In July, the Senate will work toward fashioning a final version of a healthcare overhaul bill, to be voted on later in the year. It will also take up a version of the massive energy and climate-change bill passed by the House last week. In both cases, Franken's vote could be instrumental.
Healthcare reform promises to be divisive, and the energy bill has already proved to be so. It passed the House on Friday by just seven votes, with 44 Democrats voting against it. Several Democrats in the Senate may follow suit, voting to protect agricultural or energy interests in their states.
Franken's presence also will provide more breathing room for the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Republicans have been careful to avoid threatening to filibuster the nomination, but that option could disappear for good, draining much of the drama out of the fight. Her confirmation hearings begin July 13, with a final floor vote likely during the first week of August.
Though Franken's presence ostensibly means Democrats will have to spend less time wooing Republicans, in practice that isn't likely to be the case.
The contentious bills on energy, healthcare and, perhaps down the road, immigration will require some Republican support.
Indeed, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate majority leader, may spend as much time attempting to keep conservative Democrats on board with the caucus -- and he won't be afraid to attempt to replace a vote with a moderate Republican if he must.
Factor into the equation as well the poor health of Senate lions Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts. The Senate majority whip, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, said last week that Democrats, in truth, could only count on 58 votes right now because of the men's conditions.
The Democratic caucus also includes independent Sens. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who defected to the Democratic Party from the GOP earlier this year. Over the years, Specter has at times charted his own course and frustrated both parties.
That means that in certain circumstances, the Republicans could still be able to mount a filibuster.
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Hometown: Born in New York City; raised in St. Louis Park, Minn.
Education: Bachelor's degree in government from Harvard University.
Experience: Writer and performer on "Saturday Night Live," 1975-1980 and 1985-1995. Author of several books, including "Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations" (1996) and "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right" (2003). Host of "The Al Franken Show" on Air America Radio, 2004-2007.
Family: Wife Franni. Two adult children, daughter Thomasin and son Joe.
Source: Associated Press
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Key dates in the Senate recount
Nov. 4, 2008: Initial vote tallies on election day show Republican Norm Coleman leading Democrat Al Franken by 215 votes, but the race is too close to call.
Nov. 18: A statewide canvassing report says Coleman has a 215-vote lead, triggering an automatic hand recount because the margin is less than one-half of 1 percentage point.
Jan. 5, 2009: The recount concludes and the state canvassing board certifies Franken as the winner by 225 votes.
Jan. 6: Coleman files a lawsuit in Ramsey County District Court challenging the results.
Jan. 26: A trial begins before a three-judge panel.
April 13: The panel rules in Franken's favor and says he is entitled to receive a certificate of election.
April 20: Coleman files an appeal with the Minnesota Supreme Court.
June 1: The state Supreme Court hears oral arguments.
June 30: The court rules for Franken.
Source: Times research