Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly announced on Sunday that he will vote for Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court, making him the third Democrat to back the Trump nominee.
“After meeting with Judge Gorsuch, conducting a thorough review of his record, and closely following his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, I believe that he is a qualified jurist who will base his decisions on his understanding of the law and is well-respected among his peers,” Donnelly said in a statement.
The moderate Democrat joins West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp as the only members of his party who have so far announced that they plan to vote for Gorsuch.
With the trio of Democrats, Republicans, who have 52 seats in the Senate, will need five more votes to block a planned filibuster of Gorsuch. Eight Democrats and one Independent, Maine Sen. Angus King, have yet to announce whether they will support or oppose Gorsuch, who currently serves as a judge on the 10th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Some Republicans have suggested that they may change Senate rules to forego a filibuster by forcing an up-and-down vote. That move, which is referred to as the “nuclear option,” would touch off intense acrimony in Washington.
Though Gorsuch has endorsements from both sides of the political spectrum, Democrats are blocking him partially as a political tactic to stymie Trump, but also as payback for the GOP’s refusal to hold a vote last year on the confirmation of Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to replace the late conservative justice, Antonin Scalia.
“I was deeply disappointed by the way the most recent Supreme Court nominee, Judge Garland, was treated by the Senate, but as Senator, I can only vote on the nominee that comes to the Senate floor. However, I believe that we should keep the current 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees,” Donnelly said in his statement.