Op-Ed Contributor: Yes, the G.O.P. Can Block Roy Moore (NYT)

Op-Ed Contributor: Yes, the G.O.P. Can Block Roy Moore


But in that same ruling, the court also said that although the House had to accept Powell, it didn’t have to keep him — it could vote to expel him. (In the end, it didn’t, though Powell lost his re-election bid in 1970.) The Senate could do the same with Mr. Moore: seat him, then immediately vote to expel him based on his lack of character and fitness to serve.

To the extent that Mr. Moore is entitled to a defense against expulsion, the Senate could initiate fitness proceedings now, before the election, to ascertain whether the accusations against him are credible; alternately, it could suspend his swearing-in until after the investigative proceedings are concluded. If Mr. Moore chose to ignore them, the Senate could simply conclude that he lacks the character and fitness to serve — as Mr. Moore, a former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice, surely knows, failing to contest an adjudicative proceeding results in a default judgment.

The Senate has precedents for this course of action. Most recently, expulsion proceedings have been contemplated against Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, should he be convicted in his current corruption trial. And two former Republican senators, John Ensign of Nevada and Bob Packwood of Oregon, faced the prospect of expulsion for sexual misconduct, leading both of them to resign instead.

Mr. Packwood’s case is especially instructive. He was accused of serial sexual harassment that went on for years, though he was never charged with a crime. Nevertheless, in 1995, Mitch McConnell, then the chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, wrote the committee’s report recommending Mr. Packwood’s expulsion for a “habitual pattern of aggressive, blatantly sexual advances, mostly directed at members of his own staff or others whose livelihoods were connected in some way to his power and authority as a senator.” Hours after the report was delivered, Mr. Packwood resigned.

In other words, Mr. McConnell has already concluded that credible allegations of serious sexual misconduct should preclude a person from serving in the Senate. Does he still hold this view and is he willing to act on it?

On principle and precedent, Mr. McConnell’s choice is clear. If the Republican Party is serious about preventing Mr. Moore from becoming a member of an institution that likes to bill itself as the world’s greatest deliberative body (with apologies to Westminster), it could stop the insanity now by simply declaring that, if elected, the party’s Senate caucus will move to immediately expel Roy Moore because he lacks the character and fitness to serve.

The results would be less messy than you might think. Under Alabama law, Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, is supposed to appoint an interim senator and order a special election. But the law doesn’t specify a deadline for that election, which means that the state could just wait until the next regularly scheduled elections, in November 2018. That way, the Republicans, who have a narrow Senate majority, wouldn’t lose a seat, and could avoid casting a blind eye on credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.

Obviously, things aren’t that simple in practice; Mr. Moore’s supporters, who include Stephen Bannon and most of the conservative media, would surely fight Mr. McConnell with everything they have, and exact revenge if he succeeds. The question comes down to one of principle. The Republicans have the power to block Mr. Moore from joining them. Will they use it?

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via NYT http://nyti.ms/2gVZ2VB

November 12, 2017 at 04:15PM