Daily Digest: Franken facing ethics probe

Good morning, and happy Friday. It seems like Thursdays are always the busiest news days of the week, and yesterday was no exception. Here’s the Digest.

1. Minnesota DFL Sen. Al Franken apologized Thursday and called for an inquiry into his own behavior after a Los Angeles radio anchor accused him of forcibly kissing her during a 2006 USO tour. Leeann Tweeden posted the allegations on the website of KABC in Los Angeles where she is a morning radio show host. She also posted a photo of her asleep aboard an aircraft later on the trip. Franken is shown reaching out as if to grope her breasts.  Franken, who was elected senator in 2008, apologized but said Tweeden’s account of the skit rehearsal did not match his memory. “As to the photo,” he wrote, “it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.” Franken later called for a Senate ethics inquiry into his behavior. (AP via MPR News)

2. While Franken was reacting to the allegations against him, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley  said he has scheduled hearings for David Stras, a nominee to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Stras is a member of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Franken has been blocking hearings for Stras because of his conservative views. “The Democrats seriously regret that they abolished the filibuster, as I warned them they would,” Grassley said. “But they can’t expect to use the blue slip courtesy in its place. That’s not what the blue slip is meant for.” (Politico)

3.  The ethics committee can recommend expelling a member,and sends its recommendation to the full Senate. Two-thirds of the Senate must vote in favor of expulsion for a member to be expelled. The Senate hasn’t kicked out a member in more than a century. One senator was expelled for treason in 1797, and 14 were expelled in 1861 and 1862 for aiding the confederacy in the Civil War. The committee can also censure a member, which amounts to a formal scolding for their actions.  The ethics committee hasn’t investigated sexual harassment or assault allegations in 25 years, and the process usually doesn’t consider what a senator did before he or she was elected. (MPR News)

4. The Minnesota Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that Gov. Mark Dayton acted within his power when he vetoed the operating budgets of the state House and Senate. The court, however, declined to rule if the governor was acting in a coercive way when he tried to use his defunding of the Legislature as leverage to get GOP leaders back to the budget bargaining table. The ruling noted the line-item veto power is “expressly conferred” to Minnesota’s governors. “Whether it was wise for the people of Minnesota in 1876 to provide for a veto power over items of appropriation, in language that does not expressly exclude the appropriations for a coordinate branch of government, is not for us to judge,” the court wrote. (MPR News)

5. A member of the Metropolitan Council expressed concern Thursday regarding a decision to restrict light rail service on Super Bowl Sunday to just game ticket holders with a special Metro Transit pass. Gary Cunningham, who has served on the regional planning body since 2011, wrote on Facebook that the “decision on how our public transit system would be used was not publicly vetted and agreed to” by the regional planning body. Cunningham, who represents downtown, north and south-central Minneapolis and Robbinsdale on the council, said he found out about the arrangement by reading the newspaper, and was subsequently contacted by “numerous constituents.” “I am opposed to public transit being converted to private trains for the privileged class while moving marginalizing poor and homeless people to invisible status outside of the Super Bowl zone,” Cunningham wrote early Thursday. (Star Tribune)

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