Home

Al Franken: Still a Jokester

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Minnesota Democrat Al Franken reminded his fellow senators of his comedic roots on Thursday, taking a pointed jab at the Judiciary Committee’s new GOP majority.  

The “Saturday Night Live” alum, who joined the Senate in 2009, called Republicans chronically lazy for skipping the panel’s routine markup sessions, now and in the last Congress. Roughly 25 minutes into Thursday’s meeting, senators had finished debate but were still lacking the attendance level needed to officially advance legislation on child pornography victims and public access to government information. Then, Franken arrived to push attendance over the tipping point.  

“You know, you guys are in the majority,” Franken teased GOP senators as he entered the room.  

With a reporting quorum secured, Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, sought to quickly move ahead with the committee’s agenda.  

But Franken pressed his point, telling Grassley, “No, I want to say something about this.”  

“You know when we were in the majority … we had the responsibility to provide a quorum,” Franken said. “And I thought that you guys, your side, didn’t show up because you just resented being in the minority. But now I know … it’s just sheer laziness.”  

Utah Republican Orrin G. Hatch interjected, “You did a very good job, I have to say. You did show up.”  

Franken replied, “That’s all I wanted to say.”  

But in what seemed like a reference to Democrats’ now-diminished role on the panel, Hatch then quipped, “Yeah, but you had to look at the bills, too.”  

The exchange prompted lots of laughter in the room before Grassley urged members to “go back to the agenda.” Moments before Franken’s entrance, Grassley had said, “Hopefully, one more Republican will show up, so I’m not embarrassed.”  

But while the GOP-led committee did ultimately rely on Democrats to get the final numbers it needed, the partisan divide was hardly drastic. In the end, Democrats outnumbered Republicans by a slim 6-5 attendance level. Though Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill.,  a would-be No. 7  briefly ducked into the room after the meeting had adjourned.  

The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.