ABC - Politics News
Subscribe To This Feed

Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) --  In what administration officials billed as a "closing argument" on tax reform, President Donald Trump used a speech in the grand foyer of the White House Wednesday to amplify voices of Americans he claims will directly benefit from the Senate and House Republican tax reform agreement announced earlier in the day.

Touting his party's tax reform goals, Trump pledged he would "never let bad things happen with respect to the economy of our country," and called upon multiple guests in attendance to personally plea for Congress to push through the tax reform plan — a tactic reminiscent of the events President Barack Obama employed in his public relations campaign to pass the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

Trump also used the announcement to broadcast what he termed "breaking news," saying he had confirmed exactly when Americans would start to feel the effects of the tax bill.

“I'm excited to announce that if Congress sends me a bill before Christmas, the IRS, this is just out. This is breaking news. The IRS has just confirmed that America will see lower taxes and bigger paychecks beginning in February. Just two short months from now,” he said.

The White House says it comes down to lower withholding rates by the IRS, which are set to take effect in February if the GOP passes its tax bill on schedule.

"The IRS will have to readjust their withholding tables in light of the tax cuts so that less is withheld from each paycheck. The new withholding will take effect in February," a White House official said.

The IRS has said it will issue a statement on the issue but has yet to do so. It has not responded to multiple requests from ABC News for comment.

While the president is touting the benefits of the plan, some details of the emerging plan — including the number of tax brackets — have yet to be finalized.

Congressional sources confirm to ABC News that the tax bill will include a repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate. The repeal was originally included in the Senate bill but not the House version.

Republican negotiators from the House and Senate working to merge the two chambers' tax bills into one have reached an agreement "in principle," according to two senior congressional sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The sources could not offer specifics about the agreement. One source cautioned that while the outlook is positive the ink is not yet dry on the deal.

Details of the compromise tax bill are starting to come into focus. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and a second GOP source familiar with the negotiations confirmed to ABC News that the following has been agreed upon:

— 21 percent corporate rate (up from 20 percent, but lower than the current 35 percent) — 37 percent top individual tax rate down from 39.6 percent — $750,000 cap for mortgage interest (up from the House bill's proposal of $500,000)

Top congressional Republicans working on the tax bill met with Trump for lunch at the White House earlier on Wednesday.

The tax overhaul process has moved at a breakneck pace as Republicans try to pass a massive tax cut for businesses and many American families before Christmas and the end of the year. Many lawmakers and their staffs have been scrambling to digest drafts of the bill and what it means for everyday Americans.

An agreement between the House and Senate would set the stage for votes on the tax bill early next week.

Sources said the preliminary plan is for the Senate to vote first — likely Monday — followed by the House with a goal of having the president sign the measure into law by Wednesday.

There is still much work to be done. The negotiators still need to complete the drafting process, including finalizing the legislative text and working with the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) to secure a final score on the bill's cost.

They expect to release a final conference report with full details by the end of the week, one source said.

The president expressed his hope the plan would pass quickly.

"I mean, we are so close right now, so close, in fact, almost I don't want to talk about it," Trump said. "Maybe we shouldn't talk about it. The cynical voices that opposed tax cuts grow smaller and weaker. And the American people grow stronger."

He further used the speech at the White House to insert some political jabs against Democrats, claiming they actually "like" the tax plan "a lot" but refuse to support it for partisan reasons. Trump offered no evidence to support the claim, however.

"We'll have very little Democrat support, probably none," he said. "And that's purely for political reasons. They like it a lot. And they can't say it. They don't like what's happening. But they can't say it. Someday we have to come together and do bipartisan. And hopefully, it can happen soon."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) --  Though Republican Roy Moore was defeated in Alabama's special election Tuesday, one GOP senator still worries that the embattled candidate has done damage to the party.

Asked by ABC News Chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl if Moore has left a "permanent" stain on the party, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake said, "I hope it's not permanent, but it will be lasting."

Karl noted that the president was all-in when it came to supporting Moore and that the Republican National Committee financially backed him as well, weeks after cutting ties with the candidate because of sexual misconduct allegations. Moore has denied the allegations against him.

"That will be used by the Democrats. If we were the Democrats, we'd do it too," Flake said.

Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney, became the first Democrat to win an Alabama Senate race in 25 years.

Flake took to Twitter to react to Jones’ victory Tuesday night, tweeting just two words, “Decency wins.”

Asked by Karl to elaborate on his tweet, Flake said, "We didn't want Roy Moore here in the Senate ... we have enough challenges as Republicans without being the party of Roy Moore. That would've been very difficult in the midterm elections and just to function as a party."

Flake was highly critical of Moore and even wrote a $100 check to Jones’ campaign. "Country over Party," Flake wrote in the memo line of the check.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Stephanie Keith/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Nikki Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, is set to lay out Thursday what the Trump administration claims is "irrefutable evidence that Iran has deliberately violated its international obligations and has tried and failed to cover up these violations," her office said in a statement Wednesday.

The announcement will come as the U.N. presents a report Wednesday on the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the Iran nuclear agreement, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The resolution calls on Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles for eight years as well.

It remains to be seen whether the Trump administration will seek to punish Iran for the alleged "violations," but Haley's announcement comes a month before the Jan. 13 deadline by when President Donald Trump must again certify whether or not Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal, which was negotiated under the Obama administration, and also decide whether to extend a waiver on sanctions.

On Oct. 13, Trump announced a decision not to certify Iran’s compliance, stating, “We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more chaos, the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout.”

“In the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated,” the president warned at the time. “It is under continuous review, and our participation can be canceled by me, as president, at any time.”

Trump’s announcement triggered a 60-day period for Congress to decide whether to re-impose sanctions that were lifted under the deal. That period ended Tuesday with Congress deciding not to act.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) --   President Trump has not yet publicly cast blame for Roy Moore's defeat for Senate in deep red Alabama, but inside the White House, his team is sharply divided and pointing fingers.  The top two targets: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.

"Just look at his negatives and how that has had an impact,” one White House official said of McConnell, referring to the impression that conservative, anti-establishment Republican voters in the Deep South have of the Senate leader and Washington politicians generally.

The official also said that the loss exposes a vulnerability for Republicans and the White House going into the midterm elections.

One source close to the president derided McConnell’s “cracker jack political operation" and another faulted McConnell for “miscalculating” the Alabama race. Trump carried the state by 28 points in 2016.

McConnell supported Moore's rival, Luther Strange, in the GOP primary (as did Trump) and distanced himself from Moore during the general election campaign.

But other Trump aides have said privately the loss for Moore -- whom Trump recently endorsed and campaigned for -- is mostly an indictment of Bannon and his political philosophy.

One senior official put the blame squarely on Bannon, who stumped for Moore, saying “we never should have gotten involved and we didn’t need to.” The official acknowledged the president was leaning toward supporting Moore, but Bannon, who was forced out of the White House in August, was key in urging him to do so. Others in the White House were counseling him to remain on the sidelines.

“Hopefully this has taught him [the President] a lesson, that Steve is full of s---” another West Wing official said, referring to Bannon.

“Obviously the political shop has to bear a lot of blame of miscalculating this race,” another White House official conceded, referring to the in-house political arm of the White House, which Bannon used to lead.

Moore's loss "shows that there's no political mastermind in the White House" any longer, one source said.

The multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against Moore, which he has vehemently denied, have also been cited in the West Wing as a significant factor in the outcome. It was “obviously the allegations” that sealed Moore’s fate, according to another White House official.

According to exit poll data compiled by ABC News, 51 percent thought the allegations against Moore were probably or definitely true. Of those who believed Moore's accusers, 90 percent backed Jones.

Where does the president fall? It's not clear.

In a series of tweets Wednesday, Trump suggested that write-in votes were a "very big factor" in Moore's loss -- perhaps an indirect dig at Republicans like Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama and others who refused to support Moore and publicly pledged to write in another name.

According to the Alabama secretary of state's office, Jones led Moore by nearly 21,000 votes. There were nearly 23,000 write-in votes.

But so far, Trump is not signaling outrage at either McConnell or Bannon.

Sources say the president is frustrated and angry -- and resigned to a more difficult political environment for Republicans headed into the new year.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Stephen Maturen/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Lt. Gov. Tina Smith will head to Washington to temporary fill the Senate seat left vacant by Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, who resigned last week in the midst of sexual misconduct allegations and an ethics committee investigation.

“Though I never anticipated this moment, I’m resolved to do everything that I can to move Minnesota forward, and I will be a fierce advocate in the United States Senate for economic opportunity and fairness,” Smith said Wednesday from the Minnesota state Capitol.

“This is a difficult moment for us, but even now I am filled with optimism for Minnesota.”

Smith was appointed Wednesday by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton to serve a one-year term, ending in January 2019, until a special election in November 2018 to permanently fill Franken’s seat.

Smith said she intends to run in the special election, adding that it’s “up to Minnesotans to decide for themselves who they want to complete Sen. Franken’s term.”

Franken announced he would be stepping down last Thursday on the Senate floor after several women had accused him of groping them years before he was a Minnesota senator. Smith had thanked Franken Wednesday for his service in the U.S. Senate.

Franken applauded Smith's appointment in a statement. He has not set an official date to leave the Senate, but promised he will help with the transition process.

“She is a dedicated public servant who’s worked tirelessly on behalf of Minnesotans, and Gov. Dayton couldn't have made a better choice for this job. Her record of accomplishment as lieutenant governor demonstrates that she’ll be an effective senator who knows how to work across party lines to get things done for Minnesota. I look forward to working with her on ensuring a speedy and seamless transition," his statement read.

The timing of Franken’s resignation allowed Dayton, a Democrat, to appoint a replacement.

Minnesota state law stipulates that in the event of a vacancy in the U.S. Senate, a special election "shall be held at the next November election if the vacancy occurs at least 11 weeks before the regular state primary preceding that election."

Dayton said that, in making his decision, he wanted an appointee who would run in the special election, giving "Minnesotans someone to size up and assess."

Because Franken resigned 35 weeks out from the regular state primary -- Aug. 14, 2018 -- the governor "may make a temporary appointment to fill any vacancy" until a permanent successor is elected and sworn in, according to state law.

During his speech last week, Franken had appeared to hint that his replacement might be a woman.

“But Minnesotans deserve a senator who can focus with all her energy on addressing the challenges they face every day,” Franken said.

Asked if President Donald Trump should resign since he faces sexual harassment allegations or a congressional investigation, Smith said she plans on remaining focused on the job at hand.

"I'm going to be focused completely over the next couple of weeks on getting ready to become a senator and moving into Washington, D.C., the first of January. And I'm not going to get into a bunch of the discussion about what's going in Washington right now," Smith said.

But she added that "sexual harassment is disrespectful" and "can't be tolerated."

Smith was first elected lieutenant governor in 2014. She had previously served as Dayton’s chief of staff before being tapped to be his running mate in his second campaign for governor.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Zach Gibson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein offered a strong defense of Robert Mueller's appointment and actions as special counsel on Wednesday and further praised the FBI, even as the bureau has been criticized by President Donald Trump in recent weeks.

Appearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Rosenstein, who serves as acting attorney general in matters related to last year's presidential election given Attorney General Jeff Sessions' recusal in such cases, said Mueller was an "ideal choice" for the position and pushed back on the suggestion that investigators on the Russia probe have acted with bias.

Rosenstein said it would be "very difficult" for "anybody to find somebody better qualified for this job.

"Director Mueller has, throughout his lifetime, been a dedicated and respected and heroic public servant," he said.

Mueller is a Republican who was appointed as special counsel by a Trump nominee.

In August, FBI investigator Peter Strzok was removed from the Russia inquiry, later revealed to be due to his participation in text message conversations critical of Trump with a colleague. ABC News reported Tuesday evening that the texts included messages that the president -- still a candidate at the time of the exchanges -- was "an idiot."

Rosenstein addressed concerns from congressmen on Wednesday that political affiliation could have an impact on the impartiality of the investigation.

"I think it’s important to recognize that when we talk about political affiliation… the issue of bias is something different," he said, adding that he and Mueller "recognize we have employees with political opinions. It’s our responsibility to make sure those opinions do not influence their actions."

The deputy attorney general continued by saying that he believes Mueller is leading his office "appropriately."

Appearing to seize upon the news of Strzok's messages earlier this month, Trump commented via Twitter that he believed the FBI's reputation was "in tatters" and the "worst in History," a notion Rosenstein refuted.

"I’ve expressed concern with certain aspects of certain things done by the FBI, but in general throughout my experience working with FBI agents over the decades, I found them to be an exceptional group of public servant -- very loyal, faithful and dedicated. And I believe some of the finest people that I know are agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation," he said in response to committee questioning on the matter.

As for some legislators' ongoing concerns that Trump would order Rosenstein to dismiss Mueller in an attempt to end the Russia investigation, the deputy attorney general said no such suggestion has been raised.

"Nobody has communicated to me a desire to remove Robert Mueller," he said Wednesday.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- New York's junior senator said women are standing up to sexual harassment and assault, and "are not going to be silenced," while doubling down on her claim that the president's attack against her was "a sexist smear."

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said she interpreted President Donald Trump's attack that she "would do anything" for campaign donations as a sexual innuendo.

"Well, certainly that's how I and many people read it," she said in an interview Wednesday on NBC's Today Show.

Gillibrand said she believes the president was attempting to discredit her through the innuendo in an effort to stifle her voice.

On Tuesday, Trump criticized Gillibrand after she called for his resignation amid sexual harassment and assault allegations made against him by multiple women. Trump has called the accusations "false" and "fabricated."

"Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office 'begging' for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!" Trump tweeted.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders disputed the idea that the president's tweet was sexist or a sexual reference, saying, "Only if your mind is in the gutter would you have read it that way."

On Wednesday, Gillibrand strongly disagreed with the notion that people who interpreted Trump's tweet as sexual in nature had their mind in the gutter.

The New York Democrat also reiterated her assertion that Trump should step down from office. She said that if he's unwilling, then "Congress should do an investigation, because we need accountability."

"I have heard the testimony of many women, numerous accusers," she said. "I believe them, and he should resign for that."

She also pointed to Democrat Doug Jones' victory over Republican Roy Moore, who has denied accusations of sexual misconduct, in last night's special election as a testament that women will not be kept quiet.

"As we just saw in Alabama, women are not going to be silenced," Gillibrand said. "African-American women are not going to be silenced, and they came out in numbers."

"[Trump has] often berated women and made them feel that they cannot be heard as well," she said. "And what I'm seeing today and what this election of Doug Jones is about is a statement by particularly women -- African-American women -- and the African-American community, coming out and saying we are going to vote our values."

So far, five Democratic senators, including Gillibrand, and one independent who caucuses with the Democratic Party, have called on Trump to resign, and more than 100 House Democrats have joined a letter to the leaders of the House Oversight Committee calling for an investigation into the allegations against Trump.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Pete Marovich/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Environmental Protection Agency inspector general will review whether Administrator Scott Pruitt misused any appropriated funds when he had a $25,000 "privacy booth" with a secure phone line installed in his office earlier this year, according to a letter to Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The inspector general's letter in response to a request from Democrats on the committee was sent last week but posted by the Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats on Twitter Tuesday.

The EPA has called the booth a "SCIF," or a sensitive compartmented information facility, and said Pruitt needs the secure line to make calls about classified information and communicate with the president. But he said it's difficult to estimate how often he will need it when he was asked about it while testifying during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing last week.

"The use of a secure phone line is strongly preferred for cabinet-level officials, especially when discussing sensitive matters," EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said in an email Wednesday, adding that they don't comment on matters involving the inspector general.

But Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins also wrote that he won't be able to start the inquiry right away because the Office of Inspector General (OIG) doesn't have enough resources to keep up with all the investigations and other legally required duties such as a semiannual report to Congress.

"The fact is that the OIG has been funded at less than the levels we deem adequate to do all the work that should be done, and therefore we have to make difficult decisions about whether to accept any given potential undertaking," Elkins wrote in the letter.

Each federal agency has an inspector general that serves as a watchdog to investigate complaints about potential fraud, waste or abuse of agency funds. The EPA's inspector general began looking into complaints about the administrator's travel in August, which attracted scrutiny after reports that at least three cabinet secretaries took private flights that ultimately led then-Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to resign.

That inquiry is looking into whether the administrator misused any money or violated any policies in the course of his official travel, specifically in regards to at least one chartered flight and multiple government flights that cost more than $58,000, according to information the agency provided to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in September.

It will also look into whether Pruitt followed the proper procedures when traveling back to his home state of Oklahoma after complaints that he went there too frequently in the first few months of his time as administrator.

The inspector general's office also recently announced it would look into whether any rules were broken before the announcement that the U.S. would leave the Paris climate agreement, specifically when Pruitt met with the American Mining Association in April.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

ABC(NEW YORK) -- Former Vice President Joe Biden shared an emotional moment with co-host Meghan McCain on The View Wednesday morning as they discussed her father's brain cancer diagnosis.

"We're like two brothers who were somehow raised by different fathers or something," Biden said of Sen. John McCain, who was diagnosed with the same kind of brain cancer that killed Biden's son, Beau.

Biden moved to sit next to Meghan McCain, saying that her father is seeing one of the doctors his son consulted after being diagnosed with glioblastoma.

Meghan McCain and Biden held hands and both started tearing up when the former vice president talked about the hope that his son kept alive even after getting "this devastating diagnosis like your dad."

Biden added that Beau, who died in 2015, said "we're not going to talk about percentages" after receiving the diagnosis.

"Beau is missing, but we've all decided to not talk about the loss as much as the inspiration he was to all of us," Biden said.

Speaking about the continued speculation about his own future, Biden didn't give a concrete answer about whether he will run for president again in 2020, saying that time will tell.

"If I were offered the nomination by the Lord Almighty today, I would say 'no' because we're not ready. The family's not ready," Biden said, but added that if he were asked next year, "I may very well do it."

Earlier in the interview, Biden also shared his excitement about his former colleague Doug Jones' special election win in Alabama.

"This is not just about rejecting Trump -- which was real -- but it's about Doug Jones," Biden said.

Biden, who campaigned on behalf of Jones, said Jones' victory was not only "a repudiation of President Trump's tactics," adding that some people in Alabama might be "a little ashamed" of those tactics.

Biden said he believes "it wasn't just his opponent's record" that drew people to the polls to vote for Jones on Tuesday night. He was referencing Jones' opponent, Republican Roy Moore, who had come under fire in recent weeks for alleged sexual misconduct, as well as comments he had made about slavery.

Biden praised Jones' character.

"This guy is a very serious guy," Biden said of Jones. "He is real. His dad was a steelworker. He understands how to talk to the middle class."

"I just think I'd rather focus on the positive side of Doug Jones than the ugly side of that side," Biden said.

Speaking about what he saw as some of the ugliness of politics, Biden called Trump's tweet about Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Tuesday "disgusting."

Trump had tweeted that Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who has called for his resignation, "would do anything" for campaign contributions. Gillibrand called the president's remarks "a sexist smear." During the signing of the National Defense Authorization Act on Tuesday, Trump ignored a reporter’s question about what he meant by the tweet.

Biden said that even if Trump's claim that he speaks about men the same way he speaks about women is true, Biden balked at "the idea that the president is so tone-deaf" as to apply that language to a female politician.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- 

Omarosa Manigault, the firebrand antagonist from the “The Apprentice”-turned-top Trump administration staffer, officially resigned her post Tuesday as the White House's communications director for the Office of the Public Liaison.

According to the White House, Manigault will stay on until Jan. 20.

This marks the departure of one of Trump's most prominent supporters and team members, a rare minority on his senior staff and often the only person of color at White House meetings.

"Omarosa Manigault Newman resigned yesterday to pursue other opportunities. Her departure will not be effective until Jan. 20, 2018. We wish her the best in future endeavors and are grateful for her service," a White House official said in a statement.

As it has been with many recent departures from the Trump administration, there are conflicting narratives from sources inside the White House about whether Manigault was forced out or if she resigned of her own accord.

A source with knowledge of her thinking told ABC News that Manigault had been bothered by the president's highly controversial and racially charged reaction to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and suggested the decision to leave was hers.

Other sources in the White House claim she was fired. One source close to the White House told ABC News the effort to remove her was led and personally executed by Chief of Staff John Kelly. A former administration official described Manigault as Kelly's "target No. 1."

Asked about reports that Manigault was forcibly removed from the White House grounds, a source with knowledge of the situation would only say, "like everything with Omarosa, there was drama."

Multiple sources told ABC News that Manigault's departure had been a long time coming and that Kelly's decision to limit access to the president was a source of tension for her.

Kelly ended what was initially an "open door policy" for aides' access to the Oval Office, tightened up meetings and prevented the uninvited from popping in -- a habit, sources say, that was best exhibited by Manigault.

During the campaign, Manigault served as the liaison for Trump to the African-American community -- an unofficial role she has continued in the administration as she set up meetings with black colleges and universities, and also oversaw the president’s visit to the Smithsonian’s African American museum. Manigault was also just one of a handful of minorities within the current west wing staff.

It's possible she will be best remembered, as one former administration official described it, for the moment she showed up unannounced at the White House wearing her wedding dress "with a party van full of her wedding guests" looking to take photos inside. "She was one disaster after another," this former official told ABC News today.

She was barred from posting any of the photos online.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Democrats are already hailing Doug Jones’ victory as a moral triumph -- not just for Alabama, but for the entire country.

His election is a political shot in the arm for Democrats who believed this ruby-red seat was unattainable, a referendum on Roy Moore -- who faced multiple accusations of sexual misconduct towards the end of the race -- and on President Donald Trump’s outright endorsement of Moore.

But while his election has powerful political repercussions, Jones becoming the 49th Senate Democrat will likely have only a modest impact on Republicans’ ability to accomplish their legislative goals, although his joining the Senate ranks will be a strong catalyst for Republicans to finish their major agenda items before he is sworn in.

The biggest difference that Jones can make, in terms of Senate votes, is on bills and nominations requiring only a simple majority of 51 votes, such as budget-related measures and judicial nominees.

On taxes, Jones’ victory could vex Republicans’ whip count if he is in fact sworn in before Congress sends their bill to President Trump’s desk. Jones is expected to be sworn in by Dec. 27 at the earliest, but party leaders insist they will have the bill done by Christmas.

But if they fail to advance the bill before Jones is seated, Republicans would only be able to lose one of their remaining 51 votes in the Senate and still pass the bill on a party-line vote, with Vice President Mike Pence acting as a tie-breaker.

House and Senate Republicans are working in what’s known as a conference committee to merge their respective versions of the tax bill into a conference report together, and Senate leaders have said they’ll have a final version ready for votes by the end of this week.

But Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., already voted against Senate’s initial version of the bill. So in the event that he is still a "no" vote and Jones is sworn in before the conference report gets voted out of Congress, Senate leaders will no longer have any margin at all for losing additional Republicans.

Beyond the tax bill, most of the Senate’s major legislative pushes will require a supermajority, so Republicans will need to get nine Democratic “yes” votes in order to advance most bills instead of eight. Jones has political views in keeping with those of the mainstream of his party.

While Senate Democrats will no doubt relish the additional vote they have with Jones -- not to mention the political and moral messages his victory sends -- their bigger challenge will come in 2018, when 23 Democrats and two independents who caucus with Democrats are up for re-election and Republicans are defending only 10 seats.

“The '18 election will decide who will control the Senate, and I think it’s going to be us. I hope so,” Sen. Richard Shelby, Jones’ future fellow Alabama senator, told reporters hours before the vote.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(BIRMINGHAM, Ala.) -- Alabama's senatorial runoff day not only marked the first time a Democrat has won a Senate seat in Alabama in 25 years.

It also marked a major introduction for Doug Jones.

Jones' campaign for senator was often overshadowed by the bluster of, and litany of accusations against, his opponent, Roy Moore.

He stepped out on the national stage on Tuesday evening with a hard-fought victory, looking to leave an impression, and left the stage -- yes, honestly -- to the tune of "Teach Me How to Dougie."

Here's what you need to know about the Alabama senator-elect:

Legal background

Prior to stepping into the national spotlight in this special-election Senate race, Jones spent most of his career working on the state level.

He has worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in Birmingham, Alabama, and was appointed to the role as a U.S. attorney by then-President Bill Clinton in 1997.

On his campaign website, Jones notes that while he was appointed by a Democratic president, he was confirmed by a majority-Republican Senate.

Jones left the U.S. attorney's office in 2001 and worked in a private practice.

He entered himself into the Senate special-election race in May, vying for the seat left open when Jeff Sessions was appointed as attorney general in President Trump's cabinet.

High-profile cases

During the campaign, Jones pointed to some of the biggest legal cases that he was involved with through the years.

One was a 1963 church bombing that left four black teenage girls dead and two Ku Klux Klan members free for more than two decades after the crime.

One suspect in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing was put on trial and convicted in 1977, but it wasn't until 20 years later that the case against two other suspects -- Thomas Blanton and Bobby Cherry -- was reopened shortly after Jones was appointed as U.S. attorney. Blanton was convicted in 2001, and Cherry was found guilty a year later.

Jones was also involved in the prosecution of Eric Rudolph, whose 1998 attack on a Birmingham abortion clinic killed an off-duty police officer. Rudolph was convicted in 2005, after Jones left office.

Historic win

Alabama has not elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since Sen. Richard Shelby was re-elected in 1992. He switched his affiliation to the GOP in 1994 and still holds that seat.

After Moore’s victory over former Republican primary nominee Luther Strange, the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and other Democratic groups sent out statements in support of Jones, signaling more national support heading his way.

“Doug Jones is a man of character and integrity who is unafraid to stand up for what’s right and has a proven record of independence that will serve Alabama families in the U.S. Senate,” DSCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen wrote in a statement Tuesday night.

“Doug subscribes to the founders’ immortal declaration that all men and women are created equal and, as such, he has always put people over party,” the DNC statement read. “And he’ll bring that same integrity and tenacity to Washington when Alabamians elect him to serve as their next senator in December’s special election.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(BIRMINGHAM, Ala.) -- Negative perceptions among voters over the sexual misconduct allegations against Republican Roy Moore handed the Democrats a rare victory in deep-red Alabama, with broad gender and racial gaps and vast shifts among typically pro-GOP groups in the state, including independents, moderates and non-evangelical whites.

On the central issue of the election, 51 percent of voters said the allegations against Moore were definitely or probably true, vs. 44 percent who saw them as definitely or probably false. Those who believed Moore’s accusers backed Jones by 90-8 percent.

Among key groups, Democrat Doug Jones led Moore by 17 percentage points among women in exit poll results, 58-41 percent, a sharp shift from 12- and 21-point Republican margins among women in the 2012 presidential and 2008 Senate elections in the state, the last two races in which exit polls were conducted.

Jones’ support from women was concentrated, in particular, among women with children under 18 at home, who backed him by 66-32 percent. The Moore controversy involved his alleged advances toward young and underage women.

Jones won 31 percent of whites, double Barack Obama’s share in 2012 and nearly triple the Democratic share in the 2008 Senate race. College-educated white women and non-evangelical whites swung very sharply toward the Democrat. Blacks, a nearly unanimous group for Jones, accounted for 28 percent of voters, in line with their past turnout despite a more restrictive voter ID law enacted in 2014.

One big shift came among political independents. Twenty-one percent of voters, they favored Jones by 9 points, after voting Republican by an overwhelming 52-point margin in 2012 and by 45 points in 2008.

The result came in a state that’s about as solidly Republican as they come. Now-President Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 28 points here last year, the largest margin of victory in a presidential contest in the state since 1972 and Trump’s fifth biggest win -- after Wyoming, West Virginia, Oklahoma and North Dakota. Republican Sen. Richard Shelby won re-election also by 28 points last year, and then-Sen. Jeff Sessions beat the Democrat by 27 points in 2008. (Sessions was unopposed in 2014.)

Trump, who controversially endorsed Moore, managed only a 48-47 percent approval-disapproval rating among Alabama voters. Those who “strongly” disapprove of the president’s work in office, moreover, outnumbered strong approvers by 7 points, 40 to 33 percent.

Jones won even as Republicans outnumbered Democrats by 6 points, 43 to 37 percent. Reflecting the party’s built-in advantage in Alabama, more voters said they wanted the Republican Party to be in control of the Senate than the Democratic Party, 50-44 percent. At the same time, neither party is held in high regard: Forty-six percent saw the Democratic Party favorably, while 44 percent said the same about the GOP.

Among other factors, Jones scored on enthusiasm. Seventy-five percent of his voters said they strongly favored their candidate, compared with 55 percent of Moore’s voters. Indeed, 56 percent of voters saw Moore unfavorably overall. Jones did better, but not well; 48 percent saw him unfavorably.

Moore relied on traditional, core GOP groups in the state: conservatives, Republicans, white evangelicals, men, non-college whites and older voters. White evangelicals accounted for 44 percent of voters, compared with 47 percent in the 2012 presidential and 2008 Senate elections alike. Additionally, 53 percent of voters said abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. Moore is strongly anti-abortion, while Jones generally supports legal abortion.

Helpfully to Moore -- albeit insufficient -- voters under age 30 saw their share of the electorate fall to 13 percent, down from 18 percent in 2012 and 22 percent in 2008. They backed Jones by 60-38 percent.

Jones' win relied on support from women, independents, liberal, moderates, blacks, non-evangelical whites, white college graduates, younger voters, and residents of Birmingham and the surrounding south central region.

Much fewer than half of voters, 41 percent, said the allegations against Moore were at least one of several important factors in their vote. Of the rest, 19 percent called the controversy a minor factor and 35 percent said it was not a factor at all. That adds to 60 percent calling the controversy a factor, if even a minor one -- and they voted for Jones by 68-31 percent, enough to lift him to his improbable victory.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(BIRMINGHAM, Ala.) -- Doug Jones made history on Tuesday as the first Democrat to be voted into Senate from reliably red Alabama in more than two decades. But Jones called the day a historic one for another reason: It was also his 25th wedding anniversary.

“I have said throughout this campaign that I thought that Dec. 12 would be an historic day,” Jones said during his victory speech Tuesday night. “But I gotta tell you -- and you know where I’m headed -- Dec. 12 has always been an historic day for the Jones family.”

“This is, as you know, mine and Louise’s 25th wedding anniversary. My running mate, my partner. I could not have done this without her,” he added as he reached out to kiss his smiling wife.

Jones went on to thank her for her “love,” “support” and “encouragement” over the years.

“This has been a wonderful night,” he said. “I am truly overwhelmed."

“We have shown not just around the state of Alabama, but we have shown the country the way that we can be unified,” Jones added.

Jones, a former U.S. attorney, is projected by ABC News to have defeated Republican Roy Moore in a closely watched special election that gained national attention when several women accused Moore of sexual misconduct toward them. Moore, a former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice, denied those claims throughout the race.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting as of midnight Wednesday, Jones led Moore 49.9 to 48.4 percent, a difference of just under 21,000 votes.

Moore, however, refused to concede defeat late Tuesday, telling supporters that “it's not over.”

Jones is set to take over the seat left vacant by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. His term would expire in January 2021.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Doug Jones, a Democratic former U.S. attorney whose long-shot candidacy was bolstered by a wave of sexual misconduct accusations against his opponent Roy Moore, will win the special election to become Alabama's junior U.S. senator, ABC News can project, based on its analysis of the vote.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting as of 12:00 a.m. ET Wednesday, Jones led Moore by a 49.9-48.4 percent margin, a difference of just under 21,000 votes. Slightly more than 22,000 voters cast write-in ballots.

Jones' victory is the first by a Democrat in an Alabama Senate race in 25 years and a powerful rebuke to both the Republican Party, which sees its majority in the Senate cut to a single legislator; and President Donald Trump, who supported two consecutive losing candidates in the race to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions' former seat.

The outcome is also the latest showcase of strength in the ongoing movement of backlash against alleged sexual harassers and assaulters. Starting in early November, Moore faced accusations from eight women that he engaged in sexual misconduct, including that he initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl in 1979 when he was 32.

Moore denied all of the claims and steadfastly remained in the race, even as members of his own party called for him to drop out and pledged to initiate his expulsion from the Senate if he were to win. As a result, Jones' campaign received the shot in the arm that resulted in a Democrat capturing one of the state's Senate seats for the first time since Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala. -- then a Democrat -- first won election in 1992.

Jones portrayed his win Tuesday evening as a sign to the rest of the country, saying during his victory speech that Alabama showed the U.S. that "we can be unified." He further praised the state for reversing course after a history of what he described as poor decisions.

"Alabama has been at a crossroads. We've been at a crossroads in the past, and we've usually taken the wrong fork," Jones said. "Tonight, ladies and gentleman, you took the right road."

Calling it his "lifelong dream" to serve in the Senate, Jones further expressed pride at running a campaign he said was about "dignity and respect" and "common courtesy and decency."

Speaking just after 11:30 p.m. ET, Moore refused to concede, raising the possibility of a recount and saying that he would "wait on God and let this process play out."

"It's not over," said Moore.

Prior to the accusations of sexual misconduct, Moore had already earned a long-standing reputation as a fierce defender of Christianity in the public sphere. His two stints as chief justice ended when he was removed from office for refusing to displace a Ten Commandments monument from the lobby of the Alabama Judicial Building and over a decade later when he resigned after he was suspended for ordering state judges to uphold a ban on same-sex marriages.

The Senate race has created a wedge between many prominent Republicans on Capitol Hill, who have maintained that Moore should step aside, and Trump, who endorsed Moore.

While he did not campaign in Alabama, Trump urged voters to support Moore at a weekend rally in Pensacola, Florida, roughly 20 miles from the Alabama state line and close enough to be seen in the Alabama media market.

The president also recorded a robocall over the weekend urging Alabama voters to back Moore.

"Roy Moore is the guy we need to pass our 'Make America Great Again' agenda," Trump said on the call, adding, "Roy is a conservative who will help me steer this country back on track after eight years of the Obama disaster. Get out and vote for Roy Moore."

Trump also argued that Moore has consistently denied the allegations as part of his rationale for endorsing him.

After a number of news organizations projected Jones the winner Tuesday evening, Trump tweeted his congratulations to the Democrat, but pledged the GOP would keep the senator-elect's seat in its sights.

"Congratulations to Doug Jones on a hard-fought victory. The write-in votes played a very big factor, but a win is a win. The people of Alabama are great, and the Republicans will have another shot at this seat in a very short period of time. It never ends!"

National Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called on Moore to step aside in the wake of the sexual misconduct accusations, but Moore remained defiant. Republican senators, from Jeff Flake of Arizona to Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, expressed views that Moore is not fit to serve, and Flake went so far as to donate $100 to the Jones campaign.

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said prior to the vote that even if Moore should win the election, he should be expelled from the United States Senate.

Shelby, Alabama's senior senator, was particularly outspoken about not backing Moore.

"I wouldn't vote for Roy Moore. I think the Republican Party can do better," Shelby said Sunday on CNN.

But despite the allegations and widespread backlash against Moore, Jones faced an uphill battle in a state that Trump won by over 20 points in 2016.

Moore strongly embraced the president and painted Jones, who was appointed as a U.S. attorney by Bill Clinton in 1997, as too liberal on issues such as illegal immigration, abortion and same-sex marriage.

Jones, in turn, pitched himself as a politician who would reach across party lines, and ran a campaign focused on turning out African-American voters and Alabama Republicans skeptical of the former chief justice both before and after the allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced.

This past weekend, Jones campaigned across the state with numerous high-profile African-American politicians, including Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Alabama's only Democrat in the House, Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala.

Jones further saved his fiercest attacks on Moore for the final weeks of the campaign.

“I damn sure believe that I have done my part to ensure that men who hurt little girls should go to jail and not the U.S. Senate," Jones said at a campaign rally in Birmingham last week.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Find Us On Facebook