Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign

Democratic senators came out in droves Wednesday calling for Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenVirginia can be better than this Harris off to best start among Dems in race, say strategists, donors Virginia scandals pit Democrats against themselves and their message 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 GillibrandSanders campaign reports raising M in less than a day Gillibrand uses Trump Jr. tweet to fundraise Meghan McCain: 'Don't underestimate' Bernie Sanders 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 Devi HarrisSanders campaign reports raising M in less than a day The Memo: Bernie Sanders’s WH launch sharpens ‘socialist’ question Gillibrand uses Trump Jr. tweet to fundraise MORE (Calif.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMcCaskill: Lindsey Graham 'has lost his mind' Trey Gowdy joins Fox News as a contributor The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Trump AG pick Barr grilled at hearing | Judge rules against census citizenship question | McConnell blocks second House bill to reopen government MORE (Mo.), Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Dems blast rulemaking on family planning program | Facebook may remove anti-vaccine content | Medicare proposes coverage for new cancer treatment Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Senators seek answers on surprise medical bills | Red states move to limit Medicaid expansion | Two drug companies agree to testify Senate Dems block Sasse measure meant to respond to Virginia bill MORE (Wash.), Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoFemale Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations Trump tweets video mocking Dems not cheering during State of the Union New battle lines in war over Trump’s judicial picks MORE (Hawaii), Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinKlobuchar, O'Rourke visit Wisconsin as 2020 race heats up Dems offer smaller step toward ‘Medicare for all' Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Powerful House committee turns to drug pricing | Utah governor defies voters on Medicaid expansion | Dems want answers on controversial new opioid MORE (Wis.) and Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Dems blast rulemaking on family planning program | Facebook may remove anti-vaccine content | Medicare proposes coverage for new cancer treatment Trade official warns senators of obstacles to quick China deal Actor Chris Evans meets with Democratic senators before State of the Union 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 DurbinSanders: 'Not crazy' about nixing the Senate filibuster Democrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Trump praises law enforcement response to shooting at Illinois business MORE (Ill.), the No. 2 Democrat, and Democratic Sens. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowLand conservation tax incentives should inspire charitable giving, not loopholes Four names emerge for UN position: report Democrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal MORE (Mich.), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary On The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction MORE (N.D.), Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyGOP wants to pit Ocasio-Cortez against Democrats in the Senate Biden speaking to Dems on Capitol Hill as 2020 speculation mounts: report GOP senators: Trump should not declare border emergency during State of the Union MORE Jr. (Pa.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOvernight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Trump, Dems open drug price talks | FDA warns against infusing young people's blood | Facebook under scrutiny over health data | Harris says Medicare for all isn't socialism On The Money: Smaller tax refunds put GOP on defensive | Dems question IRS on new tax forms | Warren rolls out universal child care proposal | Illinois governor signs bill for minimum wage Michelle Obama would be tied with Biden as frontrunner if she ran in 2020, poll shows MORE (Ohio), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary EPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks MORE (Ind.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetDemocratic donors stuck in shopping phase of primary Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — CDC blames e-cigs for rise in youth tobacco use | FDA cracks down on dietary supplements | More drug pricing hearings on tap The Hill's Morning Report - 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Sens. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSanders campaign reports raising M in less than a day The Memo: Bernie Sanders’s WH launch sharpens ‘socialist’ question Gillibrand uses Trump Jr. tweet to fundraise MORE (Vt.) and Angus KingAngus Stanley KingTexas senator introduces bill to produce coin honoring Bushes Drama hits Senate Intel panel’s Russia inquiry Warner, Burr split on committee findings on collusion 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 KlobucharThe Memo: Bernie Sanders’s WH launch sharpens ‘socialist’ question Gillibrand uses Trump Jr. tweet to fundraise Trump: Bernie Sanders 'missed his time' for White House 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 brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Overnight Defense: Trump declares border emergency | .6B in military construction funds to be used for wall | Trump believes Obama would have started war with North Korea | Pentagon delivers aid for Venezuelan migrants Kaine asks Shanahan if military families would be hurt by moving .6B for border wall 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 WarrenSanders campaign reports raising M in less than a day The Memo: Bernie Sanders’s WH launch sharpens ‘socialist’ question Gillibrand uses Trump Jr. tweet to fundraise MORE (D-Mass.), another possible presidential candidate, had called Franken to urge him to step down.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDems think they're beating Trump in emergency declaration battle Sanders: 'Not crazy' about nixing the Senate filibuster McCabe: No one in 'Gang of Eight' objected to FBI probe into Trump 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 ConyersDemocrats seek cosponsors for new 'Medicare for all' bill Virginia scandals pit Democrats against themselves and their message Women's March plans 'Medicare for All' day of lobbying in DC 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.