It’s tough to overstate how a lot Al Franken means to Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).
From Washington, Schumer oversaw the Minnesota Democrat’s first marketing campaign in 2008. When Franken was lastly declared the winner in the summertime of 2009 after an extended recount, he gave the Democrats a short filibuster-proof majority of 60 seats — a valuable reward that allowed them to cross the Affordable Care Act on a party-line vote that December.
The expertise cast a robust friendship between the 2 that has lasted ever since. But this week’s allegations that Franken engaged in inappropriate advances earlier than becoming a member of the Senate places their bond to a brand new take a look at. Coming amid a nationwide concentrate on different highly effective males accused of badual improprieties, Franken shortly discovered himself underneath hearth from Republicans and plenty of Democrats.
Younger and newer Democrats, specifically, confirmed no deference. “Sexual harbadment, misconduct, should not be allowed by anyone, and it should not occur anywhere against anyone,” mentioned Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), a rising star in her first yr in workplace.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who has helped lead the push for stricter guidelines on harbadment in Congress, instantly referred to as for an ethics investigation. Gillibrand, 50, and Harris, 53, each thought-about future presidential contenders, made their remarks lower than an hour after the information broke concerning the allegation that Franken had groped a fellow entertainer on a United Service Organizations journey to Iraq in 2006. The senators didn’t wait to seek the advice of with Schumer earlier than denouncing Franken.
The allegations in opposition to Franken come at a time of broad awakening on the problem of badual misconduct, with accusations surfacing in current weeks in opposition to movie producer Harvey Weinstein, Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama and others. As the information sank in about Franken, even some veterans started including his title to that rising listing.
“I think that people feel they can get away with a lot of things,” mentioned Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) “And nobody’s going to pay any attention.”
Feinstein was amongst 4 girls elected to the Senate in 1992 — a momentous sufficient event that the cycle was dubbed the “Year of the Woman.” Here’s one other essential element about that wave: It got here after the then-all-male Judiciary Committee successfully ignored allegations that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas had badually harbaded Anita Hill.
Even earlier than this current wave of allegations, an enormous variety of feminine candidates had signed as much as run for Congress and different public workplaces, at first in response to Trump’s presidency. Perhaps extra will come ahead in response to those tales. “In a way, it’s a continuation of the Year of the Woman,” Feinstein mentioned.
Some issues have modified since 1992. Schumer, for example, shortly agreed together with his extra junior colleagues and joined Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in calling for an ethics investigation of Franken.
“Sexual harbadment is never acceptable and must not be tolerated,” Schumer mentioned in a press release, calling it a “troubling incident” and a “credible allegation.”
No Senate Democrat has referred to as for Franken’s resignation, however that could be a step that they’re prone to think about if extra allegations emerge. Gillibrand, in an interview with the New York Times, joined a small however influential refrain of liberals who now say that Bill Clinton ought to have resigned the presidency within the late 1990s following his affair with Monica Lewinsky.
Franken has pledged full cooperation with the investigation and has despatched a private apology to Leeann Tweeden, now a Los Angeles radio broadcaster who learn the entreaty Friday on “The View.”
In any earlier political combat, Franken may lean on Schumer for recommendation and counsel. Now, in a testomony to the precarious politics of the second, Schumer should stay publicly impartial and cautious about any non-public recommendation he offers. It is a outstanding shift of their relationship.
For years, Schumer would tear up when he recounted what he thought-about one of the best advert of 2008, a robust testimonial from Franken’s spouse, Franni, on how her husband rescued her throughout her battle with alcoholism.
As chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for 4 years, Schumer grew the caucus from 45 to 60 seats. But that final seat was essentially the most cherished.
Up in opposition to then-Sen. Norm Coleman, Franken stumbled and struggled with allegations of badism in his writing as a comic and writer. Finally, Schumer dispatched two future stars to Minnesota to badist take over the drifting effort: Stephanie Schriock, who’s now president of Emily’s List, and Eric Schultz, who went on to function President Obama’s deputy press secretary.
That fall, Obama had pulled nicely forward of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) within the presidential race. The greatest query wasn’t whether or not Schumer would maintain onto the Senate majority and even achieve seats; it was whether or not he would win sufficient to hit the magic variety of 60.
A couple of weeks after Election Day, each race however one had been referred to as, and Democrats held 58 seats. Then Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania switched events. And lastly, on June 30, 2009, the Minnesota Supreme Court declared Franken the winner within the extended Minnesota recount. He was sworn in with nice fanfare a couple of days later and, after his first coverage luncheon with Democrats, Schumer proudly emerged to inform reporters how critical and considerate the previous comedian was in speaking to his new colleagues.
Franken shortly fell in keeping with the extra liberal wing of his caucus, however he grew to become a fast supporter of Schumer’s march up the management ranks. That helped present cowl for the New Yorker with the extra progressive wing of the caucus and the activist base, whose belief in Schumer has been tenuous given his lengthy ties to Wall Street donors.
Before Schumer grew to become the Democratic chief, Franken had given him a nickname that made clear the place he thought Schumer’s rise would finish, likening him to essentially the most highly effective majority chief ever. “I call him the Jewish LBJ,” Franken instructed The Washington Post in an interview final yr.
This was alleged to be Franken’s breakout yr. His shut pal took over the caucus, and the previous comic revealed a brand new guide, “Giant of the Senate.”
He had began to look on extra Sunday political discuss exhibits and sat for extra profiles within the nationwide media, utilizing his wit and superstar picture to function a counter to Trump’s personal superstar.
Some had even whispered that Franken could be the suitable match to run in opposition to Trump in 2020.
“I really like this job. I like representing the people of Minnesota,” he instructed The Post within the spring. “I feel like I’m really beginning to know this job.”
Now, Franken has a brand new combat on his arms to maintain this job — and it might be out of his longtime ally’s arms. “I hope and expect that the Ethics Committee will fully investigate this troubling incident,” Schumer mentioned, “as they should with any credible allegation of badual harbadment.”
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