Newly elected Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, in his most high-profile vote since taking office, was one of five Democratic senators to vote overnight with Republicans on a spending bill to avoid a government shutdown.
Jones’ election to the Senate last month marked the first time in 25 years that Alabama voters picked a Democratic senator.
The election results sparked much political speculation about whether Jones would vote with Republicans or fellow Democrats, considering that Alabama is one of the country’s most conservative-leaning states and gave President Trump more than 62 percent of its vote in 2016.
While Jones’ vote this weekend might suggest an intent to represent his electorate or win a 2020 re-election, he made clear from the start of his improbable special-election win that his top priority upon arriving on Capitol Hill would be to keep alive the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which the GOP spending bill did for several years.
“Because of CHIP and the many families in Alabama and around our country that would be put in jeopardy by a government shutdown, I felt compelled to vote yes,” Jones said in a statement posted on his Twitter account.
Jones won last month by less than 2 percentage points over Republican candidate Roy Moore, a conservative firebrand whose campaign was severely damaged in the closing months by allegations of sexual misconduct as a young man.
The Republican leaders of the GOP-controlled Senate failed overnight to get the 60 votes needed to move forward and pass a temporary spending bill to keep the government fully operational past Friday midnight.
Republicans have a 51-to-49 member majority in the Senate. The vote was 50-49.
Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain did not vote because he’s home recovering from cancer treatment.
The four other Senate Democrats who voted for the bill were Sens. John Donnelly of Indiana; Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota; Joe Manchin of West Virginia; and Claire McCaskill of Missouri.
All four are up for re-election this year in states that voted for Trump in 2016.
Jones, who has the seat left open after Republican Jeff Sessions became attorney general, is up for re-election in 2020.
In his victory speech last month, Jones effectively avoided any talk about how he’d vote in Congress but made clear that he won with bipartisan support. And he urged the GOP-controlled Congress to fund CHIP before he arrived in January.
The Alabama Republican Party was straightforward after Jones’ win about how it wanted him to vote.
“During this campaign, we heard Mr. Jones repeatedly say he would talk about ‘kitchen table issues’ and that he would ‘reach across the aisle’ to work with Republicans,” said party Chair Terry Lathan.
“While these issues weren’t discussed and no other Democratic Senator has worked with the Republicans, all eyes will be on his votes. Alabamians will watch the issues he will support or try to stop. We will hold him accountable for his votes.”
She also fired a warning shot at Jones — pointing out that essentially 60 percent of elected offices in Alabama are held by Republicans, which means “a strong slate” of candidates in upcoming elections.