Two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, announced Thursday that they will vote to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, bucking their own party's leadership.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) has promised that Senate Democrats will filibuster Gorsuch's nomination and prevent him from joining the high court. If a filibuster occurs, the Senate's 52 Republicans would need eight Democratic colleagues to join them in supporting Gorsuch, or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) could invoke the so-called "nuclear option," altering Senate rules so only a simple, 51-vote majority would be needed to confirm the nominee rather than the current 60 votes needed.
Senate Democrats triggered the nuclear option in 2013 to confirm many of then-President Barack Obama's nominees, although an exception was made for Supreme Court picks.
Heitkamp and Manchin, who are both up for reelection in 2018, represent states that President Donald Trump won in the 2016 election. Their seats are considered vulnerable and potential opportunities for Republicans to expand their majority in the Senate.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) recently warned her fellow Democrats against filibustering Gorsuch's nomination, saying it would bring forward a "worse" nominee in the future.
Heitkamp and Manchin each released a statement via Twitter on Thursday afternoon announcing their support for Gorsuch.
I will vote for Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Here's my full statement: pic.twitter.com/pDdhde7mGF
— Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (@SenatorHeitkamp) March 30, 2017
I will vote to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to be the ninth justice on the Supreme Court. pic.twitter.com/MpVbaqf0LB
— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) March 30, 2017
With Heitkamp and Manchin's support, Senate Republicans only need six more votes to confirm Gorsuch without invoking the nuclear option.