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On Judge Gorsuch, Sen. Bennet between a rock and a hard place

February 27, 2017 Updated: February 27, 2017 at 10:31 am
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Michael Bennet (left) and Neil Gorsuch (AP file photos)

Penny for your thoughts, Michael Bennet.

If the Democratic senator from Colorado knows where he stands on Judge Neil Gorsuch occupying a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, he isn't telling anyone who's willing to tell me. A lot of Republicans and reporters desperately want to know.

His spokeswoman says Bennet's listening. Confirmation hearings begin March 20 before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Bennet does not serve on. But the question is not even whether he will vote for Gorsuch on the Senate floor. Republicans don't need him there.

They need him to oppose a filibuster. That takes 60 votes. A winning confirmation vote is 51, and there are 52 Republicans in the Senate.

Moderate Republicans are likely whispering in Bennet's ear that he isn't going to get a nominee from this administration who puts the law above politics better than Gorsuch.

Bennet, however, knows plenty of people who don't like Gorsuch (or any Trump nominee), the far-left Democratic donor crowd, the door-knockers, the people who show up at women's marches, for starters.

But it's five years before he would feel their backlash in his next re-electiion.

What he's feeling now is the mounting pressure from leading Coloradans urging him to take one for the home team instead of his party.

A letter was endorsed by 96 bold-faced names in Colorado politics and law urging support for Gorsuch went to Bennet's chief of staff Friday.

Most of the people on the list are Republicans, but not all of them, and the list is the clearest indication yet that Bennet could see fit to back Gorsuch.

There are two former state Supreme Court judges, Michael Bender and Rebecca Love Kourlis, both appointed by Democratic Gov. Roy Romer. Love Kourlis is the daughter of three-term Republican Gov. John Love and was considered for a Supreme Court nomination by George W. Bush in 2005.

There's Colorado Springs mayor and former state Attorney General John Suthers. You've also got Secretary of State Wayne Williams and former U.S. Attorney Troy Eid.

Bennet could shelve their opinion, but how about Norm Brownstein, the super lawyer and Washington mega lobbyist from Denver? Brownstein had a walk-on on "House of Cards." Let that sink in.

Mark Matthews of The Denver Post wrote last year about Brownstein's clout, and noted he and his firm were Bennet's biggest political donors, giving Bennet about $140,000 over his seven-year political career.

Pressure.

You want more? Can Bennet handle more?

Steve Farber and Jack Finlaw signed the letter that states, "Regardless of the politics involved in prior confirmation efforts, including what many consider to be the mistreatment of Judge (Merrick) Garland's nomination, a filibuster now will do Colorado no good."

Those are heavy words from heavy hitters.

Farber is the main reason the Democratic National Convention came to Denver in 2008 for Barack Obama to be coronated in Mile High Stadium. Farber is a close friend of the Clintons. Know who else is? You guessed it. When Farber talks, Democratic donors listen.

Finlaw is the former chief legal counsel for Gov. John Hickenlooper, who also is Bennet's political father. Bennet was Hickenlooper's chief of staff in the Denver mayor's office, a job Finlaw later held.

Colorado-based Republican strategist Dick Wadhams sized up Bennet's predicament for me. If anybody could see a clear path out for Bennet, regardless of party, my money is on Wadhams.

"It is becoming increasingly apparent that a compelling case will not be made against Gorsuch except from those on the far left of the Democratic Party," Wadhams said in response to my e-mail Friday.

"The Democratic endorsements ... in the letter are very significant and show what a mainstream conservative judge he has been. Bennet is going to look weak if he chooses to cower in the face of his party's extremists."

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