U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet mum for now on possible Gorsuch filibuster

A number of top Senate Democrats have come out as no votes on Judge Neil Gorsuch, and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said he would lead a filibuster.

staff photo
Senator Michael Bennet on Election Night 2016 at the downtown Denver Westin. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)

Senator Michael Bennet on Election Night 2016 at the downtown Denver Westin. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)

A number of top Senate Democrats have come out as no votes on Judge Neil Gorsuch, and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said he would lead a filibuster of President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

Where does Sen. Michael Bennet come down on this issue? Bennet’s spokeswoman wasn’t ready to say anything on the record Thursday.

In introducing Gorsuch, Bennet said his fellow Coloradan deserved the fair hearing that Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee for the high court, was denied.

Democrats are getting a lot of pressure from their base to vote no on Gorsuch in part because of the way Republicans treated Garland. This seat, vacated when Justice Antonin Scalia died, was never Republicans to fill, so don’t let them, the argument goes. Ian Silverii of ProgressNow Colorado made that case in an article in Harvard Law and Policy Review earlier this week, and Gov. John Hickenlooper seemed to endorse this position as well.

Bennet’s opening remarks don’t preclude either a no vote or participation in a filibuster, of course.

Senate Democrats opposed to Gorsuch aren’t making their case now based on a tit-for-tat around Garland but on the merits of his record.

Schumer criticized Gorsuch on the Senate floor, saying he “almost instinctively favors the powerful over the weak” and would not serve as a check on Trump or be a mainstream justice. Sen. Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, said he had “serious concerns about Judge Gorsuch’s rigid and restrictive judicial philosophy, manifest in a number of opinions he has written on the 10th Circuit.”

Republicans have given generally favorable reviews to Gorsuch’s performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee while Democrats have expressed frustration at his reticence to talk about key issues. The Judiciary committee is expected to vote in the next two weeks to recommend Gorsuch favorably to the full Senate.

Unlike with other cabinet nominees, Democrats retain the ability to filibuster Supreme Court nominees. Republicans have just 52 seats in the Senate, but Democrats will have to maintain strong party discipline to pull it off. There’s also the risk that Republicans will end the filibuster if Democrats use it here.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., could take the same step his Democratic predecessor did and change Senate rules to confirm Gorsuch and other Supreme Court nominees with a simple majority rather than the 60 votes now required to move forward.

“Gorsuch will be confirmed; I just can’t tell you exactly how that will happen, yet,” McConnell said in an interview with The Associated Press earlier this week.

Democrats Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, both of Massachusetts, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, have all said they are no votes on Gorsuch.

No Democrat has yet pledged to support the judge, but Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said Wednesday he is open to voting for him.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.