Democrats are now demanding that Jones be seated before the tax vote
Republicans currently hold a two-vote margin over Democrats in the Senate
The day after Democrat Doug Jones won a stunning upset over Republican Roy Moore in Alabama’s Senate race Tuesday night, Senate Democrats began urging their counterparts to delay the upcoming tax vote until the newly elected senator can participate.
The House and Senate passed their respective versions of a tax bill weeks ago and now Republicans say they have struck a tentative agreement between the two chambers. They hope to pass the bill before Christmas and they aren’t holding back just because Moore was unexpectedly defeated in Alabama Tuesday night.
But Democrats drew parallels to 2010 when then-President Barack Obama urged a delay on his health care overhaul bill until newly elected Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown could be seated and vote on it.
Republicans currently hold a two-vote margin over Democrats in the Senate. Losing the sitting senator from Alabama – Luther Strange – would shrink that margin to one and imperil the tax cut package.
And they have a new voice they can add to their chorus: Then-businessman Donald Trump told CNN in 2010 that Obama was “very smart” to seat Brown before the final votes on the health care bill.
Speaking with CNN’s Campbell Brown in 2010, Trump noted that Obama “pulled back” on pressing for a health care vote after Brown unexpectedly defeated Democrat Martha Coakley in a Massachusetts special election on January 19, 2010.
“He said now, you know, we have to give Massachusetts their vote, which was a very smart thing for him to say,” Trump told CNN at the time. “But that may kill his health care plan. Boy, he has devoted an entire year, and all of his capital, to this one particular situation that a lot of people don’t want.”
Multiple White House officials did not respond to CNN’s request for comment on Trump’s 2010 interview.
Brown’s win came after the Senate and House had passed their version of the health care bill. The House passed the bill in November of 2009 and the Senate passed the bill in December of 2009.
Brown’s victory meant Democrats would have one less vote in the Senate as he replaced Democrat Paul Kirk, who had been appointed to fill the seat after the death of longtime Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy. At the time, Obama urged that the new Republican senator be seated before the two legislative bodies voted on the final bill.
“Here’s one thing I know, and I just want to make sure that this is off the table: The Senate certainly shouldn’t try to jam anything through until Scott Brown is seated,” Obama told ABC News in January 2010. “The people in Massachusetts spoke. He’s got to be part of that process.”
Democrats are now comparing Jones’ win to Brown’s, urging Republicans in the Senate to slow down the tax vote so that Jones – who they believe would vote against the bill – can cast a vote.
“We are calling on Mitch McConnell to hit pause on his tax bill and not hold a final vote until Doug Jones is sworn into the Senate,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters on Wednesday. “Doug Jones will be the duly elected senator from the state of Alabama. The governor didn’t appoint him. He won an election.”
A White House official told CNN on Wednesday that the Brown example is different.
Democrats initially passed the Affordable Care Act in 2009 with a 60-vote supermajority. Then the Senate passed a measure that amended the Affordable Health Care Act in 2010 – after Brown’s election – using a 50-vote majority when Democrats had more than 50 seats in the Senate.
The official noted that vote sequence, arguing that Jones is different because his vote could tip the balance on the tax measure due to Republicans’ slim margin in the Senate.
Democrats have slammed that argument.
“The White House just admitted that Donald Trump is turning his back on the people of Alabama and a core principle Trump himself praised President Obama for honoring: that when the voters of a state make their voices heard, Washington must respect it,” Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Democratic super PAC American Bridge, said Thursday.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland echoed Schumer: “We should be ready to make some noise if McConnell doesn’t seat Jones before we vote on tax reform. Alabamians deserve to have their voices fully heard.”
There is no indication, however, that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to delay the vote.
Trump called Jones on Wednesday to congratulate him on his win, and invite him to the White House once he gets to Washington, Jones told reporters Wednesday.
This story has been updated with additional details about the health care votes in 2009 and 2010.