At noon on Thursday, Senator Al Franken addressed the Senate for the last time, giving a half-hour resignation speech that touched on everything from voter fraud to climate change but held an overarching message — that the Trump administration is chipping away at the pillars supporting American democracy.
Over the past few weeks, there has been speculation that Franken might walk back his promise to resign, since he made his initial resignation speech in early December. But in Wednesday’s remarks, the Minnesota lawmaker made it clear that he is indeed packing his bags in Washington and used his final opportunity to outline what he at one point called the “callous and mean-spirited” decisions of the White House.
Franken began by thanking this supporters saying, “I’ve been fortunate to have a dedicated, hard-working staff both in Washington and Minnesota and I have no doubt that they will go on to do great things and serve our nation well.” He then turned his focus to everyday Americans saying, “when most people think about politics, they think about arguments … and that’s a big reason why people don’t like politics.” He continued, “but since I’m leaving the Senate, I thought I would take a big risk and say a few words in favor of arguments.”
But before long, the former “Saturday Night Live” cast member began laying into the Trump administration, and the Republicans’ most recent accomplishment, saying “the values propelling the Republican agenda today are about consolidating political and economic power in the hands of corporations and the very wealthy.” He continued, “Just take the tax bill that Congress passed this week … crafting an enormous giveaway that benefits their wealthy campaign donors … by 2027, 83 percent of the benefits in the Republican tax bill will accrue to the top 1 percent of income earners, that’s people who make more than $912,000 a year — do we really need any other data point?”
He then accused the president of forgetting about the “forgotten men and women” that Trump promised to serve in his inaugural address. He also blasted the administration’s efforts to defeat Obamacare, saying “despite campaign’s promise that ‘we’re going to have health insurance for everybody’ when his administration attempted to deliver on that promise, Republicans devised and passed a bill that would have resulted in 23 million fewer people having health insurance.”
Franken was harshly critical of the GOP’s stance on climate change, saying “rather than join me and my Democratic colleagues by confronting the challenge of climate change, Republicans have ordered a retreat at the behest of the fossil fuel industry and other private interests.” He added “the president and its allies in Congress have never let science or common sense stand in the way of ideology.”
He pointed to an October announcement when the Trump administration tried to pull birth control from health insurance coverage, saying “ensuring that women have access to contraception is vital to the economic security of our families … despite the millions of women who have benefited from the police and despite the science … the Trump administration has eviscerated the policy.”
Franken spent a good portion of his speech attacking Trump’s argument that he won the popular vote, saying “let’s be clear, President Trump lost the popular votes … citing no evidence … no state reported any indication of widespread [voter] fraud. But that didn’t stop the Trump administration from quickly turning the president’s tweets into policy. The White House created a new commission … led by Kansas Secretary of State Chris Kobach, a right-wing extremist who has made a career of trafficking in the voter fraud myth.”
The senator closed by saying “politics is about the improvement of people’s lives. The American people know that to be true and they fill me with hope for our future.” Franken has set the official date for his resignation as January 2nd.