In an unusual departure from Senate collegiality, four of Sen. Al Franken’s Republican colleagues vented their spleens Wednesday in a Politico.com story about his so-called rape amendment to a pending Pentagon spending bill. 
 
“The Republicans are steamed at Franken because partisans on the left are using a measure he sponsored to paint them as rapist sympathizers – and because Franken isn’t doing much to stop them,” begins the article penned by Politico’s Manu Raju.
 
Perhaps the offended GOP senators were thinking of Jon Stewart’s devastating “Rape-Nuts” takedown Oct. 14 on The Daily Show on Comedy Central.
 
The money quotes from Politico:
-- “Trying to tap into the natural sympathy that we have for this victim of this rape —and use that as a justification to frankly misrepresent and embarrass his colleagues, I don’t think it’s a very constructive thing.” -- Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
-- “I don’t know what his motivation was for taking us on, but I would hope that we won’t see a lot of Daily Kos-inspired amendments in the future coming from him.” – Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the No. 4 Republican in the Senate.
-- “It was partisan — and he knew it.” -- Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
-- “From what I know of (Franken)…” Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo, told Politico, he “expected” such tactics.
 
All the hurt feelings stem from a Franken amendment barring federal defense contracts to companies that require their employees to submit to mandatory arbitration rather than suing for workplace discrimination claims, including sexual assault.
 
The measure, which passed 68-30, was inspired by the story of former Halliburton/KBR employee Jamie Leigh Jones, who alleges she was gang-raped by coworkers in Baghdad and later forced into arbitration.
 
Jones, whose case is now on appeal, was in the Senate chamber for the Oct. 6 vote.
 
Franken, for his part, said in an interview with Hot Dish Wednesday that he has played no part in vilifying the 30 GOP senators who voted against the amendment.
 
“Certainly I think it’s unfair to say that they’re pro-rape, and I think I’ve said that,” Franken said.
 
While his GOP critics, particularly Cornyn, suggested the episode would make some Republicans leery of working with the Minnesota Democrat in the future, Franken and his staff say that’s hardly been the case.
 
Since the controversial vote, in which 10 Republicans sided with Franken, he’s introduced two bills with Republican co-authors: The Diabetes Prevention Act, filed with Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind.; and the Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault Act, filed with Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
 
As for the overheated rhetoric, Franken suggests there was plenty of that to go around. “They characterized me as trying to get rid of all arbitration, and I wasn’t,” he said. “But I didn’t go complaining that they were mischaracterizing me.”

 

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