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Al Franken is sworn in as the junior senator from Minnesota by Vice President Joe Biden on July 7. Franken's wife, Franni, holds the Bible. Watch the ceremony.

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Sen. Franken shakes Biden's hand after the ceremony. Watch Josh's 2007 interview with Franken.

Newscom/Kris Connor/ABACAUSA




Franken hugs Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN). Watch Franken's speech at a reception after the swearing in.

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Biden, Franken and former Vice President Walter Mondale share a laugh after the ceremony. Reminds us of the funny Al Franken.

Newscom/Roll Call




Mondale and Franken embrace.

Newscom/Roll Call




Senator Al Franken's office. Finally.

WDCPIX.com

The 2010 Republican primary for Senate in Florida has been emerging as a key contest between the Republican establishment, with its focus on rebuilding the party and trying to win the center, and the purist activist base -- and so far, the establishment is winning.

Gov. Charlie Crist, the moderate candidate backed by the establishment, has raised $3 million in the second quarter, an impressive sum. Insurgent candidate Marco Rubio, a former state House Speaker who is aiming to mobilize opposition to Crist's endorsement of the stimulus bill, took in only $340,000. Crist is running way ahead in the polls, thanks to superior name recognition, and a 9-1 fundraising advantage should go a long way in helping him maintain his position.

In addition, Crist is making a clear move to build up support in the Cuban-American community -- cutting in on Rubio's natural turf -- and has won the endorsements of Miami Congressmen Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart.

The right-wing Club For Growth has been publicly mulling whether to get in this race on Rubio's behalf. Rubio ought to be hoping the Club will ultimately offer him its help -- he'll need it.

As we've been reporting, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid is demanding an end to efforts to woo fence-sitting Republicans in to supporting a watered-down health care reform legislation. But that will likely alienate just about the entire GOP, and require Democrats to stand united against a filibuster if a bill is to pass through regular order.

So, I suppose it should come as no surprise that, Senate leaders are now asking members of the Democratic caucus to vote party-line on procedural issues, reversing the stance they took on caucus unity just last week.

Predictably, conservative Democrats are publicly balking at the suggestion. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) told Roll Call "I'm not a closed mind on cloture, but if it's an abuse of procedure, if it's somebody trying to put a poison pill into a bill, or if it's something that would be pre-emptive of Nebraska law, or something that rises to extraordinary circumstances, then I've always reserved the right to vote against cloture."

And Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)--a stickler when it comes to the public option and, an outright opponent of climate change legislation--said "I'm going to keep an open mind, but I am not committing to any procedural straitjackets one way or another," she said.

But for his part, Reid is actually putting himself on the line. "On procedural votes," he predicted, "we'll keep Democrats together." That's a fairly dramatic about face from the position he held just last week, after it became clear that Al Franken would be coming to Washington. "We have 60 votes on paper," Reid said. "But we cannot bulldoze anybody; it doesn't work that way. My caucus doesn't allow it. And we have a very diverse group of senators philosophically. I am not this morning suddenly flexing my muscles."

Here's a video from yesterday, courtesy of our friends at The Uptake, of Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) speaking to a reception held in his honor at the Hart Senate Office Building after he'd been sworn in.

When speaking of his family, his friends, supporters, and the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, Franken was frequently choking back tears -- as he noted, he has a tendency to stop just short of actually crying. And he also got in some nice jokes:



"If I thanked everyone here individually, who helped in this campaign, I would be thanking virtually everybody in this room," Franken said. "There's a couple of you who are kind of -- just here for the ride. (The crowd laughs.) But, 95% of you in this room had a tremendous amount to do with this victory."

After sparking progressive outrage, and sending the White House into damage control mode, a chastened Rahm Emanuel appeared before House Democrats yesterday to reassure them that the administration stands foursquare behind a public option.

At the meeting, House liberals warned Emanuel that he couldn't count on them to vote for a bill that contains a triggered public option. "We have compromised enough, and we are not going to compromise on any kind of trigger game," Woolsey apparently told Emanuel. "People clapped all over the place. We mean it, and not just progressives."

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman said Emanuel assured him that "he doesn't stand by [the] trigger."

But all may not be forgiven and forgotten. Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, said the Chief of Staff ""made a hell of a mistake. He made a hell of a mistake and he knows it."

Meanwhile, across the Capitol, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid laid down the law, urging Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) to walk away from his efforts to reach bipartisan consensus on health care reform--specifically, to advance a bill with a public option, and financed without taxing workers' health benefits. It's unclear as of now how closely the two major developments are connected.

Poll: Most Americans Wouldn't Vote For Palin A new Gallup poll finds that 54% of Americans say it is not too likely or not at all likely that they would vote for Sarah Palin if she ran for President in 2012, compared to 43% who say it is somewhat likely or very likely that they would support her. In addition, 70% say her resignation as Governor of Alaska has had no effect on their view of her, with 17% saying they now view her less favorably, and 9% more favorably.

Obama's Day In Italy President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrived in Rome, Italy, at about 4:20 a.m. ET (10:20 a.m. local time). At 5:10 a.m. ET, Obama met with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, and the two delivered brief statements to the press. At 6:45 a.m. ET, Obama arrived at the Guardia di Finanz School, greeted by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. There was a G-8 working lunch at 7 a.m. ET, and Obama will attend a G-8 session on global issues at 9:30 a.m. ET. At 11:45 a.m. ET, Obama and Berlusconi will tour L'Aquila historic center, and Obama will attend a G-8 working dinner at 2 p.m. ET.

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At an AFL-CIO reception moments ago, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) got the crowd all worked up--not by lampooning politics, but by participating in them. "I just became a cosponsor of my first bill in the Senate, the Employee Free Choice Act."

EFCA's been out of the headlines in recent weeks as Congress tackles a major health care overhaul. But labor must nonetheless be thrilled to have a new, high profile ally in the Senate.

TPMDC's update on the biggest legislative initiatives on the Hill:

  • Health Care: On the House-side, a phantom CBO score, trumped up by Republicans, plagued Democrats for much of the afternoon, before it was conclusively revealed to be a fiction. In the Senate, as the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee completed marking up the long-term care provisions in its health care reform bill, Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee began to tiptoe away from efforts at bipartisanship. An end-of-the-day report suggests that, with time running out to pass a bill before August recess, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid laid down the law and demanded an end to efforts to bring Republicans aboard.


  • Climate Change: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing today on "moving America toward a clean energy economy." In an embarrassing twist, though, a number of conservative cap-and-trade foes became convinced that the the Senate was voting on climate legislation and embarked on a brief but hilarious Twitter rampage urging all concerned to "LIGHT UP THE SWITCHBOARDS" on the Hill.


  • Senate Politics: As reported, Sen. (!!!) Al Franken (D-MN) was sworn in today--the 60th member of the Democratic caucus.

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) takes his knocks for not driving a hard bargain with Republicans and conservative members of his own party. But a breaking report suggests that might be changing on the issue of health care reform. According to Roll Call Reid "ordered" Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus (D-MT) to "drop a proposal to tax health benefits and stop chasing Republican votes on a massive health care reform bill."

That tax provision--more regressive than other financing proposals--is how many expected the committee to pay for their forthcoming health care bill. This jibes well with an earlier report that Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND)--an influential member of the panel--was walking away from the idea.

According to Roll Call "Reid told Baucus that taxing health benefits and failing to include a strong government-run insurance option of some sort in his bill would cost 10 to 15 Democratic votes."

If Baucus got the message, it would indicate a major change in the committee's direction. His is the only relevant panel not to have introduced a draft of health care reform legislation thanks in large part to internal wrangling over provisions like financing and the public option. Finance was widely expected to eschew a public option in favor of privately run health care co-operatives, and to propose paying for the bill by taxing employer-provided health care benefits. Neither idea has support among liberal Democrats.

If the Finance Committee does indeed change course, then all committees of jurisdiction, in both the House and Senate, will be working with legislation that calls for the creation of a public option--something Republicans have vowed to oppose.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), who has been a staunch supporter of the recent coup in Honduras against leftist President Manuel Zelaya, made a rather interesting comparison on the Senate floor today:



"On what basis does the Administration demand Zelaya's reinstatement?" DeMint asked. "His removal from office was no more a coup than was Gerald Ford's ascendance to the Oval Office, or our newest colleague Al Franken's election to the Senate."

Um...I thought Republicans were calling Franken's election an illegitimate coup!

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