A serious Franken vows to work hard in U.S. Senate
Former comedian Al Franken on Monday made it clear in his first appearance in the U.S. Capitol as senator-elect that he had not come to entertain.
Franken did not crack a single joke, nor did he take a single question as he spoke briefly to reporters outside the Senate chamber. Instead he vowed to work hard and tried to downplay expectations now that his election has clinched a super-majority of 60 for President Obama’s Democrats in the Senate.
“A lot has been made of this number 60. The number I’m focused on is the number two. I — I see myself as the second senator from the state of Minnesota,” Franken said. (The other Minnesota senator is Amy Klobuchar).
Franken said voters expected him to work on the economy, energy, education and health care issues. “I am going to work day and night to make sure that our kids have a great future and that America’s best days lay ahead,” he said.
Majority Leader Harry Reid welcomed Franken to the chamber with a pledge that Democrats would not use their expanded numbers to “ram” legislation through the Senate despite a full plate of proposals on healthcare and climate change.
On the other hand, Reid said he hoped Republicans would stop being “the party of no” — a favorite moniker Democrats use for Republican resistance to dramatic changes that Obama’s party is trying to push through Congress.
Franken was declared the winner of a Senate seat in Minnesota last Tuesday after one of the longest Senate races ever, as the Minnesota Supreme Court rejected former Senator and Republican Norm Coleman’s legal arguments that an earlier recount was unfair.
Franken’s election gave Democrats the 60 Senate votes needed to stop procedural delays known as filibusters. This should help Obama’s party push through changes on complex issues such as climate change and healthcare, although the party has traditionally had trouble ensuring all its members vote the same way.
Franken is expected to be sworn in on Tuesday by Vice President Joe Biden, who also serves as President of the Senate. The last one he swore in was Illinois’ Roland Burris.
- Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Franken on Capitol Hill on Monday)