MATEWAN — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin said Friday that his thoughts about Neil Gorsuch’s politics shouldn’t enter into his decision whether to confirm Gorsuch as a justice to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The senator announced Thursday that he would vote in favor of Gorsuch’s nomination, one of only two Democrats so far to say they’ll support President Donald Trump’s nominee.
Manchin, perhaps the most conservative Democrat in the U.S. Senate, said his job as a senator is not to vote on whether he likes a nominee or his or her politics, but to “advise and consent” the president. While he does not necessarily like Gorsuch’s politics, Manchin said, he’s highly rated, respected and accomplished as a judge.
“He is a conservative person, but guess what — the Democrats didn’t win,” Manchin said during a meeting with miners about their pensions on Friday. “I have no reason at all to think that that man shouldn’t have an up or down vote.”
Manchin also criticized Republicans for denying President Barack Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, a vote and a fair chance when he was nominated. Obama nominated U.S. Appeals Judge Merrick Garland to replace conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016, but Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., refused to hold any hearings on his nomination or give him a vote.
Manchin said he also has the Senate’s rules to worry about. The Senate needs only a simple majority to confirm a justice. But if Democrats threaten a filibuster (which their leadership is leaning toward), Republicans would need 60 votes to overcome that. The Republican Party holds 52 seats in the Senate. Manchin and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., have both said they would vote to confirm Gorsuch.
Republicans could invoke the “nuclear option” and ignore the Senate’s filibuster rules. Manchin said while he opposes the use of a filibuster, he also opposes the nuclear option at this point.
Downplaying the importance of the seat, Manchin said Gorsuch would take over the seat of another conservative justice, meaning the bench would not change tilt, and that it might be unwise to pull out all the stops too early.
Politics aside, Manchin said Gorsuch, a judge on the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, has an impressive resume and deserves the courtesy of a vote.
“I could not find any just reason with all his qualifications and all his experience and how he’s ranked as one of the best jurists,” Manchin said. “He’s more conservative than what a lot of people are, but that doesn’t mean he’s not qualified to at least get a vote.”
Reach Jake Zuckerman at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-5197 or follow @jake_zuckerman on Twitter.