By J. Taylor Rushing - 07/06/09 02:03 PM EDT
Sen.-elect Al Franken (D) made a muted, maiden appearance in the Senate on Monday, saying little, sticking to his script and avoiding questions.
A week after his eight-month legal battle with former Sen. Norm Coleman (R) over the second Minnesota seat, Franken met privately with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and appeared with Reid to give a five-minute photo opportunity and press statement. Franken toured the old and new Senate chambers and cloakrooms before his 15-minute meeting with Reid.
“A lot has been made of this number 60. The number I’m focusing on is the number 2,” Franken said, referring both to the new Democratic majority that his election provides and the pair of Minnesota Senate seats. “I see myself as the second senator from the state of Minnesota.”
Franken said he sees his election as proof of Minnesota voters’ desire for healthcare reform, economic recovery, job growth, energy policy reform and retirement security.
Neither Reid nor Franken took questions Monday, although Reid suggested they might on Tuesday.
Franken will be sworn in Tuesday morning by Vice President Biden in the Old Senate Chamber, sometime before the weekly Democratic caucus lunch, according to a spokesman in Reid’s office.
Franken has been a regular visitor to the Senate this year, briefing Reid in person on his legal case against Coleman, and the senator-elect’s staff has also kept in touch with the majority leader.
Spokesmen in Reid’s office said Franken’s committee assignments are still undetermined but that seats on the Judiciary Committee, Aging Committee and Indian Affairs Committee are likely.
Earlier Monday, a Senate work crew posted Franken’s name plate outside his new office — Room 320 of the Hart Senate Office Building.
Reid said Monday he understands Franken’s first duty is to Minnesotans, but also made clear that he expects Franken “to deliver on the change this country is demanding.” He also took pains to downplay Franken’s comedic past as a “Saturday Night Live” writer and actor, predicting people will be “pleasantly surprised” by Franken’s seriousness.
And Reid made a point of stressing that the GOP will still be consulted and needed for legislation. At 60 seats, Democrats have only the barest minimum necessary to move legislation, and will likely need Republican help often.
“Moving America forward will still require the cooperation of my Senate colleagues who are Republicans,” Reid said. “Democrats aren’t looking at Sen. Franken’s election as an opportunity to ram legislation through this body.
“In turn, Senate Republicans must understand that Sen.-elect Franken’s election does not abdicate from them the responsibility to govern … It’s up to them to decide whether they will continue to sit down and either be the party of ‘no’ or sit down and work for the common good of the people.”
Photos by Greg Nash