This Wednesday, the United States Senate gained two new members: Senators Tina Smith and Doug Jones. Senator Tina Smith was selected to replace Al Franken (D-Minnesota), who was accused of sexual harassment. Franken resigned following calls from 32 of his democratic colleagues. Doug Jones was elected after the appointment of Jeff Sessions to be attorney general. He ran a tight campaign against Republican Roy Moore, who was accused of sexual assault of teens when he was in his thirties and was kicked off of the Alabama Supreme Court twice for failing to obey federal law.
So who are these senators? And how will they vote?
Both of these Senators will likely vote with the Democratic minority on most issues. Which makes a difference because Jones is taking a seat formerly held by a Republican, giving Republicans only one vote to lose on legislation, and that’s with Mike Pence breaking a tie. Jones campaigned on looking for bipartisan issues to work on with Republicans, and said that he would also consider voting with Republicans on other issues. Looking at his campaign website, however, reveals a different sentiment. All of his positions stick to the Democratic Party Line, including raising the minimum wage and ensuring men and women are paid equal wages for the same job, and recognizing healthcare as a right. So while Republicans may get a vote here and there from Jones, they shouldn’t count on it.
Tina Smith will be even less reliable for Republicans, she is expected to vote very reliably with democrats. She has very progressive shoes to fill, as Franken was quite a star among liberals until his scandal. And even now, he has a following that are angered by his so-called betrayal by the Democratic Party. She served a Lieutenant Governor under Mark Dayton, who appointed her to the seat. Dayton is one of the most liberal governors; he raised taxes on the rich and raised the minimum wage, and Tina Smith will likely champion similar policies in the Senate.
So although two more senators are added, gridlock will likely continue to prevail, with the majority slimmed (though Republican leadership has signaled that they are looking to be more bipartisan in 2018).