- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Democrat Doug Jones pulled off a stunning victory in deep-red Alabama because, well, he wasn’t Roy Moore — a Republican nominee doomed by extreme views and a trail of scandal.

But as Mr. Jones looks to be sworn in early next year, his future colleagues don’t know what to expect from him or how his arrival will shake up the closely divided Senate.

“I don’t even know what his leanings are — whether he’s centrist or not. I just don’t know,” said Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican. “I don’t think anybody paid much attention to the issues during the campaign.”

The campaign was overshadowed by claims that Mr. Moore, a former Alabama chief justice, pursued dates with teen girls as a prosecutor in his 30s. Mr. Moore denied the accusations, but many voters believed the women.

Once Mr. Jones is seated, it will leave the GOP with 51 votes to 49 for the Democratic Caucus.

Sen. Cory Gardner, Colorado Republican, said Mr. Jones should “truly represent Alabama” by aligning himself with Republicans, yet Democrats say if anything, the GOP majority should bend its way.

“The election of a Democrat in such a conservative state is a clarion call for bipartisanship,” said Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. “The American people are clamoring for us to work together, to eschew the politics of divisiveness and once again conduct our politics with civility, decency and an eye towards compromise.”

Still, Mr. Schumer said he’ll leave it up to Mr. Jones to vote the way that’s best for Alabama, and the senator-elect gave few hints Wednesday what that may be.

Mr. Jones said his goal is to find common ground between the parties, saying it’s the healthiest way to get things done for his constituents.

“I’m going to be that voice for the people of Alabama to do what’s right for them, and we’ll just see how that plays out in the politics of things,” he said Wednesday in a post-victory press conference.

He said one early priority will be renewing the Children’s Health Insurance Program and improving health care overall.

Sen. Joe Manchin III, a West Virginia Democrat facing re-election in a state that overwhelmingly backed President Trump last year, said he sees a lot of himself in Mr. Jones.

“He’s going to be an Alabama Democrat, not a Washington Democrat,” Mr. Manchin said. “He’s going to do his job. He knows where he came from, he’s well-grounded. I can’t wait to have another colleague that understands just good old people from tough areas, who work hard. I do see a kindred spirit I can work with.”

Mr. Jones‘ fellow Alabama senator, Republican Richard Shelby, said he hopes Mr. Jones will be a moderate voice in the rival party.

“He’s a Democrat. He’s not a Republican,” he said. “I’m hoping he’ll be a common-sense Democrat.”

Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist, argued that Mr. Jones would probably find ways to vote with Republicans, if “given half a chance.”

“Everything Republicans have done has been on a partisan basis,” Mr. Manley said. “None of the Democrats up for reelection this year, for instance, have felt any pressure to vote with Republicans because their policies are so bad.”

Republican lawmakers said they aren’t banking on Mr. Jones to lead a bipartisan revival, saying centrist Democrats who reach across the aisle are often reeled back to their side.

“This is still a team sport, and they’ve been restricted a lot of ways by leadership,” said Sen. Mike Rounds, South Dakota Republican.

Mr. Manchin, however, said he doesn’t think Mr. Jones will be a rubber stamp.

“I think he’ll be the same as me. If it makes sense, he’ll vote for it, if it doesn’t make sense, he won’t vote for it,” he said. “Leadership has to understand that. We’re not here for Washington, whether you’re Democrat or Republican, you’re here for where you came from.”

Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, who is responsible for wrangling Democratic votes, said he hasn’t spoken to Mr. Jones, though said his background is “encouraging.”

“This is a man of values and conviction, and I think he’ll be a good colleague,” he said.

But will he be a reliable vote?

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘reliable,’ ” Mr. Durbin told reporters. “I’m a whip, and my heart is broken every day. But I can live with that. Members have to votes their states, and I understand that.”

Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.


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