Franken says he's ready to join Senate

February 6, 2009 12:49:22 PM PST
Al Franken said Friday he's frustrated but not bitter that a lawsuit by Norm Coleman is keeping him out of the U.S. Senate, and is working hard to keep up with issues in the meantime. Democrat Franken, the former "Saturday Night Live" performer and liberal satirist, left little doubt in an interview with The Associated Press that he considers himself the winner of Minnesota's Senate race.

A recount ended with him leading Coleman, the incumbent Republican, by 225 votes, but Coleman is challenging that in a lawsuit.

"I admit to being frustrated at times," Franken said. "But it's a little out of my control. What is in my control is to prepare so that when I get to the Senate, I'm ready to go on day one."

Coleman has sat through much of the trial in person, but Franken has yet to show up. He said attending the trial wouldn't be "the most productive use of my time" - but admitted he sometimes tunes in to a live Webcast and might check it out in person at some point.

Franken said he gets regular briefings from Democratic members of Congress and staff. If he were in office, he said, he would support President Barack Obama's stimulus package but would push for measures to make sure the money is spent wisely.

In St. Paul, testimony in the lawsuit continued Friday. Coleman's team has been questioning county election officials over several thousand absentee ballots that may have been improperly rejected, hoping to persuade a panel of judges to allow them into the count.

Franken's attorneys have asked the state Supreme Court to give him a temporary certificate to join the Senate while the trial plays out, after Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie refused that request.

If that effort fails, there's been speculation the Senate's Democratic majority might try to seat Franken anyway if the trial in Coleman's lawsuit drags on for weeks or months. But Franken gave no indication he would push for a step like that.

"That is so out of my control that I really don't give it much thought," he said.

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