A top Senate Democrat emerged from a meeting with Judge Neil Gorsuch Tuesday saying he “made a positive impression” — but Sen. Richard J. Durbin stopped short of backing the Supreme Court nominee’s confirmation.
Mr. Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the chamber, said Judge Gorsuch seemed “sincere” in their meeting, answering “as many questions as he was able to.”
It was a strikingly different tone than the more combative approach taken by Democrats’ floor leader, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, who emerged from his own meeting saying Judge Gorsuch ducked all the big questions he was asked.
Judge Gorsuch met with six Senate Democrats on Tuesday, seeking support as he prepared for a confirmation hearing. If Mr. Schumer follows through on his threat to filibuster the nomination, Judge Gorsuch will need at least eight Democrats to back him.
Mr. Durbin said he’s not ready to do that.
“When it comes to some fundamental issues, issues relating to freedom of religion, issues related to Citizens United and the like, I have some basic differences with his approach,” the Illinois senator said.
Many Democrats have been pushing back against Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court pick, alleging that it is a stolen seat after the Republican majority refused to hold hearings or a vote for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland last year after the death of the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
But Mr. Durbin doesn’t think the political divide is helpful.
“We’ve had a handful of Democratic senators who’ve already announced they’re voting no. Many people in some parts of the base think we should all make that announcement. I just don’t think that’s appropriate,” Mr. Durbin told the New York Times.
“The base wants me to reject him out of hand,” Mr. Durbin added. “I don’t think that serves the country well.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, said Democrats keep moving the goalposts on Judge Gorsuch, announcing new tests the nominee must meet to earn confirmation.
Still, Mr. Grassley said, each time “Judge Gorsuch has met it.”
“He’s mainstream. And he’s independent. When my colleague chooses the next new standard, I bet he’ll meet it too,” Mr. Grassley said.