Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign

Democratic senators came out in droves Wednesday calling for Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenAP Analysis: 25 state lawmakers running in 2018 have been accused of sexual misconduct Franken offers Dems a line of questioning for Kavanaugh's 'weirdly specific bit of bulls---' The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — GOP lawmakers race to find an immigration fix MORE (D-Minn.) to resign following multiple accusations of groping and improper sexual conduct.

The charge was led by women in the Senate, seven of whom came out with successive statements seemingly in coordination calling for Franken to step down.

"While Senator Franken is entitled to have the Ethics Committee conclude its review, I believe it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn’t acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve," Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandDems to propose legislation to prevent ICE from shackling pregnant women ‘Abolish ICE’ is going to hurt Democrats in the midterms 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser MORE (D-N.Y.), the first out with a statement, said in a message posted on Facebook.

ADVERTISEMENT

The statements mark a shift for Democratic senators who previously dodged calls for Franken to resign despite a growing number of allegations against him. As recently as last week they said they were waiting for the Ethics Committee to review the accusations against him.

That changed when a new charge became public on Wednesday from a woman who said the senator has sought to forcibly kiss her in a 2006 incident.  

Six female Democratic senators quickly followed Gillibrand in saying that Franken should step down: Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisDems to propose legislation to prevent ICE from shackling pregnant women Rasmussen poll: Nearly three-quarters of Dems want 'fresh face' as nominee in 2020 Kamala Harris lands book deal MORE (Calif.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillSenate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Senate Dems lock in million in TV airtime Why does Congress keep playing political games on FBI oversight? MORE (Mo.), Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDems to propose legislation to prevent ICE from shackling pregnant women Top Dems urge Trump officials to reverse suspension of ObamaCare payments Dems launch pressure campaign over migrant families MORE (Wash.), Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoUnions aren’t a thing of the past. Unions are our future. Administration to brief Senate panel on family reunifications Lawmakers press Trump admin for list of migrant kids separated from families MORE (Hawaii), Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinSenate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Overnight Health Care: Over 7,000 fail to meet Medicaid work rules in Arkansas | Judge temporarily halts deportations of reunited families | GOP chair in talks over restarting ObamaCare payments Dem senator calls for 'permanent' price cuts at Pfizer MORE (Wis.) and Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanNew Hampshire governor signs controversial voting bill Conway takes aim at congressional intern who yelled 'f--- you' at Trump Fox's Regan defends CNN's Acosta, calls for civility: 'What has happened to us?' MORE (N.H.).  

"I believe the best thing for Senator Franken to do is step down," Harris said.

By early afternoon, Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate Dems press for info on any deals from Trump-Putin meeting Too many Americans go to prison but Congress can fix this problem This week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation MORE (Ill.), the No. 2 Democrat, and Democratic Sens. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowLobbying world The Hill's Morning Report — Trump, Putin meet under cloud of Mueller’s Russia indictments Dem senator: Kavanaugh sides with 'wealthiest special interests' MORE (Mich.), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampSenate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Bipartisan group introduces retirement savings legislation in Senate Fed chief lays out risks of trade war MORE (N.D.), Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseySenate Dems protest vote on controversial court pick Senate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Dem senator: Kavanaugh would 'turn back the clock' on women's health care MORE Jr. (Pa.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSenate Dems press for info on any deals from Trump-Putin meeting Dems call for hearings on Trump’s CFPB nominee to be put on hold Senate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds MORE (Ohio), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellySenate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Fed chief lays out risks of trade war Doug Jones walks tightrope on Supreme Court nominee MORE (Ind.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetHarley stunner spikes tension with Trump over trade policy Races to watch in Tuesday’s primaries Democrats protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor MORE (Colo.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyHillicon Valley: Mueller indicts Russians for DNC hack | US officially lifts ZTE ban | AT&T CEO downplays merger challenge | Microsoft asks for rules on facial recognition technology | Dems want probe into smart TVs Dems push FTC to investigate smart TVs over privacy concerns Hillicon Valley: Hacker tried to sell military docs on dark web | Facebook fined over Cambridge Analytica | US closer to lifting ZTE ban | Trump, Obama lose followers in Twitter purge | DOJ weighs appeal on AT&T merger MORE (Mass.), Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellPoll: Majority of Americans support Roe v. Wade The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Protests and anger: Washington in turmoil as elections near Dem senator says Supreme Court vote could be 'career ending' for lawmakers MORE (Wash.), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenate Dems protest vote on controversial court pick Budget chairs press appropriators on veterans spending Kavanaugh paper chase heats up MORE (Vt.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump, Putin meet under cloud of Mueller’s Russia indictments Dems launch pressure campaign over migrant families California Dems endorse progressive challenger over Feinstein MORE (Calif.), Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichCNN congressional correspondent talks about her early love of trolls and family Overnight Energy: DNC to reject fossil fuel donations | Regulators see no security risk in coal plant closures | Senate committee rejects Trump EPA, Interior budgets Energy commission sees no national security risk from coal plant closures MORE (N.M.), Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthLawmakers press Trump admin for list of migrant kids separated from families The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Protests and anger: Washington in turmoil as elections near Ocasio-Cortez responds to Dem senator who said policies 'too far to the left' don't win in Midwest MORE (Ill.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate Dems protest vote on controversial court pick Senate adds members to pro-NATO group Senate GOP poised to break record on Trump's court picks MORE (Ore.), Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy: Fewer than half of school districts test for lead | Dems slam proposed changes to Endangered Species Act | FEMA avoids climate change when discussing plan for future storms Dems slam proposed changes to Endangered Species Act Full interview: Democratic candidate Kerri Evelyn Harris discusses her Senate campaign in Delaware MORE (Del.), Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenate Dems protest vote on controversial court pick On The Money: Fed chief lays out risks of trade war | Senate floats new Russia sanctions amid Trump backlash | House passes bill to boost business investment Hillicon Valley: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | Sparks fly at hearing on social media | First House Republican backs net neutrality bill | Meet the DNC's cyber guru | Sinclair defiant after merger setback MORE (Ore.), Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallEPA deputy says he's not interested in Pruitt’s job Latina Leaders to Watch 2018 Overnight Energy: Spending bill targets Pruitt | Ryan not paying 'close attention' to Pruitt controversies | Yellowstone park chief learned of dismissal through press release MORE (N.M.), Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphySenate Dems rip Trump after Putin news conference Dems launch pressure campaign over migrant families Sunday shows preview: Trump readies for meeting with Putin MORE (Conn.), Gary PetersGary Charles PetersThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump, Putin meet under cloud of Mueller’s Russia indictments Dem senator: Kavanaugh sides with 'wealthiest special interests' Judge on Trump shortlist boasts stint on Michigan's high court MORE (Mich.) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenate Dems protest vote on controversial court pick Who is Andrew Wheeler, EPA's new acting chief? Congress can protect midterm elections with the Disclose Act MORE (R.I.) had also called on Franken to resign.

Sens. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersMellman: (Mis)interpreting elections Dems to propose legislation to prevent ICE from shackling pregnant women Rasmussen poll: Nearly three-quarters of Dems want 'fresh face' as nominee in 2020 MORE (Vt.) and Angus KingAngus Stanley KingLawmakers say Trump tariffs are threatening local newspapers Senate adds members to pro-NATO group Hillicon Valley: Hacker tried to sell military docs on dark web | Facebook fined over Cambridge Analytica | US closer to lifting ZTE ban | Trump, Obama lose followers in Twitter purge | DOJ weighs appeal on AT&T merger MORE (Maine), both Independents who caucus with the Democrats, also called on Franken to step down.

"The right thing is for him to resign. We are now at a crossroads in American culture. And it is an important one. The way we treat women in our country has been abysmal in almost every way. We are finally addressing the issue of sexual harassment, and we need to get it right," Sanders said in a statement.

Franken's office said he would be making an announcement on Thursday.

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharSenate Dems protest vote on controversial court pick Hillicon Valley: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | Sparks fly at hearing on social media | First House Republican backs net neutrality bill | Meet the DNC's cyber guru | Sinclair defiant after merger setback Booker seizes on Kavanaugh confirmation fight MORE (D), the other senator from Minnesota, did not explicitly echo calls for Franken to resign but said she had spoken with her colleague. 

"Sexual harassment is unacceptable. This morning I spoke with Senator 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," she said in a statement.

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick Election Countdown: Latest on the 2018 Senate money race | Red-state Dems feeling the heat over Kavanaugh | Dem doubts about Warren | Ocasio-Cortez to visit Capitol Hill | Why Puerto Ricans in Florida could swing Senate race Green Day's 'American Idiot' climbs UK charts ahead of Trump visit MORE (D-Va.) also declined to comment on Wednesday, saying that he would speak to Franken directly and release a statement after Thursday's press conference.

The women calling for Franken to step down included possible 2020 presidential candidates Harris and Gillibrand, and Murray, the No. 3 Democrat and highest-ranking female senator.

"I'm shocked and appalled by Sen. Franken's behavior. It's clear to me that this has been a deeply harmful, persistent problem and a clear pattern over a long period of time," Murray said.

She added that "we cannot pick and choose based on political party or friendship who we call out."

The Boston Globe reported that Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSenate Dems protest vote on controversial court pick Dems call for hearings on Trump’s CFPB nominee to be put on hold Dems to propose legislation to prevent ICE from shackling pregnant women MORE (D-Mass.), another possible presidential candidate, had called Franken to urge him to step down.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Defense: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | GOP looks to reassure NATO | Mattis open to meeting Russian counterpart Senate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash House passes bipartisan bill to boost business investment MORE (R-Ky.), meanwhile, said he did not believe Franken could "effectively serve the people of Minnesota in the U.S. Senate any longer."

"While the Senate Ethics Committee is reviewing these serious allegations, it now appears that Senator Franken has lost the support of his colleagues, and most importantly, his constituents," McConnell said in a statement, calling the allegations against Franken "extremely concerning to all of us in the Senate."

Franken has been battling allegations of sexual misconduct since mid-November when radio host Leeann Tweeden said he kissed and groped her without her consent during a 2006 USO tour.

Since then, multiple women have come forward saying Franken inappropriately touched them.

Franken, who routinely doesn't speak to reporters in the Capitol, has kept a relatively low profile since allegations first surfaced against him last month.

He skipped four Senate votes and a caucus lunch in the immediate wake of the initial allegation, and spoke on the Senate floor for the first time since early November on Dec. 1.

Still, he went on an apology tour late last month, speaking with local media and holding a rare press conference with Capitol Hill press. He said at the time that he was "embarrassed and ashamed" by the allegations of groping, while also noting he doesn't remember all of the alleged instances. 
 
"Those are instances that I do not remember ... [but] it's been clear that there are some women, and one is too many, who feel that I have done something disrespectful, and I've hurt them. And for that I am tremendously sorry," Franken told reporters on Monday.

The calls for Franken to resign come as he is already under an Ethics Committee investigation.

"While the committee does not generally comment on pending matters that may come before it, in this instance, the committee is publicly confirming that it has opened a preliminary inquiry into Senator Franken's alleged misconduct," committee members said in a statement.

If Franken doesn't step down voluntarily, the committee could move forward with a range of potential punishments from a public admonishment to recommending the Senate expel him. 

The Senate last expelled a member — a move that requires support for two-thirds of the chamber — in 1862 for supporting the confederacy.

The pressure on Franken to step down Wednesday also comes one day after Rep. John ConyersJohn James ConyersAP Analysis: 25 state lawmakers running in 2018 have been accused of sexual misconduct Portland activist stages ‘reparations happy hour’ Conyers III won't appear on primary ballot in race to replace his father MORE Jr. (D-Mich.) resigned from the House amid his own sexual harassment controversy.

And it's a week before election day in Alabama, where Republican Roy Moore is the favorite for a Senate seat despite allegations from multiple women of improper conduct, including one woman who said Moore touched her sexually when she was 14 and he was 32.

Franken isn't up for reelection next year. If he steps down immediately, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) would appoint someone to fill his seat until a special election in 2018. The winner of that election would fill the seat for the remaining two years of Franken's term, while a second election would be held in 2020 for a full six-year term.

Updated: 4:30 p.m.