Colorado’s Democratic U.S. Senator, Michael Bennet, said today he will not vote to confirm President Donald Trump’s nominee, Neil Gorsuch, to the Supreme Court after Republicans chose the “nuclear option.”
With Democrats in the U.S. Senate blocking votes to confirm Gorsuch, GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky changed the Senate rules so a simple majority of U.S. senators could block a filibuster. Doing so is considered going nuclear because of the axiom of mutual destruction. The move is a short term win for Republicans who control the Senate now, but if Democrats take control they would also have the same simple-majority rule.
“Today’s changes to the Senate’s rules have done lasting damage to the Supreme Court and our process for approving nominees,” Bennet said in a statement. “With these changes, justices may now be confirmed with the narrowest partisan majority. Allowing the judiciary to become a pure extension of our partisan politics is precisely the outcome our Founders feared. Moving forward, lifetime appointments to our highest court could become just another political exercise.”
Bennet said he would not ignore “this new reality,” and he is “forced to consider President Trump’s current nominee – and all future nominees – in that context.”
The Democrat said he is proud that Gorsuch is from Colorado and called him a qualified judge who deserves an up-or-down vote, which is tradition in the Senate. That’s why he voted against a filibuster before the rule change, he said.
“Judge Gorsuch is a very conservative judge and not one that I would have chosen. For the reasons I have said, I had concerns about his approach to the law,” Bennet said. “Those concerns grow even more significant as we confront the reality that President Trump may have several more opportunities to transform the Court with a partisan majority. For all these reasons, I will vote no on the nomination.”
Bennet had earlier said he would not support a filibuster of Gorsuch by Democrats. He has been in a pickle over the Gorsuch nomination for weeks, getting pressure from all sides.
On Wednesday, Bennet took to the floor of the Senate and gave a speech about the filibuster Democrats planned to lead. His comments were a far cry from those he first made about the judge when he introduced him in at his first hearing on March 20.
“As a person and as a lawyer, Judge Gorsuch exemplifies some of the finest qualities of Colorado,” Bennet said then, adding “Judge Gorsuch has profound respect for an independent judiciary and the vital role it plays as a check on the executive and legislative branches. I may not always agree with his rulings, but I believe Judge Gorsuch is unquestionably committed the rule of law.”
On Wednesday, in his speech, Bennet said of the judge, “I am concerned by his judicial approach, which too often seems to rely on the narrowest interpretation of the law with little appreciation for its context. In particular, I believe he has far too much confidence in the original meaning of words in legislation, or for that matter, the Constitution.”
But, he said, while he had reservations about his approach to the law, Bennet said he did not have reservations about the judge’s qualifications for the Supreme Court, and so he deserved an up or down vote.
But when that vote comes Friday, Bennet will not support Gorsuch’s nomination to the court.
On Thursday, Senators actually took five separate votes on the judge’s nomination. The first was to end debate (essentially whether to end a filibuster), the second was a motion to reconsider that, a third was to postpone the judge’s nomination, the fourth was keep the 60-vote threshold, and the fifth was another vote to end debate.
Bennet voted Yes, No, Yes, Yes, and No.
Add Bennet’s statement that he will not vote to confirm Gorsuch and it makes him the only Democrat on record to not support a filibuster and against the judge’s nomination. Three other Senate Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, supported a filibuster but also will support Gorsuch.