Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) has promised Democrats will block Judge Neil Gorsuch's Supreme Court nomination, but that could make matters worse for their party, according to fellow Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.).
McCaskill told Democratic donors at a Sunday fundraiser that filibustering Gorsuch's nomination might provoke President Trump to pick a "worse" Supreme Court nominee who Senate Republicans would confirm with fewer votes.
"By the way, Gorsuch was one of the better ones," said McCaskill, according to audio obtained by the Kansas City Star.
Schumer and several other Senate Democrats have pledged to filibuster Gorsuch's nomination, arguing he needs at least 60 votes to be confirmed. The Senate's 52 Republicans need eight Democrats to break from their party to block a filibuster, or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) could employ the so-called "nuclear option," which would alter the rules to only require a simple, 51-vote majority to approve Gorsuch.
McCaskill, a Democrat up for reelection in a state Trump won by a wide margin, has not decided whether to support Gorsuch or the Democratic filibuster. But she warned blocking the current nominee could bode ill for Democrats going forward.
"The Gorsuch situation is really hard. There are going to be people in this room that are going to say, ‘No, no, no. You cannot vote for Gorsuch,'" McCaskill said at the fundraiser. "Let's assume for the purposes of this discussion that we turn down Gorsuch, that there are not eight Democrats that vote to confirm him and therefore there's not enough to put him on the Supreme Court. What then?"
She went through a list of potential nominees and said Gorsuch may be Democrats' best option. The Missouri senator added that in the event Republicans choose another nominee, they would probably use the nuclear option and only need 51 votes.
"So they pick another one off the list and then they bring it over to the Senate and we say no, no, no, this one's worse. And there's not enough votes to confirm him. They're not going to let us do that too long before they move it to 51 votes," she said.
The Missouri Republican Party leaked the audio of McCaskill's comments to the Star, but did not reveal its source.
"So they move it to 51 votes and they confirm either Gorsuch or they confirm the one after Gorsuch," McCaskill said.
She also expressed concern that a more liberal member of the Supreme Court could die, saying that Democrats would be stuck with another Justice Antonin Scalia replacing someone who shared her party's values.
"They go on the Supreme Court and then, God forbid, Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies, or [Anthony] Kennedy retires or [Stephen] Breyer has a stroke or is no longer able to serve. Then we're not talking about Scalia for Scalia, which is what Gorsuch is, we're talking about Scalia for somebody on the court who shares our values," McCaskill said. "And then all of a sudden the things I fought for with scars on my back to show for it in this state are in jeopardy."
Several of McCaskill's Democratic colleagues who have taken a firmer stance against Gorsuch's nomination and backed a filibuster previously said the Senate must hold up-or-down votes for Supreme Court nominees. Some of them had supported Gorsuch eleven years ago, when he was nominated to become a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.