PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Democratic U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse voted against confirming President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch on Monday, drawing immediate criticism from one of his potential 2018 opponents.
Whitehouse voted no on Gorsuch in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which forwarded his nomination to the full Senate on a party-line tally of 11-9. Whitehouse has repeatedly drawn national attention for his staunch opposition to Gorsuch, who the senator argues will side with moneyed interests in key cases.
“Nothing prevents a president from announcing a consensus nominee for the Supreme Court with both Senate leaders standing beside him,” Whitehouse argued.
State Rep. Bobby Nardolillo, a Coventry Republican who is scheduled to kick off a campaign against Whitehouse next month, quickly issued a statement mocking the senator’s repeated assertions that “dark money” political spending is backing Gorsuch.
“Senator Whitehouse was playing to the second balcony with his performance in the Gorsuch hearing,” Nardolillo said in a statement. “He may deserve the Academy Award for Best Special Effects, but the hard working, taxpaying men and women of Rhode Island deserve representation in the U.S. Senate that is far less prone to political exaggeration.”
Another Republican, former R.I. Supreme Court Associate Justice Robert Flanders, announced last week he has formed an exploratory committee to weigh a run against Whitehouse. There was no immediate comment on Whitehouse’s vote from Flanders.
The committee vote on Gorsuch has set up a historic clash in the Senate, with Republican Leader Mitch McConnell saying he will invoke the so-called “nuclear option” and eliminate filibusters on high-court nominees if Democrats try to use the maneuver to block the confirmation.
Whitehouse and Rhode Island’s other U.S. senator, fellow Democrat Jack Reed, have both committed to filibustering Gorsuch, and it appeared on Monday that Democrats would enough votes to do so – suggesting McConnell will need to invoke the nuclear option to confirm the judge by Friday, as he has indicated he will do.Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram