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Manchin and Heitkamp, two Democrats from red states, will back Neil Gorsuch

Democrats have stated their intention to filibuster the nomination

Washington CNN —  

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp on Thursday became the first Democratic senators to publicly declare their intention to vote for Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court.

“After considering his record, watching his testimony in front of the Judiciary Committee and meeting with him twice,” Manchin said in a statement Thursday, “I will vote to confirm him to be the ninth justice on the Supreme Court.”

Democrats have stated their intention to filibuster Gorsuch’s nomination, while Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Trump’s nominee will be confirmed by next Friday, April 7. That has led to speculation of the so-called “nuclear option,” which would change the Senate rules and essentially eliminate the use of filibusters in future Supreme Court fights.

Here’s how senators plan to vote on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch

“He has a record as a balanced, meticulous, and well respected jurist who understands the rule of law,” Heitkamp said of Gorsuch in a statement. “He has unique and critical experience with tribal sovereignty, Indian law, and public lands issues in the west, and has received the endorsement of numerous tribes and major Native American organizations.”

Manchin and Gorsuch met behind closed doors Wednesday for the second time.

Manchin stressed Gorsuch’s qualifications in the statement and noted, “he has come to his legal rulings objectively, through the letter of the law rather than through his own opinion.”

But Manchin said he had “no illusions” that he would agree with every decision the judge may issue.

Criticized treatment of Garland

In an interview with CNN on Wednesday, Manchin criticized Republicans’ failure to hold hearings for Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill the vacancy left by the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

“That was wrong. That was disgraceful,” Manchin told CNN’s Chris Cuomo Wednesday on “New Day.” “Now (Democrats) think, ‘Okay, that’s how we were treated, so we’re going to treat them the same.’”

Heitkamp also said she was “disturbed” by the way Garland was treated.

“Senate Republicans played politics at its worst with an honorable, deeply qualified jurist – arguably the most well qualified nominee in modern history – who had long been supported by Republican and Democratic senators for his unmatched experience,” she said.