- The Washington Times - Friday, February 27, 2009

Senate Democratic leaders said Thursday that Democrat Al Franken could be seated as the new senator from Minnesota in a little more than a month, predicting that Republican incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman’s legal challenge to save his seat would soon be defeated.

“The projections are that this should all be finished by the very beginning of April,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat who headed the party’s senatorial campaign in 2008.

A win by Mr. Franken, who held a tiny 225-vote edge when the state’s official recount was concluded, would fill the Senate’s last vacancy and give Democrats an effective majority of 59 seats - one short of the number needed to break filibusters and other stalling tactics by the minority.

A three-judge panel in Minnesota is still considering Mr. Coleman’s challenge to the recount result, and the dispute still could go before the state supreme court for a final adjudication.

Senate Republicans have reacted harshly to any suggestion that Mr. Franken, a former comedian who starred on “Saturday Night Live,” be seated before all the formal legal challenges by both sides have been exhausted.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, sounded increasingly confident that Mr. Franken would claim the seat soon and urged Mr. Coleman to step aside.

“There’s going to come a time when Coleman’s going to have to recognize that he’s lost this election,” Mr. Reid told reporters. “This should have been over a long time ago.”

Mr. Coleman, who has been working as a consultant for the Republican Jewish Coalition as the recount fight drags on, insists that he still thinks he will be declared the winner of the race.

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