Sen. Roy Moore? What the GOP Can Expect

Controversial former judge could be Alabama’s next senator

Roy Moore won the Alabama GOP primary runoff Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Roy Moore won the Alabama GOP primary runoff Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted September 28, 2017 at 5:04am

If Roy Moore becomes Alabama’s next senator, he can bring his gun to the Capitol, but it can’t be loaded and must be securely wrapped.

The gun-toting, Bible-quoting, conservative firebrand will likely shake up the Senate whether he can wave his firearm around or not.

Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, made headlines this week when he took out his gun at a campaign rally the night before the Republican primary runoff in the race to succeed former Sen. Jeff Sessions, who is now attorney general.

It was not the first time Moore brought out a gun at a campaign event. But on Monday he did so to defy accusations, levied by allies of GOP leaders who did not support his candidacy, that he does not support the Second Amendment.

Overcoming the millions of dollars spent on attack ads against him, Moore sailed to victory Tuesday night. He defeated Sen. Luther Strange, who had been appointed to the seat.

Moore is favored to win the Dec. 12 general election in the Republican state, despite some of his controversial past comments. He will face Democrat Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney. 

Moore is well known in the Yellowhammer State. He gained national attention in the mid-2000s when he fought, unsuccessfully, to keep a Ten Commandments monument at the state’s Supreme Court. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Likely Republican.

How exactly Moore would fit into the GOP conference remains to be seen, but some lawmakers said the outspoken former judge might have a tough time finding his stride as one of 100 senators.

“I think it’s going to be a difficult transition,” Alabama GOP Rep. Gary Palmer said. “As a judge he had a gavel. And over there he’s not going to have a gavel.”

Bucking leadership

Moore is likely to be a thorn in the side of leadership, particularly Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with the Kentucky Republican, spent $5 million in the runoff to defeat Moore, which enraged the former judge.

“I don’t know Mitch McConnell at all,” Moore said in an interview in August after the super PAC launched its first ad against him. “Why he’s so passionate about me not coming to Washington, I don’t know. Perhaps he realizes I won’t be controlled.”

Though it’s still not clear what tack Moore would take once in the Senate, he owes McConnell — and President Donald Trump — nothing.

He would give McConnell, who operates with a razor-thin Republican majority, even less wiggle room than he currently has on tough negotiations, from a tax overhaul to government spending deals to any future efforts on health care.

“It’s already challenging to get stuff done,” said GOP lobbyist Kathryn Lehman, a former congressional leadership aide who is now with the law firm Holland & Knight. “I can’t imagine this makes it any easier.”

Moore campaigned hard against his party’s congressional leadership, especially McConnell. He told a cheering crowd the night before the runoff, “Mitch McConnell needs to be replaced.”

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Moore has also railed against the D.C. groups that backed Strange in the race, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. While Trump endorsed Strange, Moore has been careful to note that he still supports the president.

“I think [Moore] could be a problem for the current leadership,” said Republican lobbyist Sam Geduldig of the CGCN Group.

Geduldig noted, however, that other Senate candidates who have run as outsiders, such as Republican Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, have settled into the party’s majority.

“So there’s a path back, if he chooses to take it,” he said.

‘Not conventional’

But Moore has indicated that he could choose a different path. He has already shown early signs of aligning with conservative senators who have defied party leadership.

Moore spoke with GOP Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky on Tuesday night after he won the runoff. All three have been known to buck leadership and hold up Senate business.

In his victory speech, Moore said they were “three senators who are important in our government.”

Moore could also find allies on the other side of the Capitol Dome. House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows endorsed Moore in the runoff, and Meadows’ deputy chief of staff, Wayne King, tweeted from behind the scenes at Moore’s victory rally Tuesday night.

“Roy Moore’s not conventional. He’s Roy Moore, he’s unique,” said Alabama’s senior GOP senator, Richard C. Shelby. Shelby said Moore would likely join four or five senators “that we already have here that are challenging everything.”

For an example of what McConnell might have to deal with in Moore, look at the majority leader’s relationship with Paul, his fellow Kentucky Republican. McConnell opposed Paul, who has deep ties to the tea party movement, in the state’s 2010 GOP primary race. The two have grown cordial, but Paul opposed the recent GOP health care effort.

Moore reportedly would have also opposed the health care plan if he was in the Senate. He has decried what he views as government spending run amok, which could indicate a potential unwillingness to support government funding bills and raising the debt limit.

Insiders still expect Moore to be a reliable GOP vote in most cases.

“As a conservative, we expect Roy Moore to vote largely in line with the Republican agenda and certainly President Trump’s agenda,” said Brian Walsh, a former aide to the Senate’s No. 2 Republican leader, John Cornyn of Texas.

As for Moore’s attacks on the party’s congressional leaders, “no one on the leadership end takes that personally,” added Walsh, who is with the public affairs firm Rokk Solutions.

Moore also sports a controversial streak that could well turn the spotlight on himself, and away from his party’s policy goals. He vehemently opposes same-sex marriage and once said homosexual acts should be illegal. Recently, discussing race relations, Moore seemingly referred to Native Americans and Asians as “reds and yellows.”

Alabama Republican Rep. Bradley Byrne said Moore is “very concerned about social issues, and I think he would continue to be very forceful in speaking out on those.” 

“But you know a lot of what we do up here has nothing to do with social issues,” said Byrne, who did not endorse in the primary. “So the struggle for him is going to be to get on top of those issues, and he’s going to have to have a really good staff to help him with that, which is true for all of us.”

In other words, Moore is expected to stick to his guns.


And as for his actual gun? A Capitol Police spokeswoman said there is a 1967 Capitol Police Board regulation that permits members of Congress to have firearms in their offices. Lawmakers can transport firearms within the Capitol grounds if they are unloaded and “securely wrapped.”

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.