Some Dems may aid Gorsuch

There may be a good reason U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not threatened to use the “nuclear option” to gain confirmation of federal appeals court Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. McConnell may have enough Democrat votes in his pocket to gain approval of Gorsuch without doing anything drastic.

Gorsuch, who serves on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, is being nominated by President Donald Trump to fill the high court vacancy created by the death of the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Gorsuch seems to be cut from the same constitutionalist cloth as Scalia, which is a very good thing.

But some Democrat senators have vowed to fight Gorsuch tooth and nail. The only viable tactic they have is to filibuster against him. Under normal Senate rules, 60 senators have to vote to end a filibuster. The Republicans have 52 senators.

Unfortunately for Gorsuch’s opponents, they dug their own grave in that regard a few years ago. It occurred when Republicans were trying to block some federal court nominations by then-President Barack Obama. Former Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., was Senate majority leader at the time. He employed what he called “the nuclear option,” changing Senate rules so that a filibuster could be overcome with a simple majority vote, rather than the 60 senators required normally.

At the time, McConnell, R-Ky., warned Democrats that change would come back to haunt them. So it has.

McConnell may not need to use the “nuclear option.” He may be able to come up with 60 votes by relying on some Democrat senators.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., already has said he favors an up-or-down vote on Gorsuch, after careful examination of the candidate. That is in keeping with Manchin’s history of doing what he thinks is right, regardless of what Democrat leaders demand.

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., has hinted he feels the same way.

Here’s the thing: Thirty-three senators are up for re-election next year. Twenty-three are Democrats. Two are Independents who usually vote with the Democrats.

Of those Democrats who have to face voters next year, nine are from states won by Trump in last fall’s presidential election.

Get the picture? To varying degrees, these nine Democrat senators may not want to alienate pro-Trump voters in their states by opposing his Supreme Court nominee.

If all nine feel that way (or, like Manchin, just think giving Gorsuch a vote is the right thing to do), McConnell has 61 votes. That assumes no Republican defections.

The affected Democrat senators are from West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and Wisconsin. For some of them, such as Indiana’s Sen. Joe Donnelly, the message from voters is clear. In the Hoosier State, Trump netted 57.2 percent of the vote to Hillary Clinton’s 37.9 percent. In other states, such as Michigan’s Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the risk is less clear. There, Trump’s margin over Clinton was just three-tenths of 1 percent.

We’ll see. Suffice it to say McConnell has good reason to be smiling when he talks about the Gorsuch nomination.

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A thoughtful reader from Parkersburg, Elaine Strader, points out a flaw in a column I wrote a couple of weeks ago. Then, I suggested the fact West Virginia has the lowest percentage of families with children in the nation is a symptom of pessimism about our state’s future.

Perhaps not, Strader points out. Many families may not have children because they’re too old, she notes. Our state has the third-highest percentage of older people in the nation. Some of them have moved here from other states.

Strader adds that one reason our average age is so high is that so many West Virginia natives have left because they can’t find work here.

Good points, for which I thank her.

Mike Myer can be reached at mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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