On Capitol Hill, Roy Moore doesn't say if he'd vote to oust McConnell

Story highlights

  • Moore's primary campaign drew significantly on a pledge to take down McConnell
  • A visit to Washington saw the controversial former judge demur on that promise Tuesday

Washington (CNN)Fresh off a lunch in the Capitol with his potential colleagues, Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore would not say if he would vote against Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, following a primary campaign where his opposition to McConnell was a central focus.

Moore spent Tuesday in Washington as he heads to a general election in the heavily Republican state this December, and as he left the Senate GOP lunch, he responded to a few questions from reporters and said he had spoken with McConnell at the event.
    Asked if he wanted McConnell removed as majority leader, Moore said, "We didn't talk about that."
    "I'm not going to give you an opinion on that right now," Moore said.
    The relatively demure approach from Moore on Tuesday came in sharp contrast to his record in Alabama and rhetoric on the campaign trail, where the former judge -- who has a history of incendiary and derogatory comments, including saying homosexuality should be outlawed and that Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress, should be barred from serving because of his religion -- railed against McConnell and the Republican establishment as ineffective.
    Moore declined to weigh in on McConnell as well as his past statements.
    On Ellison, Moore said, "I'm going to address that later."
    And asked if he still believed in making homosexuality illegal, Moore said, "I'm not answering any questions on the issues right now."
    But reached by an MSNBC reporter while on the Hill, Moore indicated his position on Ellison had not changed since the 2006 article he wrote saying the Minnesota Democrat should not be seated in Congress.
    "Read my article, and you'll find out what I believe," Moore said, adding, "It's clarified very clearly in the article."
    South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune, a member of GOP leadership, said that during the lunch, Moore was bullish on his chances going into the general election.
    "He's confident he can win it," Thune said.
    Thune, however, said he did not know enough yet to support or oppose Moore's Senate candidacy.
    "I am hoping to meet with him while he's up here," Thune said. "I haven't had a chance to do that yet. I don't know him. I am hoping to get to know him a little better and then we'll move on from there."
    Other senators were likewise reluctant to weigh in on their party's controversial Senate candidate.
    Outgoing Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker, who has been critical recently of the President's demeanor, said he "hadn't really thought" about supporting Moore. Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said after the lunch that he was still reviewing Moore's record.
    However, Sen. Jeff Flake took a moment to denounce the former judge's comment about Ellison as the Arizona Republican delivered a speech on the Senate floor about a judicial nominee and religious litmus tests.
    "When a judge expressed his personal belief that a practicing Muslim shouldn't be a member of Congress because of his religious faith, it was wrong," Flake said. "That this same judge is now my party's nominee from the Senate from Alabama should concern us all. Religious tests have no place in the United State Congress."
      Flake announced last week he would not seek re-election, delivering a speech against Trump's conduct and saying the current state of the Republican Party meant he would not have been able to win the race.
      Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins maintained Tuesday morning that she disagreed with Moore on "many things."