After weeks of indecision, U.S. Sen. Angus King declared Tuesday he would oppose the nomination of Neil Gorsuch for a Supreme Court seat.
King also said he will not go along with Republicans who want to close debate on the confirmation and proceed to a vote on President Donald Trump’s choice to fill a longstanding court vacancy.
“This has not been an easy decision,” the Maine independent said in a prepared statement.
He cited Gorsuch’s refusal to answer many questions about his judicial philosophy, the judge’s record on the appellate court bench in Colorado and the money that unknown supporters are spending to promote Gorsuch as reasons for his choice.
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins has strongly endorsed Gorsuch. It is not clear, however, whether she will agree to end the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations if that’s what it takes to get Gorsuch confirmed.
State Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, who announced this week he intends to run against King in 2018, has supported Gorsuch from the start.
“I am strongly convinced — by his legal opinions defending the 4th Amendment and critiquing the over-criminalization in our criminal justice system — Judge Gorsuch understands that our Constitution exists to protect the rights and freedoms of the little guy, not the convenience and agendas of big government,” Brakey said weeks ago.
The Republicans have enough votes in hand to approve Gorsuch if they can close debate and proceed with a yes-or-no tally on the 49-year-old’s nomination to take the seat held by Antonin Scalia until his February 2016 death.
But under existing Senate rules, they need to have at least 60 of the 100 senators agree to end the filibuster on Gorsuch, a number that appears to be beyond the GOP’s reach.
Many Republicans are ready to change the rules to end filibusters on Supreme Court confirmations in order to install Gorsuch on the court. Democrats ended filibusters on other court nominees a few years ago when they controlled the Senate.
Collins is one of the Republicans who is considered most wary of tampering with Senate traditions like the filibuster.
King said he has been “deeply skeptical” about requiring 60 votes to take action.
But, he said, over time he’s come to appreciate its role “in forcing a modicum of bipartisanship in connecttion with important issues.”
“While I still believe in reform of the institution so that we can stop the logjam in Washington, it seems to me that for major policy decisions, like a lifetime appointment, it is not unreasonable to require 60 votes in order to garner broader, more sustainable bipartisan support, which I think is in the interest of the nation,” he said.
King said that since he is against Gorsuch, “it seems logical to oppose cloture because under the current rules, this would defeat the nomination.”
“If Judge Gorsuch is ultimately confirmed, I sincerely hope my concerns and fears will be proven wrong,” King said. “I would be delighted if this is the case. But in good conscience, I must vote my convictions and not my hopes – and my convictions in this case tell me ‘no’.”
This story will be updated.