Q&A on the Franken-Coleman fight

Q: What happens now?

A: Al Franken needs an election certificate before he can enter the Senate. It has to be signed by the Secretary of State and the Governor.

Update 3:57 p.m. – Coleman has conceded the election. “I have always believed you do the best you can and leave the results up to a higher authority. I’m at peace with

that,” Coleman said. “It’s time to move forward.”

Q: Where’s the governor and what’s his plan?

A: He’s in Washington and released this statement shortly after Coleman conceded:

The Minnesota Supreme Court has today addressed the issues surrounding the accuracy and integrity of our election system during the 2008 U.S. Senate race in Minnesota. In light of that decision and Senator Coleman’s announcement that he will not be pursuing an appeal, I will be signing the election certificate today as directed by the court and applicable law.

“I would like to thank Senator Coleman for his service. As state solicitor general, Mayor of Saint Paul and United States Senator, he has been an extraordinary leader and public servant for Minnesota.

“I also want to congratulate Al Franken and wish him well as he serves the people of Minnesota.”

Sen. Harry Reid issued the following statement:

“I congratulate Senator-elect Al Franken, the next Senator from the state of Minnesota. The people of Minnesota will now finally get the brilliant and hardworking new senator they elected in November and the full representation they deserve. After all the votes have been counted and recounted, the Minnesota Supreme Court has made the final determination that Minnesotans have chosen Al Franken to help their state and our country get back on track. “The Senate looks forward to welcoming Senator-elect Franken as soon as possible. He will play a crucial role as we work to strengthen our economy, ensure all Americans can access and afford quality health care, make our country more energy independent, confirm the President’s outstanding nominee to the Supreme Court, and tackle the many other challenges we face. “I once again encourage Governor Pawlenty to respect the votes of his constituents and the decisions of his state’s highest court. He should put politics aside, follow his state’s laws and finally sign the certificate that will bring this episode to an end.”

The Senate is not currently in Washington. It’s on its July 4th break.

Franken told reporters today he’s “going up to the Range to do some parades.” So it’ll be a few days before he’s sworn in.

Q: Did judges on the Supreme Court all agree?

A: Yes. The decision was unanimous — per curiam, in legal speak. Two members of the court abstained because they served on a panel that considered the issue earlier.

“Whatever your political point of view, you had someone on the court from your perspective, who from a political perspective would share your point of view. And yet, given that diversity, they all saw the law the same way. That’s significant,” Ned Foley said.

Q: Why did it take so long?

A: “One of the things that’s always on the mind of judges and justices is not wanting to be reversed,” said Prof. Rick Hasen of Loyola Law School, who also writes the Election Law blog. He says the decision was intended to keep Coleman from winning had he attempted to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

Q: Could Coleman have continued the fight?

Yes, according to Hasen. He had two options. “One is an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court , the other is federal appeals court. He certainly has federal and constitutional issues, “and the Supreme Court is open for business to hear those.”

A lawsuit to the federal appeals court would likely not have been successful, the professor said, because the court was likely to say the issues had already been decided at state court.

Q: Why didn’t Coleman continue the fight?

A: Larry Jacobs at the University of Minnesota says Coleman is “busted” and also has to pay some of Al Franken’s legal bills. Jacobs says Coleman also has his eyes on running for governor in 2010.

There was also little chance of success. Realistically, the federal options are only a few days’ delay, Ned Foley of Ohio State told MPR’s Gary Eichten this afternoon. “It’s not going to delay it much further,” he said.

Q: Will Coleman run for governor?

A: Not saying “no” when asked that question is saying “maybe.” Coleman said he’s more concerned with catching fish.

Q: How does this affect Washington?

A: Franken becomes the Democrats’ 60th vote. That’s the number required to avert filibusters. “…with both Senators Edward M. Kennedy and Robert C. Byrd absent due to illness, the Democrats have sometimes scrambled to make sure they had lined up enough votes,” the New York Times notes.

Closer to home, we will likely start hearing opinions on critical issues from Sen.-elect Franken.

Q: So that’s it, then? The Democrats get everything they want?

A: These are the Democrats. In-fighting is part of the party DNA. Just look at the veiled shots President Obama has sent Congress’ way in the last month. As Forbes noted on Tuesday:

… rifts over climate change and energy policy tend to be more regional than partisan. Last week, a sweeping bill that addresses both issues barely squeaked by in the House. Even before the Minnesota court’s ruling, the bill’s future in the Senate was in doubt. Opponents worry that it would lead to rising energy costs and is too watered-down to be meaningful anyway.

The Democrats’ biggest foe in climate change legislation last week wasn’t a Republican. It was a Democratic congressman. From Minnesota.

“I’m not going to Washington to be the 60th Democratic senator. I’m going to be the second senator from Minnesota,” he said on Tuesday.

Q: What committees will Franken serve on in the Senate?

The Health Education, Pension and Labor Committee; the Judiciary Committee; the Committee on Indian Affairs, and the Committee on Aging.