Republicans are rushing to overhaul the American tax system — and Democrat Doug Jones’ projected Senate win in deep-red Alabama will only make the push more urgent.
Jones, a 63-year-old former federal prosecutor, has apparently beaten Republican Roy Moore, the scandal-plagued former chief justice of the Alabama’s Supreme Court, according to NBC News. A victory makes him the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in the Republican stronghold since 1992.
A Jones victory has immediate implications for the tax bill working its way through Congress. Republicans are banking on promoting tax cuts as a major policy achievement ahead of next year’s midterm elections.
Now, the GOP goal of getting a tax proposal to President Donald Trump‘s desk before Christmas becomes more important. As Jones likely will not take office until next month, Republican leaders can still lose support from two GOP senators during a planned vote next week and pass the tax bill.
If the push to pass a tax overhaul drags into the new year, Republicans face new problems.
A Jones win knocks the Republican Senate majority down to a razor-thin 51 seats from an already narrow 52-vote majority.The GOP is currently using special budget rules that require only a simple majority vote in the Senate to push through its tax plan. Republicans can lose two votes and still pass a bill with a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence.
While Jones is expected to be a centrist in the Senate, he has signaled that he would not support the GOP tax plan.
“What I have said all along is that I am troubled by tax breaks for the wealthy, which seem to be, in this bill, overloaded,” Jones said about the tax proposal last month, according to Politifact. “I’m troubled by what appears to be, ultimately, tax increases or no tax cuts for the middle class.”
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., already opposes the tax reform plan. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, may also decide to vote against it once she sees a final deal between House and Senate negotiators.
If both decide to oppose it once Jones is seated, their opposition would sink the plan.
It will take the state of Alabama at least until Dec. 27 to certify the election results, according to the Alabama secretary of state’s office. Jones most likely would not be sworn in until January.
Republican leaders still expect to approve the tax proposal next week.