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Al Franken. Finally. Who in his or her right mind would have thought last November that it would take until July to seat Franken?

The Democrats’ patience had a down side and an up side. The down side is that the party was short one critical vote in the Senate. It’s possible that the stimulus package would have been better if Franken had been there. It would not have been subjected to quite so many of the compromises that made it smaller and less effective. The trajectory of the health care battle would have been better, too.

But the upside is that no one can accuse the Senate’s Democratic majority of ramming through Franken’s seating prematurely. In the 1980s, House Democrats created extraordinary bad blood among Republicans (even moderates) with their aggressiveness in a battle over a closely fought seat in Indiana. Many argue that the bitterness created by the Indiana fight led to the Gingrich revolution. Democrats avoided that this time.

One can now hope that Franken’s seating will make it less likely that Democrats concede more than they have to on health care. The worst outcome would be reform so small and crabbed that it disappoints voters who actually expect real change. Writing for The New Republic, Jonathan Cohn offers the cautionary tale of the 1988 Catastrophic Coverage Act, where senior citizens experienced the costs before they felt the benefits and eventually forced its repeal.

Here is Jonathan’s conclusion:

To get something through Congress, Obama probably needs some centrist support -- or, at the very least, he needs to make a good show of courting it. But Obama must be wary of conceding too much. Even in strictly political terms, a good bill that passes with a narrow margin may preferable to a weak bill that carries huge majorities.

The lesson of the Clinton health care fight is that Congress won't embrace reform if there aren't some compromises. The lesson of the Medicare Catastrophic Care Act is that the public won't embrace reform if it has too many compromises. We know that Obama has mastered the first one. For his own sake, as well as ours, he'd better master the second.

With Franken seated, there is a chance for a better health care bill -- and also a much better chance to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, aimed at making it easier for workers to join some unions.

More generally, Franken’s victory will create pressure on Democrats to deliver. They will now have 60 Senate votes. They can, in theory at least, stop a filibuster all by themselves. Of course, some moderate Democrats may still vote with the Republicans on certain measures. But such Democrats will now have to calculate more carefully, since their party will be more accountable than ever for failure.

On a personal note: I have written before about knowing Franken for a long time and liking him. He will surprise you. People will have to get used to the idea that someone can have a brilliant sense of humor and be fiercely substantive at the same time. And, Lord knows, no other senator will have fought harder to get there.

By E.J. Dionne  | June 30, 2009; 5:16 PM ET
Categories:  Dionne  | Tags:  E.J. Dionne  
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Next: Sanford's Confession Tour Catch-Phrase

Comments

Awesome! Brains in the Senate.

Don't think Franken has brains?

Read his books - they're brilliant AND hilarious.

Oh you don't read? Well Oxy-Baugh is on better go listen in so you know what to say to people.

Posted by: onestring | June 30, 2009 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Lutefisk for all!

Posted by: Garak | June 30, 2009 5:52 PM | Report abuse

It's too late for Franken. The people are speaking now. Obama's approval rating is headed down. Forget the filibusters. Go ahead and vote.

Posted by: hz9604 | June 30, 2009 6:06 PM | Report abuse


Finally!

Posted by: jackrussell252521 | June 30, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse

The day after the Nov 2008 election, when it was initially assumed that Coleman had won, Bill O'Reilly declared on Fox News that he would have moved out of the country if Mr Franken had won the Senate seat. Let's hold Bill O'Reilly to that statement. B'bye Billo the Clown; the weather is lovely this time of year in Iraq!

Posted by: wiatrol | June 30, 2009 6:13 PM | Report abuse

bill oreilly havent read or heard that name in a month.is he still on fox olberman hasnt mentioned him in so long i thought he was gone.

Posted by: donaldtucker | June 30, 2009 6:22 PM | Report abuse

This will only embolden the blue dog Democrats and strengthen their hand in negotiations. Those who are in purple states and fear defeat at the polls are less reliable than Specter.

Posted by: sauerkraut | June 30, 2009 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Wow...someone with brains in the U.S. Senate. The GOP should try that tact somtime.

Posted by: wiatrol | June 30, 2009 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Yep... Dionne always makes things personal.

By the way, what sense of humor are you talking about? Franken's Radio show and books were more about vitriolic & partisan rage more than being smart and humorous. All he and any of the lefty nuts out there who support Froomie, Eugene and Dionne, can do is throw disparaging words out, and cannot argue the merits of their arguments. I believe Al will find he won't be as productive in the Senate, as he think he can be, and two years in the voters of Minnesota, who voted the change ticket, may regret what they did. Change is coming, its just not what Obama has promised.... (see taxes going up for lower income and middle class americans in the near future, more government involvement and restrictions than ever, America will still be involved in Terror, National Debt goes sky high, resulting in devaluation of the Dollar vs other currency, we become more dependent on foreign energy, etc.)

If you want brains and well thought out literature, then read Men in Black and Liberty & Tyranny.

Posted by: alutz08 | June 30, 2009 6:24 PM | Report abuse

I'm very proud of my state. Unlike many, many other states, Minnesota has very clear laws on handling election disputes. With this case, we proved that the rule of law matters. That's why this took so long: Our courts heard both sides, listened to all the arguments, looked at all the evidence and applied the laws on our books. And with both republicans and democrats on the Supreme Court, the ruling was unanimous.

I've seen many comments along the lines "Selected, not elected." Maybe that's how things work in your state. But anyone who thinks that of Minnesota so should go read the Minnesota Supreme Court ruling online at
http://www.courts.state.mn.us/?page=230
to see how meticulously state and federal laws were applied. The entire process was transparent, no back room deals.

Too bad a lot of other states don't take election law as seriously and fairly as Minnesota does. Your preferred candidate is not always going to win by big vote margins and sometimes courts have to dig into the law to determine the outcome. But that doesn't mean the process is corrupt. This case is a great example.

DAStubbs,
Minneapolis


Posted by: dastubbs | June 30, 2009 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Just look at the insane loonies posting here... you really are brainwashed nuts of the left. No civility at all.

Posted by: alutz08 | June 30, 2009 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Just another clown in the Senate. This one even admits he's a clown.

The last thing we need is for the Senate to be more sure of itself. If they want to reform health care, they should reform it -- reduce the expense of Doctors, Lawyers, Insurance Middlemen, and Big Pharma.

Keeping those lobbies satisfied and simply providing more people care on the backs of the middle class isn't reform. It's just reallocation of scarce and overly-expensive resources.

Posted by: postfan1 | June 30, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Olbermann doesn't mention Bill O'Reilly lately, because he finds his viewership rating plummet when he does.

Posted by: alutz08 | June 30, 2009 6:28 PM | Report abuse

At last.
Good luck and best wishes to Senator Franken. This is the Best Choice and a Good Thing.

Let's assume the Democrats really really won thoroughly and completely in 2008. Get on with the program you were elected for.

Why should we listen to anything the Republican'ts have to say? No power. No clout. No votes. THe people have spoken, loudly and clearly.

We really want universal health care, a clean environment, reformed government and no war. GET MOVING DAMMIT.

Posted by: roboturkey | June 30, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Just look at the insane loonies posting here... you really are brainwashed nuts of the left. No civility at all.

Posted by: alutz08 | June 30, 2009 6:26 PM

Did I miss something, or are you implying that being insulting to people who don't share your views is civil?

Listen, there are good reasons to be concerned about the concentration of power in the hands of one party. The Dems abused power in the early 90's, the Repubs did so in the early to mid 00's. And in this instance, Mr. Franken's election actually gives more power to the Dems now than either party had during their respective "holds" on power since the Dems not only have a majority in both houses of Congress but have attained "filibuster-proof" status in the Senate.

It will be interesting to see how/if the Dems are able put forth a productive agenda, or if they intend to put forth a vindictive agenda. Hopefully, they'll be smart enough to try to govern with moderation, but the last two times either party had this much control they abused their new-found power rather terribly...

Posted by: scott032 | June 30, 2009 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Quoting postfan1:

Just another clown in the Senate. This one even admits he's a clown.

==============================

I guess you have to ask yourself some serious quetions:

Do you prefer a clown or a senator who turns tricks in airport bathrooms?

Do you prefer a clown or a senator who cavorts with prostitutes while protecting the "sanctity of marriage"?

I prefer my clown to your adulterer any day of the week.

DAStubbs,
Minneapolis

Posted by: dastubbs | June 30, 2009 6:37 PM | Report abuse

"It's too late for Franken. The people are speaking now. Obama's approval rating is headed down. Forget the filibusters. Go ahead and vote".

Posted by: hz960

Yep, they've plummeted from the high 60's to the mid 60's. Wow.

I like "the people are speaking now" part the best. What a short-term memory this poster has. Memento short. I think we did speak....recently.

Some people have just got to move out of the way.

Posted by: joecairo | June 30, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Maybe we will finally have an opportunity to see the government get off their conservative dampened direction and take care of the middle class. Does anyone really believe that the Democrats can do any worse than the Republicans of the past 8 years?

Posted by: KHMJr | June 30, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

nope; what it REALLY means is the democrats no longer have an excuse for their inability to make our lives better.

you, sorry e.j; i mean they, must now make an actual difference in my life. show me how much they really care and want to improve my quality of life.. not how fun georgetown is. do something now.

forget how brilliant he was on saturday night live in 1977. franken's party is now in complete possesion of the american political system.

Posted by: fshaffer | June 30, 2009 6:55 PM | Report abuse

KHMJr

"..take care of the middle class."

--

Oh the "middle class" will be taken care of all right. Can you TAXES, inflation, rising interest rates, increased costs for everything, utility bill increases, 10% + unemployment with no end in sight,....oh yeah, you will be taken care of all right.

Posted by: FraudObama | June 30, 2009 7:27 PM | Report abuse

Franken is far smarter than the average rat Senator , and smarter than almost all repugnicans . Underestimate him at your own political peril . I predict he will become one of the most popular Senators with all America . His humility is real .

Posted by: borntoraisehogs | June 30, 2009 7:29 PM | Report abuse

borntoraisehogs

"..with all America"

--

You mean AmeriKa, right? That America. The Amerika that is Barry's Socialist Amerika. Not all would like that America.

His humility is "real"? What the hell does that mean? He is a snot, a vile snot. No explanation required there.

Posted by: FraudObama | June 30, 2009 7:40 PM | Report abuse

The Dems have 60 votes ONLY if they can get Sens Byrd and Kennedy to show up in person to vote. Good luck.

Posted by: ZippyinAnnapolis | June 30, 2009 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Wow, the dems with 60 votes. Be careful what you wish for.
What excuse will they come up with now for failing to pass health care for all?

Posted by: Davidd1 | June 30, 2009 8:36 PM | Report abuse

the teaser for dionne's entry says franken is the 60th democrat.

incorrect. he is the 58th democrat.

Posted by: brickerd | June 30, 2009 8:52 PM | Report abuse

I don't care which party it is - I don't like one-party rule. That's too much power in too few hands. The Republicans can run Bullwinkle in the next election and I'll vote for him. The idea of complete and total unrestrained power in the hands of one party is a bad thing.

Posted by: mwcob | June 30, 2009 9:09 PM | Report abuse

"It's too late for Franken. The people are speaking now. Obama's approval rating is headed down. Forget the filibusters. Go ahead and vote".

Posted by: hz960

Yep, they've plummeted from the high 60's to the mid 60's. Wow.

I like "the people are speaking now" part the best. What a short-term memory this poster has. Memento short. I think we did speak....recently.

Some people have just got to move out of the way.

Posted by: joecairo | June 30, 2009 9:52 PM | Report abuse

To: wiatrol

Me and O'Reilly will leave as soon as that bloated buffoon, Baldwin keeps his promise made years ago (also on national TV) and vacates the country. We're still waiting. You work on him and get back to me when he's gone. Good luck...he keeps his promises much like Obama keeps his.

Posted by: ddnfla | June 30, 2009 10:02 PM | Report abuse

To: dastubbs:

Keeping to your moral theme...
Do you prefer a president who qualifies as a clown AND an adulterer? I suppose it depends on what your definition of "is" is.
Do you prefer:
"I was not sending a signal to the next stall"
Or:
"I did not have sex with that woman, Ms Lewinsky".
Lefties living in glass towers should refrain from tossing stones.

Posted by: ddnfla | June 30, 2009 10:16 PM | Report abuse

In as an august body as the United States Senate, bringing smarmy and profane to a new heights.

Posted by: mikeinburtonsville | June 30, 2009 10:28 PM | Report abuse

alutz08: "Just look at the insane loonies posting here ... you really are brainwashed nuts of the left. No civility at all."

Did you just guzzle all the juice from a quart jar of dill pickles before you logged in?

There's a very good reason why Republicans now find themselves in near-rump minority of public opinion, and all you're doing here is reminding everyone of it.

Posted by: drkoelper | June 30, 2009 10:45 PM | Report abuse

Franken is just one more celebipol. who takes office. It was Jesse Ventura, Minnesota's choice for governor; the Terminator in California; now Franken. They always turn out to be disasters for the people who voted for them.

Posted by: sperrico | June 30, 2009 10:46 PM | Report abuse

Franken is slime, a perfect addition for the Dems. He will fit right in.

Posted by: Buzz5 | June 30, 2009 10:57 PM | Report abuse

ddnfla: "Lefties living in glass towers should refrain from tossing stones."

Since most "Lefties" in general aren't puritanical about human sexuality and / or sanctimonious about so-called "family values", your allusion to their hypocrisy on such issues is clearly nonsensical.

If Republicans would just mind their own business and refrain from public judgment when it comes to such inherently personal matters, they would avoid placing themselves in these rather foolish and self-inflicted political predicaments.

Posted by: drkoelper | June 30, 2009 11:19 PM | Report abuse

Franken Rocks!!!!!

Posted by: kurthunt | June 30, 2009 11:20 PM | Report abuse

Franken is slime, a perfect addition for the Dems. He will fit right in.

Posted by: Buzz5 | June 30, 2009 10:57 PM | Report abuse
===========================================

Ladies and gentlemen, we have before us a claim for which it is claimed that public vitriolity is in direct opposition to to serve the public well. The above will serve as Exhibit A, and Exhibits B, C, D, and E can be found above it.

When you hear the demons of the Dems, Pelosi, Reid, and Obama speak...the vitriol meter runs dry. Policy you might hear, policy you might not like, but policy it is.

When the demons of the GOP speak, be it Cantor, Boehner, or McConnell, the policy is dry, and the vitriol is very high. And when the true leaders of the GOP speak, such as Limbaugh, Gingrich, O'Reilly, and Beck open their mouths the vitriol meter runs off the charts.

Hatred feeds hatred, until there is nothing left but hatred, and at that point becomes hated. Beware, hawkmeisters of vitriol, you are digging your own political graves.

Posted by: ethanquern | June 30, 2009 11:29 PM | Report abuse

mwcob: "The Republicans can run Bullwinkle in the next election and I'll vote for him."

Sorry, but Bullwinkle was termed out, and returned home to Texas last January.

Posted by: drkoelper | June 30, 2009 11:32 PM | Report abuse

"you really are brainwashed nuts of the left. No civility at all."

Who says irony is dead?

Posted by: PeterPrinciple | June 30, 2009 11:36 PM | Report abuse

I think that Al Franken is going to be a great Senator. I'm also happy to hear that poor Amy Klobuchar isn't going to have to do the work of two Senators anymore. Can you believe that the Democrats had 44 U.S. Senators three years ago, and now they have 61?
Hey Republicans, why don't you take some time to think about this sea-change in the Senate. If you cling to the notion that you lost recently because you weren't conservative enough, these numbers aren't going to change in your favor any time soon.
Give 'em Hell, Al.

Posted by: Scubergmu | July 1, 2009 12:12 AM | Report abuse

I sure hope Franken helps pass a good health care reform bill. . . . . . . . By going to single payer health coverage, we reduce the cost of health care by 19 percent on paper work right from the start. Then we eliminate multi-million dollar CEO's and their multi-million dollar board of directors, and then we eliminate the for profit stockholders. . . . . . . . Heck, we reduce health care by 30 percent without changing health care delivery one ioda. In addition, there's nothing wrong with a $20 copay, and capping costs on heroic measures. Moreover, we can still have private health insurance for any of the extras an individual might deem necessary.

Posted by: Here2day | July 1, 2009 2:54 AM | Report abuse

Like the stimulus and Waxman-Markey bills, Franken is another joke on America.

Posted by: judithod | July 1, 2009 8:52 AM | Report abuse

I listened regularly to Al on Air America from his sign on to his retirement to run for the Senate. He is very thoughtful and quite deep. I have no doubt that the people of Minnesota and the country will be well-served by his presence in the Senate. He may need a "minder" to make sure he doesn't get hung up on his constipated leprechaun schtick. Maybe Ms Lampher would be willing to come on board as his administrative aide?

Posted by: shiboleth | July 1, 2009 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Even if you counted Independents, there will not be 60 democratic senators able to vote on the senate floor the day after Franken is seated. The media needs to change its headlines on this. It's very misleading.

Posted by: daler1 | July 1, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

alutz08 writes --

Just look at the insane loonies posting here... you really are brainwashed nuts of the left. No civility at all.

__________________________________________

Gee, thanks for demonstrating, with your gracious comments, how to practice "civility" towards those with whom one disagrees.

Posted by: lydgate | July 1, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse


To daler1:

Senator Byrd has been released from the hospital, and Senator Kennedy has been able to attend votes when required.

If there is any true civility left in the Senate, I would hope that cloture votes on close issues would be avoided, in deference to these two great men. The Senators from Maine, for example, might vote for cloture for their colleagues' sake.

If not, I am sure they will make the vote or die trying. Is that what you would prefer?

Posted by: mikeinmidland | July 1, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Here2Day:

You really are blind. By going to single payer system you will put countless people on the unemployment rosters all at one time. Also, because there is no competition, you will have to BEG the government to pay for whatever routine procedure you need, because it is most likely that simple fixes such as a hernia repair will likely be denied.

Like Obama said last week... "just take some medication," because it will save the taxpayers money.

By having a multi-payer system, there is competition and different services available for whatever your anticipated needs are.

Sheesh... some people just turn their brains off when they read/listen to Kos, Huff&Puff, and Air-head (broke) America.

Posted by: alutz08 | July 1, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

alutz08 writes --

Just look at the insane loonies posting here... you really are brainwashed nuts of the left. No civility at all.

__________________________________________

Gee, thanks for demonstrating, with your gracious comments, how to practice "civility" towards those with whom one disagrees.

-----------------------------------------

Look to your liberal bretheren posters from above, and then try again.

Posted by: alutz08 | July 1, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

This is a FRIGHTENING possibility for the future if ObamaCare fails in its current form. Obama may force us to take universal healthcare by necessity by ruining AIG. http://bit.ly/hNUSy

Posted by: AverageJoeLE | July 1, 2009 9:31 PM | Report abuse

I call myself an Independent, although I'm currently MUCH more aligned with Democratic policies and viewpoints, as there's just not much to like in the Republican camp these days...

But, still... Al Franken?

Republicans keep coming up with new and innovative ways to disgrace themselves, but at least they do appear to FEEL 'disgraced'..

However, the one thing you simply can NOT seem to do is embarrass a Democrat...

(Monica couldn't do it - nor could Gennifer, Paula, or any of the others. Jefferson never blinked or blushed; he was perfectly "chill" with his $90,000 in "cool cash"... Pelosi's hypocrisy, Hillary's outright lies, Jesse Jackson's overt greed and bombast - there simply IS no shame anywhere within the party...)

But let's just say... that if there WERE any capacity for embarrassment, then the entire Democratic Party would surely be as red as a tomato, for if Al Franken is NOT a "joke", then what in the world IS he?

Posted by: Guy-Hardrock | July 7, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

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