McConnell says final decision on Moore awaits Trump

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLawmakers feel pressure on guns Bipartisan group of House lawmakers urge action on Export-Import Bank nominees Curbelo Dem rival lashes out over immigration failure MORE (R-Ky.) stopped short of calling for a vote to expel Roy Moore from the Senate should he win a special election in Alabama next month and suggested a final decision for the party could depend on President Trump.

McConnell said no final decision had been made and it would await further discussions with Trump.

McConnell told reporters that Trump called him from Vietnam last week to discuss what to do about Moore, who faces multiple sexual accusations — including from one women who said they had a sexual encounter when he was 32 and she was 14. 

"We had a chance to discuss this issue. I talked to Gen. Kelly about it on Saturday, I talked to the vice president about it yesterday. There's no question there's a deep concern here," McConnell said referring to White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE and Vice President Pence.

McConnell reiterated his call on Moore to withdraw from the race and voiced concern about keeping the seat, currently held by Sen. Luther StrangeLuther Johnson StrangeThe Trump Presidency: Year One Dems search for winning playbook Stephen Bannon steps down from Breitbart MORE (R-Ala.), in Republican control. 

"We've looked at all the options," he said of his discussions with White House officials and colleagues. "This close to the election it's a very complicated matter.

"Once the president and his team get back, we'll have further discussions about it," he said.  

A day earlier, McConnell told reporters in Louisville, Ky., that he believed the accounts of five women who have accused Moore of predatory behavior and called for the candidate to step aside.

Asked whether he believed women who have made accusations about Trump, McConnell declined to answer and said it was off-topic.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerThe siren of Baton Rouge Senate confirms John Demers to head DOJ national security division Senate rejects bipartisan measure as immigration votes begin MORE (Colo.) on Monday called for Moore to be expelled from the Senate should he defeat Democrat Doug Jones in the Dec. 12 contest.

Gardner said Moore does not “meet the ethical and moral requirements” of the United States Senate.

But McConnell wouldn't go as far as Gardner on Tuesday

Other Republicans are leery about committing to an expulsion vote before investigating the allegations more carefully.

“Right now we’ve got to get through the election and see if that’s something we even have to deal with,” said Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisPrison sentencing bill advances over Sessions objections Kimmel writer tweets amount NRA has given lawmakers in response to shooting prayers Both sides of immigration fight unhappy with Senate debate MORE (R-N.C.).

He said that prior to any expulsion vote, “we have to examine the facts as they exist.”

“We owe that to the integrity of the process,” Tillis said.

GOP lawmakers feel more comfortable calling on Moore to pull out of the race and allow another candidate to run as a write-in.

The latest was Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerThe siren of Baton Rouge Big Republican missteps needed for Democrats to win in November What to watch for in the Senate immigration votes MORE (R-Nev.), who on Tuesday said “Moore should do what is best for the conservatives of Alabama and step aside.”

Some Democrats are wondering if Republicans would actually go through with an expulsion vote.

“It would be a remarkable step for Republicans to take,” said Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinLawmakers feel pressure on guns Feinstein: Trump must urge GOP to pass bump stock ban Florida lawmakers reject motion to consider bill that would ban assault rifles MORE (D-Calif.).