WASHINGTON (AP) — As President Donald Trump presses for Senate confirmation of his Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, much of the initial, intense pressure will be on moderate Democrats, especially those up for re-election next year in states that Trump won handily.
Some of those senators are keeping their options open, saying they will wait to meet with the nominee and make a decision in time. Some have signaled or pledged opposition. Several said in statements that Gorsuch too often sided with corporations and against the working-class — voters they are trying to court in their re-election bids.
Led by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Democrats are insisting that Gorsuch get 60 votes of support in the 100-member Senate, saying that would make it clear that Gorsuch is mainstream enough to be confirmed.
It's unclear if Republicans, with a 52-48 majority, will be able to woo the eight Democrats they need. Liberals are pressuring Democrats to resist Trump and all his nominees. But that could prove politically costly for the 10 Democrats up for re-election in Trump states.
"The minority needs to decide whether or not they want to go to states like North Dakota and Montana and Missouri and Indiana and West Virginia where Mr. Trump won by 17 points or more and talk to the real people there, and say 'we're going to stop what was clearly your will," said North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Conservative groups will add to the pressure. The Judicial Crisis Network is pledging to spend $10 million to make sure that Gorsuch is confirmed and has already made an ad buy in a few crucial states.
A look at Democrats up for re-election in 2018 in Republican-leaning states, and what they have said about Gorsuch.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.
Baldwin, who rarely bucks her party, says Gorsuch is "someone who will have a hard time earning bipartisan support."
She said she looks forward to meeting with him "because I have a number of concerns and questions about his deeply troubling record, particularly his rulings against disabled students, against workers, and against women's reproductive health care."
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio
Brown, who faces a possible rematch with Republican Josh Mandel, was one of a handful of Democrats who has already announced his opposition. He said Gorsuch's record "is far outside of the judicial mainstream."
"The people of Ohio deserve Supreme Court Justices who will defend the rights of working families over Wall Street and corporate special interests - and Judge Gorsuch's record doesn't pass that test," Brown said.
Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa.
Casey said he would review Gorsuch's record. He said in a statement that he is concerned that far-right groups had too much influence in the nomination, and that the current Supreme Court "has moved far outside the mainstream and has too often favored big corporations at the expense of our workers and middle-class families."
Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.
Donnelly, a conservative Democrat, released a sparse statement: "As I have said part of our job as senators includes considering, debating, and voting on judicial nominations, including to the Supreme Court. I will carefully review and consider the record and qualifications of Neil Gorsuch."
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.
Heitkamp, who represents heavily Republican North Dakota, issued a statement that said she takes the role of vetting Supreme Court justices seriously, but didn't mention Gorsuch.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V.
Manchin, who often crosses the aisle to vote with Republicans, met with Gorsuch Wednesday. He has backed Schumer's call for a nominee who can get 60 votes but also said a justice needs to be confirmed.
"To have the judicial branch work, you have nine members of the highest level," he told reporters as he began his meeting with the nominee. "Eight doesn't work."
Speaking of the pressure on Democrats seeking re-election in states that Trump carried in November, Manchin said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Wednesday: "I didn't come here to say, 'Oh, my goodness, if I don't do this, I might not get re-elected.' "
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.
McCaskill tweeted before Trump made his nomination Tuesday that "We should have a full confirmation hearing process and a vote on ANY nominee for the Supreme Court."
After receiving some angry comments on Twitter, McCaskill tweeted again: "Why would anyone think that because I support confirmation hearing & 60 vote threshold for SupCt nominee that means I'm folding to Trump?"
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.
Nelson said he's concerned about his record on voting rights issues and campaign finance, but "I will base my decision on a full examination of Judge Gorsuch's judicial record and his responses to senators' questions."
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.
Stabenow says she has "deep concerns about Judge Gorsuch and the impact his rulings would have on Michigan families." However, she added that she takes "my responsibilities as a senator seriously and plan to meet with him and thoroughly review his record."
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.
Tester said it's important that Gorsuch understands the Constitution and is willing to defend it.
"I look forward to sitting down with Judge Gorsuch, looking him in the eye, asking him tough questions, and finding out if he shares our Montana values," he said.
Associated Press writer Ken Thomas contributed to this report.