Al Franken Arrives On Capitol Hill

Democrat Al Franken of Minnesota, who arrived Monday on Capitol Hill, is expected to be sworn in Tuesday as the 100th senator. Franken will become the 60th member of the Democratic caucus, the number Democrats need to shut down Republican filibusters.


Minnesota's junior senator-elect arrived at the U.S. Capitol today. Democrat Al Franken will be sworn in tomorrow as the Senate's 100th member. But the number mentioned more often is 60. Franken gives Democrats 60 votes, the supposedly filibuster-proof majority.

NPR's David Welna reports on Franken's long-awaited arrival in Washington.

DAVID WELNA: When it comes to Al Franken, it seems, it's all about numbers. It took eight long months to establish he'd beaten GOP incumbent Norm Coleman by 312 votes out of nearly three million cast. Speaking to reporters today at the Capitol, the former "Saturday Night Life" comedian told no jokes, but he did have a thing or two to say about numbers.

Senator AL FRANKEN (Democrat, Minnesota): A lot has been made of this number 60. The number I'm focused on is the number two. I see myself as the second senator from the state of Minnesota.

WELNA: And it's probably safe to say no one sees Franken, a confirmed liberal, as likely to break ranks often with his party. If anything, Franken seems intent on reinventing himself from edgy, wiseacre satirist to safe, boring politician.

Sen. FRANKEN: 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. I'm ready to get to work.

WELNA: Majority Leader Harry Reid appeared with Franken. It was a chance to remind Republicans he still needs their cooperation.

Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada): Democrats aren't looking to Senator Franken's election as an opportunity to ram legislation through this body. In turn, Senate Republicans must understand that Senator-elect Franken's election does not abdicate from them the responsibilities to govern.

WELNA: Reid went so far on the Senate floor to say things have not changed. But as chief Republican vote counter Jon Kyl left the Senate chamber, he begged to differ.

Senator JON KYL (Republican, Arizona): One little thing has changed and that is Minnesota has two senators, and the Democratic conference has 60 votes, if they're all here. And if there are straight party-line votes, that means that Republicans cannot stop legislation.

WELNA: That's assuming, of course, that two ailing and absent senators, Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd, would also be voting. Otherwise, even after Franken's sworn in, Democrats will still be looking for at least a couple of breakaway Republicans to help get the 60.

David Welna, NPR News, The Capitol.

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