Republican senators wrestle with their Roy Moore problem

Republican senators wrestle with their Roy Moore problem
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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 GardnerSome employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report Colorado governor sets up federal PAC before potential 2020 campaign Hillicon Valley: Trump signs off on sanctions for election meddlers | Russian hacker pleads guilty over botnet | Reddit bans QAnon forum | FCC delays review of T-Mobile, Sprint merger | EU approves controversial copyright law 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. 

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

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump administration weakens methane pollution standards for drilling on public lands Another recession could hit US in 2019, says credit union association chief R-E-S-P-E-C-T: One legacy of Franklin and McCain is up to us MORE (R-Ariz.) told reporters that Moore should be kept out of the Senate "whatever it requires," and Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeThe Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Key GOP senators appear cool to Kavanaugh accuser's demand Gillibrand: Kavanaugh accuser shouldn't participate in 'sham' hearing MORE (R-Ariz.) said he would vote to expel Moore but didn't think it would reach that level. 

Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungOvernight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan senators unveil proposal to crack down on surprise medical bills Dems seek ways to block Trump support for Saudi-led coalition in Yemen 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 CornynKey GOP senators appear cool to Kavanaugh accuser's demand Trump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle GOP mulls having outside counsel question Kavanaugh, Ford 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 HatchGrand Staircase-Escalante: A conservation triumph is headed for future as playground for industry McConnell tamps down any talk of Kavanaugh withdrawal GOP offers to ban cameras from testimony of Kavanaugh accuser 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 JohnsonKavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow House panel advances DHS cyber vulnerabilities bills 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 ShelbyCongress reaches deal to fund government through Dec. 7, preventing shutdown Senate approves first 2019 spending package GOP shrugs off Trump shutdown threat 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 CollinsCollins: My office has gotten 'pretty ugly voicemails, threats' over Kavanaugh The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Budowsky: Kavanaugh and the rights of women MORE (R-Maine) told reporters. 

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin Graham GOP senator: Kavanaugh accuser 'moving the goalposts' Collins: Kavanaugh accuser should 'reconsider,' testify on Monday Grassley willing to send staff to California to speak with Kavanaugh accuser 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 CruzSinger Leon Bridges to join Willie Nelson in performing at O’Rourke rally Election Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls Poll: Beto O'Rourke leads Cruz by 2 points in Texas Senate race 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 ToomeyOvernight 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 WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns Top GOP candidate drops out of Ohio Senate race 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 McConnellKey GOP senators appear cool to Kavanaugh accuser's demand Trump hints at new executive action on immigration, wants filibuster-proof Senate majority The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — The Hill interviews President Trump 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 StrangeAnn Coulter believes Kushner wrote anonymous op-ed bashing Trump Mulvaney: Trump regularly asks why Roy Moore lost The Hill's Morning Report — General election season underway with marquee Senate races set 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.