Roy Moore, the GOP candidate for Alabama's upcoming Senate election, is under pressure from fellow Republicans. Not only has the party's leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, urged him to drop out of the race after allegations surfaced that Moore sexually harassed teenagers when he was in his 30s, but other GOP members have raised the possibility of expelling Moore from the Senate even if he wins the December election. The latter of those scenarios is so rare, however, that some people might not even not what happens if a senator is expelled from the Senate.
The expulsion of any member of Congress, from either the Senate or House of Representatives, results in the member's seat becoming vacant. The last time such an event occurred was in 2002, when Rep. James Traficant (D-OH) was expelled by a 420-1 margin in the House after being convicted of federal corruption charges.
Both chambers of Congress are granted the powers to expel a member by Article I Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution. The section reads: "Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member."
If Moore were to win the Alabama election, only to be expelled by his colleagues once he gets to Washington D.C., Alabama would temporarily have just one senator. According to rules outlined by the Senate's official website, the vacant seat would then be treated like any other vacancy: a hole that the state governor has the power to fill with a temporary replacement until a special election is held.
The Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution (1913) established direct election of senators, as well as a means of filling vacant Senate seats. If a vacancy occurs due to a senator's death, resignation, or expulsion, the Seventeenth Amendment allows state legislatures to empower the governor to appoint a replacement to complete the term or to hold office until a special election can take place.
The scenario outlined above is exactly what happened earlier in 2017, albeit under much different circumstances. Then-Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions resigned from the Senate after being nominated by President Donald Trump to become the nation's Attorney General. Alabama's governor at the time, Robert Bentley, appointed Luther Strange to fill Sessions' seat in the Senate and then decided that an election would be held in 2018, along with the nation's other midterm elections, to decide who would serve the remainder of Sessions' original 2014-2020 term.
It was only later in the year, after a new governor assumed office in Alabama, that a special election was scheduled for December.
Now, with just a month left before the election is supposed to take place, Moore has become the subject of five different accusations of sexual misconduct with women when they were teenage girls. The different accusations have inspired a wave of responses online, with women sharing personal stories related to the subject of inappropriate relationships with minors.
The accusations against Moore have resulted in current Republican members of the Senate calling for the candidate to step down in the race, even though it would likely result in the election of Democrat Doug Jones, which would lessen the GOP's already slim 52-48 majority in the Senate.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) went a step further than calling for Moore to drop out however.
"I believe the individuals speaking out against Roy Moore spoke with courage and truth, proving he is unfit to serve in the United States Senate and he should not run for office," Gardner said, per Politico. "If he refuses to withdraw and wins, the Senate should vote to expel him, because he does not meet the ethical and moral requirements of the United States Senate."
In the event that a vote on expulsion takes place in the Senate, at least 19 Republicans would have to vote alongside the 48 Democrats in the Senate to achieve the two-thirds majority necessary to expel a member.