- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 6, 2009

UPDATED:

Democrat Al Franken won’t be sworn in as Minnesota’s next senator when the chamber convenes Tuesday for the first time in 2009, despite a state board certifying that he won the state’s two-month-long Senate recount over Republican incumbent Norm Coleman, an aide to the Senate’s top Democrat said late Monday.

Mr. Coleman’s lawyers and staff said they plan a legal challenge to the Monday decision by the Minnesota Canvassing Board, which would keep the race slogging on for months.

“Shortly after Election Day, Coleman criticized Mr. Franken for wanting a recount and wasting taxpayer money. Now that it is clear he lost, Coleman should follow his own advice and not subject the people of Minnesota to a costly legal battle,” said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat.

“However, there will not be an effort to seat Mr. Franken [Tuesday].”

The Minnesota seat wasn’t the only Senate race in limbo Monday, as Senate Democratic leaders appeared unwilling to allow Senate appointee Roland Burris of Illinois to be sworn in Tuesday.

In Mr. Franken’s case, Mr. Manley said the Democrat eventually will be sworn in to represent Minnesota in the Senate, “but whether it’s this week or later, we’ll have to wait and see.”

Mr. Franken, after the Minnesota canvassing board’s decision, said he was ready to go to Washington “as soon as possible.”

“After 62 days of careful and painstaking hand-inspection of nearly 3 million ballots, after hours and hours of hard work by election officials and volunteers around the state, I am proud to stand before you as the next senator from Minnesota,” said the former “Saturday Night Life” personality and radio talk-show host.

Mr. Coleman, whose six-year Senate term officially expired Saturday, has one week to file a lawsuit protesting the result, a move his legal staff says is inevitable.

His lawyers have argued that some ballots were mishandled and others were wrongly excluded from the recount. The Minnesota Supreme Court on Monday ruled against a petition by Mr. Coleman’s campaign to include 650 ballots that it said were improperly rejected.

“The actions today by the canvassing board are but the first step in what, unfortunately, will now have to be a longer process,” said Coleman for Senate counsel Tony Trimble. “This process isn’t at the end; it is now just at the beginning.”

Mr. Reid, a Democrat, said he would welcome Mr. Franken to the Senate, adding that “the race in Minnesota is over.”

“Now it’s only a little finger pointing,” Mr. Reid said. “And based upon any of the allegations that Senator Coleman has made, there’s no way he can catch up.”

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, vowed that the race is far from over, saying that “it needs to be decided in Minnesota, and not in the United States Senate.”

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