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Essential Politics: The Roy Moore rebuke, the Obamacare repeal

There are two major cliffhangers in Republican politics as the week hits the midway mark. And both seem to focus squarely on Capitol Hill.

One is the fate of a tax overhaul that has quickly shifted back to the fight over healthcare. The other is the electoral fate of the embattled GOP nominee from Alabama for the U.S. Senate.

Both seem to be measured right now in hours, not days.

FEWER AND FEWER WANT MOORE FOR SENATE

For Roy Moore, the Republican Senate nominee now accused by five women of inappropriate sexual advances when they were teenagers, the leaders of both houses of Congress have now said his campaign should come to an end.

“These allegations are credible,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday. “He should step aside.”

And the man whose caucus Moore hopes to join has ratcheted up his criticism of the candidate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he’s spoken to President Trump about the issue. And McConnell said that Moore is “obviously not fit to be in the United States Senate,” prompting the Alabamian to mock the Senate leader for not picking him during the state’s GOP primary.

On Tuesday night, Moore told those attending a rally that his critics were trying to distract from an effort to “come back to God.”

But national Republicans have very few options for getting Moore out of a race where election day is now less than four weeks away. That may explain the increased buzz over what might happen if he beats Democrat Doug Jones: expelling Moore from the Senate, the kind of rebuke that hasn’t happened since 1862.

TAX PLAN SURPRISE: OBAMACARE REPEAL

Republicans in the Senate found a way to shift the news cycle just a bit away from Moore on Tuesday, by adding something new to what was already a sweeping tax reform plan.

They’re going back after the Affordable Care Act.

The change, backed by President Trump, would end the mandate under the hotly debated law that all Americans have health coverage.

Repealing the mandate would save the government an estimated $338 billion over 10 years, but only because millions of people would stop buying insurance.

OF HARASSMENT IN WASHINGTON AND SACRAMENTO

Lawmakers are tackling tough questions about sexual harassment in two capital cities.

On Tuesday, Bay Area Rep. Jackie Speier said dozens of women had contacted her about abuse and harassment on Capitol Hill after she spoke out about her own experience as a congressional staffer some four decades ago.

The stories she was told included allegations against two incumbent lawmakers, though Speier declined to identify them. Meantime, Speaker Ryan said the House will adopt a policy requiring members and staff to undergo sexual harassment training.

In Sacramento, there are still a number of questions about a policy announced late Sunday by the California Senate that will hand over all abuse investigations to an outside law firm. No similar commitment, however, was made by the state Assembly.

NATIONAL POLITICS LIGHTNING ROUND

-- Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions grew visibly angry on Tuesday in congressional testimony, insisting that he “always told the truth” while confirming that a 2016 campaign aide offered to help arrange a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

-- Trump announced on Monday that he will nominate Alex Azar, a former pharmaceutical executive, to be his new secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

-- After the allegations of sexual misconduct by Moore, the internet responded with posts including the #MeAt14 hashtag.

-- Conservative critics have taken aim at the news that pseudonyms were used for top officials’ email in former President Barack Obama’s administration. But apparently, Trump officials use them too.

-- Hundreds of wealthy American taxpayers have signed a letter calling on Congress to not cut their taxes.

IN CALIFORNIA, A TAX FIGHT COMETH

With the big House vote on tax changes now expected on Thursday, California's congressional Republicans are being targeted with a blitz of ads highlighting changes that could hurt many of the state’s taxpayers.

Those ads are airing on cable and network airwaves in the districts of at least five of the state’s more politically vulnerable Republicans.

Two of those lawmakers said on Tuesday they remain undecided on how to vote.

PREPPING FOR DRIVERLESS CARS

Coming next year, expect to see fully driverless cars — vehicles with no one in the driver’s seat — tested on California's streets.

The testing will occur after state regulators appeased concerns of the automobile and tech industries as well as wary state legislators, who were worried the rules were taking too long to write and that companies might flee as a result.

TODAY’S ESSENTIALS

-- Gabby Giffords' gun control group has endorsed Navy veteran Gil Cisneros for Congress against Republican Rep. Ed Royce.

-- The Senate's proposed change in how stock options are taxed would specifically hit start-ups and has triggered strong opposition from technology companies and investors.

-- The Los Angeles County district attorney's office is looking into votes made by a Santa Monica school board member who approved contracts with companies that did business with her husband.

-- “Saturday Night Live” poked fun this past weekend at two prominent California Democrats, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

-- The documentary “11/8/16,” which followed 16 different people from across the country on election day, will be screened on Monday, Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. in downtown Los Angeles. The film includes scenes from the Los Angeles Times newsroom. Join us! As an Essential Politics newsletter subscriber, you are invited to attend for free with a guest. Seating is limited. Please RSVP.

LOGISTICS

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