- The Washington Times - Monday, February 6, 2017

Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, met Monday with Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch and emerged to say he is open to supporting the appeals court judge’s promotion.

Mr. Tester is one of several Democratic senators facing difficult re-elections next year who will face intense pressure to back Judge Gorsuch.

“I would encourage all my senators, fellow senators, to meet with him, give him a fair shake. He deserves that,” Mr. Tester said.

Judge Gorsuch is making his rounds on Capitol Hill to meet with senators ahead of his confirmation vote, and on Monday he met with both Mr. Tester and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Mr. Tester said he and the judge talked about corporations’ involvement in elections, abortion and contraception, and clean air and clean water.

On Wednesday, Judge Gorsuch is scheduled to meet with Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Claire McCaskill, both running in 2018, and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

Mr. Trump carried the states of Montana, North Dakota and Missouri in November, making those Democratic senators more vulnerable to any move to block Judge Gorsuch’s nomination.

Other Democrats have been more skeptical of Judge Gorsuch, including Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, who has demanded a “mainstream” judge replace Justice Antonin Scalia and said the Republicans’ refusal to hold hearings on Judge Merrick Garland appointment to the seat last year has poisoned proceedings on Capitol Hill.

Judge Gorsuch will meet with Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat, on Wednesday at noon on Capitol Hill.

On Saturday, Mr. Schumer also said the bar for Judge Gorsuch went up after Mr. Trump took to Twitter to criticize a federal judge who halted most of the president’s extreme vetting executive order.

“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” Mr. Trump tweeted on Saturday, adding, “What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.?”






Mr. Schumer said Mr. Trump’s tweets revealed a “disdain for an independent judiciary” that opposes his wishes, adding that the Supreme Court must have someone independent to hold the administration in check.

But first-term Sen. John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican who sits on the Judiciary Committee, dismissed Mr. Schumer’s criticism, saying it’s “indicative of how hard [the Democrats are] going to have to search to find something wrong with this guy.”

In recent days, two new polls have suggested that Republicans have the populace behind them, with pluralities saying Judge Gorsuch should be confirmed.

A Huffington Post/YouGov poll released Sunday found 40 percent approved of the judge’s nomination, while just 28 percent were opposed. Meanwhile a CNN/ORC poll found 49 percent of Americans would like to see the Senate confirm Judge Gorsuch to the high court, while 36 percent said senators should reject him.

That suggests he’s on the same track as two other recent nominees, Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., both of whom had similar approval ratings after they were picked by former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, respectively.

Democrats remain bitter over the GOP’s handling of the Garland nomination, but a plurality of voters — 39 percent — say Democrats wouldn’t be justified in blocking Judge Gorsuch in retaliation, according to the HuffPost/YouGov survey.

The CNN/ORC poll surveyed 1,002 Americans and has an error margin of 3 percentage points. The Huffington Post/YouGov poll sampled 1,000 people and has a 4.1 percentage point error margin.

Dave Boyer contributed to this report.

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