Jones, a Democrat, faced off Tuesday against Roy Moore, a Republican, in a special election for the seat vacated when Jeff Sessions left the Senate to become President Donald Trump’s attorney general.
At press time, the website of Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill showed Jones had 49.92% of the vote and Moore had 48.38% of the vote. Moore had not yet conceded and said he would press for a recount. Merrill said he hoped to certify the results by Jan. 3.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he expects to seat the winner of the Alabama special election in January, after Alabama certifies the results, and after the Senate returns from its Christmas holiday.
Assuming that Jones does win the election, the Senate could end up with just 51 Republicans, and 49 senators who either are Democrats or who caucus with the Democrats.
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Democrats now have no ability to get their own legislation through Congress. They can keep any ordinary bill from getting through the Senate, because, under Senate rules, those bills need 60 votes to reach the Senate floor.
Democrats can also block special “budget reconciliation” bills, which can reach the Senate floor with support from just 50 senators, and a tie-breaker vote from Vice President Mike Pence, if they can persuade three Republicans to vote with the Democrats. If Jones enters the Senate, Democrats can keep Republican legislation from reaching the Senate floor by persuading just two Republicans to “cross the aisle.”
In theory, Jones could pull some senators from both parties toward the center.
Jones, 63, has worked mainly as a federal prosecutor, and as a lawyer in private practice. While campaigning for the Senate, he tried to position himself as a moderate. He expressed strong support for federal fair pay laws, for example, and he also expressed support for the right to bear arms.
Jones’ apparent victory over Moore, in spite of the fact that Moore had support from Trump, and from former Trump aide Steve Bannon, could embolden Republicans like Susan Collins of Maine and John McCain of Arizona, who have been skeptical of some major Republican bills and eager to return to developing legislation through bipartisan efforts.
If Jones ends up leaning toward the relatively moderate “Blue Dog Democrat” wing of the Democratic party, his presence could also embolden Joe Manchin of West Virginia and other Democratic senators who have been impatient with some the Democratic leaders’ positions.
Here’s a look at four ideas about how Jones’ presence in the Senate could affect issues of interest to insurance agents and brokers.
1. He could improve the odds for Affordable Care Act fixer bills.
While campaigning, Jones said he opposes efforts to repeal or weaken the Affordable Care Act.
But, on his campaign website, he acknowledged that the ACA system has faults.
“Reasonable people on both sides of the aisle know the law, which brought the level of uninsured Americans to a record low, needs improvement,” he said.
Jones also made a point of saying that he opposes the kind of government-run, single-payer system that Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, has proposed.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., have been trying to round up support for a temporary ACA stabilization bill. Jones could give the Alexander-Murray project a boost.
2. He could shore up support for the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, helped create CHIP, and many Republicans who are wary of other federal health programs have backed CHIP.
In recent weeks, however, during the heat of budget bill talks, some Republicans, including Hatch, have expressed concerns about how big CHIP has become.
Jones made support for CHIP funding a key part of his platform. Alabama voters’ endorsement of such a strong CHIP supporter could thaw some Senate Republicans’ feelings toward CHIP.
3. He could add some pension funding literacy to the Senate.
Jones & Hawley notes on its website that Jones has represented many institutional clients, in both civil and criminal matters. Some of those clients have been pension plans.
4. He could add some health care and long-term care literacy to the Senate.
Jones has represented both the plaintiffs and the defendants in litigation involving acute health care and chronic care organizations.
In the early 2000s, for example, he represented the investors in a shareholder suit against a big, Birmingham, Alabama-based outpatient rehabilitation hospital chain.
In 2016, he helped defend a Tennessee nursing home company against allegations that the company had submitted false claims to Medicare and to the Tennessee Medicaid program.
—Read Non-Medical Health Earnings: Aflac, Unum, Genworth, CNO on ThinkAdvisor.