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'Wrong' to 'Jam Through' Tax Bill Until Jones Sworn in, Senate Dems Argue

Sen.-elect Doug Jones and his wife Louise walk on stage to speak during an election-night party Dec. 12, 2017, in Birmingham , Ala. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

WASHINGTON — Before election returns were in Tuesday night, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) indicated that the victor in Alabama’s special election wouldn’t be seated until next year as certification of the vote takes place.

Today, after Doug Jones’ win, Senate Democrats are demanding that the tax bill, which is being hashed out between House and Senate representatives in conference committee, be put on hold until their new senator is sworn in.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said late Tuesday that the threshold for an automatic recount had not been triggered with Jones ahead of Roy Moore by 1.5 percent, or more than 20,000 votes.

Nearly 23,000 write-in ballots were cast, and the deadline for counties to process those is Friday. Next Tuesday, provisional and military ballots will be processed. All of that information is due to Merrill’s office by Dec. 22 to process certification of the results.

If the Moore camp wanted to request a recount, they would have to wait until the certification process is finished, Merrill explained.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared on the Senate floor today that “it would be unseemly and imprudent to rush a massive piece of partisan legislation through this chamber before Doug Jones is seated.”

“To rush such a massive piece of partisan legislation when the people of Alabama have just sent us a new senator and try to jam it through before he gets here would be so wrong. Doug Jones will be the duly elected Senator from the state of Alabama in a few short weeks,” Schumer said. “The governor didn’t appoint him; the people chose him. It would be wrong for Senate Republicans to jam through this tax bill without giving the newly elected senator from Alabama the opportunity to cast his vote. The people of Alabama deserve to have their representative in the Senate to debate the biggest issues of the day — and the tax bill certainly falls under that category.”

Dems are using the special election of former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) to bolster their case; McConnell said after the 2010 vote that it would be “gamesmanship” to move healthcare legislation along before Brown was seated. Then-Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Schumer noted, waited until Brown arrived in the upper chamber.

“I call on Leader McConnell to do as Senator Reid did: honor the wishes of the people of Alabama that has newly elected a senator and wait to move forward on the tax bill until Senator Jones arrives,” Schumer said. “If Republicans insist on barreling ahead, and I understand the pressure is on them from their hard right, multibillionaire paymasters, they’ll be pouring gasoline on the fire.”

McConnell said on the Senate floor today that the tax bill conferees “have been working diligently to produce a report that both chambers can vote on soon.”

“The forthcoming conference report represents our chance to provide a real benefit to families and small businesses across the nation. I am grateful to the members of the conference committee for their hard work to resolve the differences between the two bills,” he said. “I look forward to voting for the final product soon.”

At a White House meeting today with tax bill conferees, President Trump declared “we’re getting very close” to a deal.

“I think it’s very important for the country to get a vote next week. Not because we lost a seat. Wish we would have gotten the seat. A lot of Republicans feel differently; they’re very happy with the way it turned out,” Trump said. “But I would have — as the leader of the party, I would have liked to have had the seat. I want to endorse the people that are running.”

“But, I will tell you that it’s — to me, it’s very, very — just, very important to get this vote. Not because of that, but because of the — and I don’t know what the vote will be. I don’t know what exactly the final — we have a margin now of two, plus our great vice president,” he added. “So I really — I think we’re going to get the vote, but I will say, we have to get more senators and more congressmen that are Republicans elected in ’18. And then you’ll see a lot more of what we’re doing right now.”

Jones said at a press conference today that Trump made a “very gracious” call to him today to congratulate the new senator and invited him to visit the White House.