By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senate Democrats on Friday stepped closer to having enough votes to block a confirmation vote on President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee with three more Democratic senators coming out against Neil Gorsuch for the lifetime job as a justice.
Democrats are attempting use a procedural hurdle called a filibuster that requires 60 votes to allow a confirmation vote in the 100-seat U.S. Senate. Senate Republicans are hoping to vote on April 7 to confirm the conservative appeals court judge nominated by the Republican president in January.
Democratic Senators Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Brian Schatz of Hawaii came out against Gorsuch on Friday and backed a filibuster.
Republicans control the Senate 52-48. But if Democrats can muster 41 votes, they would be able to sustain the filibuster. As of Friday afternoon, 36 Democrats had indicated their support for such a move. Two Democrats have said they support Gorsuch. Another two have voiced opposition to Gorsuch but have not made clear whether they would support a filibuster to block a confirmation vote.
Seven Democrats and one independent, Angus King of Maine, who usually votes with them, have not yet announced their position.
If Democrats amass enough support to block a confirmation vote, it would force Republican Senate leaders to try to change the chamber’s long-standing rules and allow confirmation by a simple majority, a move backed by Trump that is sometimes called the “nuclear option.”
If confirmed by the Senate to fill a vacancy created by the February 2016 death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, Gorsuch would reinstate the nine-seat high court’s conservative majority at a time when Republicans control Congress and the White House.
McCaskill said in a statement she could not support Gorsuch because a study of his legal opinions revealed “a rigid ideology that always puts the little guy under the boot of corporations.”