Doug Jones joins the Senate: How will he vote?

When Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones went before his cheering supporters the night of his improbable election ...

Posted: Jan 3, 2018 7:18 PM
Updated: Jan 3, 2018 7:18 PM

When Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones went before his cheering supporters the night of his improbable election in deeply Republican Alabama last month, he smiled widely and then hesitated.

"I have been waiting my whole life and now I don't know what the hell to say," he said with a laugh.

Jones was sworn in as a senator from Alabama on Wednesday

He will be watched for how closely he ties himself to Trump or the liberal base

The 63-year-old former federal prosecutor was sworn in Wednesday by Vice President Mike Pence, cutting the GOP majority to a slim 51-49 advantage, and everyone in Washington will be paying close attention to his every move in the coming weeks. Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota was also sworn in, replacing Sen. Al Franken who stepped down Tuesday, following allegations that he touched women inappropriately.

Will Jones toe a conservative line, and even side with President Donald Trump at times? Or will he stay close to the liberal core of the Senate Democratic caucus, as progressive activists and many aides and advisers from that party expect after defeating Republican Roy Moore?

Republicans already struggle to pass their legislation and it could be even harder now with Jones in the Senate, unless they can convince their new red state colleague to split with Democrats and vote with them on key issues like spending and entitlements.

Jones made clear during his campaign -- his first run for elected office -- that he wanted to find "common ground" with Republicans. Such a bipartisan approach might concern Democrats, who are eager to seize on the anti-Trump sentiment in the country and use it to win back control of Congress in November.

But on most key issues, like health care, gay rights and gun control, Jones' views are in line with those of many other Democrats. He is even in favor of abortion rights, a delicate reality for a politician from Alabama.

A handful of other moderate Democrats from red states -- like Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Claire McCaskill of Missouri -- could be likely allies of Jones. They are all facing re-election in states Trump won and have learned to navigate the unusual political dynamics presented by the President.

Those Democrats stuck together on key votes over health care and taxes, showing they are not afraid to vote against Trump.

"Based on what I saw during (Jones') campaign, the Republican leadership shouldn't be expecting him to vote with them very many times," said Jim Manley, an aide to former Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada. "I think it's fair to say that in light of his election, Speaker (Paul) Ryan's desire to deal with such programs as Social Security and Medicare are dead on arrival in the Senate, because the votes are simply not there."

Another Democratic aide agreed, saying Jones might be more of a middle-of-the-road Democratic legislator than someone who will flirt with Republicans to boost his re-election chances.

"He's a solid Democrat, has been for a long time" said the Democratic aide. "I don't think he's going to feel compelled to back Republican ideas for the sake of bipartisanship when so many of them are unpopular even in red states."

Marge Baker, a top official at the progressive organization People for the America Way, agreed.

"I think there's a lot of reason for optimism about Doug Jones' career in the Senate. He ran as a pro-choice, pro-Obamacare, common-sense leader," she said. "On the issues where McConnell is having a harder time holding his caucus together, Senator Jones is going to make a very positive difference."

A senior GOP aide said it's too early to know what kind of senator Jones will make but predicted he would struggle to be re-elected because he's a Democrat, pro-abortion rights and won the seat only because his controversial opponent, Moore, lost it.

"The question is, will he vote in line with the conservative state he represents or as Sen. (Chuck) Schumer asks?" the aide said, referring to the Senate Democratic leader from New York and previewing a likely constant attack line against Jones.

However, veteran GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa warned that his party should not take Jones' victory lightly and said that if the new senator acts in a bipartisan way, it could be hard for Republicans to unseat him.

"You've got to realize that the people of Alabama think differently than people from a lot of states that a lot Democrats represent, and he's going to do his darndest to represent them," Grassley told CNN on Tuesday. "And I would predict that even though he comes from what's today a Republican state, that it will be hard to defeat him."

"If he functions in a very bipartisan way, I think you'd find it very difficult," he added. "I don't think it's something Republicans can take for granted like we took that state for granted for the last 25 years."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 512632

Reported Deaths: 10262
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34853555
DeSoto33162432
Hinds32556641
Jackson24830389
Rankin22442402
Lee16238242
Madison14874283
Jones14086247
Forrest13741259
Lauderdale12249324
Lowndes11286193
Lamar10644140
Pearl River9707244
Lafayette8827143
Hancock7835132
Washington7550169
Oktibbeha7204138
Monroe6989179
Pontotoc6970109
Warren6849178
Panola6746134
Neshoba6726210
Marshall6653141
Bolivar6440151
Union633897
Pike5924156
Alcorn5862107
Lincoln5525136
George510180
Prentiss500884
Tippah490282
Itawamba4829107
Scott477499
Adams4766125
Tate4748116
Leflore4723144
Copiah455895
Yazoo455591
Simpson4543117
Wayne442772
Covington432895
Sunflower4299106
Marion4265112
Coahoma4227109
Leake413790
Newton395581
Tishomingo381793
Grenada3775109
Stone365666
Jasper340166
Attala337790
Winston317792
Chickasaw313367
Clay311878
Clarke301195
Calhoun284449
Holmes271289
Smith268952
Yalobusha243747
Tallahatchie231453
Greene224749
Walthall221366
Lawrence217840
Perry213356
Amite209557
Webster205148
Noxubee188642
Montgomery181557
Carroll174441
Jefferson Davis173643
Tunica163239
Benton152639
Kemper144941
Choctaw136527
Claiborne134238
Humphreys131139
Franklin124929
Quitman107528
Wilkinson105939
Jefferson96834
Sharkey65121
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 844951

Reported Deaths: 16115
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1161002006
Mobile741871379
Madison53279732
Shelby38325368
Baldwin38068589
Tuscaloosa36009641
Montgomery34482781
Lee25550263
Calhoun22585518
Morgan22451406
Etowah20013517
Marshall18777316
Houston17727425
St. Clair16875358
Limestone16135218
Cullman16044303
Elmore15904294
Lauderdale14968306
Talladega14189299
DeKalb12967269
Walker12020380
Blount10714192
Autauga10517157
Jackson10157194
Coffee9414192
Colbert9334208
Dale9018191
Tallapoosa7254201
Russell707765
Chilton7018170
Escambia6955143
Covington6932195
Franklin6340108
Chambers5783142
Marion5401130
Dallas5285209
Pike5118109
Clarke484986
Lawrence4826129
Winston4780110
Geneva4642136
Bibb434094
Barbour369480
Butler3434100
Marengo342393
Monroe337066
Randolph334367
Pickens333188
Fayette330085
Henry320666
Hale318189
Cherokee317563
Crenshaw260477
Washington256952
Cleburne254460
Lamar251253
Clay250869
Macon244764
Conecuh192762
Coosa184947
Lowndes178168
Wilcox177438
Bullock152645
Perry141840
Sumter139241
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
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