Red State Democrat Doug Jones To Vote Against Haspel Nomination

At least one red state Democrat will be voting against Gina Haspel.

Alabama Senator Doug Jones, who defeated the embattled Roy Moore in December to become Alabama’s junior Senator, has announced that he’ll be voting against Gina Haspel’s nomination to be C.I.A. Director:

Red-state Democratic Sen. Doug Jones (Ala.) said Tuesday that he will oppose CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel’s nomination to lead the spy agency.

Jones pointed to Haspel’s role in the George W. Bush-era “enhanced interrogation” programs — now widely viewed as torture — as key to his opposition to her.

“There is a legal and moral responsibility that comes with operating in secrecy. Some of Ms. Haspel’s past actions and beliefs did not meet that standard. We must choose leaders that consistently embody our highest ideals, rather than our darkest moments,” he said in a statement.

Jones added that Haspel’s role is “very troubling.”

Jones’s announcement comes as Haspel appears to have a lock on the confirmation, with several Democratic senators coming out in support of her on Tuesday.

Though Haspel is a veteran CIA official, her nomination is considered controversial because of her time running a CIA black site and the destruction of videotapes of the interrogation of an al Qaeda suspect.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to vote on Haspel’s nomination on Wednesday. She could then get a vote on the Senate floor as soon as this week.

This news came at roughly the same time that the Senate Intelligence Committee voted 10-5 to advance Haspel’s nomination to the Senate floor. In the committee vote, Ranking Democratic member Mark Warner and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin joined the committee’s eight Democrats to support Haspel’s nomination, with the remaining five Democrats voting against her. As noted, it’s expected that Haspel’s nomination will be taken up on the Senate floor rather quickly and we could see a final floor vote as later this week. That vote will ultimately result in Haspel’s confirmation given the support of both Warner and Manchin, and the fact that Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly will also be voting in favor of her nomination. Additionally, late yesterday Senators Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Bill Nelson of Florida announced that they too will support Haspel on the Senate floor. This means that there will be more than enough votes to confirm her nomination in the final vote.

Jone’s decision to vote against Haspel is interesting, though, given the fact that, as Ed Morrissey notes, he’s likely to face the same dilemma that Manchin and Donnelly are facing this year when he runs for re-election in 2020:

Jones will still have lots of explaining to do with Alabama voters when his turn comes around in two years. He only occupies that seat because of the epic faceplant by Republicans last year in backing Roy Moore in a special-election primary, and Jones barely beat him despite multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against Moore, some involving underaged girls. Republicans won’t make the same mistake twice, and Alabama voters will hardly embrace an incumbent who wants to position himself to Mark Warner’s left.

To be honest, Jones will be facing bigger problems than just a vote against Haspel when he runs for re-election. Alabama voted overwhelmingly for President Trump in the 2016 election and will likely do so again in 2020. Unless Republicans put up another Moore-like candidate for the Senate, which they likely won’t, it will be hard to for Jones to resist the red tide that will roll across Alabama on Election Day, which will likely be as strong and virtually unbeatable as the Crimson Tide. A vote against Haspel in 2020 will be the least of Jones’s worries.

FILED UNDER: 2017 Election, 2020 Election, Congress, Intelligence, National Security, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Modulo Myself says:

    Both politically and morally it’s the only decision. The idea that being a pro-torture Democrat is going to work against a’ f— yeah I love torture and Fox News’ Republican is idiotic. What I hope this shows is that even the moderate Democrats who are running in 2018 have a good idea of what sane people in this country are for and against. All of the Politico Bs about the moderates and the left is built around obscuring this sanity.

  2. James Pearce says:

    Battered women often describe a moment where they suddenly realize just how abused they’ve been. They tolerate, tolerate, tolerate and then something happens that makes them aware of just how much they’ve been tolerating, and just how intolerable the abuse really is.

    I hope we’re at that point with red state Democrats. Thanks, Doug Jones, for not selling us out. It is, literally, the least you could do.

  3. An Interested Party says:

    Perhaps Jones knows he has no chance of winning reelection and is voting his conscience…hmm, a senator voting solely on principle with no political calculation involved…how unusual…

  4. Kylopod says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Perhaps Jones knows he has no chance of winning reelection and is voting his conscience…

    Perhaps. According to 538, Jones so far has voted with Trump more than any other Democrat in the Senate–though less than any Republican. That strikes me as convincing evidence that he’s trying to perform the kind of political balancing act you’d expect from someone who came to office by inspiring unusually high turnout from Democrats as well as peeling off support from a significant minority of Republicans.

    But it is striking that he’d choose to go against Trump on this particular high-profile vote, given that support for torture is a popular position. He’s not going to be gaining any new Republican votes over this, but it may not even help him much among Democrats.

  5. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @Kylopod: I bet that no one in Mobile or in Birmingham cares about who the f* is the Director of the CIA. To be fair, I bet that no one in Roanoke or in Charleston cares about that either. Maybe in 2004 random people in the street would be afraid of terrorists, but that’s a nonissue in 2018.

  6. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa: Quite likely Jones’ polling operation asked the question about the Haspel vote and likely the overwhelming response was ‘Haspel who?’ Leaving Jones with a low risk vote against Trump and with the majority of Dems. And as Doug points out, Haspel will be the least of his challenges.

  7. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @Sleeping Dog: I don’t think that everything is political calculation. I think that as former governors Manchin and Warner think that the President is entitled to choose his nominees and that the Senate should only block really unqualified nominees and that as a former US Attorney and Civil Rights attorney Doug Jones would not vote for someone involved with torture.