Sen. Tester: I won't support Gorsuch for U.S. Supreme Court

by Mike Dennison, MTN News

Montana’s senior U.S. senator, Democrat Jon Tester, said Sunday evening he won’t vote for President Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch – and will support Senate Democratic leadership’s stance that Gorsuch needs at least 60 votes to gain confirmation.

“These are lifetime appointments; they need to have broad-based support,” he told Montana reporters. “Sixty votes requires that.”

Tester, speaking by telephone from his farm in Big Sandy, said he couldn’t support Gorsuch because of the federal judge’s record on individual privacy and the rights of corporations over individual citizens.

“His opinions and his writings are solid that he believes corporations have as many rights as people, and, in some cases, he took rights away from people and gave them to corporations,” Tester said. “That’s a big one for me. … and the privacy stuff is really important.”

Tester said he felt Gorsuch would support more government interference in people’s private lives, including women’s right to make health-care decisions – which generally means the right to have an abortion.

Tester’s decision on Gorsuch, a federal judge from Denver, has been the subject of intense political scrutiny and pressure, including TV ads in Montana from three conservative groups urging him to support Trump’s nominee.

Tester said those ads didn’t influence his decision. He also said he wasn’t concerned about how his decision might play in his 2018 re-election campaign.

“Judge Gorsuch thinks corporations are people; I don’t think that’s where Montanans are,” he told MTN News. “I think Judge Gorsuch thinks that the government should be between a woman and her health decisions. I don’t think that that’s where Montanans are.

“Judge Gorsuch thinks we ought to be extending the president’s ability to snoop, on people, invade their privacy. I do not think that’s what the constitution says, by the way, and I don’t think that’s where Montanans are.”

The GOP majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote Monday to send Gorsuch’s nomination to the full Senate, setting up a floor fight with minority Democrats.

Montana’s other U.S. senator, Republican Steve Daines, is supporting Gorsuch and has publicly called for Tester to do the same.

The Montana Chamber of Commerce, other business groups and several Montana Indian tribes also have endorsed the confirmation of Gorsuch.

Only three Democratic U.S. senators have said so far that they’ll support Gorsuch’s nomination, leaving Republicans five votes short of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster.

Senate Majority Leader of Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said if the filibuster can’t be breached, he may employ the so-called “nuclear option”: Changing Senate rules to allow a nominee to be confirmed by a simple majority vote.

Republicans have a 52-48 majority in the U.S. Senate.

When asked about that possibility, Tester said he hoped that wouldn’t happen.

“I think a Supreme Court nominee should be able to earn (60 votes),” he said.

Tester said perhaps the tipping point for his decision is Gorsuch’s views on equating corporate rights with individual rights – a stance he said could ensure that “dark money will continue to drown out the voices and votes of citizens.”

“Dark money” is a reference to campaign spending, often by corporations, that is not publicly reported and can be kept largely secret.