His once-promising political career in shambles, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken appeared on the verge of resigning after fellow Democrats led by female senators abandoned him Wednesday over the mounting allegations of sexual misconduct that are roiling Capitol Hill.
A majority of the Senate’s Democrats called on the two-term lawmaker to get out after another woman emerged Wednesday saying he forcibly tried to kiss her in 2006. That brought to at least seven the number of women accusing him of sexual impropriety.
Franken, the former comedian who made his name on “Saturday Night Live,” scheduled an announcement for today. No topic was specified, but Democratic senators said they expected their liberal colleague to resign.
“Enough is enough,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. “We need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is OK, none of it is acceptable, and we, as elected leaders, should absolutely be held to a higher standard.”
Gillibrand was the first to call for Franken’s resignation Wednesday, but a torrent of Democrats quickly followed.
“I’m shocked and appalled by Sen. Franken’s behavior,” said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state. “It’s clear to me that this has been a deeply harmful, persistent problem and a clear pattern over a long period of time. It’s time for him to step aside.”
Though the writing appeared to be on the wall, Franken’s departure was not certain. A tweet from his account late Wednesday pushed back against a Minnesota media report that claimed he is resigning. It said no final decision had been made, and he was still talking with his family.
Late in the day, Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York added his voice.
“I consider Senator Franken a dear friend and greatly respect his accomplishments, but he has a higher obligation to his constituents and the Senate, and he should step down immediately,” Schumer said.
Schumer called Franken immediately after the latest allegation – and before the torrent of demands for Franken’s resignation from Democrats – and told him he needed to resign, said a Democrat familiar with the events.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez weighed in, too, asking Franken to resign and saying, “Sexual misconduct, harassment and assault have no place in the Democratic Party, the United States Congress, the White House or anywhere.”
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Cleveland Democrat, also joined the voices calling on Franken to resign.
“We have a serious problem in this country with sexual harassment and assault – in Congress, in Hollwyood, in business, in the military – everywhere,” Brown said.
“I have listened to [the victims],” Brown said. “I have listened to my female colleagues, to women I work with and women in my life, and I agree the time has come for Sen. Franken to step aside.”
Brown also called for the Senate Ethics Committee to continue its investigation into Franken’s conduct and said he would sign on to Gillibrand’s bill to reform the way Congress deals with sexual harassment complaints.
The resignation demands came in rapid succession even though Franken on Wednesday vehemently denied the new accusation that came from a former Democratic congressional aide, who said he tried to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his radio show in 2006.
The woman, who was not identified, told Politico that Franken pursued her after her boss had left and she was collecting her belongings. She said that she ducked to avoid his lips and that Franken told her: “It’s my right as an entertainer.”
Franken, in a statement, said the idea he would claim such conduct as a right was “preposterous.”
But it was soon clear that his position had become untenable, and his office later issued a statement saying, “Senator Franken will be making an announcement tomorrow. More details to come.”
Fellow Democratic Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who spoke to Franken, wrote on Twitter, “I am confident he will make the right decision.”
Capitol Hill has long had a culture that has erred on the side of protecting lawmakers. Franken, who is generally liked and respected by his colleagues, was initially afforded deference as he battled the initial allegations against him.
But as the number of accusations grew, women in the Senate grew increasingly frustrated.
In other developments, the president of Minnesota Public Radio has told employees the decision to cut business ties with former “A Prairie Home Companion” host Garrison Keillor resulted from “multiple allegations” that covered an extended period of time.