Microphone Problems Put Rookie Franken in the Chairman's Chair
By Paul Kane
A string of technical malfunctions have disrupted today's Supreme Court confirmation hearing, leading to a series of jokes among senators and a number of short breaks in the proceedings.
Electric connections inside the Hart Senate Office Building hearing room have undergone mishaps all day, starting with the lighting and air conditioning systems and moving later to the microphones. When Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) tried to start off the second round of questioning for senators, he found his microphone not working.
He tried to use that of Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the panel's ranking Republican, and found that his didn't work, either. "Mine works," chimed in Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) from the end of the dais. The lowest-ranking member of the panel, Franken is participating in his first hearings.
Angered by the problems, Leahy left the center of the room and took Franken's chair to continue reading statements into the record from outside groups who support the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor.
When Franken took Leahy's vacated chair, Sessions said "history" was being made. "That's the quickest rise of any senator in history," Sessions joked about the freshman in the chairman's seat.
Eventually, all microphones were back working. Leahy returned to his seat, and he kicked off the second round of questioning, which is slated to go into this evening. Senators, who had 30 minutes to ask questions during yesterday and today's first round, now have 20 minutes to ask questions.
If the second round does not finish this evening, Sotomayor would be back before the panel tomorrow morning to finish up.
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