The last legal and political barriers to Al Franken taking his seat as the junion senator from Minnesota crumbled Tuesday, as Republican incumbent Norm Coleman finally conceded the contest.
Coleman’s concession came after the Minnesota Supreme Court confirmed what everyone pretty much knew: The voters chose Franken, the Democratic Farmer Labor Party candidate over Coleman in last fall’s U.S. Senate election.
While the election result was close, the court’s decision was not.
The justices ruled 5-0 that: “Al Franken received the highest number of votes legally cast and is entitled [under Minnesota law] to receive the certificate of election as United States Senator from the State of Minnesota.”
Under Minnesota law, the court’s decision gave Franken the right to occupy the seat that a series of recounts and official reviews confirmed was won by the satirist with a narrow but steady margin that ultimately expanded to 312 votes.
The unanimous ruling left little wiggle room for Coleman, whose dead-ender appeals have been funded by Republican donors from around the country as well as stipends from the campaign funds of sitting GOP senators.
And Coleman threw in the towel with a relatively gracious statement less than an hour after the court made its decision known.
Minnesota Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty, who has delayed signing the certification of election that Franken needed to become the 60th Democratic member of the current Senate, has said he will certify Franken as the winner.
So it is that, by the time the Senate returns from its July 4 recess, Democrats will have a caucus that includes 58 party members and two independents (Vermont’s Bernie Sanders and Connecticut’s Joe Lieberman) who sit with the majority.
That’s the “magic” 60 that allows a majority party to avert filibusters and schedule votes on legislation and nominations.
With Republicans sticking to their “party of no” strategy — and maintaining remarkable unity in their negativity — the seating of Franken will have significance. It won’t mean that the majority party can have its way with the Senate, as there will continue to be cases where individual Democrats break ranks. But it does mean that the will of the American electorate — which voted overwhelmingly in the last two election cycles for a Democratic Congress — will be more difficult for Rush Limbaugh’s rejectionists to thwart.
But Franken eschewed the emphasis on the number “60.”
“I know there’s been a lot of talk about the fact that when I’m sworn in I’ll be the sixtieth member of the Democratic caucus. But that’s not how I see it,” the senator-elect said Tuesday. “I’m going to Washington to be the second senator from the State of Minnesota, and that’s how I’m going to do this job.”