By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter
Recently sworn-in U.S. Sen. Doug Jones voted for a short-term funding of the federal government on Friday despite his party’s overwhelming rejection of the bill.
Jones said his reasons for voting for the bill relied heavily on its funding of the Children Health Insurance Program and more specifically its Alabama version, ALL Kids.
“At the end of the day, we all know this is not how government is supposed to be run but I made a commitment to more than 150,000 children and their families who depend on Alabama’s CHIP program,” Jones said in a statement on Twitter.
The senator ended the statement by calling on a more long term solution to CHIP funding. If funding cannot be established soon, Alabama’s CHIP program, ALL Kids, would face tough choices in terms of enrollment and coverage.
The Alabama Department of Public Health, at the annual budget hearings earlier this month, requested that Alabama’s Legislature foot the bill for the funding shortfall from the federal government. The department said they would need to freeze enrollment early this year if Congress could not fund the program.
Budget committee members were skeptical of allocating millions from the general budget to fund what could be an unnecessary earmark while other problems, such as prison reform, required a vast amount of state resources.
Jones was not alone in his breaking from the party. Four of his Democrat colleagues joined him in voting yes on the short-term funding bill.
Most Democrats in the Senate refused to vote for the bill until they could get a deal to fund the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that the Trump administration stopped last year. Of the Democrats that voted for the short-term funding bill, all are in states that voted for President Donald Trump in 2016.
The move by Jones could be another signal that he will work with Republicans in the upper chamber. During the campaign trail, Jones said he would try and work with Republicans in the Senate, and stressed he would focus on “kitchen table issues” like CHIP.
Alabama’s newest senator won by a small margin and the Alabama Republican Party called on Jones to vote yes on the bill hours before the vote. The party pressured Jones since his victory to vote with his Republican colleagues, citing Alabama’s Republican-leaning population who would vote for Jones’ seat in 2020.
The five Democrats voting for the bill did not stop the government shutdown that took place early Saturday morning. The shutdown is just another point in a series of failed negotiations between Republicans and Democrats over issues like DACA and the funding of harsher immigration policies.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., rescheduled a vote to fund the government for 1 a.m. Monday.