Both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen.-elect Al Franken (D-Minn.) on Monday sought to downplay the power of a filibuster-proof majority on the eve of Frankens swearing-in as the 60th member of the Senate Democratic Conference.
Reid said that having a majority large enough to squelch GOP filibusters would not embolden Democrats to try to jam measures through the chamber, and he appealed to the 40-Member Republican Conference to engage in bipartisan talks on legislation.
Democrats arent looking to Sen. Frankens election as an opportunity to ram legislation through this body, Reid said as he welcomed Franken to Washington, D.C., for the first time since last weeks Minnesota Supreme Court ruling that Franken had bested former Sen. Norm Coleman (R) in the November 2008 election.
In turn, Senate Republicans must understand that Sen.-elect Frankens election does not abdicate from them their responsibilities to govern, Reid continued. Its up to them to decide whether theyll continue to sit down and be the party of no or sit down and work for the common good of the people. Its up to them.
Franken also tried to minimize the effect he will have on the Democrats agenda.
A lot has been made of this number 60, Franken said. The number Im focused on is the number 2. I see myself as the second Senator from the state of Minnesota.
But both men read from similar scripts in vowing to, as Reid put it, help deliver on the change that this country is demanding. Franken and Reid cited health care reform, energy independence and economic recovery as top items on their agenda. Franken, however, added education to his to-do list.
Franken is due to be sworn in as the 100th Senator at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday. The Senate has been operating with just 99 Senators since the 111th Congress began in January.
Though the Minnesota canvassing board in January certified Franken the winner by 312 votes following a recount, the legal wrangling over the race did not end until the state Supreme Court ruled last week. Coleman declined to take the case to federal court as some Republicans had urged him to do.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.