Coloradan Neil Gorsuch has a clear shot onto the U.S. Supreme Court after Senate Republicans Thursday said they would “go nuclear” to get him there.
He won’t have Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet’s vote, however.
“Judge Gorsuch is a very conservative judge and not one that I would have chosen,” Bennet said in a statement. “For the reasons I have said, I had concerns about his approach to the law. Those concerns grow even more significant as we confront the reality that President Trump may have several more opportunities to transform the court with a partisan majority.
“For all these reasons, I will vote no on the nomination.”
After enough Democrats held their position on filibustering, against the pleas Wednesday by Bennet, GOP members voted to change the rules requiring a simple majority to break a filibuster.
Bennet was one of three Democrats to vote with Republicans on cloture, a Senate procedure to end to debate and move to a confirmation vote.
The 55 votes on cloture, however, are not enough to end a filibuster, which takes 60. Bennet urged Republicans on Wednesday not to impose the nuclear option and forever change the Senate rules, which could come back to haunt the GOP when a Democrat is in the White House.
Republicans have 52 votes in the Senate, enough to confirm Gorsuch, probably on Friday.
Bennet released a lengthy statement after the nuclear decision:
“Today’s changes to the Senate’s rules have done lasting damage to the Supreme Court and our process for approving nominees. With these changes, justices may now be confirmed with the narrowest partisan majority. Allowing the judiciary to become a pure extension of our partisan politics is precisely the outcome our founders feared. Moving forward, lifetime appointments to our highest court could become just another political exercise.
“We cannot ignore this new reality, and I am forced to consider President Trump’s current nominee – and all future nominees – in that context.
“I am proud Judge Gorsuch is from Colorado. He is a qualified judge who deserves an up-or-down vote. That is the tradition of the Senate, and it is why I opposed a filibuster before the rule change.”
Gorsuch was appointed by President George W. Bush and confirmed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver in 2006.
Colorado’s other senator, Republican Cory Gardner of Yuma, spoke in favor of Gorsuch on the Senate floor Wednesday and Thursday.
“It’s not the job of a justice to put their the job a justice to put their thumb on the scale of policy,” Gardner said Thursday morning. “It’s the job of a justice to be a guardian of the Constitution, to defend the Constitution and follow the law and to decide cases based on the law — not on feeling, preference, politics, polls or public opinions.”
Gorsuch would be the first Coloradan on the bench since Justice Byron White stepped down in 1993. Gorsuch, 49, was a clerk for White, who is the namesake of the federal courthouse in Denver, where Gorsuch has worked the last decade.
Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, last month made the case for a Gorsuch filibuster, arguing that blocking the confirmation is appropriate given a cloud he sees hanging over President Trump’s administration.
The governor pointed to an investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election and whether Trump associates were in contact with Moscow.
“We’re already hearing people say, ‘If this is a legitimate cloud about the legitimacy of this presidency, should he be appointing the next Supreme Court (justice) until we get this resolved?’” Hickenlooper said.
Hickenlooper said there is precedent to delay the confirmation, noting that the Republican-controlled Senate blocked Obama’s Supreme Court appointment of Merrick Garland, who was considered to be a middle-of-the-road candidate for the high court. The governor highlighted a sense of retribution.
“I wouldn’t hold it against Democrats to say, ‘Maybe we should slow this down.’ There are real questions about what happened to Merrick Garland, and I think those actions, just like elections, have consequences,” Hickenlooper said. “Maybe we should wait another four or five months and see what this investigation proves.”
Still, the governor is impressed with Gorsuch, however, adding, “He has an intellect and a level of legal training that is in the top 1 percent, probably one-tenth of 1 percent.”