WASHINGTON – Al Franken became a senator on Tuesday, completing the transformation from comedian to politician.
The Minnesota Democrat’s swearing-in marked the end of an eight-month political and legal struggle and drew thunderous applause and a standing ovation in the Senate chamber. His presence gives Democrats 60 votes, enough to thwart possible Republican filibusters.
Vice President Joe Biden administered the oath to Franken, slapped the former “Saturday Night Live” performer on the back, then embraced him in a full hug. Former Vice President Walter Mondale, a Minnesota native and former senator, accompanied Franken, and he was introduced by fellow Minnesotan and Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
“I think it was Al who told me that the third year of his campaign would be the best,” Klobuchar said. “He was right.”
Last week the Minnesota Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Franken’s favor after a protracted recount battle.
His opponent, former Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, conceded shortly after the ruling.
In the staid Senate, there were plenty of signs something unusual was afoot. The Senate Gallery, rarely full even with dozens of summer tours, was packed with onlookers. After Franken took the oath of the Senate, the gallery erupted in a round of applause that continued for several minutes.
Democrats said Franken will assume seats on the Senate Select Committee on Aging, the Committee on Indian Affairs, the Judiciary Committee and the Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions. Reid said Tuesday that Franken will not join the HELP committee until after the health care bill goes through the budget markup process.
Franken’s most pressing business will be the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.