WASHINGTON D.C. (WRIC/AP) — Virginia US Senator Tim Kaine says that he is going to vote against the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
In a statement, Kaine said that he was impressed by Gorsuch’s professional and educational background, but felt uneasy about his use of the bench to express his views on contraception and reproductive health.
“I’ve observed that he has repeatedly taken an activist approach to cases involving a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her health,” Kaine said in his statement. “[His] selective activism in restricting women’s rights and his framing of women making their own health decisions as ‘the wrongdoing of others’ are jarring and do not demonstrate a philosophy that belongs on the Supreme Court.”
Despite Kaine’s opposition and that of other Senate Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seems confident that Gorsuch will be confirmed when the final vote takes place April 7.
“We’re going to get Judge Gorsuch confirmed,” he said.
The Democratic opposition raises the prospects of McConnell taking the politically charged step of changing Senate rules to get Gorsuch confirmed. Republicans hold a 52-48 majority, and it takes 60 votes to clear parliamentary hurdles and set up an up-or-down vote on a Supreme Court nominee.
McConnell could push for a rule change to win approval of the nominee with a simple majority in the 100-member Senate.
The topic of doing away with the 60-vote threshold for a Supreme Court nominee, sometimes referred to as the “nuclear option,” came up when GOP senators gathered Tuesday behind closed doors.
“A lot of us really hate the thought of using it. Nonetheless, it may very well be the ultimate outcome because one way or the other, we will have Judge Gorsuch on the bench,” said Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D. “That will happen.”
Liberals have pressured congressional Democrats to resist all things Trump, and have been emboldened by the failure of the Republican health care bill last week.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he would oppose the nominee and lead Democrats in filibustering the choice.
Among those opposing Gorsuch are five Democrats who are up for re-election next year in states that Trump won in 2016. Five other Democrats from Republican-leaning, Trump states such as North Dakota, West Virginia and Montana have not said how they will vote.
The vacancy on the court has lasted 13 months since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last February. President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland, but Republicans insisted that the next president should fill the seat, a move that infuriated Democrats.
Changing the Senate rules would not be unprecedented.
In 2013, Democrats were in the majority under the leadership of Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada and upset about Republicans blocking President Barack Obama’s nominees to a powerful appellate court. The Democrats pushed through a rules change lowering the vote threshold on all nominees except for the Supreme Court from 60 to a simple majority.
At the time, McConnell warned Democrats the strategy would backfire: “I say to my friends on the other side of the aisle, you will regret this, and you may regret it a lot sooner than you think.”
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