WASHINGTON • Sen. Claire McCaskill on Tuesday said she would not rule out voting to filibuster President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer and at least 20 other Senate Democrats have said they’ll stage a filibuster to block an up-or-down vote on Gorsuch.

McCaskill said Tuesday she is still doing her homework on Gorsuch and would say only that she supports the nominee getting at least a procedural vote on whether to quash a filibuster on the Senate floor. Under current Senate rules, that would take 60 votes. There are 52 Republican senators, meaning at least eight Democrats would have to vote against a filibusters for Gorsuch's nomination to proceed to an up-or-down vote.

“I have said all along that Gorsuch deserved a hearing and some kind of vote on the floor,” McCaskill said. “He is going to get both of those.”

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said that Gorsuch had the "knowledge," "temperament," and "experience" to be a Supreme Court justice. 

Blunt said he was "dismayed" and "disappointed" at Schumer's filibuster threat. 

"Republicans have never filibustered" a Supreme Court nominee, he said. 

McCaskill is representative of a handful of Democratic senators who represent states won by Trump in November, and who are up for re-election in 2018. One, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., has told reporters he would not support a filibuster.

The National Rifle Association announced it would run ads in Missouri beginning Tuesday in Missouri urging McCaskill to vote for Gorsuch. 

Republicans have vowed to get Gorsuch's nomination through the Senate, even if it means precedent-breaking procedural maneuvers to get around a filibuster. The Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Gorsuch in hearings and is headed to a potential vote to send the nominee to the Senate floor next week.

McCaskill told reporters that a procedural vote on a filibuster qualifies as a Gorsuch-related vote on the floor of the Senate. She said that is more than Republicans accorded former President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, last year. The GOP did not have hearings on that nomination, declaring it dead on arrival, and deciding to wait for a new president.

Garland “didn’t even get a hearing. He didn’t get any kind of vote on the floor,” McCaskill said. “I am saying that it is clear that (Gorsuch) got a hearing, and is going to get some kind of vote on the floor. Whether that is a procedural vote or whether it is the actual vote for confirmation, the bottom line is senators are going to have an opportunity to vote up or down on some kind of vote on Gorsuch.”

McCaskill made her remarks in a telephone press conference in which she expanded on her probe of leading drug manufacturers of opioids. She has sent letters to the top five companies that produce opioids seeking marketing, research and influence strategies they have employed.

McCaskill told reporters that a surge in deaths from prescription opioid and heroin abuse reminded her of the early days of the investigations of tobacco’s health costs.

Chuck Raasch • 202-298-6880

@craasch on Twitter

craasch@post-dispatch.com