Trump Talks Supreme Court Picks With Democrats Who Voted for Neil Gorsuch

Donnelly, Heitkamp and Manchin among White House invitees Thursday evening

Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Donnelly, seen here at a Senate Banking meeting last year, were among the attendees at a Thursday White House meeting in which the upcoming Supreme Court vacancy was discussed. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Wednesday night, President Donald Trump was visiting North Dakota, attacking its junior senator, Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, in the most recent of his campaign-style rallies ahead of the midterms.

“Heidi will vote ‘no’ on any pick we make,” the president said of Heitkamp’s vote on the next Supreme Court nominee to replace the retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. 

Thursday night? Heitkamp was with Trump at the White House, talking about that very same upcoming high court vacancy.

“Political speeches are just that, but the next day, I’m ready to get to work,” Heitkamp said in a statement. She was one of three Democratic senators at the White House on Thursday evening, along with Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia.

The choice of invitees from the Senate Democratic Conference appears to be no coincidence. They are the three Democrats who voted to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch last year, and all three face the voters this fall in states carried by Trump in 2016.

Watch: Decoding the High Court Confirmation Process — 2 Things Trump Needs to Worry About

“I had a good conversation with the president on a range of issues, including the Supreme Court vacancy, our work together on the recently enacted Right to Try law, and the impact of the Administration’s trade policies on Indiana steel, manufacturers, and Hoosier farmers,” Donnelly said in a statement.

There is at least one candidate for the Supreme Court vacancy with significant ties to Indiana. Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, who was formerly a professor at Notre Dame. 

“When it comes to our country’s trade challenges, we discussed our shared desire to crack down on bad actors including China,” Donnelly said. “I also relayed to President Trump the growing concerns I’ve heard from Hoosier farmers about falling commodity prices and the uncertainty created by current trade policy.”

Manchin also tweeted his thanks to the president for the invitation, saying, “We had a productive conversation about how we can work together to move #WV and our county forward. I look forward to more positive meetings.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Republicans potentially on the fence over the high court vacancy — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — were also at the White House on Thursday evening, as was Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa.

“The President’s team also talked with more than a dozen other Senators today as part of ongoing outreach to get views and advice from both sides of the aisle on this important nomination,” Sanders said in a statement to reporters.

Heitkamp said she encouraged Trump to find a consensus nominee to replace Kennedy.

“I told the president that he has a chance to unite the country by nominating a true non-ideological jurist who could gain strong support from senators on both sides of the aisle, rather than create more divisions,” she said. “Like my colleagues, I’ll wait to see who he nominates for the position — and then get to work exhaustively reviewing and vetting the nominee and their record to meet my constitutional duty as a U.S. senator to provide advice and consent for filling this vacancy.”

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