Gorsuch Launches Charm Offensive On Capitol Hill

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent
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Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s nominee to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, will meet with key senators on Capitol Hill this week, in advance of hearings before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

Former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte is serving as Gorsuch’s congressional sherpa, shepherding the nominee from meeting to meeting and lobbying key senators behind closed doors to back his confirmation.

The two biggest meetings of the week come Monday, when Judge Gorsuch will meet with Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on Senate Judiciary of California, and Jon Tester of Montana, a red-state Democrat facing daunting prospects for reelection in 2018. Trump carried Tester’s Montana by 20 points in last year’s general election.

The Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative advocacy group, has put $10 million behind a national effort urging vulnerable Democratic incumbents to support Gorsuch. The first phase of the campaign began immediately after Gorsuch’s nomination was announced from the White House on Tuesday night. The group spread a $2 million ad buy over several states including Montana, Missouri, Indiana, and North Dakota.

After Monday’s meeting, Tester told reporters he remained non-committal on the nomination, but urged the rest of the Democratic caucus to meet with the nominee.

For her part, Feinstein has already confirmed that she supports holding a hearing on the nomination, but has stopped short of supporting Gorsuch.

“I view the minority party’s challenge is to do a full and fair hearing and to have time to garner the facts to really understand the history of this nominee,” Feinstein told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.” “And we will do that.”

Politico reports Tuesday will bring meetings with Republicans Sens. Ben Sasse, Mike Crapo and Tom Cotton and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. Wednesday he will meet with Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, Richard Blumenthal, and Claire McCaskill, and Republican Sens. John Thune and Jeff Flake.

Sasse, Crapo, and Blumenthal each sit on the judiciary committee.

Another slate of meetings awaits Gorsuch on Thursday — he meets with four Republicans including Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Steve Daines, and Thom Tillis. Locking down support from Collins and Murkowski, two of the GOP’s most moderate senators is an essential first step for the newly-minted nominee.

Supreme Court nominees typically meet with most members of the Senate in advance of their confirmation hearings. Though a strong showing in committee is essential for a successful confirmation, the tough work of winning a floor vote generally takes place in these lengthy bull sessions.

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