In the wake of a stunning upset victory Tuesday night by Democrat Doug Jones in deep-red Alabama, Senate Democrats are demanding that Republicans “hit pause” on their fast-track tax bill—delaying a vote until Jones is sworn in so that the voters of Alabama are fully represented.
“It would be wrong for Senate Republicans to jam through this tax bill without giving the duly elected senator from Alabama the opportunity to cast his vote,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters Wednesday morning.
Jones will likely not be sworn in until Congress reconvenes in early January. Republican candidate Roy Moore has yet to concede, and Alabama’s top election official has said that the election will likely not be certified until Dec. 26 at the earliest and Jan. 3 at the latest, because each of the state’s 67 counties has to finalize their vote totals.
Once Jones is in place, Republicans will have a razor-thin 51 seat majority in the Senate, meaning that any one defection could tank legislation if Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) maintains his opposition and if the Senate continues to use the reconciliation process. Currently, McConnell can lose two GOP votes and still pass the tax bill.
In laying out their demand for a delay, Schumer and other Democrats referenced what happened in 2010, when then-Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) won a special election following the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA). Brown successfully demanded to be sworn in a week earlier than originally scheduled, and the Senate—then led by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)—delayed a final vote on the Affordable Care Act until Brown was seated.
They also pointed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision last year to refuse to hold a confirmation vote to fill an empty Supreme Court seat until after the 2016 election—blocking President Obama’s nominee for nearly a year and then swiftly confirming President Trump’s arch-conservative choice. McConnell justified this at the time by arguing that “the American people should have a voice in this decision.”
On Wednesday, Schumer said the people of Alabama should similarly have a voice on the tax bill with someone they elected rather than Luther Strange (R-AL), who was appointed by the governor to fill the seat earlier this year.
“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, and what’s good for the gander is good for the goose,” he said. “McConnell ought to do what he said should be done in 2010—delay until Doug Jones gets here and can cast a vote, plain and simple.”
McConnell’s office did not respond to TPM’s request for comment on Democrats’ demands, but has indicated that Jones’ election will not change his decision to hold a final vote on the tax bill as soon as possible.