December 07, 2017 05:17 PM
Al Franken says he will resign from the U.S. Senate in the coming weeks.
The announcement came on the U.S. Senate floor Thursday morning, a day after more than half of Franken's Democratic colleagues in the chamber called for him to resign. Those requests came after a fresh allegation that he forcibly tried to kiss a woman in 2006.
"This decision is not about me. It's about the people of Minnesota," Franken said.
Franken said he can't pursue the ethics committee process and remain an effective senator. At least eight women have accused him of acting inappropriately, both before and after he took office in 2009.
"This has been a tough few weeks for me, but I am a very, very lucky man. I have a beautiful, healthy family that I love and that loves me very much. I'm going to be just fine," Franken said.
He says some charges against him are untrue and that he remembers other differently than his accusers do. But he says women "deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously."
Franken said part of him will always regret having to leave the job when there is work yet to be done.
"Let me be clear. I may be resigning my seat, but I am not giving up my voice," he said. "I will continue to stand up for the things I believe in as a citizen and as an activist."
He quoted former Sen. Paul Wellstone's philosophy that politics should be about improving people's lives, and he said he believes his contributions have done that.
"Even on the worst day of my political life, I feel like it's all been worth it," Franken said.
Democratic senators, staff and family members were somber yet emotional as they watched Franken say he would resign.
Franken's family members sat in the Senate gallery, some of them crying. Staff lined up in the back of the chamber, stone faced. And around 18 Democratic senators quietly listened to his speech on the floor. No Republicans were present except the chamber's presiding officer, Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan.
Democrats who sat and listened to Franken's speech included Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the first to call Wednesday for Franken to resign.
"I have faith in my colleagues, especially my senior senator, Amy Klobuchar," Franken said. "I would not have been able to do this job without her guidance and wisdom."
After Franken's 11-minute speech, Democrats lined up to hug him.
The responsibility to replace Franken falls to Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, who is expected to appoint a replacement to serve until a special election in November 2018. The winner of that election will serve the remainder of Franken's term, which ends in January 2021.
Lt. Gov. Tina Smith is near the top of any list, having served as Dayton's second-in-command for three years. Smith is a longtime political operative who ran several campaigns and previously mulled a run for governor. Dayton could also look to Attorney General Lori Swanson or State Auditor Rebecca Otto.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Updated: December 07, 2017 05:17 PM
Created: December 07, 2017 10:18 AM
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