Stuart Smalley Saves The Senate?
So Al Franken is going to be certified the winner of the Minnesota Senate election as early as today, but Minnesota state law asserts that the parties must wait for an election certificate for seven days, at which time either side can pursue a legal challenge. Norm Coleman is expected to do so, and the certification won't be official until those challenges are exhausted.
Fortunately, top Democrats, having waited to speak on the matter until the end of the recount, are finally pushing back in the PR war, asserting that Franken has won and calling on Coleman to step aside. Here's Chuck Schumer, outgoing head of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee:
"With the Minnesota recount complete, it is now clear that Al Franken won the election. The Canvassing Board will meet tomorrow to wrap up its work and certify him the winner, and while there are still possible legal issues that will run their course, there is no longer any doubt who will be the next Senator from Minnesota. Even if all the ballots Coleman claims were double counted or erroneously added were resolved in his favor, he still wouldn't have enough votes to win. With the Senate set to begin meeting on Tuesday to address the important issues facing the nation, it is crucial that Minnesota's seat not remain empty, and I hope this process will resolve itself as soon as possible."
And Harry Reid:
I believe that tomorrow the bipartisan state canvassing board will certify Al Franken the winner. After all, early on Senator Coleman criticized Al Franken for wanting a recount and wasting taxpayer money. I would hope now that it is clear he lost, that Senator Coleman follow his own advice and not subject the people of Minnesota to a costly legal battle.
I hope to see that pressure ratcheted up in the coming days. Coleman can't win, he can only delay the matter.
It is important to note that, from a mathematical standpoint, only seating Al Franken will not affect the balance of power in the Senate, given the Roland Burris fiasco. With only 98 Senators at the moment, Democrats would need 59 to end a filibuster (they would have 57, including Lieberman and Sanders, in their caucus). If Franken is installed as Senator #99, that threshold would rise to 60, leaving Democrats still two votes shy. Only by seating Democratic Senators from Minnesota and Illinois would Democrats move within one vote of a filibuster-proof majority. Nate Silver explains further. The importance of this depends on whether you think 60 Democrats or 60 votes is the most crucial bar to clear, whether you think the party will be unified, etc.
As for Burris, he'll be showing up in Washington tomorrow for his swearing-in ceremony, which will be a fiasco. Expect lots and lots of racial politics:
At the Chicago church, residents said they had formed a group in the past week in support of Mr. Burris’s appointment, a group that seemed far less focused on Mr. Blagojevich than on the need for a black leader in the Senate.
“The U.S. Senate must reflect all of America,” said Bishop Simon Gordon, one of several pastors at the sendoff.
Representative Bobby L. Rush, an Illinois Democrat who attended the event, described the standoff over Mr. Burris in racial terms, portraying the Senate as “the last bastion of racial plantation politics in America.”
Ugly. For his part, Reid did not close the door to Burris being seated on Meet the Press yesterday. Maybe he's done the math, too.