The Democrats and their leaders forced Mr. Conyers and Mr. Franken out in a succession of seemingly coordinated statements that made it clear that their continued presence would be unsustainable. Mr. Franken resigned a day after almost all the Democratic women in the Senate – and most of the Democratic men, including the two leading leaders – asked for his resignation.
Democrats seem determined to take moral control in an environment in which I expect sexual harassment to become a wedge issue in the 2018 midterm elections, even if it costs them popular colleagues and political icons .
Republicans, on the other hand, have been more situational. In the case of Mr. Franks, President Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin issued a statement Thursday night stating that he had forced the representative to leave.
"The speaker takes seriously his obligation to ensure a safe workplace in the House," statement from Mr. Ryan's office.
However, Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas appears to be under little pressure, even though he used $ 84,000 in taxpayer funds to resolve a sexual harassment claim with his former director of communications. The House Ethics Committee said on Thursday that it was establishing a subcommittee to investigate Mr. Farenthold.
Mr. The candidacy of the Moore Senate in Alabama has brought up accusations that she sexually abused or assaulted girls as young as 14 years old, however, she continues to have the support of Mr. Trump and the Republican National Committee. And the accusations of sexual assault and harassment against Mr. Trump have barely shaken his control over the party.
"The Democrats are making an intelligent political calculation," said Peter Wehner, who advised former President George W. Bush on domestic politics. "I think they probably saw the political opportunity, and they could not take advantage of it unless they discarded their own problematic figures."
Mr. Wehner continued: "After years of arguing that the character mattered in terms of sexual ethics, now Republicans say it does not matter at all, they are completely indifferent to that, and Republicans and evangelical Christians have nothing to do with this moment. moral in particular. "
But Democrats also face risks by establishing themselves as the party of purity. Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus are angry about the treatment of Mr. Conyers, who served in the House since 1965. Some progressive Democrats, who form Mr. Franken's base, see the treatment of him as an overreaction.
At the time they were attacked they decided to eat theirs, and we do it ourselves all the time, "said Natalie Volin Lehr, former assistant to Mr. Franken, who oversaw the reach of women for him." I think there is a sense of political hyper-correctness and that we are holier than you. "
Mr Franken's announcement on Thursday was a jarring ending to an unlikely political career in which the senator, founding writer and interpreter of "Saturday Night Live" won a seat in 2008 and offered the Democrats a crucial vote needed to advance the agenda of the Obama administration, including the Affordable Care Act.
Mr. Franken cut a serious figure in the Senate , where he tried to suppress his sense of humor while plunging into fleshy politics such as electronic privacy and telecommunications mergers, some saw him as a potential candidate for the presidency in 2020.
The accusations against him began last month when Leeann Tweeden, a radio news anchor in California, accused Mr. Franken of kissing her and groping her in a US country. UU She toured in 2006. Several women also said that Mr. Franken fumbled for them while posing with them for photographs, especially before becoming a senator.
For the past three weeks, Mr. Franken has repeatedly apologized for his behavior, although he has also challenged some of the accusations of impropriety. Until Wednesday, he had said he would remain in office, but his Democratic colleagues in the Senate made it clear this week that their apologies and admissions were not enough.
Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia, said Mr. Franken's resignation crossed "a cultural Rubicon" and set a new standard by which future senators would be judged.
"It is now clear that such behavior before taking office is something the body should take seriously, and it should be impartial whether it is a Democrat or a Republican," said Mr. Kaine.
The Senate was grim when Mr. Franken delivered his speech on Thursday. His staff and his family, including his wife, Franni Bryson, watched from the gallery above. About 20 Democrats and, aside from Senator Dan Sullivan, the Republican of Alaska, who presided, only one Republican, Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, an ardent critic of Mr. Trump, came to the room to hear his statements.
When Mr. Franken had finished, many of the same legislators who had asked him to resign, one by one, to embrace him. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri, wiped her eyes.
In his speech, Mr. Franken, who considered himself a fervent advocate for women's rights, called the national tally "an important moment" that was "very late," adding "We were finally starting to listen to women about the ways in which men's actions affect them ". He said he was "excited about that conversation" and that he hoped to be a part of it.
"Then," he said. "The conversation turned to me."
Mr. Franken said he decided to leave office because it became clear that he could not pursue an Ethics Committee investigation and represent the people of Minnesota. He argued that he would have been finally acquitted.
"Some of the accusations against me are simply not true," said Mr. Franken. "Others remember very differently."
"I know in my heart, nothing that I have done as a senator, nothing, has brought dishonor to this institution," he said.
Mr. Franken did not specify precisely when he would leave the Senate, and only said he would do so "in the next few weeks."
It will be up to the Minnesota Democratic Governor, Mark Dayton, to choose a successor for Mr. Franken, who will serve until November 2018. Dayton is expected to choose among several prominent Democratic women, including the Lieutenant Governor. Tina Smith and Attorney General Lori Swanson. The governor said on Thursday he was still weighing his decision, but that his election would surely upset state policy.
Over time, Mr. Franken's resignation could become a headache for Democrats like former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, is being heavily recruited to participate in the special election next year to the position in the Senate by colleagues in the state and in Washington.
In the Senate, Mr. Franken's influence was more political than legislative. He was popular at the fundraising circuit of the party and among his colleagues, but he tried to show he could do more than tell jokes. From Mr. Trump's rise to the office, Mr. Franken's sharp interrogation of the candidates and the president's policies became mandatory television in the capital.
His cross-examination of Jeff Sessions, then a senator, during his confirmation hearing to become attorney general in January may be one of his most important contributions as a senator. He pressed Mr. Sessions on the contact reports between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, to which Mr. Sessions replied: "Senator Franken, I do not know of any of these activities, I have been called as a surrogate one or two times in that. campaign and I did not have – I did not have – communications with the Russians. "
The exchange helped force Mr. Sessions to withdraw from the Justice Department's investigation into Russia's interference in the presidential election and helped solicit the appointment of a special lawyer, Robert S. Mueller III, who has persecuted the Trump administration.
The Democratic senators were reluctant on Thursday to fully address the arc of Mr. Franken's downfall, fiery former reporters or offering only brief acknowledgments that Mr. Franken put an end to the uncertainty.
When leaving the Capitol shortly after his speech, Mr. Franken said he would not answer questions.
But he asked if he had a message for his home state, he said: "I'll go back home"
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