WASHINGTON (CNN) – Sen. Al Franken, fresh off a win in a contentous Senate race in Minnesota, found himself at the center of the national political stage Monday as confirmation hearings began for Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor.
"I know I have a lot to learn from each of you," Franken told the other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Minnesota Democrat also described himself as "truly humbled" to join the committee "which has played and will continue to play such an important role in overseeing our nation's system of justice."
The former cast member of "Saturday Night Live" quickly turned serious during his opening statement.
Pointing out that Monday was his fifth day in office, Franken observed "I am the senator who most recently took the oath of office.
Last Tuesday I swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and to bear truth faith and allegiance to it. I take this oath very seriously . . . ."
Franken focused the substance of his opening remarks on the impact of the courts on Americans' lives - and told the packed hearing room that he sees challenges to the rights of Americans as citizens and voters.
"I believe that the position of Congress with respect to the courts and the Executive is in jeopardy."
In what was likely a preview of contentious discussion to come during Sotomayor's hearing, Franken challenged notions of judicial activism and judicial restraint.
"For example, during the [William] Rehnquist Court, Justice Clarence Thomas voted to overturn federal laws more than Justice Stevens and Justice Breyer combined," the new senator said.
Franken also said he was concerned that Americans are facing new barriers to defending their individual rights.
"The Supreme Court is the last court in the land where an individual is promised a level playing field and can seek to right a wrong."
On a number of fronts – including workplace discrimination, securities fraud, free speech online, voting rights, reproductive rights – Franken said "the past decade has made it a little bit harder for American citizens to defend themselves."
Franken ended his remarks by directly addressing Sotomayor.
"I want to learn what you think is the proper relationship between Congress and the courts, between Congress and the Executive. I want to learn how you go about weighing the rights of the individual . . . . and more powerful interests. And I want to hear your views on judicial restraint and activism," he told President Obama's nominee.
Franken is a smart fellow, he will do well as a Senator. He's got a bright future, though I don't think he's POTUS material.
do your thing, listening to them will not help, they got themselves in all kinds of mess and what we need is for new comers TO NOT LISTEN TO THEM
Franken is not an "AVERAGE" citizen, he is a millionaire celebrity clown. His resume does include a FAILED liberal talk show in CALIFORNIA, because liberalism is illogical and no one wants to listen to it and because it cant be defended.
Franken is another pompous lib who thinks he knows best how YOU should spend your money and LOVES POWER!!!
For the naysayers out there you should know that comedians are among the most intelligent people around. They have made a living out of studying human nature – how we think, behave and act. And in fact, as is often warranted they make fun of the stupid, illogical things we do. This is a gift of critical observation and thinking and what we need at this time...as (miss him so) George Carlin would say, "LESS STUPID PEOPLE".
He has failed at every job he has been accepted for and now he is a part of the three ring circus of obama. More change we can believe in. 2010 and 2012 cannot get here fast enough.
Chubby, I don't know what you read about Franklin, possibly Fox News again. Franken is going to do a good job. Honestly, the republican faux fas crap needs to stop. 2010 and '12 will not be fast enough for the bible-bashing GOPs, possibly a new party will come in and take their place. I'm an Independent, a normal Christian! Get with it! Let Franken do his job.
People calling conservatives HATERS .........please read your own comments. I rest my case.
Frankenstein is joke, just as the groid empty suit
Franken should find out from his senior advisors how to sober up before he gives a speech. His words were so slurred it reminded me of Mayor Marion Barry. What a joke, not what he said..rather..what he is!
FRANKEN? This is a joke, RIGHT???
The real clown from Minnesota is Rep. Michelle Bachmann. I think Senator Franken will do a great job for Minnesotans. As a resident of Texas, not a Texan, I wish he were one of our senators.
Hutchison and Cornyn are as big of a joke as Bachmann.
I love Al Franken. Period.
He will be a great senator!!
Such sour grapes from the Republicans on this message board!!! Good Luck Mr. Franken because you are: smart enough, good enough, and gosh darn it people like you!!
wow the radical right is full of snarky mean spirited obnoxious rude people... this is your values?? your simply not nice!
I LIKE AL, HE'S SMART! instead of picking our politicians by a few (phony) social button issues lets hire smart people like this.
yat to go al!
For all of the right-wing screaming about this guy being a rampant liberal who will tip the scales pf power in favor of super-awesome-liberal-destruction, his first public showing as a senator sure seemed pretty sensible to me.
Silly partisans, your tricks are for kids.
Independent... it's the new sane.
He's going to be great. God blessed America last week.
Go Franken! it was nice to see and hear you at the hearing on Sotomayor today.
Show them what a great senator you will be. With you all the way.
Here in Minnesota you can register to vote on election day at the polling place. Some counties are slow in adding their new registrations so that is how there are more votes than registered voters.