Following the Minnesota congressman stepping aside two weeks ago amid sexual harassment allegations, at least four Democrats want Sen. Al Franken to reverse his resignation, Politico reports. Franken still holds his seat after telling the nation he would step aside "in the coming weeks," and his replacement has already been chosen. However, some believe his departure isn't final yet.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) was never on board with Franken leaving the Senate before the allegations were proven to be true, and he was included in the handful of Senate Democrats who didn't call for Franken to resign after multiple women accused him of groping and forcibly kissing them (which Franken denies). “What they did to Al was atrocious, the Democrats,” Manchin told Politico's Off Message podcast.
Manchin said he was appalled by the way his own party treated Franken by urging him to resign and subsequently hugging him after he made the announcement on the Senate floor. "That’s hypocrisy at the highest level I’ve ever seen in my life," Manchin said. "Made me sick." Now, Manchin wants Senate Democrats to tell Franken they "made a mistake asking prematurely" for him to step down. He thinks there's still time for Franken to reverse his resignation.
At least eight women accused Franken of inappropriate sexual behavior in the weeks before he resigned. Radio host Leeann Tweeden was the first woman to do so, alleging in a blog post that the senator kissed her and grabbed her breasts without consent and sharing a photo showing Franken groping her while she's asleep. Although Franken initially disputed some of Tweeden's accusations, he ultimately apologized.
But weeks later in his resignation speech, Franken denied any wrongdoing, saying his apologies were simply meant to be respectful of the broader conversation happening around sexual harassment in America. Franken said:
"I also think it gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that, in fact, I haven’t done. Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others, I remember very differently."
He did give up his Minnesota Senate seat, though, and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton already announced that the state's female lieutenant governor, Tina Smith, will take his place.
When a senator steps aside, they technically issue their resignation letter to the governor of their state. So, if Franken chose to reverse his decision, he would need Gov. Dayton to sign off on him remaining in Congress. It's unclear if Dayton would do so — or if Franken is even considering it — but at least three Senate Democrats join Manchin in urging Franken to reconsider.
In his resignation speech, Franken did express that he didn't really want to leave Congress. He said, "There is a big part of me that will always regret having to walk away from this job with so much work left to be done, but I have faith that the work will continue."
Two unnamed Democrats who called for Franken to step aside felt rushed and pressured to stand by their party in opposition of Franken, according to Politico. "I think we acted prematurely, before we had all the facts," one senator said. "In retrospect, I think we acted too fast." Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) also reportedly told Franken in private that he wishes he hadn't publicly urged him to resign.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's call for Franken to leave Congress created a domino effect that resulted in most Senate Democrats following suit. "While he’s entitled to an Ethics Committee hearing, I believe he should step aside to let someone else serve," she tweeted Dec. 6. The statement gained momentum quickly, and Franken announced his resignation the day after Gillibrand's statement.
Although multiple Democrats believe the decision was made too quickly, allegations against Franken had been surfacing for weeks. Two other congressmen also stepped aside because of sexual harassment claims around the same time, as a national reckoning around sexual misconduct persisted.