Alabama's Doug Jones may not take office until 2018

Story highlights

  • Winner will have to be certified over the next few weeks
  • Senate is expected to adjourn by December 22

(CNN)Doug Jones was projected the winner of the Alabama special election Tuesday and he is sure to shake up the Senate, eating into Republicans' slim majority ... but probably not before the new year.

Alabama's special election votes will have to be certified over the next few weeks before the winner can take the oath of office.
This means Democrats looking to stop the tax bill making its way through Congress now won't be able to count on Jones to vote against it. Republicans will have current Sen. Luther Strange still in office. Strange will remain in the seat until the new senator is sworn into office.
    Republicans currently hold a 52-48 majority in the Senate and after Jones is seated that will drop to 51-49. Vice President Mike Pence can cast tie-breaking votes.
    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reiterated that timeline to reporters Tuesday, saying, "Sen. Strange is going to be here through the end of this session."

    Why the delay?

    Each of the 67 counties will have until December 22 to report the results to the Alabama secretary of state's office.
    After receiving the results, the State Canvassing Board -- which includes the governor, secretary of state and attorney general -- will have until January 3 to certify them. Alabama law requires at least two of the three members to be present for the certification.
    The secretary of state's office told CNN before the election they expect to certify the results between December 27-29. That is contingent upon every county reporting their results on time. The office noted that a delay from one of the 67 counties could delay final certification.
    Assuming all results are reported on time, Alabama can notify the Senate immediately, which would allow the winner to be sworn in at that time.
    The governor and secretary of state must sign and send the secretary of the Senate a certificate of election for the new senator, according to rule two of the Standing Rules of the Senate.
    Unfortunately for Jones, the Senate should be out of session at that point. It is expected to be in recess on December 22 or earlier -- depending on how it handles the tax bill and funding for the federal government. It is scheduled to reconvene on January 3 -- the last day the state has to legally certify the results.
    MAGIC WALL: What will it take to win in Alabama?
    MAGIC WALL: What will it take to win in Alabama?


      MAGIC WALL: What will it take to win in Alabama?


    MAGIC WALL: What will it take to win in Alabama? 06:17
    The one caveat is if congressional negotiators fail to reach a deal on government spending and Congress is forced to stay in session between Christmas and New Year's Day. While that is a possibility, chances are greater that Congress would agree to keep the government funded until sometime in early January, allowing lawmakers and their staffs to be home over the holidays.
    The vice president, in his role as president of the Senate, typically swears in new senators. A surrogate can be designated, should he become unavailable to perform this duty. He will administer the oath, in which the senator-elect promises to "support and defend the Constitution."
    Once the oath is taken, Jones will officially be a senator.
    Note: An earlier version of this story was published before the election Tuesday.