EARLY WHIP COUNT: The Next Supreme Court Justice | NTK Network EARLY WHIP COUNT: The Next Supreme Court Justice

EARLY WHIP COUNT: The Next Supreme Court Justice

NTK Network takes a very early look at who's likely to support Trump's next Supreme Court pick, who's likely to be opposed, and who will be on the fence.

By NTK Staff | 06.28.2018 @9:15am
EARLY WHIP COUNT: The Next Supreme Court Justice

President Trump will receive a rare opportunity this year with Justice Kennedy’s retirement from the Supreme Court: the chance to nominate his second justice to the nation’s highest court in as many years in office.

Trump intends to work for his choice’s confirmation this fall, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has pledged consideration of Trump’s nominee before the midterm elections.

Democrats are digging in, with many calling McConnell a hypocrite for considering a Supreme Court nominee in an election year, after how he handled President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland in 2016. This, despite the fact that McConnell’s 2016 protest was clearly about a president’s ability to nominate in his final year in office.

One hundred senators will decide whether or not to confirm President Trump’s next pick. Here’s an early whip count.


Assumptions are dangerous in Washington, D.C., but of the 54 votes to confirm Neil Gorsuch in 2017, NTK Network assumes a majority (47) will be on board with Trump’s next pick – assuming it’s a pick from Trump’s prior list of potential nominees, and not a wild card.

Who are the seven we assume are not automatic ‘yes’ votes?

  • Three red-state Democrats who voted for Gorsuch, but will be on the hot seat this summer and fall: Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Joe Manchin (D-WV)
  • Two moderate Republicans who may break from a Trump nominee that represents a sharp break from Kennedy’s centrism: Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
  • Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), primarily because his failing health means he may not even be able to make it to Washington for a vote; but he also has shown a maverick streak in his career
  • And the Alabama seat, which once was occupied by Republican Luther Strange but is now occupied by a Democrat, Doug Jones

Add one to the new nominee’s total: Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), who supported Gorsuch but did not vote due to his recovery from back surgery.


Of the 45 votes against Gorsuch in 2017, NTK Network assumes, again, a majority (42) will vote no on Trump’s next pick.

The three we assume are not automatic ‘no’ votes?

  • Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), widely seen as the most vulnerable Senate Democrat in the nation in 2018
  • Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who is liberal but is facing a tough reelection fight with Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) in 2018
  • Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), who, like Donnelly, Heitkamp, and Manchin, has occasionally broken with his party ahead of his own tough reelection fight this year

The one new Democrat in the Senate since the Gorsuch vote, Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), is also a moderate and should be considered a swing vote.


That leaves 10 votes – 10 percent of the U.S. Senate – up for grabs, depending on who Trump nominates and how the confirmation process goes.

Three are Republicans, and seven are Democrats. They are:

  • Republicans: Collins, Murkowski, McCain
  • Democrats: Donnelly, Heitkamp, Manchin, McCaskill, Nelson, Tester, Jones

With the new Senate rules, only 50 votes are needed to confirm a justice to the Supreme Court. The ‘yes’ side would only need to peel off two votes from this list, while the ‘no’ side would need near-unanimous opposition to Trump’s pick.

Keep up with NTK Network during the months-long confirmation fight. The above whip count is almost certain to change.

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