February 20, 2017
Conservatives are aggressively ramping up their campaign to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court this week, using a rare congressional recess to needle vulnerable Senate Democrats into supporting President Donald Trump’s high court nominee.
A bloc of right-leaning groups are organizing events around the country to help Gorsuch get confirmed, organizers said. The Judicial Crisis Network has arranged events aimed squarely at vulnerable Senate Democrats up for reelection in 2018 in red and purple states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Indiana, Montana, Michigan, Florida, Missouri and West Virginia.
“There’s an intense focus with those senators back home,” said Gary Marx, a former executive director at both the Judicial Crisis Network and Faith and Freedom Coalition who is helping organize the pro-Gorsuch campaign. “We’re not going to stand by and let that radical left wing element smear [Gorsuch].”
Senators from those states will be the key to Gorsuch’s confirmation vote. There are 52 Republican senators, so Gorsuch needs to win at least eight Democratic votes to clear a filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is eyeing a confirmation vote in early April. If Gorsuch cannot receive 60 votes, Senate Republicans say they may change the rules of the Senate to ease his confirmation.
Some Democrats like Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin will likely prove unmovable, but that isn’t stopping Republicans from trying to gain political advantage by attacking her opposition to Gorsuch. Gov. Scott Walker has called it “hypocrisy” for Baldwin to oppose Gorsuch so early in the process; he will give a Wednesday afternoon press conference at the state Capitol in Madison in support of Gorsuch. Baldwin has dared Walker to run against her next year.
On Wednesday Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill as well as West Virginia Attorney General and potential Senate candidate Patrick Morrisey will speak in support of Gorsuch in their respective state capitols, as will Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman on Thursday. Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), a close Trump ally, will lead a Wednesday press conference on the Supreme Court nomination in Harrisburg and former Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.) will speak on Thursday in St. Louis.
The effort seeks to capitalize on how Gorsuch is binding together a Republican Party otherwise divided on policy issues and Trump’s presidency. Though congressional Republicans are returning home to organized protesters opposing Trump’s agenda and their vows to repeal Obamacare, there is almost no internal opposition to Gorsuch.
The Judicial Crisis Network is spending at least $10 million targeting Senate Democrats running for reelection in Trump states over Gorsuch’s nomination. The anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List will hold events outside the home offices of Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, Montana Sen. Jon Tester and Florida Sen. Bill Nelson this week.
“According to exit polls more than one fifth of voters had the court in mind when they went to the ballot box in November. Those voters overwhelmingly supported President Trump,” said Mallory Quigley, a spokeswoman for SBA List. “Any senator who attempts to block this highly qualified nominee will face political consequences.”
Concerned Veterans of America is planning direct mail and digital ad campaigns in the 10 targeted states. Tea Party Patriots is organizing activist calls and visits to red state Democrats’ home offices.
The activity is significant because the Presidents Day recess may be one of the last chances for conservatives to try and rattle red-state Democrats before Gorsuch’s vote. The only other time off scheduled for the Senate right now before the two-week April recess is a brief break around Easter.