A Democratic Chorus Rises in the Senate: ‘Franken Should Resign’


A freshman Democrat, Representative Ruben Kihuen of Nevada, has faced calls for his resignation since charges emerged Friday that he had repeatedly propositioned his former campaign finance director.

Accusations against Mr. Franken include an episode of forcible kissing on a U.S.O. tour before he was elected and several allegations that he groped women as he posed with them for photographs.

Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, also called on Wednesday for Mr. Franken to leave the Senate.

But by and large, Republicans have seemed more tolerant of infractions in their own ranks. House leaders have said nothing since it was revealed Friday that Representative Blake Farenthold of Texas used $84,000 from a secret taxpayer fund to settle a lurid sexual harassment case filed against him. And Republicans are deeply divided over Alabama’s Republican Senate candidate, Roy S. Moore, who has been accused of sexually assaulting teenage girls as young as 14, yet has maintained the support of President Trump and other conservatives.

Representative Joe Barton of Texas, the state’s senior Republican, announced last month that he would not seek re-election next year after graphic images that he sent to a constituent appeared on the internet. But he received little pressure to step down.

Some have said Democrats are simply too quick to destroy their own, but the party appears intent on holding the high ground as sexual harassment scandals rock politics, entertainment and the news media.

“The Democratic Party will stand up for women and for what is right,” Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement on Wednesday night. “Public service is a public trust. If you are a candidate for office or an elected official who has engaged in sexual misconduct, you should step aside — whether you sit in the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate or the Oval Office.”

If Mr. Franken resigns, the state’s Democratic governor, Mark Dayton, could choose his successor from a list of prominent female Democrats, including Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and Attorney General Lori Swanson.

That appointee could then run to fill the remainder of Mr. Franken’s term next year, when the Democrats have the political momentum.

That calculus may be playing in Democrats’ minds. After Politico published accusations from a former congressional staff member on Wednesday morning that Mr. Franken had forcibly kissed her, Democrats lunged. Unlike earlier accusations, the newest one involved a congressional employee in the workplace.

Mr. Schumer quietly worked through the day to urge Mr. Franken to step aside. According to a person familiar with the conversations, Mr. Schumer called Mr. Franken before any of his fellow senators went public with their resignation calls and later met with Mr. Franken and his wife in Mr. Schumer’s Washington apartment.

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Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, posted an extended statement on Facebook calling for Mr. Franken to resign.

Credit
Al Drago for The New York Times

But that did not head off a deluge that started when Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York declared on Facebook, “Enough is enough.”

“As elected officials, we should be held to the highest standards—not the lowest,” Ms. Gillibrand wrote on Twitter. “The allegations against Sen. Franken describe behavior that cannot be tolerated. While he’s entitled to an Ethics Committee hearing, I believe he should step aside to let someone else serve.”

Ms. Gillibrand was joined by Senators Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Dianne Feinstein of California, Patty Murray of Washington State, Kamala Harris of California, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Maria Cantwell of Washington State, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, who issued statements after talking privately with each other for weeks about what to do about Mr. Franken.

Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat, added his support, as did Senators Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, as well as Mr. Perez of the Democratic National Committee.

“It’s time for him to resign,” Mr. Durbin said. “It just seemed that the credible charges continued. I thought it might be an isolated incident or two. It seems to be that there was a pattern of conduct.”

By the end of the day, well more than half of the senators who caucus with the Democrats, 35 of 48, and nearly all of the Democratic women in the Senate, had said that Mr. Franken must go. Some who remained silent did so because they serve on the Ethics Committee, which is considering his case.

Mr. Franken has apologized for his behavior, but the senators said his admissions are not enough. Ms. Hirono said Wednesday’s outpouring came after much thought.

“We have been in touch with each other,” she said. “It’s been difficult because I consider Al a friend. I’ve sat with him in two committees, but that doesn’t excuse his behavior.”

She added: “We’re at the point where I think that there can be a cultural change in terms of how women are perceived and treated in this country. This kind of bad behavior has been tolerated and ignored for far too long, but not today.”

Correction: December 6, 2017

An earlier version of this article incorrectly described Representative Joe Barton’s ranking among the Texas delegation. He is the state’s senior Republican, not the state’s senior senator.

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