On matters of policy, Senate Republicans are entitled to play the party of no. But when it comes to forming a functional Senate and assuring that Minnesotans are represented, they have strayed far beyond the bounds of fair positioning. They are not just saying no; they are erecting unreasonable barriers to the seating of duly elected Senator Al Franken.

The contest between Republican incumbent Norm Coleman and Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party challenger Franken was agonizingly close, with Franken prevailing by just 312 votes in what should be the final count. Reviews by the bipartisan State Canvassing Board and a three-judge panel appointed by the Minnesota Supreme Court were exhaustive and appropriate. But Coleman has lost at every turn, with the jurists determining April 13 that “Franken received the highest number of lawfully cast ballots in the November 4, 2008, general election.” The judges heard all Coleman’s complaints and still concluded that the election “was conducted fairly, impartially and accurately.”

Coleman has exhausted every reasonable appeal. Unfortunately, he has not exhausted the resources of Senate Republicans, who seem willing to fill his coffers in order to keep vacant a seat that has been won by a Democrat they particularly dislike. Coleman intends to appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which is all but certain to agree with the judicial panel–then Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a Democrat who has patiently and responsibly overseen the recount, is expected to sign a certificate of election for Franken. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, a Republican with presidential ambitions, will then be in a position to clear the way for seating Franken. But Coleman’s lawyers hint at plans to mount extended appeals in the federal courts, which could give Pawlenty an excuse to keep the seat vacant for another six months. That’s an abuse of the recount process. Ritchie should sign the certificate, as should Pawlenty, whose responsibility is to respect the will of his state’s voters and their right to representation. It is time to end the charade and seat Senator Franken.