Manchin, Heitkamp become first Senate Dems to back Gorsuch

Sens. Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp on Thursday became the first Senate Democrats to announce their support for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch -- breaking with their colleagues who have blasted President Trump's pick.

“Senators have a constitutional obligation to advice (sic) and consent on a nominee to fill this Supreme Court vacancy and, simply put, we have a responsibility to do our jobs as elected officials,” Manchin, of West Virginia, said in a statement Thursday. “I will vote to confirm him to be the ninth justice on the Supreme Court.”

Shortly afterward, Heitkamp released a statement announcing her support. "He has a record as a balanced, meticulous, and well respected jurist who understands the rule of law," the North Dakota senator said. She added that her vote "does not diminish how disturbed I am by what Republicans did to Judge Garland," former President Barack Obama's nominee who was blocked by the GOP-led Senate.

While two Democrats have now come out in favor of Gorsuch, opposition in the party runs deep. More than half of their Democratic colleagues have come out against Gorsuch -- and are planning to support a filibuster if it comes to that.

Republicans would need the support of six additional Democrats to reach 60 votes and break a filibuster. If they can't, they may employ a procedural tactic to change Senate precedent and push the nominee through.

This week, Vice President Mike Pence was in West Virginia, Manchin’s home state, urging that he vote ‘yes’ for Gorsuch.

“Throughout Judge Gorsuch’s career, he has come to his legal rulings objectively, through the letter of the law rather than through his own opinion,” Manchin said in his statement. “I hold no illusions that I will agree with every decision Judge Gorsuch may issue in the future, but I have not found any reasons why this jurist should not be a Supreme Court Justice.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on April 3. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-K.Y., said they plan to vote to confirm Gorsuch on the Senate floor on April 7.