Ken AshfordCongress, Election 2008Leave a Comment

With Coleman's concession, Al Franken finally becomes Senator Al Franken, Democrat from Minnesota.


First Read writes:

Most significantly, yesterday’s developments resulted in Democrats obtaining a filibuster-proof majority — 60 votes — in the Senate, and Dems want to have him seated by as early as Monday. Having 60 votes will shift the balance of power from the Republican Maine-iacs (Collins and Snowe) to the Joe Liebermans, Ben Nelsons, and Mary Landrieus, meaning that the upcoming fights over health care and energy will be on Democratic turf.

I largely agree with Franken on this.  The magic "60" doesn't necessarily mean anything.  No matter what the issue, there are always a few Democrats who vote with the majority of Republicans, and a few Republicans who vote with the majority of Democrats.  Obviously, Franken's presence makes getting to a filibuster-proof majority easier, but that's about it.

Besides, I think this notion of "60" being the magic number is borderline unconstitutional.  It has always been majority wins in the Senate, which means 50 was, and should be the magic number.  Parliamentary tricks should not be able to supercede constitutional requirements.

UPDATE:  Kevin Drum agrees:

The corruption of the filibuster into a routine requirement for 60 votes in the Senate (an arguably unconstitutional evolution, IMHO) combined with the continuing presence of half a dozen non-liberals in the Democratic caucus combined with an almost iron self-discipline within the Republican caucus — well, all that combined means that liberals now have the illusion of control of Congress but not the reality.  In a way, it's almost the worst of all possible worlds.  Dem vs. Dem is now practically the only narrative that anyone will pay attention to, and since unanimous agreement is the only way for that narrative to play out well, this means it's almost always going to play out badly.

Still, that's a glass-half-empty point of view.  So let's be more positive: one more vote is one more vote. 

Also, TPM has a must-read about the gasket collectively thrown by the Murdoch media empire over the Frenken victory.  Of particular note is the bogus Wall Street Journal editorial, which "accuse[s) the Franken campaign of committing supposedly dirty maneuvers, without mentioning that the Coleman side was participating in the exact same activities just as fervently or even more so."  I also love this from the same editorial, printed without the slightest bit of irony:

The unfortunate lesson is that you don't need to win the vote on Election Day as long as your lawyers are creative enough to have enough new or disqualified ballots counted after the fact…. If the GOP hopes to avoid repeats, it should learn from Minnesota that modern elections don't end when voters cast their ballots. They only end after the lawyers count them.

Um…. that "lesson" was learned in 2000, guys.  Too late to complain about it when it works against you.