WASHINGTON – A handful of Senate Democrats are having second thoughts on pressuring Sen. Al Franken to resign before the Senate Ethics Committee could investigate the myriads of sexual harassment allegations against Minnesota’s junior senator.
According to a new report from Politico, at least four senators are calling for Franken to reverse his resignation. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is leading the charge against his fellow Democrats, calling the effort to oust Franken “atrocious.”
“What they did to Al was atrocious, the Democrats,” Manchin told Politico. “The most hypocritical thing I’ve ever seen done to a human being — and then have enough guts to sit on the floor, watch him give his speech, and go over and hug him? That’s hypocrisy at the highest level I’ve ever seen in my life. Made me sick.”
In his resignation announcement, Franken said he would be leaving the Senate “in the coming weeks.” The vague phrasing and curious timing of the announcement has led some to believe the senator may change his mind.
Less than a week before the Alabama special election between Republican Judge Roy Moore, who was accused of inappropriate sexual behavior, and Democrat Doug Jones, the Democrats in the Senate turned on Franken. Over half of the Democratic caucus called on the senator to step down. One day later, Franken announced his resignation.
The timing of the Democrats jumping ship on Franken gave the impression the party was looking to seize the moral high ground on the issue of inappropriate sexual behavior in preparation of a potential win by Moore. Now, a week after Moore lost the special election, some senators appear to be backpedaling on their decision to push out Franken.
Manchin, who did not join his fellow Democrats in urging Franken to resign, hopes his colleagues will retract their calls for Franken’s resignation and instead turn the issue over to the Senate Ethics committee for investigation.
“I hope they have enough guts … and enough conscience and enough heart to say, ‘Al, we made a mistake asking prematurely for you to leave,’” Manchin told Politico.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who joined his colleagues urging Franken to resign, has personally expressed his regret to Franken, according to a Politico report. Following the report, Leahy’s office issued a statement obtained by the Burlington Free Press saying he regrets not standing for due process.
“I have stood for due process throughout my years as a prosecutor and in chairing the Judiciary Committee,” Leahy said in a statement obtained by the Burlington Free Press. “I regret not doing that this time. The Ethics Committee should have been allowed to investigate and make its recommendation.”
Leahy is not alone in his sentiments. Two more senators, who asked not to be named, told Politico they felt rushed to take a side on the issue, signing off on statements “without the appropriate care and thought.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who stopped short of joining her colleagues in calling for Franken’s resignation, has said the senator’s decision to step down was the “right decision.” Despite some Democrats now backtracking, Klobuchar has not indicated a change in position.
Franken’s temporary replacement current-Lt. Gov. Tina Smith has also kept quiet on the issue. Smith has continued to move forward with preparations to take over the Senate seat, including using the title “United States Senator-Designate.”
While some senators are changing their tune, there is no indication Franken intends to rescind his resignation. Politico reported “people familiar with Franken’s plans” says the senator has not changed his mind. Franken has expressed support for Smith and his formal resignation is expected to take place in early January.