Another potential Democratic swing vote announced Friday that she will vote against Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump's nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.
The likelihood that Gorsuch will move the court to the right, coupled with Republicans' refusal to even hold a hearing for President Obama's nominee Merrick Garland, make it clear that Democrats should fight back and filibuster Gorsuch's nomination.
Democrats have been trying to get every single party member to line up against Gorsuch, because, according to Senate rules, the GOP would need eight Democrats to join the 52-member GOP majority to avoid a filibuster.
Both West Virginia's Manchin and North Dakota's Heitkamp are up for re-election next year in states that voted for Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said last week that he would filibuster Gorsuch's nomination and asked other Democrats to do the same. "The question is whether Democrats will give him the up-or-down vote he deserves", he wrote. "As they say in diplomacy, everything is on the table for the Senate and unfortunately we are seeing the greatest level of politicization of the confirmation process that we have seen in decades".
After weeks of mulling it over, U.S. Sen.
Separately Democratic Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii said Gorsuch's record as a judge was troubling and he had not shown that he would challenge executive overreach.
By one count, there were 13 Democrats, including McCaskill, entering Friday who were undecided.
"While I have come to the conclusion that I can't support Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court - and will vote no on the procedural vote and his confirmation - I remain very anxious about our polarized politics and what the future will bring, since I'm certain we will have a Senate rule change that will usher in more extreme judges in the future", McCaskill wrote.
Ms. Heitkamp and Mr. Manchin account for two of those, but Ms. McCaskill's decision leaves only a few other targets.
When the vote goes to the full Senate, at least two or three Democrats are likely to vote against the filibuster but not the 12 the GOP would needed to break the filibuster blocking a final vote.
"I can not and will not support a nominee that allows dark and dirty anonymous money to continue to flood unchecked into our elections", she said. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Jon Tester of Montana and Joe Donnelly of IN, and are also hoping for support from Sen.
Although such a change might seem procedural or obscure, it is known on Capitol Hill as the "nuclear option" because it would amount to a dramatic departure from Senate norms of bipartisanship and collegiality.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who blocked consideration past year of Obama's nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, has already made clear that he will take whatever steps he deems necessary to promote Gorsuch to the high court.
National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Katie Martin said McCaskill's "decision today might appease the extreme liberal elite but, unfortunately for Claire, those folks don't vote in Missouri".