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Franken, Burris, and the Senate
Will either of the two controversial designees be seated as Congress convenes?
W

hat happened
The 111th Congress convenes Tuesday, but Democrats Al Franken of Minnesota—who was declared winner of his state’s race Monday, by 225 votes—and Roland Burris of Illinois probably won’t be seated as senators. Republicans had threatened to block Franken’s swearing-in, with a legal challenge pending, and Senate Democrats don’t want to seat Burris, who was chosen by tainted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D). (The Wall Street Journal)

What the commentators said
Senate Democrats would like to seat Franken and reject Burris, but they’ve gotten “themselves in a pickle,” said Mike Lillis in The Washington Independent. For “wildly different” reasons, neither man has official state certification to fill his seat. Democrats can hardly use that technicality to block Burris but ignore it to seat Franken.

Burris, already calling himself the junior senator from Illinois, didn’t get the memo that he won’t be seated, said Mary Mitchell in the Chicago Sun-Times. And despite some “harsh rhetoric, Democratic leaders will be hard-pressed to bar him outright.” Burris, who’d be the only black senator, should step aside, but the Senate won’t risk “an ugly fight, and one with racial undertones no less,” to make him.

Both men may be seated eventually, but it’s unlikely either will be sworn in tomorrow, said Nina Shen Rastogi in Slate. Franken’s win was certified, but it won’t be official for seven days under Minnesota law, and the Senate parliamentarian has already rejected Burris’s credentials. Still, the Senate could seat them “without prejudice,” which would make them easy to kick out later, if warranted.

While we wait to see “which one will actually get in the Senate door,” would it be too much to ask them to “lighten up”? asked Phil Bronstein in the San Francisco Chronicle. Franken earned his fame as a comedian, but he’s been “on an angry soapbox” since entering politics. These times call for levity—if Franken stays deadly serious, maybe “Senator Burris knows a joke or two.”

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