Alabama Senator Doug Jones, whose name has been mentioned as a possibility for U.S. Attorney General, said Sunday that it isn’t something he and his long-time friend, presumptive President-elect Joe Biden, have discussed.
“I have not talked to him at all about that,” said Jones during a phone interview with The Times. “He called me after my race was called, but his was still on-going. The only thing we talked about was the state of politics in this world and my race and his race.”
Jones did say that getting the right people into place is going to be important for the incoming administration. “There is a wealth of talent out there,” he said. “This new administration is going to face a number of challenges and they’ve got to put a great team together.”
One of the biggest challenges is going to be trying to unite a country with deep political divisions.
“I think it’s going to be a tough sell, but if anybody can do it, I believe Joe Biden can,” said Jones, who has been friends with Biden for 40 years. “I believe he is the right person at the right time at this moment in history to heal some of the divisions we have in this country, but it’s going to require people giving him the benefit of the doubt and giving him some opportunities to work with.”
It was also reported Sunday that Utah Senator Mitt Romney had been offered the role of Health and Human Services Secretary in the Biden administration. While saying he was unaware of the report, Jones said it would not be unusual for Biden to reach across the aisle to fill cabinet positions.
“It wouldn’t surprise me a bit. Obama did that, Bill Clinton did that,” he said. “Either in the cabinet or in some prominent position, it sure wouldn’t surprise me at all.”
Jones said he hopes to get to play a role in helping Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in filling positions. “There are so many spots that a new president has to fill, and he can’t waste any time,” he said. With the continuing coronavirus pandemic, racial injustice, economic crisis and other issues, Jones said, “He’s got his hands full and I’d like to be able to assist him and Kamala however I can and get those people in place.”
Even though he lost his own bid for reelection against former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville, Jones said the Biden-Harris win was “a great moment for me. I’ve been waiting for this for my friend Joe for a long, long, time.”
That the expected “blue wave” didn’t materialize is a further sign of the country’s division, said Jones. “I really think it’s a function of how polarized we are. The divides that we’ve got now are stark.”
He said both sides need to do a better job of bridging that divide. “Alarm bells for both parties are going off right now. Alarm bells are going off for our country right now. We’re really not going to be able to progress and do the things that are necessary for the people of this country if we continue to have these partisan power games.”
Ironically, he sees more partisanship in his home state than he does in Washington, D.C.
“It is much more partisan in state of Alabama than it is in Washington, D.C. and the halls of Congress because people do work together, they do talk,” he said. It’s on the big issues where the discussions fall apart, said Jones.
When he worked for Alabama Senator Howell Heflin, Republicans and Democrats worked together more than they do now, he said.
“They found common ground so much more,” said Jones. “About the only time you find common ground in the Senate these days are on appropriations issues and the national defense authorization. You don’t see major pieces of legislation come out of the Senate; it just doesn’t happen. There are smaller pieces of legislation that get tacked onto appropriations after they get tweaked. There needs to be more regular order. The people of Alabama need to see a give and take, but the Majority Leader [Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.)] does not allow that to happen. He doesn’t allow any bills to come to the floor with any kind of debate or amendment. It’s just a dysfunctional process in my opinion.”
When C-Span began televising speeches on the Senate floor, “the speeches became political speeches as opposed to debates, and those political speeches just rip each other apart,” he said. “People see that, and they get engrained with it.” That same senator, he said, will go have lunch with members of the opposing party to work out a compromise. “But the people don’t see that part of it. If we could have more debates without attacking politically, I think we could bridge some of the partisan divide.”
Before he leaves office at the end of the year, Jones said he still has work to do, including possibly passing another stimulus bill, provided, he said, that Republicans accept the outcome of the election and begin working with the incoming president and his team.
“The people of this country deserve to have some help,” said Jones. “We’re seeing record numbers of [COVID-19] cases in this country right now. That is going to continue. The unemployment is continuing to stagnate or go up. We’ve got to get them some help and it’s only the United States government that can do it.
“As long as this presidential election from one side of the aisle continues to be a talking point and an allegation it’s going to be tough,” he added.
President Trump’s response to media outlets calling the election in favor of Biden did not surprise Jones, who said the president has been “setting this groundwork for a while. I think he’s known for a while and I think his team has known for a while that the odds were that he would not win this election.”
He noted that the president’s allegations of voter fraud have not been substantiated.
“[Trump's response] is unfortunate, but I think what’s even more unfortunate is there has been either a deafening silence or acquiescence from some of my Republican colleagues including some of the Alabama delegation,” he said. “Our country was built on run the gamut, play the game, accept the results and let’s move this country forward, give this new administration a chance.”
As for Jones’ future, he said it's undecided. “I think there’s a lot of things that I’m going to consider,” he said. “At this point, I’m going to finish my job.”
“I’ve been honored to be where I am,” he added. “I think down the road folks need to give this new administration a chance and work with them and maybe we can pull together a bit more than we have in the past.”