Sen. Al Franken, who until two weeks ago was one of the Democratic Party's brightest stars, is now fighting for political survival amid mounting allegations that he committed sexual abuse and a solidifying resolve within his party to take a hard line on any such transgressions.
The senator from Minnesota's problems were compounded Thursday by a move by top Democrats to force out another lawmaker showed a growing eagerness to immunize the party on an issue that is turning into a social movement.
In the House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and her three deputies called on Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D., Mich.), the longest-serving member of Congress, to resign in the face of accusations that he mistreated female aides for more than two decades. "Zero tolerance means consequences for everyone," Pelosi said.
Although Pelosi did not mention Franken, her comment had immediate repercussions on the other side of the Capitol, where the comedian-turned-senator has become one of his party's sharpest and most effective combatants against the Trump administration.
"In light of Pelosi demanding that Conyers step down, I don't know how Franken can survive it," said Jim Manley, who was a longtime top aide to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat.
But more and more Democrats outside the Senate are saying that it has become untenable for Franken to remain in office, despite the fact that his alleged offenses are arguably of a lesser degree than those of the other cases that have dominated the news. Conyers, for example, has been accused of demanding sexual favors of female aides.
In the House on Thursday, two more Democrats caucus chairman Joseph Crowley of New York and Tim Ryan of Ohio called on both Franken and Conyers to leave Congress. Earlier in the week, Rep. Kathleen Rice (D., N.Y.) said both men should resign.
Privately, many other Democrats are coming to the same conclusion about Franken, said political strategist Lis Smith. "I haven't talked to a Democrat behind the scenes who thinks this guy should stay," Smith said.
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