More Democrats announced Tuesday that they’ll join in the attempt to filibuster Judge Neil Gorsuch, leaving Republicans with an ever-smaller chance to avoid having to use the nuclear option to confirm President Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee.
Sen. Richard J. Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat, announced his opposition to Judge Gorsuch, saying the jurist’s rulings tilt the law toward corporations.
“He did not earn my vote,” said Mr. Durbin. “I’ll vote no when his nomination comes before the committee next week. I will vote no on cloture, and I’ll oppose his nomination on the Senate floor.”
Mr. Durbin joins more than three dozen other Democrats who have either already said they’ll vote to block Judge Gorsuch or who analysts expect to join Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s call for a filibuster.
All 52 Republicans in the chamber appear poised to vote for confirmation, with Sen. Susan M. Collins, Maine Republican, adding her name to the list Tuesday.
But that still leaves the GOP eight votes shy of the 60 needed to end a filibuster, with less than a dozen members of the Democratic Caucus still in play.
Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, is the only senator who has committed to opposing a filibuster.
Meanwhile, the Senate’s most senior Democrat, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, has given mixed signals.
On Sunday he told the Vermont Digger he was “not inclined to filibuster.” But on Monday he walked that back, saying he’s still waiting for more information.
“I am never inclined to filibuster a SCOTUS nom. But I need to see how Judge Gorsuch answers my written Qs, under oath, before deciding,” Mr. Leahy tweeted.
The confusion was striking for Mr. Leahy, a former chairman of the Judiciary Committee who oversaw both of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominees.
Republicans moved to try to lock Mr. Leahy into his original comment.
“I’m glad to hear some voices of sanity and wisdom from people like Senator Leahy saying [he’s] not inclined to join in that filibuster,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican. “I also saw that our colleague from West Virginia, Sen. Manchin, has said he will not filibuster the nominee.”
But Dan Goldberg, legal director for the progressive Alliance for Justice, said they’re counting on Mr. Leahy’s walkback.
“We’re very confident that Sen. Leahy will stand with the people of Vermont, his constituents and people throughout the country who don’t believe Neil Gorsuch should have a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court,” said Mr. Goldberg.
Republican senators have said they’ll do what’s needed to get Judge Gorsuch on the high court, and that could includes triggering the nuclear option, using a shortcut to change Senate rules and curtail the power of the filibuster.
Democrats went “nuclear” in 2013 for President Obama’s nominees, but left the 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees — though they had signaled last year that they would change the rules again had Hillary Clinton won the White House and Democrats regained control of the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, hasn’t committed to the nuclear option, but has said he will ensure Judge Gorsuch will be on the Supreme Court.
“I’m confident he’ll be confirmed.”
Mr. McConnell said a final floor vote is likely April 7, just before Congress leaves for its spring break vacation.