Sen. Doug Jones calls for bipartisanship in farewell speech

Published 5:48 am Friday, December 11, 2020

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama gave his farewell address on the Senate floor Wednesday, saying it had been an honor to represent his state and urging his colleagues to step away from partisan divisions that stymy progress.

“The Senate is capable of great things — if we do them — of bridging divides that society may view as too wide to cross,” Jones said.

In 2017, Jones became the first Alabama Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate in a quarter century. He is leaving the Senate after being defeated by Republican Tommy Tuberville. Jones, who as a U.S. attorney prosecuted the Klansmen who bombed a Birmingham church, is believed to be a leading contender for President-elect Joe Biden’s attorney general.

A Democrat in a traditionally red state, Jones said he “had a pretty dog gone good idea” from the beginning that his Senate tenure would be limited to three years. He said he may have an affinity for lost causes.

“From the church bombing case to a Senate election in Alabama, I fought for those causes because I believe in hope. I believe in redemption. I believe in the possibility,” Jones said.

Jones highlighted some of his favorite moments from the past three years, including co-sponsoring the bill to eliminate military widows’ tax. He said he did not shy away from the so-called third-rail issues — thought to be too politically toxic to take on — because “there is no time for caution.”

“No one could believe a senator from Alabama actually talked about how we could stop gun violence in a way that made some sense, not from an extreme view on the right or an extreme view on the left,” said Jones, a gun enthusiast who believes in some gun control measures such as universal background checks.

He said the topic was important to address even though he knew it could be twisted into a negative campaign ad, “which, by the way, it was.”

He urged his colleagues to step away from partisan corners and toward addressing difficult issues.

“It’s possible to make affordable quality health care a reality for all Americans. … It’s possible to provide a quality education to every American child,” he said.

Bringing high-speed internet access to rural areas, he said, is the modern equivalent of the federal effort in the 1930s to bring electricity to rural communities.

Jones said one disappointment of his term was that Congress did not pass law enforcement reform in response to the death of George Floyd.

“It is possible for our system of justice to treat all Americans equally, not just talk about it but to do it,” Jones said.

Jones drew praise from both Minority Leader Charles Schumer and Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, a Republican. Schumer likened Jones to Atticus Finch, the hero of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“Doug spent his time in the Senate, indeed his whole life, embodying the courage that Atticus describes,” Schumer said.