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U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) arrives for Senate Democratic party leadership elections at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, U.S. November 16, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTX2TZPJ

Sen. Patty Murray on why she joined the filibuster against Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch

As Senate Republicans used the “nuclear option” Thursday to set Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation in motion, a top Democrat defended the minority party’s decision to filibuster President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the No. 3 Senate Democrat, told PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff that it was important for the party to take a stand in the fight over Gorsuch’s nomination.

“Someone’s judgment and their beliefs, in terms of protecting people’s rights in this country, is extremely important,” Murray said in an interview hours before Senate Republicans voted to use a rule change, known as the “nuclear option,” to push through a vote on Gorsuch’s nomination. “And for me, he did not pass the test,” Murray added.

Murray joined 43 other senators in the 48-member Democratic caucus Thursday in voting to filibuster Gorsuch, a federal judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), and Joe Donnelly (Ind.) were the only Democrats who joined Republicans in voting to end debate and move to a final vote.

Following the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) invoked the “nuclear option,” which will allow Republicans to confirm Gorsuch on a simple majority vote. The Senate passed the rule change on a 52-48 party-line vote, setting up a final confirmation vote on Friday.

Murray told NewsHour that women’s reproductive rights — and her concern that Gorsuch could vote to roll back them back if he joins the court — were a key sticking point in her decision to oppose his nomination.

As a candidate, Mr. Trump said he would nominate a Supreme Court justice who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that affirmed women’s right to an abortion. Gorsuch’s views from the bench on abortion are unclear, but Senate Democrats and liberal groups seized on the issue during his confirmation hearings last month.

Murray said the issue was personal, citing a college friend who experienced complications from an abortion procedure before Roe v. Wade that left her unable to have children.

“To me, that is an issue I have seen in my own lifetime that has made a real impact for women, personally,” Murray said. “I do not want to see this country go backwards.”

Watch the full interview with Murray on the April 6 broadcast of PBS NewsHour.

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