Senate Republicans are warning Judge Roy Moore that he is likely to face many of the same problems as Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., after an avalanche of Democratic senators called for his resignation on Wednesday in the wake of a new allegation of sexual misconduct that emerged earlier in the day.
Republicans believe that if Moore wins next Tuesday's Senate special election in Alabama, he will immediately be subject to an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee and could be subject to expulsion if the committee turns up credible evidence that he initiated unwanted sexual encounters with girls as young as 14 during his 30s. This comes despite President Trump's endorsement of Moore earlier in the week and the Republican National Committee's decision to jump back into the race after pulling resources from Alabama weeks ago.
"Of course, you've got to wait and see what happens next Tuesday in Alabama," said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., before warning Moore that he is likely facing a rocky beginning in the Senate if he wins.
"It probably doesn't bode well for some people's future," said Shelby, who voted for a write-in candidate he has not disclosed. "You never know."
Most within the Senate Republican conference remain opposed to Moore and are wary of his potential impact on Republicans as a whole, including on the 2018 midterms.
"I don't like his candidacy. I don't like the RNC doing it, but that's their decision to make," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. "If you think Roy Moore wins and it's a plus for Republicans, you're naive because he'll be on the ballot in every race in 2018 whether you want him to be or not."
"It doesn't change my view," Graham said of the Franken resignation calls and their effect on Moore. "I've always been like, 'I don't think he should have run, I don't think he's a good candidate' ... If he does get elected, I support the idea of going to the ethics committee. If there's a bipartisan finding that he's a child molester, it'd be a defining moment in the history of the Senate."
At least 30 members of the Senate Democrat caucus — including the likes of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. — called for Franken to resign on Wednesday after a seventh accuser emerged alleging Franken forcibly kissed her in 2006 and said it was his "right as an entertainer" to do so. He denied the allegations.
However, the Franken resignation calls have created issues for Republicans, who could be forced to seat Moore in the coming weeks if he defeats Democrat Doug Jones next Tuesday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has indicated the committee will launch an ethics investigation against Moore, just as they had against Franken even though he is expected to resign on Thursday. Franken denied an initial report from Minnesota Public Radio that he plans to resign Thursday.
Senate Republican leadership expect a similar situation to play out.
"I've said before that Roy Moore ought to step aside," said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the third-ranking Senate Republican. "I think he's going to face a lot of the same issues when he gets here."
"I think each case should be determined on its own facts," said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas.
Moore, however, remains defiant. He has denied any and all allegations of sexual misconduct, most of which has accused him of having improper relations with teenage girls over three decades ago. Regardless, he remains persona non grata to Senate Republicans who want as much of a part of him in their caucus as Democrats want Franken as part of theirs.
"I would say the same thing about Senator Franken that I said about Roy Moore," said Sen. Tim Scott. "Both need to find something else to do."