Senator Al Franken (D-MN.) announced Thursday that he would be retiring from the United States Senate “in the coming weeks.” During a short speech on the Senate floor, Franken admitted no guilt and appeared to imply that an ethics investigation would have exonerated him. His announcement came after several senior Democratic Party figures called for his resignation. The fact that Franken has chosen not to resign immediately, however, indicates that congressional Democrats have placed political strategy above any concerns about sexual harassment. Additionally, Franken has unwittingly provided cover for aspiring Senator Roy Moore.
“Some of the allegations against me are simply not true,” The Senator stated, “Others I remember very differently. I know in my heart, nothing that I have done as a Senator, nothing, has brought dishonor on this institution…” Doubling down on his refusal to accept any responsibility, Franken insisted that some of his past reactions to the multiple allegations against him had created a “false impression” that he was admitting any wrongdoing.
Timing of Franken’s Resignation a Sly Move
In the absence of proof or credible corroborating evidence, of course, any person accused of any criminal or other transgression has the right to deny those accusations. Despite the existence of several photographs showing the Senator putting his hands where he shouldn’t, he continues to believe he has that right of denial.
His insistence that he has done nothing wrong mirrors the Alabama Republican Senatorial candidate’s own defiance. Moreover, Franken’s decision to remain in Congress, for now, makes a mockery of any attempts by his party to suggest that Moore does not belong in the Senate.
The timing of the Senator’s resignation has, no doubt, been approved by Democratic leaders to enable Franken to remain in Congress long enough to cast votes on key issues; in particular, tax reform. If the motivation behind Democrats’ calls for the Minnesota Senator to resign was a chance to shift the focus to Roy Moore, it has failed.
The special election to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat is just five days away. If Democrats wanted to impact this election, they would have persuaded Franken to resign immediately. Instead, the message they have sent is that, despite the allegations against Franken, they want him to remain in the Senate, for now, because he will be useful.
Even though Minnesota’s Democratic Governor will appoint a Democrat to replace Franken until the end of his current term in 2020, Franken’s continued service, albeit temporary, is vital to the consistency of his party’s congressional agenda, for now. Franken is a known quantity; a reliable team player whose replacement has been deliberately postponed for political reasons.
Accusations by Democrats that the Republican Party is putting politics over ethics and morality by backing Moore’s election campaign will now ring hollow. Just as Franken himself, in his remarks on the Senate floor, attempted to shift focus to Moore and to President Trump himself, so Moore will now be able to use Franken’s continued presence in the Senate to point out Democrats’ double standard.
In reality, Franken did not resign but merely announced his intention to do so at some unspecified future time. His remarks Thursday were practically meaningless and until he actually leaves the Senate, were little more than a publicity stunt. There is no denying that the Republican Party has a Roy Moore problem. For the time being, however, the Democratic Party still has an Al Franken problem.