Sen. Claire McCaskill announced Friday that she will join Democrats’ attempted filibuster of Judge Neil Gorsuch, making it almost certain that Republicans will have to trigger the “nuclear option” to confirm President Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee.
The Missouri Democrat said she is aware that her decision makes the nuclear option likely, and it could lead to more extreme judges being named to the high court, but she said she had too many questions about Judge Gorsuch’s “rigid ideology that always puts the little guy under the boot of corporations.”
She’s the first Democrat up for re-election in a heavily red state next year to say she’ll join the filibuster, and her decision marks a break with two others, Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who have said the judge is well-qualified to take a seat on the Supreme Court.
No Supreme Court nominee has ever been blocked through a partisan filibuster, but Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer is rallying to make Judge Gorsuch the first.
Mrs. McCaskill’s decision puts Democrats close to the 41 senators needed to sustain a filibuster — a move that will force a constitutional showdown, as Republicans ponder whether to use a shortcut to change the Senate’s rules and curtail the power of the filibuster.
Mrs. McCaskill acknowledged she is feeding the “polarized politics” that have ensnared Washington, but said Judge Gorsuch was too extreme for her tastes.
She ticked off a litany of complaints her fellow Democrats have laid out against the judge, saying she was upset he didn’t criticize the Supreme Court’s precedent in Citizens United, and that Mr. Trump used a broken selection method to pick Judge Gorsuch, a well-regarded appeals court judge.
“I reject this nomination because Judge Gorsuch would continue an activist position that states that corporations have the same rights as people,” Ms. McCaskill wrote in explaining her vote. “The men who wrote our Constitution would reject that nonsense, since they were highly suspect of corporations as the tools of royalty. Corporations don’t cry or laugh or marry or worry about sending their kids to college. Judge Gorsuch’s allegiance to corporations disqualifies him from the highest court in the land.”
Republicans control only 52 seats in the Senate, meaning they would need at least eight members of the Democratic Caucus to support Judge Gorsuch to break a filibuster.
Ms. Heitkamp and Mr. Manchin account for two of those, but Ms. McCaskill’s decision leaves only a few other targets.
Conservative groups are pressuring Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Jon Tester of Montana and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and are also hoping for support from Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine.
Even if all of those backed the judge and opposed a filibuster, they’d still need support from two others.
Other senators who have yet to announce a position include Mark Warner of Virginia, Chris Coons of Delaware, Dianne Feinstein of California and Bob Menendez of New Jersey. Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, is expected to oppose Judge Gorsuch but hasn’t decided whether to join the filibuster.
Conservatives were hoping Ms. McCaskill would be swayed by Mr. Trump’s strength in her state, which the president won by 19 percentage points in last year’s election.
The Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on Judge Gorsuch Monday, with the full Senate voting by April 7.