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Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign

Democratic senators came out in droves Wednesday calling for Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump, Biden clash over transition holdup, pandemic plans The Hill's Morning Report - Fearing defeat, Trump claims 'illegal' ballots The Hill's Morning Report - Biden inches closer to victory 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 GillibrandDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Social media responds to Harris making history: 'I feel like our ancestors are rejoicing' Ocasio-Cortez says she doesn't plan on 'staying in the House forever' MORE (D-N.Y.), the first out with a statement, said in a message posted on Facebook.

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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 HarrisFive House Democrats who could join Biden Cabinet GOP senator: No indication of widespread voting irregularities, window for Trump challenges is 'closing' Biden pledges to work with mayors MORE (Calif.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillDemocrats must turn around Utah police arrest man driving 130 mph claiming he was going to kill former Missouri senator McCaskill congratulates Hawley on birth of daughter MORE (Mo.), Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDemocratic anger rises over Trump obstacles to Biden transition DOJ investigation into Epstein deal ends without recommended action The Hill's 12:30 Report: What to know about the Pfizer vaccine announcement MORE (Wash.), Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight Senate advances energy regulator nominees despite uncertainty of floor vote Democratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry MORE (Hawaii), Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinSenate Democrats reelect Schumer as leader by acclamation  Next Congress expected to have record diversity Infrastructure, energy investments urgently needed to create U.S. jobs MORE (Wis.) and Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanCut tariffs and open US economy to fight COVID-19 pandemic Senate passes bill to secure internet-connected devices against cyber vulnerabilities Overnight Defense: Trump campaign's use of military helicopter raises ethics concerns | Air Force jets intercept aircraft over Trump rally | Senators introduce bill to expand visa screenings MORE (N.H.).  

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

By early afternoon, Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinDurbin seeks to become top-ranking Democrat on Judiciary panel Feinstein to step down as top Democrat on Judiciary Committee Democrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus MORE (Ill.), the No. 2 Democrat, and Democratic Sens. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowSenate Democrats reelect Schumer as leader by acclamation  Bottom line Peters fends off challenge in Michigan Senate race MORE (Mich.), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampFive House Democrats who could join Biden Cabinet Biden names John Kerry as 'climate czar' in new administration OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight MORE (N.D.), Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyScranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Grassley tests positive for coronavirus Casey says he isn't thinking about Pennsylvania gubernatorial bid in 2022 MORE Jr. (Pa.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOn The Money: Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed | Trump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing | JPMorgan: Economy will shrink in first quarter due to COVID-19 spike Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol MORE (Ohio), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyBiden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Harris walks fine line on Barrett as election nears The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by JobsOhio - Showdown: Trump-Biden debate likely to be nasty MORE (Ind.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Hickenlooper ousts Gardner in Colorado, handing Democrats vital pickup Lobbying world MORE (Colo.), Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden eyes new leadership at troubled public lands agency | House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally | Trump administration pushes for rollback of Arctic offshore drilling regulations House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally MORE (Mass.), Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellSenate advances energy regulator nominees despite uncertainty of floor vote OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Esper reportedly working with lawmakers to strip Confederate names from bases | Enemy attacks in Afghanistan jump by 50 percent, watchdog says | Fort Hood soldier arrested, charged in Chelsea Cheatham killing Zuckerberg to express openness to Section 230 reform MORE (Wash.), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyDurbin seeks to become top-ranking Democrat on Judiciary panel Feinstein to step down as top Democrat on Judiciary Committee McConnell wants deal this week on fiscal 2021 spending figures MORE (Vt.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDurbin seeks to become top-ranking Democrat on Judiciary panel Feinstein to step down as top Democrat on Judiciary Committee Bottom line MORE (Calif.), Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichFive 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Senate race MORE (Ore.), Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy: Biden names John Kerry as 'climate czar' | GM reverses on Trump, exits suit challenging California's tougher emissions standards | United Nations agency says greenhouse gas emissions accumulating despite lockdown decline GSA transition delay 'poses serious risk' to Native Americans, Udall says OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight MORE (Del.), Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOn The Money: Push for student loan forgiveness puts Biden in tight spot | Trump is wild card as shutdown fears grow | Mnuchin asks Fed to return 5 billion in unspent COVID emergency funds Grassley, Wyden criticize Treasury guidance concerning PPP loans The FCC is trying to govern content moderation: It doesn't have the authority MORE (Ore.), 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data privacy feature | Children groups warn about Parler Peters criticizes Trump for not taking action after cyberattacks on hospitals, COVID-19 researchers MORE (Mich.) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDurbin seeks to become top-ranking Democrat on Judiciary panel Feinstein to step down as top Democrat on Judiciary Committee GOP breaks with Trump firing of cyber chief: Adds to 'confusion and chaos' MORE (R.I.) had also called on Franken to resign.

Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFive House Democrats who could join Biden Cabinet Biden names John Kerry as 'climate czar' in new administration In the final chapter of 2020, we must recommit to repairing our democracy MORE (Vt.) and Angus KingAngus KingLeadership changes at top cyber agency raise national security concerns Top cybersecurity official ousted by Trump Republicans start turning the page on Trump era 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 KlobucharFormer Minnesota Democratic leader quits party Top cybersecurity official ousted by Trump Lawmakers question tech CEOs about content moderation in first post-election hearing 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 KaineDemocrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Rick Scott tests positive for coronavirus Grassley tests positive for coronavirus 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 WarrenOn The Money: Biden to nominate Yellen for Treasury secretary | 'COVID cliff' looms | Democrats face pressure to back smaller stimulus Biden to nominate Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary: report Bottom line MORE (D-Mass.), another possible presidential candidate, had called Franken to urge him to step down.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFeinstein to step down as top Democrat on Judiciary Committee Voters want a strong economy and leadership, Democrats should listen On The Money: Biden to nominate Yellen for Treasury secretary | 'COVID cliff' looms | Democrats face pressure to back smaller stimulus 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 ConyersBiden's immigration plan has serious problems Tlaib wins Michigan Democratic primary Tlaib holds lead in early vote count against primary challenger 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.