Supreme Court pick meets with Dems as GOP applies pressure

Republicans and conservative groups step up their campaign, while Supreme Court nominee courted two Senate Dems

Published February 6, 2017 7:31PM (EST)

Neil Gorsuch   (AP/David Zalubowski)
Neil Gorsuch (AP/David Zalubowski)

WASHINGTON — Republicans and conservative groups stepped up their campaign to secure confirmation of President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee as the federal judge courted two Senate Democrats crucial to his winning a seat on the high court.

Judge Neil Gorsuch was scheduled to meet on Monday with California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Montana Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat running for re-election in a state that Trump won handily. Unlike some Senate Democrats who have already said they will oppose Trump's nominee, both have said they will wait to decide.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has said Trump's nominee must be able to win support from 60 of the Senate's 100 members. Republicans have a 52-48 majority, so Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will need the support of at least eight Democrats to confirm him easily. In an effort to win those votes, the Senate GOP's campaign arm, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, is running three ads to pressure certain Democrats to vote for him.

Separate ads target Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly in their home states, asking voters to tell their senators to put state and country ahead of their party. Both are running for re-election next year in states won by Trump.

An ad airing in Washington says Democrats are playing politics with the nomination.

"Tell Democrats the election is over, the people decided," the ad says.

The conservative group Judicial Crisis Network has pledged to spend $10 million to help confirm Gorsuch, and has already released $2 million in ads in Tester's home state of Montana, Donnelly's home state of Indiana, and also Missouri and North Dakota, additional states where Trump won and Senate Democrats are running for re-election.

One of the group's ads features Jane Nitze, a former Obama administration lawyer who also clerked for Gorsuch.

"He will have a great deal of respect for folks on all sides of the ideological spectrum," Nitze says in the ad.

As Republicans try to pressure Democrats to vote for Trump's Supreme Court nominee, they also face with questions about Trump's tweets over the weekend criticizing a federal appeals court judge who suspended the president's travel ban on refugees and travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

In tweets, Trump dismissed U.S. District Court Judge James Robart as a "so-called judge" and his decision "ridiculous."

"We don't have so-called judges," Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

"We don't have so-called senators. We don't have so-called presidents. We have people from three different branches of government who take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution," Sasse said.

By Mary Clare Jalonick

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