Franken in Washington, says he's ready to workby Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio
Washington — Tomorrow is a big day for Al Franken. Eight months after the election -- and six months after other senators were sworn in -- Franken will take his oath of office as Minnesota's second U.S. senator.
Franken arrived in Washington yesterday after a busy weekend of parade appearances in northeastern Minnesota, and today he met with Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
A large group of journalists packed into a corridor outside of Reid's Capitol Hill office. When Sen. Reid and Sen.-elect Franken emerged, Reid said he was happy to welcome Franken to the Capitol.
Reid predicted Franken will work hard, and "be an outstanding senator."
"Much has been made of the expectations of Al Franken joining the Senate. Here are my expectations. He, of course, is going to work hard for the people of Minnesota. They have gone far too long without full representation," said Reid. "I expect him to help deliver on the chance that this country is demanding, to strengthen our economy, to ensure all Americans have access to quality health care and make our country energy independent. I'm confident that Senator-elect Franken will make a difference."
With Franken, the Senate's Democratic caucus will reach a 60-vote majority that, if united, will have the power to shut down Republican efforts to prevent the passage of legislation through filibusters.
Reid noted that, but said Democrats want to work with Republicans. And he said, despite the 60-vote majority, Republicans have a responsibility to work with Democrats.
"Democrats aren't looking to Sen. Franken's election as an opportunity to ram legislation through this body. In turn, Senate Republicans must understand that Sen.-elect Franken's election does not abdicate from them the responsibilities to govern," Reid said. "That's why we have, and will continue to offer, Senate Republicans a seat at any negotiating table."
Reid spoke for just a few minutes before inviting Franken to speak.
"Thank you Mr. Leader," said Franken to Reid. "I want to thank the leader for all your support, during and after the campaign. And I look forward to working under your leadership."
Franken said of the 60-vote majority that he's focused on the number two.
"I see myself as the second senator from the state of Minnesota," said Franken. "Minnesotans are very practical people. They want to make sure that the work we do here in the Senate makes sense, and that the decisions we make for the future have a strong return on investment."
Franken said he would focus on several issues, including health care reform. He called for a "rational health care system" that would be affordable and accessible to all Americans.
Sounding much like he did during the campaign, Franken also spoke about forging a new energy policy that would create jobs, and address climate change and the nation's dependence on foreign oil.
He also talked about improving the education system, pledging to work day and night to make sure kids have an excellent future.
Neither Franken nor Reid took questions following their brief statements.
Franken will take the oath of office tomorrow at about 11:15 a.m. CDT. Vice President Joe Biden will administer the oath in his role as president of the Senate.
- All Things Considered, 07/06/2009, 5:15 p.m.