WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin says he will vote to confirm Neil Gorsuch for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Manchin made the announcement March 30, becoming the first Democrat to say he’d vote for President Trump’s nominee.

“After considering his record, watching his testimony in front of the Judiciary Committee and meeting with him twice, I will vote to confirm him to be the ninth justice on the Supreme Court,” Manchin said in a statement.

Gorsuch, who was nominated in January, currently is a judge on the 10th District Court of Appeals in Denver. He’s held that position since 2006. If confirmed, he would take the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on Gorsuch’s nomination on April 3. The full Senate vote is scheduled for April 7.

“Senators have a constitutional obligation to advice and consent on a nominee to fill this Supreme Court vacancy and, simply put, we have a responsibility to do our jobs as elected officials,” Manchin said. “Just as I did when Merrick Garland was nominated, I met with Judge Gorsuch and evaluated his qualifications to be a justice on the Supreme Court. …

“Supreme Court jurists should have an extensive career in law, a record of upholding the Constitution in their rulings, an established judicial philosophy and an appropriate temperament. Judge Gorsuch’s legal career has spanned from Harvard Law School, earning a doctorate in legal philosophy at Oxford, clerking for two Supreme Court Justices, working for the Department of Justice, practicing law with a private firm, and being appointed to the bench of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals over ten years ago. Throughout Judge Gorsuch’s career, he has come to his legal rulings objectively, through the letter of the law rather than through his own opinion.”

Manchin continued his praise of Gorsuch.

“During his time on the bench, Judge Gorsuch has received praise from his colleagues who have been appointed by both Democrats and Republicans,” Manchin said. “He has been consistently rated as a well-qualified jurist, the highest rating a jurist can receive, and I have found him to be an honest and thoughtful man.

“I hold no illusions that I will agree with every decision Judge Gorsuch may issue in the future, but I have not found any reasons why this jurist should not be a Supreme Court Justice.”

Later in the day, fellow Democratic U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp from North Dakota also announced her decision to back Gorsuch.

To confirm Gorsuch, 60 senators must vote in favor of his confirmation. That likely means the 52 Republican senators – including West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito – will need eight Democrats to cross the aisle for the vote. Published reports show 33 Democrats have said they would vote against Gorsuch’s confirmation.

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