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Democrats Didn't Cave On Deal To Reopen Government, Sen. Jones Says

Alabama Sen. Doug Jones has a message for those who say Democrats gave in too quickly during recent negotiations to end the government shutdown.

"I don't think they caved at all," Jones tells NPR's Morning Edition. Jones, who won a special election last month in a deep red state, fills the seat left vacant by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Jones and other Democrats voted to end the shutdown on Monday in exchange for a promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that the Senate will consider a bill to grant legal status to those protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The roughly 700,000 DACA recipients are often referred to as DREAMers.

McConnell's promise, Jones says, is progress.

"The Senate hasn't been for some time the kind of deliberative body that it's supposed to be — where you have legislation, you come to the floor of the Senate and you debate it and all sides have an equal opportunity to talk about it, debate it, and then hopefully pass something," he says. "To be able to do that I think with the DACA and the DREAMers in a little bit broader immigration — not necessarily the broad piece of reform — I think that was a major breakthrough."

Interview Highlights

On whether Democrats will have a fair shot

I think so, absolutely. I think one of the biggest issues that the Senate faced this past weekend was one of trust, and that was a huge hurdle and it was distrust on both sides.

I think this was a big breakthrough because you had a bipartisan group of senators that actually grew in number over the course of the weekend. That said, we've got to get past this, we've got to put our cards on the table and we've got to trust each other to do what the Senate does best and that's deliberate.

On what the House may do with a Senate-passed immigration bill

If the Senate can come up with a bill that [gets] 60 votes, I think there will be a lot of pressure on the White House and the House to pass something. We have another deadline of March 5 coming up in which there will be people starting to be deported. That is also I think a driving factor to get something done.

On the prospects of the Senate considering a larger immigration overhaul bill

I don't think we're going to get there on this right now. I don't know, I think we have to wait and see. I think a broader immigration reform package is going to be down the road. I think we need to address some of the issues at hand right now — the issue of the DACA kids and the issue of border security right now.

Miranda Kennedy, Eric McDaniel and Heidi Glenn contributed to this story.

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Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.