Cornyn: Senate GOP Prepared to Block Seating of Franken

Posted January 2, 2009 at 11:40am

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) said Friday that Republican Senators would attempt to block any effort by Democratic Senate leaders to seat comedian Al Franken (D) when Congress reconvenes on Tuesday.

With absentee ballots still being counted in the razor-thin contest between Franken and Sen. Norm Coleman (R), no winner has been declared in the Minnesota Senate race, as Franken clings to a 49-vote lead.

In a conference call with reporters, Cornyn said Republican Senators fear that Senate Democratic leaders may try to seat Franken next week even if an official winner has not been declared in the election. But the Texan said Republicans are prepared to launch a filibuster to prevent Franken from being seated until state officials declare a winner and all legal challenges are exhausted.

“There will be no way that people on our side of the aisle will agree to seat any Senator provisionally unless a certificate of election has been signed” and all court cases about the Senate race have been completed, Cornyn said. “Certainly it is the height of arrogance for any political leader in Washington, D.C., to tell the people of Minnesota whose vote should count and whose vote shouldn’t count.”

But Cornyn stopped short of saying that the Senate GOP would attempt to tie efforts to block Franken’s seating with any early legislation that the new Congress may consider.

“I believe the issue ought to be decided on its own merits in due course,” he said.

Cornyn, a former Texas attorney general and state Supreme Court justice, expressed confidence in the Minnesota political and judicial process to sort out a legitimate winner in the Coleman-Franken race.

The State Canvassing Board is expected to count at least 1,300 disputed absentee ballots Saturday, but there are still several unresolved questions and it is highly unlikely that a winner will be declared by the time Congress reconvenes next week. Under state law, the five-member canvassing board must first declare a winner, and a certificate of election must then be signed by the governor, who is a Republican, and the Minnesota secretary of State, who is a Democrat.

But even if a certificate of election is signed, a citizen has the right to challenge the outcome of the election in the courts. Cornyn conceded that it could take weeks or even a month or more before a second Senator is seated from Minnesota. But he noted that other states will not have full representation in the Senate when the 111th Congress opens.