McConnell: New Alabama Senator Won't Take Office Until Next Year

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) concludes a news conference after the Senate policy luncheons in the Capitol on Dec. 12, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said today that the victor in tonight’s Alabama Senate race will be inconsequential if tax reform is voted on before lawmakers leave for the Christmas break, as Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.) will remain in his seat until the end of this year’s congressional session.

McConnell told reporters following a closed policy luncheon on Capitol Hill that Strange’s replacement won’t be sworn in until next year. That allows time for Alabama to certify its election results, and doesn’t deliver any shake-up to year-end legislative plans.

Senate Republicans are planning a closed-door meeting Wednesday morning to huddle in the event that Roy Moore wins. They’ll be discussing the ethics investigation that many Senate Republicans have called for as soon as Moore is sworn in, as well as whether or not Moore will receive any committee assignments.

“All of those are good questions for tomorrow,” McConnell said. “And we await the outcome of the Alabama Senate race.”

The government is currently running on stopgap funding until Dec. 22. The GOP leader predicted “there isn’t any chance that we’re going to shut the government down.”

“We’re in discussions, not only on a cap deal, but also the way forward on appropriations. And there’s some other year-end items like SCHIP, for example, that we need to address,” he said, referring to the children’s health program. “But I think the American people need not worry that there’s going to be any kind of government shutdown. I don’t sense the Democrats want to do it, and we don’t either.”

At Democrats’ media availability, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the House Freedom Caucus is angling for “a formula for them shutting down the government,” though “I don’t think Ryan wants to do it.”

“We have to move fairly quickly because as you know sequestration will take effect in early January. And according to General Mattis, the Defense Department can’t take that. It’s just will be too devastating cuts on defense. So I think there’s a desire and an urgency to move quickly,” Schumer said.

While not wanting to “negotiate here publicly” on details of specific programs, Schumer stressed that “we want a bipartisan agreement that a good majority of Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate support — that’s the only way to get this done.”

“We need to have opioid funding. People are dying. The young flower of America is dying, and to be so callous and say we’re going to cut funding across the board as some of the proposals made by some of that hard right, extreme Freedom Caucus is not what America wants,” he added.