Supreme Court showdown looms with far-reaching consequences

Claire McCaskill says she will oppose Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch and will vote with fellow Democrats to filibuster his nomination.

"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 anxious 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", McCaskill wrote. In the recording, which the Missouri Republican Party gave to the newspaper, McCaskill says the decision is hard because if the filibuster is eliminated, Trump could nominate another justice without having to compromise with Democrats, and "all of a sudden, the things I fought for with scars on my back to show for it in this state are in jeopardy".

The announcement comes a day after the Kansas City Star published leaked audio of the Democratic senator telling donors last weekend that blocking a vote on Gorsuch could result in someone worse being appointed to the court in the future. Garland was far more moderate than Gorsuch, they note. The Senate's Republicans would need eight Democrats to vote with them in order to prevent the filibuster, a parliamentary maneuver that would make it hard for Gorsuch's nomination to get an up or down vote.

"I think it's really interesting that the Republicans wanted to out the fact that I was so honest about how torn I am", she added. Though Democrats remain a handful shy of the 41 votes that would be required to mount a filibuster and trigger a rules change, it is the widely expected outcome.

McConnell has said he wouldn't rule out changing the rule, known as the "nuclear option", to confirm Gorsuch. This delay would be in accordance with the "McConnell Principle", otherwise known as the "Partisan Pretext", as enunciated past year by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill said she remains unsure how to vote.

"We must assume that Judge Gorsuch has passed the Trump litmus test - a pro-life, pro-gun, conservative judge", Blumenthal said in a statement.

"I remain very anxious 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", McCaskill wrote in a post on Medium.

If Democrats have enough votes to block the nomination, Majority Leader Mitch Mconnell could use what's called the "nuclear option", a seldom used rule that allows the nominee to move forward with only 50 votes.

Democratic Senators Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Manchin have already indicated their intention to support Gorsuch.

Changing Senate rules would not be unprecedented. Then Democrats took the step in 2013 when they grew frustrated over lower court nominees getting blocked, but left the Supreme Court subject to a 60-vote threshold.

Manchin also criticized Republicans for denying President Barack Obama's nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, a vote and a fair chance when he was nominated. "This is a much bigger mistake on their behalf".

  • Larry Hoffman