Ohio, West Virginia Senators Discuss Views on Neil Gorsuch

FILE - In this March 21, 2017 file photo, Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. A divided Senate Judiciary Committee backed Gorsuch, Monday, April 3, 2017. GOP likely to change Senate rules to confirm him. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

STEUBENVILLE — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said Monday he will stand with the majority of his party to filibuster President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

Last week, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said he would defy his party’s leadership by voting to confirm Gorsuch, while Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, strongly advocate for the approval of Gorsuch.

Monday, the bitterly divided Judiciary Committee voted 11-9, along party lines, to send Gorsuch’s nomination to the full Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has vowed he will be confirmed on Friday.

Already in Steubenville Monday to discuss the fight to defend health care benefits for retired coal miners, Brown said he does not share Gorsuch’s views.

“I am voting ‘no’ on Judge Gorsuch. When judges have ruled corporations are the same as people, that is wrong. Companies will be allowed to pollute our communities.”

“I don’t want to see Gorsuch make those decision at the Supreme Court,” Brown added.

Brown also said the so-called “nuclear option” to allow Gorsuch to reach the Supreme Court with only 51 votes, rather than the 60 required to break a filibuster, is not a good move.

“He (Gorsuch) will not get the necessary 60 votes for confirmation. And I don’t agree with changing the rules on this candidate to allow him to win confirmation with a simple majority. You don’t change the senate rules when the nominee can’t get enough votes … you change the nominee,” Brown said.

Last week, Manchin — already out of favor with many in his party — said he would vote to confirm Gorsuch. Trump won nearly 69 percent of the vote in West Virginia in the race against Democrat Hillary Clinton in November.

“I hold no illusions that I will agree with every decision Judge Gorsuch may issue in the future, but I have not found any reasons why this jurist should not be a Supreme Court justice,” Manchin said. “He has been consistently rated as a well-qualified jurist, the highest rating a jurist can receive, and I have found him to be an honest and thoughtful man.”

In multiple tweets Monday, Capito expressed strong support for Gorsuch.

“Judge Gorsuch is a mainstream judge who has earned the respect of his judicial colleagues,” one of her tweets states, with another adding, “A filibuster of a nominee like Judge Gorsuch would be a tremendous mistake & would harm the Senate as an institution.”

Portman also said Gorsuch deserves a confirmation, calling him a “smart, mainstream, decent man.”

However, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., became the key 41st vote for the Democrats to block Gorsuch Monday, declaring during committee debate that Gorsuch’s conservative record showed an activist approach to the law and that he evaded questions during his confirmation hearings. Coons also said that Republicans’ treatment of former President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, left lasting scars after they denied him so much as a hearing following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia early last year.

“We are at a historic moment in the history of the United States Senate” due to actions by both parties, Coons said. “We have eroded the process for reaching agreement and dishonored our long traditions of acting above partisanship.”

The long-term consequences of the coming confrontation could be profound, as the rules change Republicans intend to enact would apply to future Supreme Court nominees, too, allowing them to be voted onto the court without any input from the minority party.

And though predicting a justice’s votes can be difficult, confirmation of the 49-year-old Gorsuch is expected to restore the conservative majority that existed while Scalia was alive, which could then be in place or even expand over decades to come as some of the more liberal justices age.

The showdown over the “nuclear option,” expected on the Senate floor Thursday, is likely to be accompanied by much hand-wringing from senators bemoaning the decay of the chamber’s traditions of bipartisanship and comity.