“Senator” Al Franken

Almost eight months after the voters went to the polls on Election Day last November, there is finally a winner in the Minnesota Senate race, as Democrat Al Franken will take the seat next week.

Franken finally was able to claim victory after the Minnesota Supreme Court voted unanimously to reject legal claims by former Sen. Norm Coleman that Franken’s margin of 315 votes was suspect.

A few hours after the opinion was released, Coleman conceded, paving the way for Franken to be sworn in next week when the Senate returns from a July 4th break.

You can read the Minnesota ruling at http://bit.ly/eIPwB

I would note as an observer that the mueling, kicking and crying from Coleman supporters about votes not being counted sounds very much like the whining and complaining of Democrats in the aftermath of the Bush v Gore contest.

In other words, it’s better to win than it is to lose.

Franken’s win means that Democrats will be able to claim control of 60 votes in the Senate starting next week, a filibuster proof majority for the first time there since the 1974 elections, when Democrats made huge gains as a result of Watergate.

But getting to 60 won’t be easy.

Serious illnesses have sidelined both Sen. Ted Kennedy and Sen. Robert Byrd, and while Byrd was discharged from the hospital yesterday, no one’s quite sure if he’ll be back in the Senate anytime soon.

Much the same is the word on Kennedy as well.

Franken will be able to jump right in on some key issues, as Democrats evidently saved him a seat on the Senate Health Committee, which is working on health care reform right now.

I’m sure a number of Democrats are shaking their heads today, wondering if Franken is going to help them, or be a walking embarrassment in the Senate.

That will certainly keep our attention in the months ahead.

A couple more historical notes on Senate majorities for you – when was the last time that Republicans had 60 votes in the Senate?

The answer – 1908.  That was back when state legislatures elected Senators instead of the voters.

The largest number of Senators in the last century goes to the Democrats after the 1936 elections, when they had a 76-17 advantage on the GOP in the Senate.

Democrats have not had fewer than 44 Senators since the 1928 elections, when the GOP had a 56-39 advantage.

Try those numbers out during your coffee break today.