Alabama’s Roy Moore facing fire on all fronts
Some top Republicans suggest he’s unfit even if he survives election
WASHINGTON – If Roy Moore weathers the political storm and pulls out a win in the special election in Alabama next month, he’ll probably still face a hostile Senate that could make his life in Washington difficult.
Senate Republicans led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ramped up their calls Monday for Moore to drop his bid for the Senate seat and said they were considering launching a write-in campaign for another Republican.
Some Republicans are even suggesting that if he wins, they will move to kick him out.
“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,” said Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the party’s Senate campaign operation.
The uproar over Moore’s candidacy only increased Monday when Beverly Nelson said at a news conference Monday afternoon that Moore, then an assistant district attorney, groped and assaulted her in an attempt to have sex
Deborah Barfield Berry
with her when she was 16.
McConnell and other Republican senators had said last week that if the allegations against Moore were true, he should quit the race. McConnell went further Monday morning, saying Moore should “step aside” now.
“I believe the women,” he told reporters at a news conference outside Brandeis Machinery, a heavy-equipment plant in Louisville.
Moore has faced a barrage of criticism since a Washington Post story last week reported that the Republican senatorial candidate was accused of engaging in romantic relationships with teenagers when he was in his 30s, including one case of sexual contact.
Moore, a former state Supreme Court justice, has denied the allegations and has said he would not back down from his bid for the Senate seat. He has threatened to sue the newspaper.
The election is Dec. 12. Moore faces Democrat Doug Jones in a race that has was considered close even before the allegations against Moore exploded.
Moore hit back on McConnell in a tweet Monday.
“The person who should step aside is @SenateMajLdr Mitch McConnell,” he wrote. “He has failed conservatives and must be replaced.”
But if Moore makes it to the Senate, McConnell and his colleagues could push him out.
Pearson Cross, a political scientist at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, said that under the Constitution the Senate has “total control” over who sits as members. “It’s based on the will of the body,” he said.
Cross said that historically the House and Senate have blocked senators particularly during times of turbulence, such as during the Civil War, or for moral issues, such as for Mormons who were polygamists. The Senate also has acted in cases when people were elected and later found to have committed crimes.
“If they don’t want to seat him, they don’t have to,” he said.
According to information provided by the U.S. Senate Historical Office, a senator whose membership in the chamber is being contested would likely be seated first, then another senator would raise a challenge. The Senate could then decide whether to create an investigative committee or wait for a state-level inquiry if there was one.
If the investigation finds that the member shouldn’t have been seated, he could be “excluded” from the Senate by a simple majority vote, as opposed to being expelled, which requires a twothirds majority, according to the office.
The Senate has six times excluded a member who had been seated. The last time was in 1926. Fifteen members have been expelled from the Senate, 14 of which were during the Civil War era and one of which was in the 18th century.
Traditionally, Senate Republicans fall in line with their leadership, and the leadership is now squarely opposed to Moore. But Moore has made railing against GOP leaders a major theme in his campaign.
McConnell endorsed Moore’s opponent, Sen. Luther Strange, in the Republican primary. Strange had been appointed in February to replace Sen. Jeff Sessions, who stepped down to become attorney general for President Trump.
The Senate Leadership Fund, a political action committee allied with McConnell, spent millions to back Strange in the primary, which ended with Moore winning a September runoff.
Even if Moore wins and is allowed to serve, it’s clear Moore won’t have many friends in the Senate, even among Republicans. “I did not find his denials to be convincing and believe that he should withdraw from the Senate race in Alabama,” Sen. Susan Collins of Maine tweeted Monday.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, tweeted, “These are serious and disturbing accusations, and while the decision is now in the hands of the people of Alabama, I believe Luther Strange is an excellent alternative.”
Moore already had lost support of some senators backing his bid.
“Based on the allegations against Roy Moore, his response and what is known, I withdraw support,” Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., tweeted Saturday.
There is little national Republicans can do to stop Moore from running in Alabama, where his name is already on the ballot. But that doesn’t mean they won’t try.
McConnell said Monday that Republicans were considering pushing for a write-in campaign. “That’s an option,” he said. “We’re looking at whether or not there is someone who can mount a write-in campaign successfully.”
As for whether it will be Strange, McConnell said, “We’ll see.”
“If he refuses to withdraw and wins, the Senate should vote to expel him.” Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo. Head of the party’s Senate campaign operation
Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore has denied wrongdoing. HAL YEAGER/AP