What Happens If Roy Moore's Vote Is Necessary To Pass GOP Tax Bill?

[ Posted Wednesday, November 15th, 2017 – 18:11 UTC ]

There is one emerging scenario (which currently is in no way certain) where the Republican Party might just have to decide to swallow its outrage -- at least temporarily -- and welcome Senator Roy Moore into their ranks on Capitol Hill, no matter what he did with underage women in the past. Because if Moore wins his special election in Alabama while at the same time two Republican senators have publicly announced they'll be voting "no" on the GOP tax bill, then Moore's vote becomes the deciding one. If this comes to pass, the GOP will be faced with the hard choice of ignoring all their previous denunciations of Moore in order to pull off their first legislative win since Donald Trump took office. Call it a striking moral/political dilemma.

Moral decisions can always have a political aspect to them, but when the accused person is a politician this cannot be escaped -- politics is definitely going to influence public opinion in such a case. It depends, to put it bluntly, whether the accused person is from your political team or not. It shouldn't matter, of course, but the public just isn't all that morally consistent when it comes to the political arena. Ethics are supposed to somehow be above crass political considerations, but most of us fail to achieve such consistency across party lines.

This is being pointed out now, as more and more Republicans echo Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's unequivocal "I believe the women" statement. If you believe the women, then the inescapable conclusion is that Roy Moore is unfit for office. If you believe the women, then this man is not only a child molester (the encounter with the 14-year-old) but also an attempted rapist (the encounter with the 16-year-old waitress). How can you be morally OK with someone like that sitting in the United States Senate and representing your political party?

But the next question is pretty painfully obvious, even for Republicans who do believe the women. Because why would they believe these women while simultaneously believing that every single one of the women who have accused Donald Trump of sexual impropriety is nothing short of a liar? The media already have begun asking this question, although so far most Republicans (including McConnell) have brushed it off. But it's pretty easy to see that partisanship matters when deciding whether to believe the accuser or the accused.

Of course, whether we admit it or not, we all have a filter of believability when hearing accusations of a "he-said/she-said" nature. For example, if a prominent man was accused of sexual misbehavior by a single woman who was suing him in civil court for twenty million dollars, most of us would retain at least some skepticism. "She's doing it for the money" would occur to us, whether we chose to believe it or not in the end. However, if there are multiple accusers who all have a very similar story, the accusations become more believable overall. If the accusers are not seeking either criminal penalties or financial compensation, then they become easier for most to believe, because they obviously aren't "getting anything" out of going public. The nature of the accusation matters, too. Sexual harassment is one thing, sexual attacks are another, in other words. There are all sorts of these factors that are taken into account when such accusations are made: the age of the parties involved, how long it has been since the allegations happened, what both parties did immediately afterwards, whether there are contemporaneous corroborating accounts (whether the victim told anyone what happened at the time, in other words), and of course the sheer number of the accusations.

When accusations are made, at times they seem to reach a tipping point where it's almost impossible to not believe the accusers. The most obvious example is when the number of the accusations grows to the point where it gets very hard to impugn all of them. Bill Cosby is probably the most prominent case in this regard. When the number of accusers was very small, doubt remained for many people. When it grew to double digits, it became harder to explain away. But when it became dozens upon dozens of women essentially telling exactly the same story, it became almost impossible not to believe that Cosby was indeed guilty of horrendous sexual crimes. At some point, a critical mass is achieved -- one that can also be achieved with enough corroborating evidence, or in ways other than just the high number of accusers.

It's hard enough for accusers to be believed when the accused person is a well-loved prominent public figure (like an entertainer). When the subject is a politician, however, a whole other set of criteria gets added to the believability filter. Is the accuser a member of the opposite political party? Has he or she ever donated to political candidates? Which candidate did they vote for in the past election? These questions are immaterial for accusations against entertainers (or other public figures), but they become important when the accused is a politician -- and especially so when accusations are raised in the midst of a campaign.

Republicans, stung by being accused of believing Moore's accusers but not Trump's accusers, are deploying "whataboutism" to blunt the attacks. In this case, however, they do have a point. "What about Bill Clinton?" they ask, knowing full well this is a weak spot for Democrats. Most Democrats supported Bill Clinton. Most Democrats supported him all the way through the Monica Lewinsky impeachment mess. But even more pertinent to what's going on now with Moore is what happened when Clinton first ran for president. At the time, several women made accusations of sexual impropriety against Bill Clinton. They even had a political (and derogatory and sexist) term for it: "bimbo eruptions." And nobody in the Clinton camp was shy in their attempts to destroy the credibility of the accusers. Hillary Clinton was foremost among her husband's defenders, using rather harsh language to describe his accusers. James Carville was probably the most colorful, pointing out: "If you drag a $100 bill through a trailer park, you never know what you'll find."

Democrats now fall back on the same argument defenders of Civil War statues use: "It was a different time, we simply can't judge by today's standards what happened back then." But it wasn't a century-and-a-half ago, it was only 25 years ago (or less, for Lewinsky). Things were different, to be sure, but that doesn't excuse Democrats from believing the accused over the accusers back then -- or since, for that matter, since many Democrats have never really come to grips with the fact that they sided with the accused, not the accuser. In fact, it's hard for anyone who went on the record back then in support of Bill Clinton to now denounce Donald Trump for his own questionable sexual past. Because they are quite obviously using a partisan lens to do so.

But back to the present. Democrats made a choice back in Bill Clinton's time, and they have to live with it. Now Republicans may face a choice on how to handle Roy Moore, which may create enormous political blowback of one type or another.

The ideal thing for Republicans to now do would be to hustle the tax bill through Congress so quickly that Moore's vote doesn't even come into play. If they can pass a bill through both houses of Congress before the December 12th election in Alabama, then the issue will be over and done with by the time they have to decide what to do about Moore. But that is an incredibly fast timeline for such a major piece of legislation. It could be done, but only if there are no bumps in the legislative road.

If, as is more likely, the bill hasn't made it in identical form through both houses of Congress before the election, and if two Republican senators are already against it, then Roy Moore's vote becomes critical to passage. That's also assuming Moore wins, which at this point is in no way certain. If the Democrat wins or even if another Republican wins in a write-in campaign, then the issue of Moore's vote won't even come up. So there are a lot of "ifs" in this scenario, admittedly.

But if it does happen, then Republicans are going to have to allow Moore to be seated in the Senate, allow him to vote for the tax bill, and then possibly attempt to expel him from the chamber for moral turpitude. That sets up Democrats to decry GOP political cynicism all throughout the 2018 election cycle. The ads would be pretty easy to write: "They allowed Moore to vote to pass their horrendous tax bill, and then -- and only then -- they discovered their moral compass and chucked him out!" Or how about: "The Republicans needed the help of a child molester to get anything done in Congress, and Congressman X voted with him."

Republicans are already going to have to defend their stance on Moore next year. No matter what happens in the election, Democrats across the country will be making the attempt to tie the entire Republican Party to an accused child molester and attempted rapist. What Republicans say and do over the next month will appear in ads against them -- that much is already all but guaranteed. Cynically having to use Moore as the critical vote to pass their only major piece of legislation under Trump is only going to make this bad situation for Republican candidates much worse. In fact, at this point, the best possible outcome for Republicans -- in the long term -- would be for Moore to lose his race. You have to wonder how many GOP politicians are right now secretly praying for Moore to lose, in fact. Because if he does win, the tax bill vote certainly won't be the only moral/political dilemma they'll face, that much is for certain.

-- Chris Weigant


Cross-posted at The Huffington Post

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


20 Comments on “What Happens If Roy Moore's Vote Is Necessary To Pass GOP Tax Bill?”

  1. [1] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    Why would a campaign strategy of tying a Republican to Roy Moore's sex crimes be more effective than one that similarly tied a Republican to the president's sex crimes?
    Your point about bias (and Clinton - excellent) seems to argue that the only people next year voting against the GOP because Roy Moore was in the Senate will be people who would vote against the GOP in any case.
    Is there really more outrage, nationwide, against a US senator than there is against a US president?

  2. [2] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    John M from Ct. -

    I think it's the hypocrisy factor, personally. Trump never tried to pass himself off as some sort of moral arbiter of everyone else's life. The same cannot be said for Moore.

    But maybe that's just me... and I have no idea how any of this is going to play out with the voters, either next Nov. or even in Alabama next month!



  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Is there really more outrage, nationwide, against a US senator than there is against a US president?

    There should be.

    I think the reason why goes way beyond the relative levels of hypocrisy involved, though that is certainly part of it.

    I think too many Americans see themselves in Trump.

    That, by the way, doesn't bode well for the rest of the country.

  4. [4] 
    Kick wrote:

    CW: No matter what happens in the election, Democrats across the country will be making the attempt to tie the entire Republican Party to an accused child molester and attempted rapist.

    You mean Moore here, yet what I've been hearing on the street for months now is that Trump is being investigated for similar activity and has an accuser younger than Moore's.

    Regardless of whatever happens with Roy, with indictments and arrest numbers 1, 2, and 3 and guilty plea number 1 now in the books and several other sealed indictments lying in wait, Moore will be the least of the GOP's worries as time marches into 2018... with rumors swirling for quite some time that presents would be unwrapped around the holiday season. Trump keeps insisting that we're all going to be saying "Merry Christmas" again (who stopped?), and Manafort for Halloween was a sweet treat... so might the turkey-like Flynn be served for Thanksgiving with gravy because fall is here now, and winter is coming. ;)

  5. [5] 
    John M wrote:

    C.R. Stucki

    "Those oil company subsidies are a total myth. A subsidy is defined as a cash payment from the government to the company in question. Oil companies receive NO direct cash subsidies."

    No, they are not a myth. A subsidy is still a subsidy, whether it is a direct payment in cash, or an indirect payment in some other kind.

    Conservatives love to criticize cash payments to Amtrak, for example. But what about all the indirect subsidies that go to the airlines? The government pays for the buying of the land and the construction of airports, the building and running of the air traffic control system, etc. All of which keeps airline tickets artificially low because the airlines themselves don't have to pay for those things out of their own pockets.

    That even doesn't include aviation technology research done and funded by government agencies like NASA.

    Are you going to tell me that oil companies don't get similar subsidies; like a cost break on the leasing of Federal land that they drill on? Or a tax break on pollution or safety measures? Do they pay the full cost of any environmental clean ups, or does the government step in and do that? The list goes own.

    We are all not so dumb as that, and there is a lot more complications to economics in the real world, than you make there out to be.

  6. [6] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    John M

    Sorry, the oil companies don't even get "indirect cash payments", that's all a liberal myth. And the drilling rights on public land are sold at auction to the highest bidder. That can hardly be construed as a subsidy. I wouldn't know about "pollution or safety measures".

    So, yeah, I suppose the airlines, along with the truck lines, private automobiles, railroads and virtually every possible means of transportation, can be said to receive some sort of subsidies, supposedly in the public interest, but NOT the oil companies.

  7. [7] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    CW [2] I think it's the hypocrisy factor, personally.

    I agree. Bible-thumping politicians in particular place themselves on precariously high pedestals, which engenders an inevitable amount of schadenfreude when they fall - it's just human nature to enjoy scandals more when they're sweetened with irony.

    By comparison, Trump's Access Hollywood tape scandal wasn't surprising at all - he'd always been a public reprobate. Sure it was big news because he was a freakin' candidate for President, but honestly, if it had come to light two years earlier it probably wouldn't have even made it to section "A" of the paper.

    Carter's pre-election scandal, you recall, was that he'd lusted "in his heart". Chances are, that's how Trump gets his heart started every morning, so, eh.

    Somewhere in the vaults of NBC Universal are tapes that include out-takes from The Apprentice which supposedly contain examples of Trump being generally boorish toward women on the set. I doubt that their release would pose an existential threat to his presidency. I doubt that even the much-rumored Russian Hooker tape would do that much damage to Trump, given his already 'soiled' reputation.

    Pence, on the other hand, is perfectly positioned for such a fall, as his every statement drips with the sanctimony of a man who has put himself on a higher moral plane than the rest of us. If a teenage hooker steps forward to accuse him, it's probably game-over for magic Mike.

    Say what you will about Trump, he knows how to properly construct a glass pedestal. The key is to pre-fill it with plenty of dirt.

  8. [8] 
    John M wrote:

    [6] C. R. Stucki

    The World Trade Organization provides a definition of subsidies. It says a subsidy is any financial benefit provided by a government which gives an unfair advantage to a specific industry, business or individual. The WTO mentions five types of subsidies:

    1.) Cash subsidies, such as grants.

    2.) Tax concessions, such as exemptions, credits or deferrals.

    3.) Assumption of risk, such as loan guarantees.
    Government procurement policies that pay more than the free-market price.

    4.) Stock purchases that keep a company's stock price higher than market levels.

    5.) Stock purchases that keep a company's stock price higher than market levels.

    Oil industry subsidies include:

    1.) The Deepwater Royalty Waiver Program, which allows oil companies to drill on federal property without paying royalties.

    2.) The Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit

    3.) Refinery Equipment Deductions

    4.) The Geological and Geophysical Costs Tax Credit

    5.) Natural Gas Distribution Lines

    6.) Defense spending that involves military action in oil-rich countries in the Persian Gulf.

    This is only a partial list.

  9. [9] 
    goode trickle wrote:

    I guess I must be either too liberal or my understanding of english is not sufficent to understand the language regarding the "United States ? Progress Report on Fossil Fuel Subsidies"..found here.

  10. [10] 
    John M wrote:

    [6] C. R. Stucki

    Also, have we forgotten the controversy over the Keystone XL pipeline already? The one to bring oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada to the USA.

    When the government:

    A.) Waives environmental rules and regulations, and

    B.) Does things like like provide property for a right of way for construction of a pipeline through the power of eminent domain on the behalf of a oil company...

    That is a subsidy, perhaps indirect, but a subsidy nonetheless.

  11. [11] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Oh Al, say it ain't so. Oh, he already said it IS SO. He apologized, and agreed to cooperate with a Senate Investigation. That was the right thing to do, but it doesn't make things go away. Grabbing ass doesn't contribute to senatorial gravitas, and if you are going to do it, better to get written permission from the grab-ee and have it notarized, but better still don't do it. But, he did. Maybe more shoes, or pants (baggy or otherwise) will drop. Anybody else remember the SNL Sumo Wrestler Sketch? Let's just say he and Davis were a pair of "cheeky monkeys" back in their SNL days.

    This incident of bad manners-bad behavior- harassment (you decide) is a black mark on Franken's character. People have every right to consider it if he chooses to run for office again. I suppose there are legal ramifications too, should the victim or the law choose to go that far.

    The people of Wisconsin voted for a comedian...there was particle of risk in that decision. Comedians tend to work close to the edge of bad taste. Let's not go overboard with equivalency and political score settling. Do really want to chuck all government officials out and ask Canada to take us on as a protectorate? Until we find and vet a few good men and women worthy of governing?

  12. [12] 
    TheStig wrote:

    C.R. Stukey, you do run on. You remind me of someone.
    Old hand in a new sock puppet?

  13. [13] 
    John M wrote:

    Sorry, number 4 above in the WTO list should read:

    4.) Government procurement policies that pay more than the free-market price.

    I did not mean to repeat number 5 twice.

  14. [14] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    John M [8]

    Your laundry list there can be divided into two categories. Many of them are normal business expense, all of which are deductible from gross income to calculate net income, and have zero connection to 'subsidies', and are common to all businesses.

    The balance of them are subsidies for YOU AND ME, not for the oil companies. If the military has to keep ocean shipping lanes free of pirates so tankers can transmit oil, if a pipeline needs to be built on public land to transmit oil, that is a subsidy for the CONSUMER, not for the oil company. Those things are why you can fill your tank for under three bucks/gal. If the oil companies had to police the oceans, your gas could cost $25/gal, or more likely, simply would not exist.

  15. [15] 
    John M wrote:

    [14] C. R. Stucki

    "Many of them are normal business expense, all of which are deductible from gross income to calculate net income, and have zero connection to 'subsidies', and are common to all businesses."

    No, actually they are not. They are specifically tailored to the oil and gas industry. A grocery store, for example, does not get a tax credit or deduction for research on oil geological surveys.

    "The balance of them are subsidies for YOU AND ME, not for the oil companies. If the military has to keep ocean shipping lanes free of pirates so tankers can transmit oil, if a pipeline needs to be built on public land to transmit oil, that is a subsidy for the CONSUMER, not for the oil company."

    They may benefit you and me, but they are still specifically for the oil companies, at the expense of other industries, like solar, nuclear, wind, hydroelectric, etc. If all our cars ran on batteries instead of gasoline, for instance, there would be little need for the military to protect oil shipping routes. Any way you slice it, you are still picking winners and losers among various industries through subsidized infrastructure supports and tax incentives.

  16. [16] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Now we know what it takes to get everybody to make Al Franken's signature expression at once.

    But if we're playing by Republican rules, guess what? Franken's accuser, Leann Tweeden, has an association with Fox News that goes back to 2005, including sixteen appearances on Hannity.

    Her statement sets the scene in 2006, a year after she started appearing on Fox. He was, at the time, I think, doing Air America radio, which might have led to some rivalry between the two.

    I think I have a few legitimate questions about all this. At no point in her statement does she say that she asked Franken to take the kiss out of the script, which I'm sure she could have demanded. And did he want to rehearse the kiss, or rehearse the new skit? Was it described in the script as a 'deep kiss', or a peck? She says that when she later turned away from the kiss on stage, it was 'funnier'. Did Franken agree? As for the 'groping' photo, it's obviously a prank, the joke being that she's in full body armor, rendering any 'grope' absurdly futile.

    Pardon my skepticism, and I'm sure a heap of scorn will rain down upon me, but if Republicans want to compare Franken's frat boy prank on a former spokesmodel for Hooters Restaurants to a DA groping a teenager in a dark parking lot, or Weinstein threatening ruination to young actresses in return for sex, I really have to take exception.

    It's not even close.

  17. [17] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    John M

    Actually, I see now you are correct. Oil companies heavily subsidized. Don't know why it took me so long.

  18. [18] 
    Paula wrote:

    I think Al Franken did the right thing by acknowledging, apologizing, and agreeing/calling for an ethics investigation.

    In the coming days we will see if more accusers come forward -- that's what establishes the patterns of bad behaviors that amount to predation/harassment. The accuser in this case has publicly accepted his apology, which matters, I think. I had just read his most recent book where he writes about stuff going on during his SNL days and saying that for awhile he was an asshole, and that could mean anything. If there are a bunch of women whom he harassed out there, they'll come forward. And if they don't, that means something too -- "being an asshole" covers a lot of territory.

    Whatever happens, I think we need to establish some ground rules and procedures because he isn't going to be the last. Of equal importance, right now the political stakes are really high and the GOP has a long history of dirty tricks so I would not put it past them to gin up some accusations. I've been worried they would, and on that basis I think investigations need to happen RATHER THAN pols like Al being martyrs and stepping down if they're not guilty or if their behaviors are in a grey zone. Collectively we have to decide what the grey zone includes and what falls outside it.

    Al is willing to be scrutinized so lets do it and then draw our conclusions.

  19. [19] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Al is willing to be scrutinized so lets do it and then draw our conclusions.

    I'm down with that.

  20. [20] 
    Kick wrote:

    C. R. Stucki

    Actually, I see now you are correct. Oil companies heavily subsidized. Don't know why it took me so long.

    This is what my mother would describe as a simple case of "CRS disease." Your initials suit you. :)

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