Republicans, in and out of the Senate, will have few options if Alabamians elect Roy Moore next week, which is looking increasingly likely.
The question becomes, “Now what?”
There will be calls from both sides — not unjustified or inappropriate — for Senate Republicans to send him packing and not let him through the front door. Elected Republican officials, Congressional groups, and the Republican Party itself have thankfully distanced themselves from and disavowed Moore as much as possible — save Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — over the last month.
In reality, if Alabamians send Moore to the U.S. Senate in January, there’s very little Republicans can do beyond making a big show to express their displeasure.
The idea some have had that Moore could be expelled from the Senate is an unrealistic endeavor. The last time the Senate agreed to expel a member was Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) in 1995, for harassment charges he faced while he was in office. Packwood resigned rather than face official expulsion.
A defiant Roy Moore proves impervious to calls for him to step down and steadfastly denies the allegations made against him. In addition, the allegations against Moore cannot be prosecuted at this point as they occurred decades earlier.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) faces heat for pointing out these differences between Moore’s possible ascension to United States Senator and those of Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), but while distasteful it’s a fair distinction.
Conyer’s and Franken’s constituents didn’t know all the details of sexual assault, harassment — and in Conyer’s case taxpayer-funded settlements — when they voted for them. Moore’s voters do know. As disappointing as it is, the allegations seem to matter little to Alabamians at this critical point. Therefore, if Moore wins, it does call in a will-of-the-voters question that Cruz points out.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell already said he will put Moore through an ethics investigation if elected. But, again, this will mostly be for show. Does McConnell want Moore in the Senate? Nope. But the voters in Alabama have the final say. If they elect Moore, despite knowing everything they know, McConnell’s hands are tied.
It’s beyond unfortunate that Alabama Republicans were put in the regrettable position of being the pawns in one of the first skirmishes in the burn-it-down war between Donald Trump and Steve Bannon. As a result, they are left with Roy Moore as the GOP candidate and likely U.S. Senator for at least the next three years.
Republican Senators know this. One can only hope if Moore is elected, they do as promised and put Moore through an ethics investigation and censure him. But they will have to countenance his presence as the elected member from the State of Alabama as long as voters want him there.