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Progressive groups demand filibuster against Trump's Supreme Court pick

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Progressive organizations are ramping up their campaign against Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch and explicitly calling on Senate Democrats to do more to oppose his confirmation to the nation's highest court.

On Monday, leading organizations on the left, including MoveOn, UltraViolet, DailyKos, NARAL Pro-Choice America and others sent an email to their millions of members asking them to demand that Democrats filibuster any vote to confirm Gorsuch. The new push came as the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday also began their hearings to consider President Trump’s pick to the nation’s highest court.

While the majority of Democrats are expected to oppose Gorsuch’s nomination, there has been palpable frustration among progressive activists that more of them have not yet publicly declared which way they intend to vote. Progressives want commitments now, even before hearings get fully underway.

“We're not hearing from enough of the Democratic senators that they will fight this nomination with everything they have. We need them to understand that simply stating their opposition to Neil Gorsuch is not enough,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue wrote in an email to the group’s list that went out Monday morning. “We need Senate Democrats to filibuster this nomination and demand a nominee who represents the mainstream values of our country.”

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., held a press conference with individuals he argued had been hurt by Gorsush’s past rulings. Still, he would not definitively say that he planned to vote against the judge. Schumer said that he has a “strong presumption against” Gorsuch but that he would wait until after he heard the judge’s formal testimony before Congress before making up his mind.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, echoed Schumer. He said he was prepared to filibuster Gorsuch if he was not satisfied with the judge’s answers before his committee, but that he had a “profound duty” to question him first before publicly announcing his final decision. Blumenthal said he had prepared “tough but respectful” questions for hearings this week.

In 2013, when Democrats were in the majority, they changed the rules so that federal judges could be confirmed with a simple majority vote, but they maintained the long-standing requirement that Supreme Court picks would first need 60 votes to move their confirmation forward without the threat of a filibuster.

In order to get those 60 votes for his nomination to proceed, Gorsuch would need eight Democrats to vote with Republicans, assuming all Republicans back Trump’s pick. But as that vote -- with the 60-vote threshold -- is technically a procedural vote, some Democrats may be tempted to vote in favor of it as a compromise and not risk being labeled an obstructionist.

Trump has said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., should consider the so-called “nuclear-option,” wherein he would change the rules and allow a vote to proceed without the bipartisan 60-vote requirement, if Democrats slow the process. Schumer said last week that he did not think Republicans wanted to go that route.

Some Democrats have already been out front and vocal about their opposition to Gorsuch, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. They joined advocacy organizations for an event in front of the Supreme Court last week.

“When Justice Scalia died giant corporations and their right wing buddies spent millions of dollars to keep that Supreme Court seat open so Donald Trump could name a replacement. Why? Because giant corporations and their right wing buddies don’t want a neutral court that simply upholds the law for everyone,” Sen. Warren said during the event. “They want a court that favor corporations over real people. And we are here today to fight back.”

There is still a lot of resentment among Democrats that Republicans kept former President Obama’s nominee Judge Merrick Garland from even getting a hearing. After the event with senators and progressives in front of the court last week, volunteers and staff delivered petitions with over a million signatures, they said, urging senators from both parties to oppose Gorsuch’s nomination.

Progressive groups are quick to point out Gorsuch’s conservative record on social issues, including his high-profile ruling in the Hobby Lobby case where he sided with religious employers in their case against an Obama-era mandate to provide contraceptive insurance. Other Democrats would rather focus on what they say is Gorsuch’s record of backing big business over worker rights.

All of the witnesses that Schumer brought to the Hill last week were plaintiffs in cases where Gorsuch sided with an employer over an employee.

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