Senator Al Franken

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)

Washington D.C. Office

309 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

St. Paul Office

60 East Plato Blvd, Suite 220
Saint Paul, MN 55107

Positions on MPP Peace Agenda and give voting record, position papers, etc.

A. Resolve Conflicts through Diplomacy

  1. Promote stability in the Middle East by withdrawing all US military forces from the area, replacing US military aid with development aid and engaging diplomatically with all nations in the region.
  2. Senator Franken is an original co-sponsor of S.J. 42, a joint resolution calling for the disapproval of an arms sale to Saudi Arabia. Senator Klobuchar also voted for the resolution which almost prevailed with a vote of 47-52. Senator Franken has committed to continuing to push the Administration on its sales of arms to Saudi Arabia. – 07.03.17

    Sen. Al Franken joined Senators Murphy & Paul introducing a resolution May 25, 2017 to block the sale of $500 million worth of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia. The legislation will force a vote under the Arms Export Control Act and will go to the House of Representatives if it passes. – 05.28.17

    The Senator voted for an expedited withdrawal from Afghanistan. – 11/29/12

    Senator Franken is in support, and signed a letter urging the acceleration of troop withdrawals from Afghanistan.

    Senator Franken did support the troop surge in Afghanistan when proposed, promising to monitor effectiveness of the surge against the stated expected outcomes.

    The Office of Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction released audits showing cost overruns and schedule delays in construction of the Kabul Military Training Center and the Afghan National Security University. Senator Franken continues to support Afghanistan funding.

  3. Implement the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran without additional sanctions, and restore diplomatic relations with Iran.
  4. In a speech today delivered on the Senate floor, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said that the deal reached by the United States and partnering countries is “the most effective, realistic option” to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, and urged his colleagues to vote in favor of the agreement. (Sept 10, 2015)

    Senator Franken announced that he would vote to support the Iran nuclear deal in a CNN op-ed on August 13. Key points in his editorial:
    -The nuclear deal isn’t perfect, but he sees it as a strong, necessary agreement
    -Iran has incentive to meet its terms; U.S. has strong recourse if Iran does not
    -U.S. backing out of deal would strengthen Iran’s hand, he says. (CNN, 08.13.15)

    America is the preeminent world power, and we have entered a period of renewed engagement with the world. We must use all of the tools at our disposal to pursue our interest, including diplomacy and economic development. That’s why I’m committed to reforming our foreign assistance system. Diplomacy takes time, and success is never guaranteed, but I’m convinced there is no other way to solve problems like the Middle East peace process, achieving arms control with Russia, and ultimately settling the tensions between Pakistan and India. Minnesota is home to some of our countries largest refugee communities. Many Minnesotans trace their origins to Somalia, and long to see peace and stability in that troubled country. Such a peace would directly contribute to our national security. (Franken Press release, no date)

    Senator Franken told visiting constituents that he strongly supports our negotiations with Iran. (MPP visit with the Senator, April 24, 2014)

    Senator Franken signed on to the Menendez-Graham letter, while non-binding, could be read as setting out problematic red lines for a final deal with Iran, including statements whose cumulative message could be interpreted as rejecting any deal unless it leaves Iran with zero enrichment. The letter also states that Congress and the President “need to work together now” to make sure that new sanctions can be implemented the moment that diplomacy fails. – March 2014

    Senator Franken chose not to sign on to the Menendez Kirk bill, S.1881, calling for increased sanctions against Iran as the State Dept. was actively pursuing a diplomatic agreement re their nuclear program. – March 2014

    Senator Franken continues to support a diplomatic resolution to issues with Iran. He refused to sign the latest letter circulated in the Senate that demanded additional sanctions and declared the military option as a viable strategy. – June 2012

    Senator Franken has declined to sign on to the Lieberman-Graham SR 380 that would restrict the use of diplomacy in resolving issues with Iran. “As a supporter of diplomacy to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem, I oppose language in a piece of House legislation that would unduly restrict diplomatic contacts between US and Iranian officials.” – 2/6/2012

  5. Support resolution of the Israeli Palestinian conflict through determined, balanced and multilateral diplomacy.
  6. (Regarding Netanyahu speech) This has unfortunately become a partisan spectacle, both because of the impending Israeli election and because it was done without consulting the Administration,said Sen. Franken in a statement. I’d be uncomfortable being part of an event that I don’t believe should be happening. Haaretz 3/3/2015

    Contrary to most of the world’s countries, Israel and Franken do not believe that Israel has violated the Fourth Geneva Convention. Franken’s office does not believe that Israel has targeted Palestinian civilians. The issues of proportionality, building of settlements and the occupation of sea and air ports have all been labeled Fourth Geneva Convention violations, but not by Franken’s office. (Meeting with MPP on Jan 23, 2015)

    Senator Franken met with members of the Palestinian Authority while on a visit to Israel and remains committed to his statement :”First, I continue to be a strong supporter of a two-state solution that would enable Israel and Palestine to live side by side with a just and durable peace between them. Progress towards that goal has been frustratingly elusive. It is a goal that can only be achieved by the parties themselves through negotiations – for those negotiations to happen and to succeed, the parties have to want to participate.

    While I recognize the difficulty of the challenge, I am trying to do my part as a senator to help make those negotiations happen. For instance, I plan to emphasize the importance of progress on peace negotiations when I travel there in the near future. I will deliver it to the very highest levels of both the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority. It is encouraging that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators recently met for the first time in over a year, and I stand ready to support those negotiations in any way I can.” letter to MPP 2/3/2012

    Senator Franken did not sign the AIPAC-endorsed Bayh/Risch letter to the President which focused on the need for Arab leaders to demonstrate their commitment to the peace process without mention of needed initiatives by Israel such as a settlement freeze. – August 2009

    Reprinted from Heeb magazine, issue #6:

    Franken: Well I’m for Israel’s right to exist. I have trouble with a lot of things Israel has done over the last number of years, including building illegal settlements. I believe they have provoked and caused terrorism. That’s not to excuse terrorism. I think there’s a lot of blame to go around, including toward the rest of the Arab world that stokes this fire and does not help the Palestinians. I think Arafat created Sharon, and if he had at least given Barak and Clinton an answer, we wouldn’t have Sharon. I think you are absolutely right that the history of persecution, and the Holocaust particularly, gives Israel more right to exist. By the way, a lot of right-wing Christians support Israel, because according to prophecy, before the Second Coming can occur, the Jews have to be in Israel. Of course, they also believe that when that happens, every Jew will die a fiery death. At which time I predict the coalition between the neo-cons and the right-wing evangelicals will disappear.

    Heeb: In the countries whose residents hate us, are we actually making these people’s lives worse in any concrete way, or are we and Israel just the scapegoats for the rage they feel — but cannot express — against their own repressive governments?

    Franken: Well, we support regimes like Saudi Arabia’s. We make a sort of deal with them, which is that we’ll sell them arms, they’ll sell us oil. We pay for the oil, and they don’t create any infrastructure in their country. The people resent that, so the leaders make a deal with the fundamentalists: you teach Wahabiism, and we’ll fund you and we’ll fund Wahabiism throughout Pakistan and the rest of the world. There’s this amoral understanding, and we have a piece in it. But this isn’t about hating America. I just went to Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan to support our troops. It was my fourth USO tour. I love this country. We are, in my mind, the hope of the world. We have to be; we’re the only remaining superpower. But you have to love your country like an adult loves somebody, not like a child loves its Mommy. And right-wing Republicans tend to love America like a child loves its Mommy, where everything Mommy does is okay. But adult love means you’re not in denial, and you want the loved one to be the best they can be.

  7. Limit US involvement in African nations' internal affair to strengthen civil society, support domestic development, and mediate domestic conflicts when disputing parties request assistance.
  8. Senator Franken co-authored a letter with Senator Klobuchar to Secretary Kerry asking that “the State Department provide recommendations for actions the United States can take to address the escalating violence against civilians in the Oromia region of Ethiopia.” Ethiopia is the 3rd largest recipient of U.S. Foreign Aid despite the fact that the Leahy Law specifies that the U.S. can not provide foreign aid to governments that commit serious human rights violations. 02.02.16

    The United States must support international efforts to find feasible long-term solutions to the situation in Somalia. The United States vehemently rejects extremists who threaten both our security interests and the well-being of innocent civilians. Our policy towards Somalia must include both counterterrorism efforts and humanitarian efforts to to relieve the intense suffering of the Somali people. To this end, Senator Franken cosponsored a resolution urging the Obama Administration to develop a comprehensive strategy to ensure stability in Somalia, which passed the Senate unanimously. (Franken position paper, no date)

    Senator Franken has also worked with Senator Amy Klobuchar and Congressman Keith Ellison to pass legislation to help Minnesota’s East African community more easily send money to their families back home in East Africa. And during the 2011 famine in Somalia and the wider Horn of Africa, Al pushed Secretary of State Clinton to take all necessary actions to ensure that food assistance reached the millions of East Africans in need of essential survival assistance during the drought. (Daily Planet, Oct 10, 2014)).

    Sen. Franken has pushed the United States government to practice smart foreign policy that helps uphold human rights in Kenya and Ethiopia, worked with Secretaries of State Clinton and Kerry for smart US-East African relations, and pushed for conditioned aid to Ethiopia to protect the Oromo people and all those who are oppressed by the Ethiopian government. (Daily Planet , Oct 10, 2014)).

    “Tens of thousands of East African immigrants who call Minnesota home are suffering with the knowledge that their families back home are dying from drought, famine, and disease,” said Sen. Franken. “After hearing from Somalis and humanitarian groups in Minnesota, I called Secretary Clinton to urge the Administration to take further steps to enable humanitarian assistance to be delivered to Somalia. The letter we sent follows up on that to make sure the Administration doesn’t lose the sense of absolute urgency. I urge the Administration to expand its efforts to save the millions of lives in jeopardy in East Africa.” – Press release 8/18/11

  9. Continue normalization of relations with Cuba by lifting the trade embargo and closing the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
  10. Senator Franken has supported legislation calling for the normalizing of relationships with Cuba and is a co-sponsor of the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act. He voted abainst the bill to build 700 miles of border fence (Mexico-US border) because “none of the relevant effective law enforcement agencies were asking for it”. Sen. Al Franken has introduced legislation to ensure that the children of undocumented workers caught up in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids are not left abandoned.

  11. Lead diplomatic efforts to end the Syrian civil war engaging all interested parties.
  12. There is no question that a diplomatic resolution to this crisis would be far preferable to military intervention. While the new diplomatic proposal floated by Russia needs to be treated with skepticism, I remain hopeful that it can lead to the desired result: that the Assad regime will no longer be able to use chemical weapons. If instead, the United States is compelled to take action in response to the Assad regime’s horrific use of chemical weapons, our response must be narrowly tailored as I have said all along, and we must have assurance that this will not spiral into a prolonged engagement in the region. Over the last several days, I’ve studied the resolution passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and I am concerned that its scope is too broad. With the President scheduled to meet with members of the Senate and to address the nation tonight, I urge him to explain how the United States will deal with the risks and unintended consequences of a possible attack and how we will avoid getting mired in a broader conflict. I continue to believe that the use of chemical weapons is a violation of a longstanding international norm and warrants a response, but I want to know more about the details of that response and its scope before I decide whether to support or oppose this or any resolution in the U.S. Senate. – 09/10/13 – Minnesota Public Radio

B. Build an international infrastructure for peace and prosperity:

  1. Commit the US to strengthening the United Nations by becoming a signatory to the International Criminal Court and International Human Rights Treaties, respecting and upholding international law including military nonintervention, and promoting universal human rights.
  2. Franken supports the International Criminal Court. ( 2009) The Palestinians have just joined the ICC (4/1/2015) A real opportunity

    UN peacekeeping is one of the best deals around. It can help countries break the cycle of violence and help people rebuild normal lives. Whatever the problems with the UN or its peacekeeping operations, it doesn’t make sense for the US to block them or deprive them of needed resources. Will you oppose legislation that withholds U.S. dues to the U.N.? Franken: yes (Citizens for Global Solutions: Sep 9, 2008)

  3. Develop and strengthen alternatives to military force such as civilian peacekeeping forces, mediation and conflict-resolution, and significantly grow the US diplomatic corps.
  4. Senator Franken has spoken in support of foreign aid, focusing upon the Millennium Development Goals, with greater emphasis on well-proven programs such as school feeding and microcredit, and with efforts to combat corruption and promote good governance.

  5. Commit to just and sustainable economic development strategies.
  6. Senator Franken has spoken in support of foreign aid, focusing upon the Millennium Development Goals, with greater emphasis on well-proven programs such as school feeding and microcredit, and with efforts to combat corruption and promote good governance.

    Senator Franken supported requiring reports on foreign holdings of U.S. debt.

    Senator Franken has stated commitment to oppose FTA’s for Colombia, Panama and Korea, supports the renegotiation of NAFTA, and opposes trade agreeemnts that includes NAFTA-style investor rights. He is a strong opponent of CAFTA, believing the bill “sold out Minnesota’s entire sugar industry for access to six markets with the combined size of Columbus, Ohio.” He calls for re-examination of economic and trade policies that contribute to illegal immigration.

  7. Take a leadership role in international agreements on climate change, including reduction of emissions that cause global warming, and develop energy alternatives.
  8. The overwhelming majority of scientists agree that climate change is real and that steps must be taken to address the threat to public health, our economy, and our national security posed by pollution that destroys our lungs and our environment. To address this global challenge, Congress needs to enact legislation that puts a price on carbon emissions and transitions our economy to renewable, homegrown sources of energy.

    Minnesota has already done this. Our state has a strong renewable electricity and renewable fuels standard in place. As Congress considers policies to address this daunting challenge, I am working to ensure that any legislation includes robust emission reduction mechanisms, consumer protections against rate increases, and provisions to secure new economic opportunities for Minnesota farmers and manufacturers. Senator Franken’s website – March 2016

    The overwhelming majority of scientists agree that climate change is real and steps must be taken to address the threat to public health, our economy, and our national security posed by pollution that destroys our lungs and our environment. To address this global challenge, Congress needs to enact legislation that puts a price on carbon emissions and transition our economy to renewable, homegrown sources of energy. (Citizens for Global Solutions, Sept 9, 2008)

C. Dismantle the infrastructure that encourages militaristic response to conflicts:

  1. Significantly reduce the US defense budget, increase its transparency and ensure the military is accountable for its defense expenditures.
  2. Minnesotans need a national defense that’s suited to today’s environment, not the Cold War. We need a defense budget that reflects our real national security priorities, not wasteful parochial interests or bloated programs left over from the Cold War. (Issue paper, no date)

    Senator Franken has called for stronger accountability measures for dollars committed to military contracts.

    Senator Franken has proposed the Cost of War Resolution requiring congress to approve anticipated costs of future military engagement actions. The cost of war can start with the imposition of sanctions, e.g., to the financial sector of Iran, including the Central Bank of Iran. This amendment was supported by Senator Franken.

  3. Negotiate and approve agreements and treaties such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, that reduce the risk of war.
  4. Senator Franken has cosponsored S.100 prohibiting first-strike nuclear attacks without Congressional approval. May 2017

    U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) is throwing his support behind a new measure that would make smart savings in the federal budget by cutting back on costly, unnecessary nuclear weapon spending. That Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures (SANE) Act would save $100 billion in the nuclear weapons budget over the next decade without harming our national security. We need to make smarter choices about how the government spends money to make sure that it’s contributing to our economic growth and to our prosperity, said Sen. Franken. And there are some smart places that we can save money. We’re slated to spend $1 trillion on our nuclear arsenal in the next thirty years a staggering amount of money. I believe that we can still maintain our nuclear deterrent and save $100 billion just by reforming our nuclear weapon budget. There’s no reason we should be spending such an enormous sum of money on weapons that we will never use.  (3/23/2015)

    Senator Franken is a sponsor of the S.A.N.E. (Smarter Approach Nuclear Expenditures) Act. The SANE Act would freeze, delay and cut funding for nuclear weapons and related programs. This would result in savings of $100 billion over 10 years. – May 2015

    Senator Franken is on record as opposing the development of new nuclear weapons. He voted against F-22 funding.

    Republican Party of Minnesota Chairman, Keith Downey highlighted three instances in which Franken voted against a majority of both parities by deciding to slash defense spending. About the only time Al Franken has stood up to the Democratic majority is when he’s voted to slash defense spending. Republican Party of MN – 9/24/14

    The Senator voted in favor of the ratification of the new START Treaty. – 12/22/10

  5. Reaffirm US commitment to the Geneva Conventions, US Rules of Engagement and US Code of Military Conduct.
  6. Senator Franken said Obama doesn’t have authority to bypass Congress, but he has long backed closing the military prison and handling suspects through the American judicial system. Franken said he worries Guantanamo’s continued existence has only boosted terrorist recruitment efforts, and said there are plenty of high-security prisons in the United States to house the dozens of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo. CBS MN 10.13.14

    Torture is a grave moral wrong. It is illegal, and it is at odds with American values and the rule of law. The same can be said of cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment. There is no evidence that such violations of American law, values, and morality are necessary to keep the United States safe. In fact, a number of experts have argued that torture often produces unreliable and inaccurate information, and many military experts contend that torture puts U.S. troops in danger if they are apprehended.

    It has now been ten years since the Bush administration made the decision to authorize the use of what it called “enhanced interrogation techniques” on detainees in our conflict with Al Qaeda. The worst of those techniques, such as waterboarding, are undeniably torture in and of themselves. Together, the techniques used in this interrogation program amounted to a systematic effort to dehumanize and torment detainees. Worse still, the interrogation program was authorized at the highest levels of the government in part thanks to a series of weak, implausible, and distorted legal opinions produced by the Department of Justice.

    The current administration has thankfully condemned the use of torture in the interrogation of detainees in our conflict with Al Qaeda and other terrorists. Although the Obama Administration has sought to turn the page entirely on this episode, the authorization of torture will remain an indelible stain on our nation’s history, and I am convinced that these torture memos have undermined U.S. efforts to promote and protect human rights around the world. Current human rights violations in countries such as Syria and North Korea are reminders that the U.S. must lead by example and should focus our efforts on making sure these types of egregious violations never happen again. – Senator Franken’s website, Oct. 2012