state like that.

CAVUTO: All right, but, as you pointed out as well, it is what it is and he is going to be a Supreme Court justice to take Antonin Scalia's place. So, they move on.

Now, I want to get your take as well, if I can switch here a little bit to Syria and what to do about it, it's very clear the administration wants to do something., whether in concert with our allies in and outside the region or not.

But they seem to not be ruling anything out. The president himself hasn't telegraphed any action, but that obviously the use of these chemical weapons changed everything.

What do you think? And do you think that our target should be either working with the Russians and all to get Assad out?

THUNE: I think there has to be -- and I hope, again, that it can be with a coalition of our allies.

They're looking to us for leadership. A few weeks back, I visited some of our European allies. And, believe me, Neil, they're looking for America to lead.

And I think, in a circumstance like this, where you have a leader in a country like Syria that uses weapons of mass destruction on his own people, it just demands and cries out for a response. And I think there's a coalition of folks out there who are prepared to join us in sending a very clear message that this is unacceptable.

So, I know they're looking at options. I don't think you ought to take any options off the table. But I think that the world community, the United States leading that, certainly in circumstances like this needs to make it very clear that this kind of behavior is unacceptable.

There's got to be a response. There's got to be a consequence to this kind of behavior by Assad. And then eventually, hopefully, he's got to be removed from office.

CAVUTO: All right, Senator, thank you very much, Senator John Thune of South Dakota.

THUNE: Thanks, Neil.

CAVUTO: We will see what happens there.

END

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