Franken’s decision imminent
WASHINGTON >> emocratic patience with Sen. Al Franken evaporated Wednesday in the wake of a new accusation of sexual misconduct against him, and in an uprising led by women, more than half the party’s senators demanded he resign — a decision that could arrive as soon as today.
The cascade of opposition opened when Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said “it would be better for our country” if Franken left office. Within minutes, Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Patty Murray of Washington, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Claire McCaskill of Missouri released similar statements.
“Sexual harassment and misconduct should not be allowed by anyone and should not occur anywhere. I believe the best thing for Senator Franken to do is step down,” Harris said.
The choreographed Democratic actions were intended to impose maximum pressure on Franken, who had resisted resigning even as he vowed full cooperation with a Senate Ethics Committee investigation into a series of allegations against him by women that began last month.
The coordinated action “was a result of mounting frustrations over the increasing number of accusations,” said a Democrat familiar with the senators’ conversations who was not sanctioned to speak publicly and requested anonymity. “They felt that enough is enough, and now was the time to ask him to step aside.”
If Franken steps down, as is widely expected, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, would appoint a replacement who would serve until next November’s midterm election. As Dayton would almost certainly appoint a fellow Democrat to the seat, Franken’s resignation would not change the Senate’s partisan balance.
For Democrats, the effort to push Franken aside reflected growing calls from party activists
Dfor an uncompromising, zero-tolerance stance toward sexual misconduct. Over the past several weeks, as they wrestled with Franken’s situation, party leaders worried about seeming to equivocate on an issue of particular importance to women, who make up the majority of Democratic voters. Democrats also have wanted to draw a clear contrast with Republican willingness to stand by Roy Moore, the GOP Senate candidate in Alabama who has been accused of acts that included partially disrobing and molesting a 14-year-old girl when he was a local prosecutor in his 30s. Democrats also have long defended more than a dozen women who accused President Donald Trump of sexual improprieties dating back decades, only to have the president cast them as liars.
Even after Franken revealed plans for his announcement, more senators added themselves to the list. By midafternoon, well over half the Senate’s Democrats, as well as independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont, had called for him to step down. So, too, had Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader. No party leaders rose to defend Franken.
Franken’s fellow Minnesota Democrat, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, issued a statement Wednesday afternoon that strongly implied she favored — and expected — a resignation.
“Sexual harassment is unacceptable,” she said. “This morning I spoke with Sen. Franken, and, as you know, he will be making an announcement about his future tomorrow morning. I am confident he will make the right decision.”
The moves against Franken came the day after the spreading scandal claimed the senior member of the House, Democratic Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, who resigned after several former aides accused him of sexual harassment and unwanted advances.
Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., was trying to fend off demands by the party’s House leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, and others that he depart after a former campaign aide recounted repeated acts of sexual aggression against her during the 2016 campaign. Kihuen apologized but said he would not resign.
Sen. Al Franken