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Al Franken’s decisive Senate vote

Will Norm Coleman’s concession, and a 60-vote Senate supermajority, give the Democrats unchecked power?

Democrat Al Franken is Minnesota’s newest U.S. senator, said Jay Newton-Small in Time, following a unanimous state Supreme Court ruling, a graceful concession from rival Norm Coleman, “nearly eight months, millions of dollars in legal fees, two appeals, and a recount.” On paper, this gives Senate Democrats a coveted filibuster-proof 60-vote majority. But with Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd on “indefinite medical leave,” Franken’s impact may be limited.

That leaves Democrats with “almost the worst of all possible worlds,” said Kevin Drum in Mother Jones. They have the “illusion of control of Congress but not the reality.” Thanks to the “corruption of the filibuster,” Democrats need 60 votes to pass anything—not an easy task, given the six or so “non-liberal” Democrats in their caucus. Franken will “make approximately no difference at all.”

With Franken’s vote, Democrats now have “absolute one party rule,” said Patrick Edaburn in The Moderate Voice, for the first time since 1977-79, so it’s “time to put up or shut up.” No more whining about the “evil old Republicans,” or playing the old “‘blame Bush' card.” Democrats are indisputably running the show—they’d better hope its not a rerun of the Carter years.

“Republicans already are decrying what they regard as a dictatorship of the majority,” said Howard Fineman in MSNBC, and Franken could be a real asset to them. Instead of a popular president or no-name Senate majority leader, the GOP will be happy to blame controversial new laws on “a former comedian who won his Senate seat by 315 votes.”

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