Ticket Replay: Will Al Franken's Mick Jagger impersonation (real video here) liven the Senate?
As the holidays unfold, The Ticket's thoughts turn to some time off. So we're re-publishing some of our favorite or most-read items from 2009. This item originally appeared on July 1.
It's official. After an election tally recount that lasted eight months, cost millions of dollars and tied up several courts, Al Franken, one of the early stars of NBC's "Saturday Night Live," is finally joining that exclusive club known as the U.S. Senate.
Democrats on Capitol Hill and at the White House were delighted at the news, seeing in Franken's arrival a 60th vote that would help them deter Republican filibusters.
For his part, the new senator -- restrained since the November election by a court fight against Sen. Norm Coleman -- was exuberant. Flanked by his wife Frannie, he thanked voters and added, "I can't wait to get started."
Mindful of the pitfalls of being a national figure before he was a name in state politics, Franken said he considered himself not the 100th senator but Minnesota's second senator.
"I know there's been a lot of talk about the fact that when I'm sworn in I'll be the 60th member of the Democratic caucus, but that's not how I see it," said Franken, who's expected to be seated Monday. "I'm going to Washington to be the second senator from the state of Minnesota, and that's how I'm going to do this job."
The reticence is well-placed. Even with Franken's vote, Democrats don't have a slam-dunk majority. Some, like Massachusetts' Sen. Ted Kennedy and West Virginia's 91-year-old Robert Byrd, are ailing. Others, like Nebraska's Ben Nelson, are moderates who sometimes vote with Republicans.
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, asked recently what difference Franken's election would have, quipped, "It's one more vote." Noting that he and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have been forced to sweat a lot of votes, Durbin added, "We have this tough situation with Senator Byrd and Senator Kennedy, so on a good day, we have 57. Al Franken makes it 58. It lightens my load a little bit, and Harry's as well, to find the additional votes to reach 60. And that's what it's all about."
In terms of policy, there's no question Franken is a liberal. He has already signaled his support for a pro-labor bill making it easier for unions to recruit workers. President Obama said he looked forward to Franken's help on two other administration priorities -- "lowering healthcare costs and investing in the kind of clean energy, jobs, and industries that will help America lead in the 21st century."
And Franken is a likely vote for the upcoming vote for Obama's Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.
Franken is not the first person from the world of entertainment to sign up for politics. President Reagan was a onetime president of the Screen Actors Guild. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is, let's face it, more famous worldwide as The Terminator.
And, frankly, he may not be the funniest person in the Senate. Only they know for sure.
Still, Franken's antics as a comedian are likely to follow him to the U.S. Senate, sometimes referred to, in all seriousness, as "the world's greatest deliberative body." For example, take a look at this video above, in which Franken impersonates Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones.
Bet nobody else in the Senate has ever done that. At least publicly.
Of course, at the rate scandals are coming out of Washington, maybe a comedian is just what the U.S. Senate needs.
-- Johanna Neuman
Photo: Elizabeth Flores / Associated Press