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Doug Jones (D-AL) and Tina Smith (D-MN) were sworn in as the newest members of the 115th Congress on Wednesday, narrowing the Republicans’ majority in the Senate to 51-49 .

Jones defeated former Alabama chief justice Roy Moore (R) in a special election to fill the vacancy left by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Luther Strange (R) had been appointed as a temporary in February then-Alabama Governor Robert Bentley but lost to Moore in the Republican primary earlier this year. Moore seemed to be cruising to victory before reports of his relationships with teenage girls became public in November. Jones is best known as the attorney general who successfully prosecuted members of the KKK involved in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963, nearly 40 years after the bombing. He is Alabama’s first Democratic senator in 25 years.

Smith was appointed to her position by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (D) to replace former Senator Al Franken (D-MN), who officially resigned earlier this week following reports of sexual misconduct. Smith most recently served as Minnesota’s lieutenant governor. A special election will be held in November of this year to fill the seat for the remainder of Franken’s term, which would have ended in 2020. Smith has entered the race, but faces a challenge from Republicans: Minnesota state senator Karin Housley has already announced her candidacy, and rumors swirled earlier this week that former congresswoman and presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann (R) might be considering a run as well.


Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) announced Tuesday that he would retire at the end of the year. He is the longest-serving Republican senator in history, and he is currently the chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee. Hatch’s announcement comes despite President Trump’s urging that he run again, saying he hoped that the senator would remain in office “for a very long time to come” to block a run by Mitt Romney, an outspoken critic of the president. The 2012 Republican presidential nominee and former Massachusetts governor has strong ties to Utah due to his Mormon faith and successful management of the 2002 Winter Olympics and is widely expected to officially enter the race in the coming weeks.


Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA, 9th) is the latest GOP lawmaker to announce that he will not run for reelection this year. Shuster is the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, but his post is term-limited after three terms. He said he plans to spend the remainder of his term focusing on an infrastructure bill, an initiative supported by both parties, but which lacks politically viable funding options. In 2016, Shuster beat primary challenger Art Halvorson by a mere two points. Halvorson, a tea party conservative, registered as a Democrat to challenge Shuster in the general election but lost by 26 points. He announced on Tuesday that he would run for the vacant seat, which is in a reliably Republican district.

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