- Associated Press - Thursday, April 6, 2017

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s support for a filibuster to block President Donald Trump’s pick for the U.S. Supreme Court has become an early flashpoint as she faces re-election next year.

While Baldwin and Republicans, including her Wisconsin colleague Sen. Ron Johnson, trade barbs over the nomination of Neil Gorsuch, voters back home in a state that went for Trump in November worry about the continued erosion of bipartisanship and increasing polarization in Washington.

“Nobody is making any concessions and I think this is going to be the downfall of both parties,” said Anna Street, a 56-year-old nurse from West Allis, on Tuesday.

Baldwin voted Thursday to support a Democratic filibuster in an attempt to stop Gorsuch’s nomination to the nation’s highest court, while Johnson voted to end debate. Baldwin argues that Trump should put forward someone who could get enough bipartisan support to garner 60 votes and overcome any filibuster.

But Republicans, on a party-line vote with Johnson in support and Baldwin opposed, changed Senate rules on Thursday to eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, a move labeled the “nuclear option” because it would unravel Senate traditions that have led to reaching bipartisan consensus.

“Republicans and Democrats ought to get to a point where they’re talking to each other and not go on with this,” said Roger Sunby, a retired public education administrator from Mount Horeb. He said Gorsuch would be confirmed no matter what action Democrats take.

Republicans see Baldwin’s opposition to Gorsuch as a vulnerability. Johnson, Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans have been attacking Baldwin as being out of the “mainstream” because of her opposition to Gorsuch.

Baldwin argues that it’s not her, but Gorsuch, who is out of the mainstream, citing his rulings “against disabled students, against workers, and against women’s reproductive health care.”

Baldwin said in a statement after her votes Thursday that she has “deep concerns” about Gorsuch’s record and that she wants a justice who will serve as a check on the executive branch.

“Based on his record and the many questions he has chosen to leave unanswered, I don’t have confidence Judge Gorsuch would be that justice and I oppose his confirmation to our highest court,” she said.

Baldwin backers argue that her support for a filibuster will only further bolster her bona fides among liberals as someone willing to stand up to Trump.

“It is just another way that Tammy is stepping up for the things she believes in,” said Jenni Dye, research director of the liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now.

Liberal activists opposed to Gorsuch’s nomination held a conference call Thursday to voice their concerns, while the Wisconsin Republican Party called for volunteers to gather at field offices around the state to make calls to Baldwin’s office to pressure her to support the nomination.

Walker renewed his attacks against Baldwin on Tuesday, tweeting that she “broke her word to Wisconsinites to give Judge Gorsuch a fair shot. Now a partisan filibuster?” Baldwin did not respond to any of Walker’s tweets.

Johnson, in a speech on the Senate floor Monday, said he was elected “to confirm President Trump’s nominee” and it was his “duty” to listen to the will of the voters who voted for both him and Trump in November.

Both Baldwin and Walker are up for re-election next year. At least half a dozen Republicans are considering challenging Baldwin but no one has officially entered the race.

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Associated Press writers Ivan Moreno in West Allis and Cara Lombardo in Mount Horeb contributed to this report.

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Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP and find more of his work at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/scott-bauer .

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