- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 5, 2017

Sen. Michael Bennet, Colorado Democrat, is facing increasing pressure to support home-state Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, as Republicans try to build support for the nomination among Democrats one-by-one.

The Colorado Springs Gazette called Mr. Bennet’s confirmation vote on Judge Gorsuch a “loyalty test” to the state, while the Denver Post urged the senator not to be tempted to follow fellow Democrats, who want to block whomever President Trump picks.

Mr. Bennet isn’t tipping his hand, waving off a reporter’s questions about the judge and the growing sentiment that he would betray his state by refusing to vote for confirmation.

“I haven’t seen them,” he said when asked about the editorials in the papers.

His spokeswoman said the senator is trying to learn more about Judge Gorsuch’s judicial philosophy, and is awaiting his confirmation hearing this month. But she pointedly referred to the previous fight over Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s pick for the seat, whom Republicans blocked.

“We are confident that Judge Gorsuch will receive the fair consideration that Judge Garland was denied,” said Laurie Cipriano, Mr. Bennet’s press secretary.

Judge Gorsuch serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, based in Denver, and has taught at the University of Colorado School of Law. He’s a fourth-generation Coloradan, and those who know him describe him as a westerner to the bone.

The Denver Post has featured op-eds promoting the judge as a quality pick for the federal bench who would protect Colorado’s interests, while supporters rallied outside the state Capitol last month to praise his qualifications to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s on the high court.

He would be the second Coloradan to reach the Supreme Court, following in the footsteps of Byron White, who served more than 30 years on the bench.

Carrie Severino, chief counsel at the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, expressed surprise that Mr. Bennet hadn’t seen the editorials and op-eds backing Judge Gorsuch.

“There’s been an increasing flory of activity in Colorado in support of Judge Gorsuch. I think they all would like to see the second Supreme Court justice in history from their state confirmed, especially someone as qualified as Neil Gorsuch,” said Ms. Severino.

She said having a westerner on the court “would be a real breath of fresh air.”

“They have a real tradition of independence, of cherishing the liberty that our Constitution protects,” said Ms. Severino.

He Judicial Crisis Network has spent more than $500,000 on advertisements in Colorado supporting the nomination. Concerned Veterans for America, like JCN, has been pushing for Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation, having launched a direct mail campaign for him last week in several states, including Colorado.

Concerned Veterans activists already have made more than 65,000 calls to Colorado urging residents to call Mr. Bennet’s Senate office and urge him to support Judge Gorsuch.

Senate Republicans outnumber Democrats 52-48. Facing the threat of a Democratic filibuster that would require 60 votes to break, Republicans could trigger the so-called “nuclear option,” which would allow the confirmation to pass with only a majority vote.

Mr. Bennet just won re-election last year, so he’s not among 10 or so Democrats facing races next year in red or swing states.

But the Colorado Springs newspaper said Mr. Bennet’s close race — he won by less than 4 percentage points against “a county commissioner with low statewide name recognition” — show just how much work the senator has to do in building up his state credentials.

Matthew Hitt, a political science professor at Colorado State University, said he hasn’t seen a groundswell of pressure on Mr. Bennet, but said the senator faces an interesting political calculation.

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