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Facts Matter

How the Senate could expel Roy Moore if he wins

Photos: Brynn Anderson / AP; Jacquelyn Martin / AP

Several Republican senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have called on Roy Moore to drop out of the Alabama Senate race over allegations of child sexual assault. Sen. Cory Gardner is now the first to say he should be expelled from the Senate even if he wins next month.

Why it matters: The choice to expel Moore by members of his own party would be a truly historic — almost unprecedented — move.

The options

If McConnell decides that Moore is too big of a political liability to add to his GOP caucus, he has two potential options for denying him entry:

Refusing Moore his seat: McConnell and the Republican majority could simply refuse Moore his seat in the Senate under Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution, which allows that "each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns, and qualifications of its own members." But that option has a big problem:

  • It almost certainly would not survive a legal challenge thanks to the 1969 Supreme Court decision in Powell v. McCormack, which held that the House of Representatives could not refuse to seat an elected member as long as he or she met all of the constitutional requirements. While that decision applied to the House, the constitutional language for both houses is the same, meaning that it's basically guaranteed that Moore would eventually be allowed to take his seat in the Senate.

Expelling Moore upon arrival: Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution also allows both houses of Congress to "with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member." That means McConnell would have to get 19 of his own members on board to get rid of a Republican senator. That could happen immediately after Moore is seated in the Senate chamber.

  • One catch: Republicans might be wary of leaving a Senate seat open for a few months until another special election could be held as their tax plan hangs in the balance.

The big picture: No senator has been expelled since the Civil War with 14 out of 15 prior expulsions having been for support of the Confederacy. Sen. Harrison Williams of New Jersey almost certainly would have been expelled in 1982 for his bribery convictions during the Abscam scandal, but he resigned before that could happen.

Jonathan Swan 1 hour ago
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Trump's trade plan that would blow up the WTO

President Trump announces tariffs on steel and aluminum earlier this month, flanked by Steven Mnuchin, Wilbur Ross, Robert Lighthizer, and Peter Navarro. Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

For months, President Donald Trump has been badgering his economic advisors to give him broad, unilateral authority to raise tariffs — a move that would all but break the World Trade Organization.

His favorite word: “reciprocal.” He’s always complaining to staff about the fact that the U.S. has much lower tariffs on some foreign goods than other countries have on the same American-made goods. The key example is cars: The European Union has a 10 percent tariff on all cars, including those manufactured in America, and China hits all foreign-made cars with 25 percent tariffs. But the U.S. only charges 2.5 percent for foreign cars we import.

Jonathan Swan 1 hour ago
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Congress considers a monster spending bill

Sens. Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell walk to the Senate chamber last month. Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The House and Senate need to pass their massive 2018 spending bill before the government shuts down on Friday. Senior sources from both parties on Capitol Hill tell me they expect they'll get the deal done — though there's plenty of last minute haggling.

The big picture: This spending bill will cost more than $1 trillion and will further add to the deficit, which is likely to reach at least $800 billion for the 2018 fiscal year.  Republican leaders and Trump will sell the spending package as a much-needed boost to military spending. House defense hawks, led by House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry, campaigned aggressively for this boost. And Democrats will rightly be thrilled that they've forced Republicans to capitulate to fund so many of their domestic priorities.