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Alabama Senator-elect Doug Jones (D) is expected to bring a somewhat progressive voice to the chamber when he’s finally seated, but with some Southern limits.
As far as policy preferences go, Jones stands in stark contrast to both his predecessor—Attorney General Jeff Sessions—and his opponent Roy Moore. Jones is the first Democrat the deeply conservative state of Alabama has elected in 25 years, and is pro-choice, in favor of criminal justice reform, and against repealing the Affordable Care Act. But Jones’ allegiance to his conservative constituents could still outweigh his more liberal political leanings. Politico pointed out that the senator-elect worked hard to keep a distance from Democratic party leadership during his election. National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) even issued a call following Jones’ victory for the senator-elect to stick to his Alabama roots and vote with the Republican caucus.
The moderate red-state Democrat said on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday that he could side with the GOP on some issues, but didn’t specify which ones.
“One of the problems in American politics right now—I think—is that everybody thinks that just cause you’re a member of a certain party you’re going to vote a certain way. And that should not be the case. It shouldn’t ever be the case. I’m going to talk to people on both sides of the aisle, try to figure out what’s in the best interest of my state and in the country. Now don’t expect me to vote solidly for Republicans or Democrats,” said Jones.
But how will Jones side on the most pressing issues facing the Senate? We took a look:
The Mueller probe
As a former federal prosecutor, Jones has interacted with his fair share of grand juries. Special Counsel Bob Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia hasn’t raised any alarms with Jones. The senator-elect is siding with his fellow Democrats in their belief that the discovery of anti-Trump text messages by an FBI agent working on the Mueller probe doesn’t “taint” the entire investigation.
“I’d be very surprised if Bob Mueller did anything—illegally obtained—or anything like that. He is the consummate professional and that investigation is proceeding, it’s going to go forward. I don’t see any taint at this point.”
When it comes to immigration reform, Jones is the polar opposite of Sessions, who was an immigration hardliner. Jones has been a big supporter of DACA and believes in extending it. As far as building Trump’s wall goes, Jones has stood firmly against it. When asked on Sunday with Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace if he’d be open to legislation that funded the wall in exchange for extending DACA, the senator-elect showed no signs of bucking in an interview.
“I have said before that I opposed the building of a wall. I think that’s an expense that the taxpayers just don’t have to incur because I do think you can increase border security without having to go to the incredible expense of building that wall, at least the figures that I’ve seen. I do support the DACA program and would love to see that extended. I hope there can be some bipartisan efforts reached to do that,” said Jones.
Jones is an advocate of net neutrality, which could come up on the Senate floor again if Senate Democrats try to force a vote on the issue. Prior to the FCC’s 3-2 vote to repeal the Obama-era regulations, Jones tweeted out a message in support of keeping the regulation.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has promised to force a vote on the issue under the Congressional Review Act, but as Reuters points out, such an effort will likely fail. The FCC’s decision to kill net neutrality can only be successfully overturned if it has the approval of both the House, Senate, and President Donald Trump.
For now, Jones stands with Democrats on the Senate’s upcoming agenda, but has signaled he is willing to work with Republicans. Even as a moderate Democrat, it may be hard for Jones to budge on issues that Alabamians are conservative on, such as gun control. But with only three years remaining on his term, it’s yet to be seen whether he’ll spend that time taking risks or playing it on the safe side.
As for the Senate’s most pressing issue, Jones has come out against the Republican tax bill. But his voice will not be heard, as the Senate plans to vote before he is seated.
Amrita Khalid is a technology and politics reporter who specializes in breaking down complex issues into practical, useful terms. A former contributor to CQ, a Congressional news and analysis site, she's currently a master's candidate in international relations at the University of Leeds.