A crack in the wall: Joe Manchin reportedly will defy Dem filibuster, vote for cloture on Gorsuch

That’s 53 votes for cloture. If you count Pat Leahy as a yes, even though he’s not firmly committed yet, it’s 54.

Do I hear 55? CNN does:

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota) — “As I said last year when Judge Garland was nominated — and reiterated again when Judge Gorsuch was nominated — the US Senate should have an up or down vote on any Supreme Court nominee as part of fulfilling our constitutional duty of providing advice and consent on nominees to the Supreme Court. I’m in the process of reviewing the materials (Gorsuch) submitted and testimony from his hearing before the Judiciary Committee while I continue to consider his nomination.” — Statement on 3/27/2017

Not a definitive “yes,” but there’s no obvious way Heitkamp gets from that statement to a no on cloture. If you’re looking for someone to thank for twisting Manchin’s arm, thank Mike Pence, who used his speech in West Virginia on Saturday night to mention Manchin by name as someone who can help put Gorsuch on the High Court.

Serious question: What leverage does the GOP have, really, over Joe Manchin? I know, I know — West Virginia’s one of the reddest states in the union and voted overwhelmingly for Trump, so in theory Trump could swoop in there next year and demand that Manchin be ousted. Realistically, though, Manchin’s going to end up voting with Trump and the GOP on a bunch of legislation over the next 18 months, which will put him back in the White House’s good graces no matter what he does on Gorsuch. And that’s especially true knowing that McConnell will end up nuking the filibuster if need be and pushing Gorsuch through on a party-line confirmation. How mad will Trump and West Virginia voters be at Manchin if Gorsuch ends up on the Court anyway, despite his opposition?

On top of all that, Manchin has a strong electoral history in WV, having won his two runs for governor with more than 60 percent of the vote and been reelected to the Senate in 2012 with 60.5 percent. The only election he’s ever had that can be called “close,” kinda sorta, was when he pulled 53.5 percent in his first Senate run in 2010 — and that was the year of the big Republican wave. Even at 53.5, he won the race by fully 10 points. The guy has never seriously been threatened back home and, as I say, it seems probable that he’ll cooperate enough with Trump that the White House won’t make him a prime target in 2018. In which case, why doesn’t he use this opportunity to bank some cheap cred with the left by voting to filibuster Gorsuch instead? I don’t get it.

Update: Despite Manchin’s defection, Dems are talking tough: “Senior Democratic sources are now increasingly confident that Gorsuch can’t clear a filibuster, saying his ceiling is likely mid- to upper-50s on the key procedural vote. That would mark the first successful filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee since Abe Fortas for chief justice in the 1960s.”