Republican senators wrestle with their Roy Moore problem

Senate Republicans are stepping up pressure on Roy Moore to withdraw from the Alabama Senate race after new sexual misconduct allegations on Monday, but many stopped well short of pledging to expel him if he wins the special election next month. 

Republican are wrestling with what to do about the conservative candidate in the wake of a bombshell report about Moore making sexual advances toward teenage girls, and a fifth woman coming forward on Monday who said he sexually assaulted her when she was 16. 

Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior faces legal scrutiny for keeping controversial acting leaders in office | White House faces suit on order lifting endangered species protections | Lawmakers seek investigation of Park Police after clearing of protesters The Hill’s Campaign Report: Republicans go on attack over calls to ‘defund the police’ MORE (R-Colo.), the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) became the first Senate Republican to specifically urge the Senate to expel Moore if he refuses to step aside and wins in December.

“If he refuses to withdraw and wins, the Senate should vote to expel him, because he does not meet the ethical and moral requirements of the United States Senate,” Gardner said in a statement. 


A few GOP senators rallied behind Gardner’s comments on Monday. 

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe Hill’s Campaign Report: Bad polling data is piling up for Trump Cindy McCain ‘disappointed’ McGrath used image of John McCain in ad attacking McConnell Report that Bush won’t support Trump reelection ‘completely made up,’ spokesman says MORE (R-Ariz.) told reporters that Moore should be kept out of the Senate “whatever it requires,” and Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism Kelly holds double-digit lead over McSally in Arizona: poll Trump asserts his power over Republicans MORE (R-Ariz.) said he would vote to expel Moore but didn’t think it would reach that level. 

Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungGOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism The Hill’s Coronavirus Report: BIO’s Michelle McMurry-Heath says 400 projects started in 16 weeks in biotech firms to fight virus, pandemic unemployment total tops 43 million Is the ‘endless frontier’ at an end? MORE (R-Ind.) also appeared to open the door to expelling Moore, saying if he doesn’t step aside “we need to act to protect the integrity of the Senate.”

The move would be historic for a chamber that last formally expelled a member in 1862, with most past expulsions targeting members of the Confederacy, according to the Senate Historical Office. 

And the move, assuming every Democrat voted to expel Moore, would require the support of at least 19 Republican senators to reach the two-thirds threshold—considerably more than were willing to publicly back the option on Monday. 

More than a dozen GOP senators either stopped short or refused to comment on questions about if the Senate should expel Moore if he wins. 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate headed for late night vote amid standoff over lands bill Koch-backed group launches ad campaign to support four vulnerable GOP senators Tim Scott to introduce GOP police reform bill next week MORE (Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, called the allegations against Moore “deeply disturbing” but signaled that questions about what happens if he wins were premature. 

“I think that’s way down the road. We’ll wait and see what happens,” he told reporters when asked about Gardner’s push for an expulsion vote. 

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchBottom line Bottom line Bottom line MORE (R-Utah) declined to say if Moore should be expelled, adding that he “would need to listen to every bit of the evidence.” 

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Republicans release newly declassified intelligence document on FBI source Steele Democrats demand Republican leaders examine election challenges after Georgia voting chaos MORE (R-Wis.) added that questions about explosion were “hypothetical” but “it would be nice if he stepped aside.” 

Moore has shown no signs of backing down despite growing pressure from national Republicans for him to withdraw from the race.  

Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyHouse pushes back schedule to pass spending bills Top Republican says Trump greenlit budget fix for VA health care GOP senators not tested for coronavirus before lunch with Trump MORE (R-Ala.) warned that if Moore continuous to face allegations of sexual misconduct with minors it would be “devastating,” but that the Senate could legally have to seat him if he wins the Dec. 12 vote. 

“If he’s elected, I think under the Supreme Court decision we would seat him and then what will happen then, none of us knows,” he said. 

Shelby appeared to be referencing a 1960s case, Powell v. McCormack, in which the House refused to seat Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. (D-N.Y.), who was facing misconduct allegations, by voting to “exclude” him. 

The Supreme Court ruled that that while the Constitution gives Congress the ability to punish members for “disorderly” behavior, it couldn’t use an exclusion vote to refuse to seat a member who was legally elected. 

“[Because he was] duly elected by the voters of the 18th Congressional District of New York and was not ineligible to serve under any provision of the Constitution, the House was without power to exclude him from its membership,” the Supreme Court wrote. 

Multiple GOP senators, instead, reiterated that they think Moore should step down. 

“It seems to me that we’re getting way ahead of ourselves. What I would like to see is for Mr. Moore to immediately step aside,” Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsRepublicans prepare to punt on next COVID-19 relief bill Trump tweets spark fresh headache for Republicans Trump’s tweet on protester sparks GOP backlash  MORE (R-Maine) told reporters. 

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Joint Chiefs chairman says he regrets participating in Trump photo-op | GOP senators back Joint Chiefs chairman who voiced regret over Trump photo-op | Senate panel approves 0B defense policy bill GOP senators back Joint Chiefs chairman who voiced regret over Trump photo-op MORE (R-S.C.) added “I hope he steps aside. I don’t see a good outcome for Mr. Moore. …This is just a no win situation here.”

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump’s public standing sags after Floyd protests GOP senators introduce resolution opposing calls to defund the police MORE (R-Texas) became the latest GOP senator to pull his endorsement of Moore.

“If these allegations are true, Judge Moore should drop out now,” Cruz told The Texas Tribune, adding the claims could merit “criminal prosecution.”

New allegations against Moore continued on Monday, leaving senators in the Capitol to face a mob of reporters with questions about his political fate. 

During a press conference Monday with attorney Gloria Allred, Beverly Young Nelson said she was sexually assaulted by Moore when she was 16 years old.

And local residents of the county where Moore was once the assistant distract attorney told The New Yorker and AL.Com, an Alabama news source, that it was common knowledge that he would flirt with and try to date teenage girls. 

Shelby, asked if he would support expelling Moore, sidestepped but noted the allegations were coming out “drip by drip, cut by cut.” 

“Well we’ll see what happens in the next few days, but if you’re going to see more of this come out, more damaging stories dealing with minors, it’s devastating,” he said, asked if there was anything Republicans could do to force Moore out.

Some GOP senators sidestepped questions on Moore entirely. 

“I’ve already said everything I’m going to say,” Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyGOP senators push for quick, partial reopening of economy NSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general MORE (R-Pa.), who over the weekend called on Moore to step down, told reporters on Monday. “If you would like to talk about something else, that’s fine.” 

Even if Moore stepped out of race his name would still appear on the ballot. Some Republicans have floated delaying the special election or launching a write -n candidate, though it remains unclear who would have enough support to win. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote GOP senator to try to reverse requirement that Pentagon remove Confederate names from bases No, ‘blue states’ do not bail out ‘red states’ MORE (R-Ky.) told reporters in Kentucky that Moore should step aside and that he is exploring a potential write-in campaign. 

“That’s an option we’re looking at, whether or not there is someone who could mount a write-in successfully,” he said. 

A spokesman for McConnell, asked if the GOP senator supported expelling Moore, declined to comment. 

But a write-in candidate would likely face a Herculean task. If Moore refuses to step down there’s the threat that they could split the Republican vote, elevating Democrat Doug Jones. 

Gardner noted that he hasn’t discussed a write-in challenge with Sen. Luther StrangeLuther Johnson StrangeThe biggest political upsets of the decade State ‘certificate of need’ laws need to go GOP frets over nightmare scenario for Senate primaries MORE (R-Ala.), whom Moore defeated in the primary, or anyone else. 

Shelby floated Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who left the Senate to join the Trump administration, as a “strong” contender if he decided that he wanted to rejoin the chamber in his old seat.

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