Updated at 3:30 p.m. ET
There has been more fallout on Capitol Hill over the accusations by several women that Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, a Republican, made unwanted sexual contact with them when they were teenagers.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said at a news conference on Tuesday that Moore “should step aside” before the Dec. 12 special election, joining the top Republican in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and several other GOP lawmakers in calling on Moore to quit the race.
Ryan told reporters, “No. 1, these allegations are credible. No. 2, if he cares about the values and the people he claims to care about, then he should step aside.”
McConnell, who on Monday called on Moore to step aside, Tuesday said, “He’s obviously not fit to be in the United States Senate, and we’ve looked at all the options to try to prevent that from happening.”
Five women have publicly accused Moore of making unwanted sexual advances. Moore has denied the accusations and refused to remove himself from the campaign.
Tuesday, Moore took aim at GOP leaders on Twitter.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who vacated the seat that Moore is a candidate for, was asked about the accusations at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday and said, “I have no reason to doubt these young women.”
Republicans fear Moore’s candidacy may have a toxic effect on other GOP candidates in next year’s midterm elections but have few options available if Moore remains in the Alabama race.
“This close to the election its a very complicated matter,” McConnell said. He added, “Once the president and his team get back, we’ll have further discussions about it.” Trump has yet to weigh in on the controversy. He is to arrive back in Washington late Tuesday night from a trip through Asia.
Sessions has been floated as the most likely person to be able to pull off a write-in candidacy since it is too late to remove Moore from the ballot. It’s not at all clear that Sessions would be interested in trying to go back to his old job, though.
The head of the Republicans’ Senate campaign committee, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, has called for expelling Moore if he wins.
But there is no modern precedent for such a move. It would first require an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee, and it’s unclear whether the panel would have any jurisdiction over something that happened before a senator was elected.
Republicans acknowledge there may be no legal or constitutional basis to deny Moore a seat in the Senate if he wins next month.
Doug Jones, Moore’s Democratic opponent in the special election, appears to be trying to capitalize on the scandal with a new ad out Tuesday, highlighting GOP voters who say they’re fed up with Moore.
“He’s already been removed from office twice,” one woman says, referring to the former Alabama chief justice’s removal twice from the bench — first for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument he’d placed in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building and later for ordering state judges not to enforce the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage.
“This time it’s even worse,” a man says. “You read the story and it just shakes you,” a woman adds, though the details of the scandal are never directly referenced.
With Republicans holding a vast advantage in registered voters in Alabama, Democrats in Washington are treading lightly. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., called Alabama “a tough place for Democrats to win.” He said party leaders are going to have to take a close look at whether pouring money into the race “is a wise expenditure.” Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., called Jones “a great local candidate,” who is “all about Alabama.”
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.