BY: QUINN SCANLAN
(WASHINGTON) — Ahead of the first night of the Democratic National Convention, where the party hopes to convey a united front going into the final stretch of the 2020 campaign, Alabama Sen. Doug Jones said that even if Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress in the new year, he thinks Joe Biden, whom he has known for 40 years, would first try to “find common ground” rather than push to eliminate the filibuster rule, which effectively makes it so at least 60 senators have to agree on legislation in order for it to pass.
“I think Joe … is a man of the Senate, and I think what he will want to do initially, is he will want to test both Democrats and Republicans — not one or the other — but test both of them to try to find common ground to move things forward,” Jones said on a special edition of ABC News’ “Powerhouse Politics” podcast Monday, noting he hasn’t spoken to Biden about the issue.
There have been growing calls within the Democratic Party to eliminate this rule, most recently and notably by former President Barack Obama, who called the filibuster a “Jim Crow relic” while eulogizing the late Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights legend, during his funeral last month.
Jones, a moderate Democrat facing perhaps the toughest Senate reelection battle this November, said he would encourage Biden to take this path, adding that he would be “very reluctant” to change the filibuster.
“I really believe that by having that, you have the ability to find common ground … I don’t think it’s a good thing in this country to see a pendulum swinging from right to left, depending on the election ever four or eight years,” Jones told podcast hosts Jonathan Karl, ABC News chief White House correspondent, and Rick Klein, ABC News political director. “I believe Joe is going to try that. I hope that Republicans will follow that lead and try to work to do things for the American people.”
Jones, one of many speakers during the Monday night’s two-hour convention lineup, said that he plans to bring a “message of unity.”
“I’m hearkening back to, you know, the days of despair in Alabama… the Montgomery bus boycott, the church bombing in 1963, the Edmund Pettus Bridge — those things that people found common ground and unified around and bringing people and how far we’ve come, and Joe Biden being that unifying force,” Jones said, previewing his remarks.
It’s not a normal convention by any means, Jones stressed — “no bright lights … no cheering crowds.”
“This is more like video remarks than a rousing convention speech,” Jones said. “Candidly, I don’t even call it a speech, I just call it remarks… We’re talking about just a two hour block for a whole bunch of speakers so you can imagine, this is relatively short.”
But even with limited time, Jones said the speakers will “try to rally around having someone at the top of the ticket that can really bring this country together and not divide us.”
“That is the most important thing, I think, that can come out of this convention — that we are a diverse country and have diverse voices and diverse people, and we have got to gather around together, we’ve got to come together as a whole,” he told “Powerhouse Politics.”
The senator backed Biden on day one of the former vice president’s campaign. He said he believes Biden “represents the broad coalition that is the Democratic Party. While he believes Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who came in second to Biden in terms of pledged delegates this cycle and also second to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 cycle, “represents an important piece and important voices” within the party, he thinks Biden “has that ability to bring folks from all sides together.”
Jones also weighed in on the White House and Trump campaign’s attacks on mail-in voting.
On CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, claimed that “there’s no evidence that there’s not” widespread voter fraud with mail-in ballots, and said, “That’s the definition of fraud.”
“What an absolutely absurd comment that the definition of fraud is the absence of evidence,” Jones said of Meadows’ assertion.
The Alabama senator said that while there’s a “certain segment of the population that will believe anything that Donald Trump says, regardless of whether it has any factual basis or not,” he believes others are beginning to have “real serious concerns” about allegations Trump makes about mail-in voting, which many voters are expected to do this November amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“Democrats have to show that what we’re seeing right now is not an effort to suppress fraud, but what we’re seeing is an effort to promote suppression of the votes in trying to get people’s balance not counted,” Jones said.
“One thing that Democrats have to do and not fall into the trap on is that this is not a Democratic issue — this is an American issue,” he added. “This is about everybody having access to the ballot box and having your vote counted, regardless of who you vote for.”
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