It’s unclear just how much Alabama and the Senate’s Republican leadership can drag their feet to delay actually seating Senator-elect Doug Jones (D-AL) after his victory in Tuesday’s special election. But if Republican lawmakers try to force through the tax cut bill without letting Jones have a say, they will be diverging from a tradition of respecting the results of elections — and their own rhetoric after Republican victories in special elections.
Jason Kander, who previously served as Missouri’s Secretary of State, highlighted the way that he, as a Democrat, certified a special election quickly enough for Republican Jason Smith to be sworn into the House of Representatives “less than 18 hours after Missouri polls closed.” He called on Alabama “to do the same.”
When I was Secretary of State of MO, I certified to @SpeakerBoehner that he could seat @RepJasonSmith the day after his special election. Rep. Smith is a Republican and I am a Democrat, and I could have waited weeks, but I did the right thing for MO. Alabama should do the same. pic.twitter.com/5vA65fBWFe
— Jason Kander (@JasonKander) December 13, 2017
Several sitting Democratic senators echoed Kander’s point, calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to seat Jones before any vote on the tax plan.
— Chris Van Hollen (@ChrisVanHollen) December 13, 2017
Doug Jones should be seated immediately — before we vote again on the tax bill. Alabama voters deserve to have their voice heard in this fight.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) December 13, 2017
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) December 13, 2017
After NJ, VA, & now Alabama, it’s clear how America feels about the GOP rushing thru the #GOPTaxScam. The GOP should listen, slow down & help the American ppl.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) December 13, 2017
Senate Republicans now have a lame duck problem. The Senate should not take another vote on the #GOPTaxScam until Senator-elect Jones is seated. Senate Republicans must respect Alabama's decision.
— Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin) December 13, 2017
Doug Jones must be seated before this backward #GOPTaxBill is brought to a vote. The people of Alabama deserve to have their voices heard.
— Sen. Maggie Hassan (@SenatorHassan) December 13, 2017
I call on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to listen to the people of Alabama and seat @GDouglasJones without any delay.
— Elizabeth Warren (@elizabethforma) December 13, 2017
Another clear comparison would be the 2010 special election in which Scott Brown (R-MA) was elected while Senate Democrats were considering the Affordable Care Act. Senate Republicans were insistent that no vote on health care take place until Brown was seated.
John McCain was extremely clear the day after Scott Brown's election in 2010 that all legislating on health care should stop until Brown was seated (Congressional record snippet from 1/20/10 below) https://t.co/V57j70WIjX pic.twitter.com/DYkPYU1thM
— Jacob Leibenluft (@jleibenluft) December 13, 2017
Them-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) declared that the Democratic leadership would not “rush into anything” after his election. “We’re going to wait until the new senator arrives until we do anything more on health care,” he said at the time. Brown later tried to rewrite history, claiming his seating was delayed.
McConnell’s own actions could also create problems. He delayed consideration of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, for a full year to give voters a chance to weigh in. “You don’t fill Supreme Court vacancies in the middle of a presidential election,” he said at the time, inventing a rule that didn’t exist. “Give the people a voice in filling this vacancy,” he insisted.
The people of Alabama have spoken. If McConnell forces the tax vote without letting Jones represent them, it will be the clearest sign yet that McConnell changes the rules to suit his political needs.