Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet opposes filibuster of Neil Gorsuch, use of 'nuclear option'

DENVER – Michael Bennet, Colorado’s Democratic U.S. senator, opposes a Democrat filibuster of Judge Neil Gorsuch but still hasn’t definitively said whether he’ll vote for or against the Colorado judge for a Supreme Court seat.

Bennet announced Monday that he would oppose a filibuster that is growing increasingly likely in the Senate, as Bennet becomes just the fourth Democrat to say they would oppose such a move by the Democratic colleagues.

Republicans in the Senate need 60 votes to confirm Gorsuch in a full floor vote, which is likely to take place Friday.

But 41 Democrats have said they won’t support the Colorado’s judge’s confirmation as of Monday morning, according to ABC News, meaning that the Democrats have enough votes for a filibuster.

“Neither Republicans nor Democrats are blameless for where things stand in our politics and on this nomination,” Bennet said. “But at some point, we need to take the long view and stand up for our institutions.”

Bennet also urged his Senate colleagues not to use the “nuclear option,” a Senate procedure that could take place in the face of a filibuster that would allow a simple majority vote to confirm Gorsuch and override a filibuster even without Bennet's support.

Republicans have yet to outright say if they will use the nuclear option.

“Using the filibuster and nuclear option at this moment takes us in the wrong direction. I have spent the past several weeks trying to avoid this outcome,” Bennet said. “Changing the Senate rules now will only further politicize the Supreme Court and prevent the Senate from blocking more extreme judges in the future.”

Democrats last used the nuclear option in 2013 in order to confirm several Obama-era executive branch nominations that had been stalled by Republicans.

Bennet joined three other Democrats – Indiana’s Joe Donnelly, North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin – who have all said they would not support a filibuster. Bennet is the only of the three who has not outright said he'll support Gorsuch.

Colorado’s other senator, Republican Cory Gardner, has hinted that he will support Gorsuch.

Both Gardner and Bennet introduced Gorsuch, a Colorado native who has spent the past several years as a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, to the Senate at the onset of the confirmation hearings last month.

Bennet at the time said he was on the fence about Gorsuch. “The Senate’s failure to do its duty with respect to Judge Garland was an embarrassment to this body and will be recorded in history and in the lives of millions of Americans,” Bennet said. “It is tempting to deny Judge Gorsuch a fair hearing because of the senate’s prior failure.”

But despite highlighting Gorsuch’s Colorado roots and praising his “distinguished record of public service, private practice, and outstanding integrity and intellect,” Bennet stopped short of endorsing Gorsuch, saying he was “keeping an open mind” about whether or not he might vote to confirm him in a full Senate hearing.

“Two wrongs never make a right,” he told the committee. “The Supreme Court is too important for us not to find a way to end our destructive gridlock and bitter partisanship. In my mind, I consider Judge Gorsuch as a candidate to fill the Garland seat on the Supreme Court. And out of respect for both Judge Garland and Judge Gorsuch’s service, integrity and commitment to the rule of law, I suggest we fulfill our responsibility.”

Gardner said at the time he hoped Gorsuch will receive “a fair hearing” that he would work with “colleagues on both sides of the aisle to expeditiously confirm his nomination.”

A full Senate vote on Gorsuch is expected to happen Friday. The Senate Judiciary Committee sent Gorsuch's nomination along to the full Senate in an 11-9 Monday vote. 

Bennet's decision on the filibuster was first reported by the Colorado Independent. 

It came a day after Politico profiled the Democrat's internal battle over Gorsuch, saying he was "struggling" to find ground in the middle of the political spectrum, and that calls to his office opposing Gorsuch outnumbered constituent calls in favor 1,200 to 200.

Rep. Mke Coffman, a Colorado Republican, praised Bennet for "taking the high ground" and not filibustering Gorsuch's nomination, and urged Bennet to vote yes on Gorsuch in a statement Monday.

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