Democratic Sen. Jon Tester (Mont.) announced Sunday that he will vote against Judge Neil Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court, delivering a blow to Senate Republicans who are trying to overcome an effort by Democrats to filibuster his confirmation.
"I am concerned that if Judge Gorsuch is confirmed, our future will be shaped with dark money and an expanding government that violates our fundamental freedoms," Tester wrote in a statement. "This is not a future that works for Montana, and I cannot support this nomination."
Tester's decision to oppose Gorsuch is a big win for Senate Democrats, including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), who have vowed to filibuster Gorsuch's nomination. The Senate's 52 Republicans need at least eight Democrats to support Gorsuch to break a filibuster effort, or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) could invoke the so-called "nuclear option," which would lower the confirmation threshold to a simple, 51-vote majority rather than the 60 votes currently needed.
Tester's statement came after he argued in February that Gorsuch deserves "a fair shake" during his confirmation process.
"I think it's important that we give Neil Gorsuch a fair shake," said Tester, appearing to imply that lawmakers should hold hearings and not block a vote on his nomination.
Three Senate Democrats have so far said they will vote to confirm Gorsuch to the high court: Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and, just on Sunday, Joe Donnelly of Indiana. All three lawmakers represent states that President Trump won in the 2016 election, and Heitkamp and Manchin are up for reelection in 2018.
Tester is also up for reelection in 2018 and represents a state, Montana, where Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 20 points in November. His seat, along with Heitkamp's and Manchin's, are considered vulnerable and potential opportunities for Republicans to expand their majority in the Senate.