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Mr. Franken Comes to Washington

James Pogue installs the name plate of Sen.-elect Al Franken (D-Minn.) on his new office in the Hart Senate Office building on Capitol Hill July 6, 2009. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Updated 5:41 p.m.
By Perry Bacon Jr.
Al Franken spent months trapped in an electoral limbo that was almost unprecedented. Trying to prepare for his potential job, one that he had not officially won yet, he watched the U.S. Senate on C-Span but also tuned into updates on the trial about his contested election on a Minnesota Web site called He warmly greeted well-wishers who told him how much they wished he were in the Senate, while at the same privately fuming about missing key votes.

Meanwhile, his wife, Franni, kept a bag packed beside their bed in their Minneapolis home, ready to leave at a moment's notice if her husband was declared the winner and they needed to rush to Washington for a key vote.

Finally today, eight months and six days after his Nov. 4 election contest against Norm Coleman, Franken was greeted in the Capitol as "Senator-elect."

The former "Saturday Night Live" writer and performer looked stern and serious as he joined Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) before a huge throng of reporters.

Dressed in a dark suit and blue tie, and sticking carefully to talking points for his two minutes of remarks, Franken seemed more like Reid's shorter, stockier twin than a three-time Emmy winner for comedy.

"I'm going to work day and night to make sure our kids have a great future and that Americans' best days lie ahead," said Franken, who will be officially sworn in Tuesday. "I'm ready to get to work." He expressed a desire for "a rational health care system" and "an economy that works for working families."

He declined to take any questions, instead rushing into his office in the Hart Senate Office Building.

His wife and daughter had no such reserve about finally arriving at their moment of victory. Franni Franken hugged a couple of reporters from Minnesota who had come for the day, telling them how excited she was to be in Washington.

"I think it's just about as cool as you might expect," Franken's daughter, Thomasin, 28, told a reporter from a Minnesota NBC station.

When a pair of visitors to the Capitol walked into Franken's new office, where his nameplate was put up a few hours earlier, Franni Franken thanked them for coming and talked about the long journey to the Senate.

"We have friends and supporters who had children [early in the campaign], and now they are talking," she said.

A longtime political activist, Franken's arrival was no "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." The former comedian has come to the nation's capitol numerous times, including six since the November election.

Through Craigslist, Franni Franken has found a house on Capitol Hill where the couple expects to live, but upon their arrival in town Sunday night, they stayed at the home of Norman Ornstein, a longtime Franken friend who is an oft-quoted congressional expert at the American Enterprise Institute.

At the Capitol today, Franken practiced for the swearing-in ceremony, spent 30 minutes with Reid and then several hours with his staff. His long wait time has allowed Franken more time than almost any senator ever to select his staff, but many of the potential staffers haven't actually left their old jobs yet; before this week, Franken did not have an official budget to pay them.

After his swearing-in, at which he will be joined by Vice President Biden, former vice president and Minnesota senator Walter Mondale, and the state's senior senator, Amy Klobuchar (D), Franken will be expected to learn quickly. He has spent not only learning about key issues like health reform, but also trying to master the arcane procedures of the Senate by meeting with former Senate staffers.

He will need to learn quickly. He will join the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will consider the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor next week, and the Health Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which is working on health-care legislation. Franken will also sit on the ommittees on Aging and Indian Affairs (there are several Native American tribes in the state).

Franken has signaled he will play down his fame and leave behind his reputation for both humor and partisanship. In a chamber full of former governors and would be-presidents, Franken has never served in elective office nor even as a staffer. He also has a resume that suggests he never truly expected to be here, writing a satirical piece in Playboy magazine about pornography in 2000 titled "Porn-O-Rama," using the phrase "big fat idiot" to describe both former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and talk show host Rush Limbaugh, and shouting a string of expletives to describe Republicans when he spoke at a fundraiser for Howard Dean's presidential campaign a few years ago.

Klobuchar, who has talked to Franken frequently over the last few months, said, "He can still be amusing."

But both Reid and Thomasin Franken said people in Washington would be "pleasantly surprised" by Al Franken's knowledge of policy, suggesting that people looking for a comedian in the Senate might have to look elsewhere.

"There's plenty of room for humor in politics, God knows, but it's a serious business," Franken told the Minneapolis Star Tribune in an interview last week.

By Web Politics Editor  |  July 6, 2009; 12:25 PM ET
Categories:  Dem. Leaders  
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Yippee!! Wahooeee!! Senator Franken is finally going to get to work for the people of Minnesota. Franken has a varied resume which includes being a successive author, and a strong voice on Air America for truth and justice. Another republican rubber stamper bites the dust.

Posted by: equalon | July 6, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

The Democratic Senate diversity plan is now complete.Kennedy,a drunken addled coward,Byrd A KKKer,Reid a functioning corrupt idiot and now a real creep liar thief in Franken.He fits in nicely

Posted by: mikem12 | July 6, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

To Mikem12, AKA "ekim": better than serial philanderers Ensign, Vitter, Gingrich, Livingston, Thurmond, etc. At least he's got a brain and thinks with it--instead of other quadrants of his anatomy.

Posted by: commonsense101 | July 6, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse

It's about time. Whether you love him, hate him, or something in between, Franken is the junior Senator from Minnesota. He should have been there from day one of the Senate session. They chose him, for better or worse.

Posted by: tonyw44 | July 6, 2009 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Let's hope the Democrats can get it together for some real health care reform and not this lobbyist approved nonsense.

Posted by: theobserver4 | July 6, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Franken is cool. And very, very smart. He will take the job seriously and do it well.

Posted by: herzliebster | July 6, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Just to clarify, the closeness of the original vote, by MN law, triggered an automatic recount. It was only after the recount turned the tables and declared Franken the winner that courts became involved.

Posted by: pdech | July 6, 2009 6:03 PM | Report abuse

A clown in the Whitehouse and a comedian in the Senate. Great.

Posted by: Bubbette1 | July 6, 2009 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Welcome to DC, it's been a long time coming!! And don't forget your sense of humor!! It's what makes you good enough, smart enough and doggone it, people like you!

Posted by: PepperDr | July 6, 2009 6:23 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who listened to his radio show knows that Franken is whip-smart on the issues.

Sometimes conservative military authors who came on Al's show expressed surprise at how thoroughly he had studied their books.

I predict he will be a wonderful senator, diligent and very low-key.

Posted by: keithhooker | July 6, 2009 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Welcome, Senator Franken. We need you!

Posted by: Brittman1 | July 6, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

A perfect place for him as a joker in the biggest joke in America. He'll have a lot of comedic competition from Harry 'Las Vegas' Reid. ROFL.

Posted by: Calabrese99 | July 6, 2009 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Talk about obstructing the will of the people for power. The last laugh is on you Republicans. Nice to see some democracy in our own country, a welcome change after the Bush Dark Ages.

Posted by: cirrus_nine | July 6, 2009 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Whoa, mikem12, chill..... You're gonna give yourself a heart attack carrying around all that unnecessary anger and hate on your back (as well as it not being at all productive)!

Posted by: tjconnor | July 6, 2009 7:26 PM | Report abuse

I'm willing to wait and see. No doubt Senator Franken's votes will be way to the left of what I would like to see but I do not think he is a clown nor stupid. He did what he had to do when a comedian (funny with an edge) and a radio talk show host (outrageous and over the top) and now he is a Senator and that calls for different behavior and I predict he will rise to the occasion and be, well, senatorial. He had to have a very strong work ethic to succeed in what he has undertaken in previous careers. Do I hope he succeeds? No, but my conservative brethren might do well to remember when another revered politician on our side took the jabs of the left as "just an actor and not to be taken seriously"

Posted by: jerome1140 | July 6, 2009 7:26 PM | Report abuse

This guy had more lies in his books than almost can be counted. Go to ..... a well documented website that shows how patholgic this id888t is....hey just another liberally impaired crook. Yes, another lib loser with such a succesful background (Is air amerika still in business, sarcasm for you liberally impaired at home) If VA is for lovers MN is for losers!

Posted by: 65apr | July 6, 2009 8:54 PM | Report abuse

65apr, I can smell something burning under you.....

Posted by: GopSucks | July 6, 2009 8:56 PM | Report abuse

Quit being jealous, there are 58 Dems and 2 Ind with the Dems, that is a fact....

Posted by: GopSucks | July 6, 2009 8:57 PM | Report abuse

I believe
Senator Fanken will make a great Senator from Minnesota.

He supports the good stuff.


Posted by: bjmptcruisergmailcom | July 6, 2009 9:00 PM | Report abuse

GP Presidential hopefuls...
Mark Sanford ....Gone
John Ensign... Gone
Sarah Palin...Gone

How the Mighty Moral police have fallen
By the way you can get Dick Cheney, he is readily available....

Posted by: GopSucks | July 6, 2009 9:02 PM | Report abuse

Just what we need in Washington, another hate monger.

Posted by: jtcmd | July 6, 2009 9:17 PM | Report abuse

Now that the full contigent of our elected representatives are in place, I sincerely hope the Democrats don't fall into the same intoxication with power as did the Republicans. If they do, not only will we be in a war we should never have been in (Iraq) or continue to lose ground in a war we have every right to prosecute (Afghanistan), but we will be saddling our children with more unfathomable debt; debt incurred both by Republicans (see funding for the above two wars; the pilaging of the country and the world by big oil; and the gross and wanton disregard for regulation in the financial industry, the oil industry, the environment and just about any other industry which the executive branch was charged with regulating), and now by Democrats (first, under the auspices of getting us out of the Republican mess; and more increasingly, to pass agendas on healthcare, the environment and energy, that, while seemingly well-intentioned, may ultimately be unachievable, or at the very least, unattainable without bankrupting our country).

I, like many of my fellow Americans, am sick of the partisanship. Al Franken has chosen his words carefully, and with all the time he's had to think about it, that's what I expect.

I also expect our elected leaders to put aside the campaigning and the rhetoric and get down to the people's business. And I expect my fellow Americans to do the same, and to not follow the shallow sound bites of those who manipulate power, be it from the dark corners of Washington, the glimering lights of television, the crackling voice of radio, or the ever-annoying new media including e-mail SPAM, social networking and the "traditional" websites. We can no longer afford to give the government a long leash, as we have done blindly for the past decade. We must hold our elected officials accountable; Democrat, Republican and Independent alike.

The alternative is more frightening than anything I could imagine.

Posted by: ilovewilbon | July 6, 2009 9:37 PM | Report abuse

Nobody will take this clown seriously. He will be a cinch to beat in 2015. He will also be an excellent negative photo-op. Anyone seen next to him will acquire an Ivor `Jest-ye-not-madam' Biggun aura (reference to Dish and Dishonesty, Blackadder III).

E: Edmund Blackadder
P: Pitt the Younger (and the Even Younger)
I: Ivor Biggun
H: Vincent Hanna

E: Ivor `Jest-ye-not-madam' Biggun...

H: (cuts) Standing-At-The-Back-Dressed-Stupidly-And-Looking-Stupid Party...

E: No votes.

(Ivor laughs, plays a bazooka (kazoo) in E's ear, laughs more and waves)

E: Pitt, the Even Younger...

H: (cuts) Whig...

E: No votes.

H: Oh, there's a shock.

(Pitt the Even Younger turns to his mum and cries)

E: Mr. S. Baldrick...

H: (cuts) Adder Party...

E: Sixteen thousand, four hundred, and seventy-two.

(Cheers are heard.)

H: And there you have it: victory for the Adder Party -- a sensational swing
against the Whigs. I'll just try to get a final word from some of the
candidates as they come up from the stage. Master William Pitt the Even
Younger, are you disappointed?

P (the Even Younger): (stomps on) Yes! I'm horrified! I smeared my opponent,
bribed the press to be on my side, and threatened to torture the electorate
if we lost. I fail to see what more a decent politician could have done.
(stomps off)

H: Quite. Now; Ivor Biggun, no votes at all for the Standing-At-The-Back-
Dressed-Stupidly-And-Looking-Stupid Party. Are you disappointed?

I: Ah, no, not really, no... I always say, "If you can't laugh, what *can*
you do?" Ha-ha-ha-ha (squirts Hanna with flower).

H: ...take up politics, perhaps. Has your party got any policies?

I: Oh yes, certainly! We're for the compulsory serving of asparagus at break-
fast, free corsets for the under-fives, and the abolition of slavery.

H: Now, you see, many moderate people would respect your stand on asparagus,
but what about this extremist nonsense about abolishing slavery?

I: Oh, we just put that in for a joke! See you next year!

Posted by: greg3 | July 6, 2009 9:55 PM | Report abuse

Excellent! Al can go work with the other clowns bent on ruining this once great country.

Posted by: GordonShumway | July 6, 2009 10:00 PM | Report abuse

greg3 -- Good to see the Adder party get the respect they (or he) deserves. Regards to Colin.

Posted by: Tupac_Goldstein | July 6, 2009 10:12 PM | Report abuse

No more texas hold'm... it's time for jokers wild.

Posted by: whocares666 | July 6, 2009 10:21 PM | Report abuse

Back in the 70's when I watch SNL for a few chuckles, I knew the funny bits were over when Franken & Davis came on: I never did see the credits role on this show. Clearly, Al Franken knew the answer to "Whose d*ck do I have to suck to get a job on this network."

Posted by: greg3 | July 6, 2009 10:37 PM | Report abuse

From writing "Placenta Helper" to the halls of Congress; what a strange trip it has been.

Posted by: Seat13 | July 6, 2009 10:38 PM | Report abuse

Franken didn't seem like a "...three-time Emmy winner for comedy?" Exactly how trite can the political analysis in the Post become? I would pay more attention to the newly formed Senate Democratic supermajority and consider whether the Dems will actually use that magic wand for the good or simply choke on it.

Posted by: DrLou1 | July 6, 2009 11:26 PM | Report abuse

If he can show that he's better informed than Sarah Sixpack, that will be an encouraging start.

Posted by: donnolo | July 6, 2009 11:35 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: jerome1140 | July 6, 2009 7:26 PM
“…Senator Franken's votes ….. now he is a Senator and that calls for different behavior and I predict he will rise to the occasion and be, well, senatorial. He had to have a very strong work ethic to succeed in what he has undertaken in previous careers. Do I hope he succeeds? No, but…..another revered politician on our side took the jabs of the left as "just an actor and not to be taken seriously"

Ever since Reagan and especially Gingrich and Delay politics has been about personal destruction. Personally I want my senator or congressman to be successful no matter what party s/he is from because that is good for the people of my state.

So jerome1140, join the hate America crowd and hope Senator Franken is not successful (fails) in office. Every congressional person that fails means America fails a little bit at a time.

Posted by: knjincvc | July 7, 2009 12:12 AM | Report abuse

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