Red state Dems refuse WH announcement invite

Four red-state Democrats refused President Donald Trump’s invitation to attend his Supreme Court nominee announcement Monday night at the White House, according to their offices.

Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Doug Jones of Alabama, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana were invited for the announcement.

“Sen. Heitkamp was invited but isn’t able to attend tonight,” her spokesperson said in a statement. “She has made clear — as she said to the President in person two weeks ago — that she considers fully vetting Supreme Court nominees one of the most important jobs of any U.S. senator, and she plans to fulfill that critical duty.”

Manchin’s spokesperson also said he wasn’t planning to attend and the senator said later in a tweet that he appreciated the invitation from Trump.

“I appreciate the President inviting me to attend tonight’s announcement at the WH,” Manchin said in the tweet. “I look forward to meeting the nominee in a setting where we can discuss his or her experience, judicial philosophy & perspective on access to healthcare for WVians with pre-existing conditions.”

The Trump administration is courting red-state Democrats in an attempt to win over enough senators to confirm whomever the President chooses to replace Anthony Kennedy, who announced he is retiring.

Heitkamp, Donnelly and Manchin were the three Democratic senators who voted for Trump’s last Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch, who replaced the late Antonin Scalia on the bench in 2017.

The senators have stayed mum on whether they’re planning to support Trump’s nominee, saying they’ll wait until after he announces to weigh in.

One red-state Democratic senator up for re-election this year — Sen. Jon Tester of Montana — told reporters on Monday that he was not invited to the White House for Monday’s ceremony, but added he’s open to voting to one of the nominees.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a key Republican vote, was also invited to the White House but is not going, she said Monday. She would not comment on any of the finalists to reporters.

This story has been updated with additional developments.