Illinois, Minnesota Senators Still Unknown

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There are many questions regarding who will represent Illinois and Minnesota in the Senate. Democratic leaders have rejected the choice of Roland Burris from Illinois. Minnesota's Senate race still hasn't been certified and could still be challenged in a lawsuit.

ARI SHAPIRO, host:

And then moving from New Mexico to Minnesota, officials are expected to announce a winner in the Minnesota Senate race later today. And it looks like it'll be Democrat Al Franken. Is that the end of it?

COKIE ROBERTS: Now, this one could - yeah, this one could be a real problem. The Republicans are saying this should be settled in Minnesota, that Minnesota law is very clear that court cases should be heard before anyone is declared the winner and that the secretary of state shouldn't certify.

Look, if we get into a big interparty fight, a Republicans versus Democrats on seating a senator, that could be very, very nasty. Those things tend to just blight any bipartisanship, and that mood is really there. I talked to Mitch McConnell yesterday, the Republican leader, and he said, look, we are in a bipartisan mood. There's too much to be done. There's a new president with high approval ratings. But you get something like this and they start fighting with each other, and that could really, really make it very difficult for the Senate to come together.

SHAPIRO: And then finally, one state has a new senator to replace an Obama Cabinet appointment. That's Colorado, where Michael Bennet has been tapped to take over for Senator Ken Salazar, who will be secretary of the interior. What do we know about Mr. Bennet?

ROBERTS: Well, what we know is that he's been superintendent of education, and it's a surprising and unusual pick. But it could also signal that education will be more on the Senate agenda than we expected. Mr. Bennet, along with the education secretary pick, Arnie Duncan, and some other education reformers in big cities, like Michelle Rhee here in Washington. Joel Klein in New York, have talked about education as an economic issue. And he's likely to frame it that way in the Senate, and it will come to the fore.

But of course, the most important issue right away is the economy, that big economic stimulus package. And there, we've heard from Democratic leaders not to expect that now right away, but maybe before the Lincoln's Day recess in February. Obama is throwing out some ideas to bring on Republicans like maybe a $300 billion tax cut. But that's where they really need to keep the momentum going, keep the Congress together to get that done very, very quickly.

SHAPIRO: Thanks. That's NPR News analyst Cokie Roberts.

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