- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 30, 2017

Two Democrats facing tough re-elections in conservative states announced they’ll vote to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, showing the first cracks Thursday in Democrats’ hopes of filibustering.

Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota both announced support for Judge Gorsuch, saying he’d impressed them with his legal credentials and his approach to being a judge.

“He has a record as a balanced, meticulous, and well-respected jurist who understands the rule of law,” Ms. Heitkamp said, adding that as a Coloradan, the judge would bring a needed Western perspective to the high court.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer has been trying to rally Democrats to support a filibuster of Judge Gorsuch, arguing he’s outside the legal mainstream and has issued a series of troubling rulings. Democratic leaders also say President Trump and Republicans have botched the nomination process.

But the defections of Ms. Heitkamp and Mr. Manchin undercut Mr. Schumer’s arguments.

“After considering his record, watching his testimony in front of the Judiciary Committee and meeting with him twice, I will vote to confirm him to be the ninth justice on the Supreme Court,” Mr. Manchin said in a statement Thursday.

Mr. Manchin praised Judge Gorsuch’s extensive education and legal career, having clerked for two Supreme Court justices and worked at the Justice Department under President George W. Bush.

He also said he found the judge to be “an honest and thoughtful man.”

“Throughout Judge Gorsuch’s career, he has come to his legal rulings objectively, through the letter of the law rather than through his own opinion,” said Mr. Manchin. “I hold no illusions that I will agree with every decision Judge Gorsuch may issue in the future, but I have not found any reasons why this jurist should not be a Supreme Court Justice.”

The Senate is expected to vote on Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation April 7.

All 52 Republicans are expected to support the judge’s confirmation, but they’ll need eight members of the Democratic Caucus to join them in order to break Mr. Schumer’s filibuster.

The support of Ms. Heitkamp and Mr. Manchin brings the GOP two votes closer, with about a half-dozen other Democrats still considered in play.

Like the two senators Thursday, a number of the other Democrats are up for re-election in states Mr. Trump won in last year’s election.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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