As Washington ponders Al Franken's role as comedian or statesman, the Senate's newest member revealed another side of his persona today: He's a hugger.
Moments after Franken was sworn in as Minnesota's Democratic junior senator, he gave a big bear hug to Massachusetts Senator John F. Kerry (himself not much of a public hugger), followed by hearty embraces of Democratic Senators Barbara Boxer of California, Tom Harkin of Iowa, and Amy Klobuchar, who has been carrying the load for Minnesota alone during the six months of fighting over the seat.
Franken was declared the winner by the Minnesota Supreme Court last week, Republican incumbent Norm Coleman conceded, and Franken formally took the oath of office this afternoon.
As fans in the visitors' gallery cheered, Franken pumped his fist in victory, still holding the Bible he used for his swearing-in.
"There are people who see Al Franken in a very narrow concept, and it's understandable,'' since Franken gained fame as a comedian and radio talk-show host, said Senate Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin of Illinois. "But there's a lot more to this person. He's a very bright person. He's very well-informed.''
"Many expect that every time Al opens his mouth, it's going to be a comedy routine -- it's not,'' Durbin added.
Franken won plum assignments on the Senate Judiciary, Aging, and Health committees. Franken will not officially join the latter panel, however, until after it finishes work writing the healthcare overhaul bill.
Durbin noted that the committee is considering hundreds of amendments Franken had not participated in debating; a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, added that it would be unfair to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat who has been working on the panel temporarily, to replace him with Franken during a time of such intense legislative activity.
Franken brings the Democratic caucus's count to 60 -- the number needed to stop filibusters. But since senators rarely vote in party lockstep -- especially on non-procedural votes -- the Democratic leadership's agenda is not assured passage.
"Most senators aren't cheap. They didn't come here to be told what to do by someone else,'' said Senator Evan Bayh, Democrat of Indiana. (STFU BAYH)
My favorite parts were:
- Amy Klobuchar talking about how everyone she met when she first came to the Capitol would say "Minnesota, that's where Paul Wellstone was from" because they liked him so much. Even the people who worked on the trains and the cops and stuff. *blub*
- Amy talking about Frannie Franken having a bag packed by her bedside so she and Al could rush to Washington as soon as he was sworn in.
- Franken being sworn in on Wellstone's Bible. *double blub*
- The standing ovation when Franken's sworn in, even from the Republicans!
- THE HUGS.
ETA: A touch of fail to go with the awesomeness: GOP Distorts Franken’s Tribute to Paul Wellstone, Again. "uring the 2008 Senate campaign, Al Franken would often tell a story about Paul Wellstone — who was five-foot-five and perpetually wired — egging on his son to finish a race" ... "Former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) repeatedly used the video in ads to make Franken look like a madman." ... "Today, the National Republican Senatorial Committee put out a web video informing voters that, with Franken’s arrival in the Senate, the Democrats have total control of Washington. The video they use of Franken? Multiple clips of him telling the Wellstone story, selectively edited to make him look like Lenin."
They then responded to critics by sending out a Photoshopped picture of Al Franken