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Senator Al Franken expected to resign Thursday, sources say

Published: Wednesday, December 06, 2017 @ 12:21 PM
Updated: Wednesday, December 06, 2017 @ 5:17 PM

Democrats call on Franken to resign

Embattled Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota is expected to resign Thursday after Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and a wave of Democrats called for him to step down in the aftermath of allegations that Franken sexually harassed seven women before being elected to the Senate in 2008.

Franken has scheduled a news conference Thursday where multiple media sources say he will resign his seat.

Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., tweeted that “this morning I spoke with Senator Franken and, as you know, he will be making an announcement about his future tomorrow morning. I am confident he will make the right decision.”

Brown said he decided Wednesday morning that the Minnesota senator needs to “step aside.” In a conference call with reporters, Brown said he was “grateful to the victims (of sexual harassment) who have had the bravery to come forward.”

RELATED: Democratic female lawmakers call on Franken to resign

Brown said he spoke to Senate Democratic women and that he “listened to the women in my office” and “the women in my life” before making the statement about his colleague.

Brown’s announcement came as support for Franken among Democrats rapidly evaporated on Capitol Hill. Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Columbus, called on both Franken and Texas Republican Blake Farenthold — who settled a claim of harassment by a former staffer — to step down.

“To make meaningful change, it requires leading by example — that begins with Congress and the entire federal government,” Beatty said in a statement.

The flurry of activity took place as Senate Republican candidate Roy Moore of Alabama has been deluged with charges that he harassed a series of younger women, including one who was 14 at the time. President Donald Trump endorsed Moore Tuesday. Moore will face Democrat Doug Jones in a special election next Tuesday.

Senate Democrats began the call for Franken to step down after Politico published a story Wednesday that a former Democratic congressional aide said Franken tried to “forcibly” kiss her in 2006.

Perhaps coincidentally — and certainly reflecting the magnitude of a wave of sexual harassment allegations that have cost powerful men in show business and journalism their careers in recent weeks — Time Magazine Wednesday named its “Person of the Year” honor to those who had revealed that they had been sexually harassed or assaulted.
RELATED: Franken accused of groping news anchor without consent

In a statement to Politico, Franken said “this allegation is categorically not true” and said “I look forward to fully cooperating with the ongoing ethics committee investigation.”

In addition, six other women have charged that during his years as a comedian, Franken tried to kiss or grope them against their will. Until the Politico story Wednesday, Franken had apologized about his behavior.

The move to force Franken to quit began Wednesday morning with a number of tweets from leading Senate Democratic women such as Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Patty Murray of Washington and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

“Enough is enough,” Gillibrand said at a news conference. “We need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is OK, none of it is acceptable. We as elected leaders should absolutely be held to a higher standard, not a lower standard, and we should fundamentally be valuing women. That is where this debate has to go.”

During his noon conference call, Brown opened by calling on Franken to resign. Brown was among the first Senate male Democrats urging Franken to resign.

Considered a rising presence in the Democratic Party, Franken had been mentioned as possible presidential candidate in 2020.

After the call, Brown issued a statement saying the Senate Ethics Committee “should continue to investigate. He is entitled to the investigation. And their findings will be important to informing changes that are needed in Congress.”

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said of Franken: “Harassment of any kind has no place in our society and should not be tolerated, and if he engaged in this type of conduct he should resign.”

Portman has also called for Moore in Alabama to step aside.

Longtime Democratic John Conyers of Detroit resigned his seat Tuesday following reports he made secret settlements with at least one female aide who charged him with sexual harassment.

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Gulf grows between Trump and Congress on trade

Published: Saturday, June 23, 2018 @ 5:15 AM

As President Donald Trump this week threatened $200 billion in new tariffs on Chinese imports, and then warned Europe that he would slap a 20 percent tariff on imported automobiles, members of both parties Congress accused the administration of starting a trade war which could cause collateral economic damage across the United States.

The differences were on display at a hearing Wednesday with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who took a bipartisan tongue lashing on a recent round of tariffs levied on imported steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico and Europe.

“We’re picking winners and losers,” argued Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who said those tariffs were already hurting businesses in his home state.

“Probably resulting – in my view – in far more jobs being lost than being gained,” Toomey told Ross, citing a very well-known Pennsylvania company that could find it less expensive to move jobs from the U.S. to Canada.

Almost every Senator on the panel had a story of a small business that was feeling the pinch due to Trump Administration tariffs, impacting all sorts of agricultural products, as well as manufacturing, big and small.

“Do you think we’re in a trade war right now?” asked Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA). “Because I do,” as Cantwell rattled off farm products that were losing markets because of retaliatory tariff measures.

Ross downplayed the cost of higher imported steel and aluminum, basically making the case that economic hardships were being overplayed.

“It’s a fraction of a penny on a can of Campbell’s soup, it’s a fraction on a can of Budweiser, it’s a fraction on a can of Coke,” Ross said.

That did not please the Senator from the state of Coca-Cola.

“Although a couple of pennies on a can is not much, a couple pennies times a billion is lots,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA).

“We’re hit harder than any other state by the Canadian retaliatory tariffs,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), warning the Trump Administration against tariffs on imported automobiles, as GOP Senators labeled such actions a tax on consumers.

“Steel prices are going up – not just for foreign steel subject to tariffs, but also for U.S. steel,” complained Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

“Mexico’s buying their wheat from Argentina and their corn from Brazil,” said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), as he told Ross that Kansas wheat exports were encountering troubles because of new retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports, bringing bad economic news on the farm report.

Ross simply told Senators if other countries put new tariffs on U.S. exports, that was out of his control.

“We have no control over what another country does in retaliation,” Ross said.

The bipartisan complaints clearly had no impact, as by Friday, President Trump was on Twitter, issuing new threats against European auto imports.

As Democrats registered their opposition, they also couldn’t help but note the oddity of a Republican President going against what’s been a bedrock belief of the GOP.

“I feel like I’ve gone down a rabbit hole,” said Sen. Clare McCaskill (D-MO), who said she found it hard to believe the party of free trade now had a President in office who was doing the exact opposite.

“In a chaotic and frankly incompetent manner, you’re picking winners and losers,” McCaskill told Ross.

But for the President, this is about re-setting trade deals, which he says were tilted against the United States.

“As far as trade is concerned with other countries, we want fair and reciprocal trade, we don’t want stupid trade like we had for so long,” the President said at a rally in Minnesota.

“Remember the world reciprocal,” Mr. Trump said. “We have been ripped off by almost every country on Earth, our friends and our enemies.”

“But those days are over,” the President said to cheers from the crowd.

But while they’re cheering Mr. Trump on the stump, at the U.S. Capitol, they’re worried about a trade war.

“We’re getting into a war that’s going to cost lots of billions of dollars,” Isakson warned.

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House approves big, bipartisan bill to deal with opioid crisis

Published: Friday, June 22, 2018 @ 1:25 PM

In a fresh reminder that political cooperation is not dead on Capitol Hill, the House on Friday overwhelmingly approved a sweeping package of over fifty bipartisan bills to address the misuse of prescription opioid pain medicine, as lawmakers voted to expand a variety of services under Medicare and Medicaid to deal with the drug scourge.

“We can do things when we put partisan politics aside and work together,” said Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), one of a number of lawmakers who touted various provisions in the sweeping opioids measure.

“This particular bill, H.R. 6, is the crown jewel of all that legislation,” said Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX).

“This legislation will strengthen our efforts to advance treatment and recovery issues, and bolster the fight against deadly and illicit drugs,” said Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA).

“This is a big deal in the fight against the largest public health crisis in our country,” said Speaker Paul Ryan.

“Mr. Speaker, so often we hear about the partisan wrangling in Congress and clearly there are dividing lines on some high-profile issues,” said Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA). “But this an issue where Republicans and Democrats have come together.”

The final vote was 396-14. The bill now goes to the Senate.

“Currently, Medicare doesn’t cover opioid treatment programs,” said Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA). “These bills are pieces of a large, complex puzzle. We need to find realistic solutions with long term outcomes.”

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Trump: GOP should give up on immigration until after 2018 elections

Published: Friday, June 22, 2018 @ 7:29 AM

A day after Republicans in the House defeated one more conservative immigration reform plan, and delayed action until next week on a second bill because of a lack of GOP votes, President Donald Trump on Friday suggested a different avenue entirely – urging Republicans in Congress to drop the issue until after the November elections.

“Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November,” the President tweeted early on Friday morning, saying the answer was simple – get more GOP lawmakers in the 2018 mid-term elections.

“Elect more Republicans in November and we will pass the finest, fairest and most comprehensive Immigration Bills anywhere in the world,” Mr. Trump pledged, as he blamed Democrats and the Senate rules, which would force him to get 60 votes to do what he wants on immigration.

Mr. Trump’s suggestion came as GOP leaders were still looking for a magic legislative formula on immigration reform, as the issue has divided Republicans in both the House and Senate.

The suggestion by the President that immigration efforts are a waste of time came as Republicans were trying to fine tune a second immigration bill in the House, with hopes of approving that next week, before lawmakers go home for a July Fourth break.

Many GOP lawmakers had been hoping that the President instead would come out very publicly in favor of those efforts, and help convince some reluctant House Republicans to get on board, and vote for the plan, despite misgivings about certain provisions.

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House defeats one GOP immigration bill, delays vote on second plan

Published: Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 3:04 PM

Struggling to find consensus on immigration reform, the House on Thursday rejected a more conservative Republican immigration reform bill, and then in a bid to salvage the effort, GOP leaders delayed action on a second immigration reform measure until Friday.

41 House Republicans voted against the first GOP bill, which was defeated on a vote of 231-193, as the plan received more votes than most GOP lawmakers had expected.

The Republicans who voted against the first GOP bill were a mixture of the Republican Party’s different flanks, featuring more conservative lawmakers who wanted to do more, and moderates who felt it went too far.

“This is a difficult issue,” said Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), who voted for this bill, but wouldn’t tell reporters whether he would support a second measure on Friday.

“Any jot or tittle one way or the other, you lose people because of the complexities, because of the sensitivities, and the emotions in this particular piece of legislation,” Meadows said.

Here is the list of the 41 Republicans who voted “No.”

One of the reasons more moderate Republicans voted against the first bill was because of the lack of a path to citizenship for younger illegal immigrant “Dreamers,” who were brought to the U.S. by their parents.

While that is in the bill to be voted on Friday, those provisions then could cause some other Republicans to vote against it, arguing it is nothing but amnesty.

“I’m a big fat no, capital letters” said Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA), after the first vote.

“It doesn’t do anything to stop illegal immigration,” Barletta added.

In debate on the House floor, Democrats focused mainly on the more recent immigration battle over the separation of illegal immigrant families, blaming President Donald Trump for doing little to seek compromise.

“On this issue, God is going to judge you as well,” said Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA) said to Republicans who were backing the President’s get-tough effort on the border.

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