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Democrat Senators Smith and Jones sworn in, trimming Republican majority

Democrat Senators Smith and Jones sworn in, trimming Republican majority
From CBC - January 3, 2018

The Republican majority in the Senate narrowed to 51-49 on Wednesday as two new Democratic senators were sworn into office, complicating Republicans' efforts to advance the party's legislative agenda before the 2018 mid-term elections.

Vice President Mike Pence administered the oath of office to Doug Jones from Alabama and Tina Smith from Minnesota.

Jones is the first Alabama Democrat elected to the Senate in a quarter-century. His victory over Republican Roy Moore shrinks the Republican majority, complicating Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's efforts to move the GOP's agenda and President Donald Trump's nominees.

Smith, the former lieutenant-governor of Minnesota, was appointed to replace Al Franken following the Democrat's resignation over accusations of sexual misconduct. She becomes the 22nd woman currently serving in the Senate, a record.

VIDEO: Doug Jones & Tina Smith are sworn into the U.S. Senate by @VP Pence. pic.twitter.com/A35Np2Xx53

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Jones, 63, will represent one of the most conservative states in the nation and is stressing his desire to work with both parties. He will be under pressure to find some areas of agreement with Republicans and has cited the funding of infrastructure improvements as one possible avenue.

"I will be an independent voice and work to find common ground with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get Washington back on track and fight to make our country a better place for all," Jones said after defeating Republican Roy Moore in a special election rocked by allegations of sexual misconduct against Moore.

Jones will take the seat once held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Before the Senate seat belonged to Sessions, it belonged to the man Jones considered his mentor, Howell Heflin, the late senator. Jones worked for Heflin as a staffer after graduating from law school in 1979. Heflin was the last Democrat to represent Alabama in the U.S. Senate.

Smith will face immediate challenge in 1st year

Jones said for that reason, Wednesday will feel something like a homecoming, bringing his career full circle. During the swearing-in, Jones will be wearing a pair of Heflin's cufflinks. Jones plans to place one of Heflin's cigar boxes in his office.

"To be able to have done the things I have done and end up back here is just a remarkable thing," Jones said. "I am looking forward to getting my feet wet and getting to know my colleagues and jumping into the action."

Jones said he is hopeful that he comes to the Senate with a "little bit of a voice" because of the attention on the Alabama race.

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