Democrats draw Scott Brown-Doug Jones comparison; Republicans don't buy it

Democrats are crying foul at Republicans for planning to vote on the tax reform bill next week without waiting for th...

Posted: Dec 15, 2017 10:14 AM
Updated: Dec 15, 2017 10:14 AM

Democrats are crying foul at Republicans for planning to vote on the tax reform bill next week without waiting for the recently elected Democrat from Alabama, Doug Jones, to be sworn into the Senate.

They're invoking-the example of Republican Scott Brown's upset victory in the 2010 Massachusetts special election-to make their case.

Democrats see parallel between Sen. Scott Brown and Sen.-elect Doug Jones

Republicans say the comparison is apples to oranges

When Democrats were in power that year, then-Senate Minority Leader-Mitch McConnell -- with the-backing-of-then-Sen. Jim Webb, a centrist Virginia Democrat -- urged them-to wait until Brown-was seated before casting any-more-votes on the Affordable Care Act, which was awaiting-final action in the Senate.

"I think the majority's gotten the message, and no more gamesmanship here and no more lack of transparency," the Kentucky Republican said at the time. "Let's honor the wishes of the people of Massachusetts and move forward with policy, with our policy debates. We ought to stop and start over and go step by step to concentrate on fixing the problem."

Then-President Barack Obama agreed, as did, interestingly, then-businessman Donald Trump. -

Brown was seated on February 4, 2010, a little more than two weeks after the January 19 special election. The Senate ultimately didn't hold its final health care vote until late March.

Democrats, who are now in the minority,-are pointing to McConnell's nearly eight-year-old comments to argue that-Republicans should wait for Jones - who won in an upset victory in-the-Alabama special election - to be seated before the Senate votes on the tax reform bill.

But Republicans are moving full steam ahead, with no indication they will delay their long-planned goal to vote on the bill before Christmas.

"I don't think it will hold any water with Republicans," Sen. Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, told CNN when asked about the Democratic push to delay the tax reform vote. "We're going to move forward and get this done by the end of the year, so that we get it in effect."

Rounds said that if they can get it passed before Christmas, "there's a good possibility" that taxpayers could start seeing changes to their paychecks as early as February.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, pointed to Alabama law, which requires that Jones can't be seated until the election results are certified - a process that's expected to take a few weeks. Seating Jones any earlier to be a part of the tax reform vote would "disenfranchise military voters because their ballots won't even be counted until December 19th," he said.

"So under Alabama law, I don't think the new senator will be sworn in until the first part of next year," he said.

In other words, Republicans aren't going to wait.

Or as Sen. Richard Shelby, the senior senator from Alabama, put it: "The sooner, the better."

Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts had little hope that Republicans would wait, but he was quick to point out that-Republicans wanted Democrats to wait for Brown in 2010 and they did -- adding that Republicans "made the case very strongly."

"The United States Senate should have the person who reflects the voice of the people from that state, and right now Republicans are planning on jamming it through without giving that state an ability to have their voice, as of today, heard," he said, referring to Alabama.

But Republicans argue that the Brown-Jones comparison is apples and oranges, since the then-majority Democrats ultimately had plenty of votes to work with, rendering Brown's vote inconsequential.

That's because Democrats, who had a 59-41-majority after Brown was seated, ended up using a procedural-tool-to pass the final health care bill-with only 50 votes,-not the 60 often needed for major legislation.-Basically, Democrats could afford to have several of their members defect and still pass the bill.

Republicans, now in the majority, are using the same 50-vote tactic to pass tax reform, but they have a slimmer advantage, 52-48, than Democrats had in 2010. That means-they can afford to lose only two Republican votes and still pass the tax bill.

Waiting for Jones would narrow their margin to 51-49, meaning they could afford to lose only one Republican vote.-And as of now, at least three Republicans are already expressing serious concerns about the bill.

That means that for Republicans,-any delay - especially a delay to give Democrats another vote - could be an extremely risky political calculation.

McConnell told reporters definitively Tuesday that Republican Sen. Luther Strange -- the outgoing senator from Alabama, who will be replaced by Jones -- will serve until at least the end of the year.

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