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.
I like this guy.
Sen. Franken's first comments on the job speaks the truth.
sure he does. let's just hope that he avoids learning their bad habits. if franken wants to make a difference, he needs to learn how not to simply be a part of the pack.
"I know I have a lot to learn from each of you,' Franken says"
Now if that's not an understatement I don't what is.
Oh Franken, you have alot to learn just like your clueless leader Obamar...
Much like the rest of congress, Franken in office is simply a big joke.
If Franken wants to make himself look and act like a senator then he needs to question how the supreme court justice will base her rulings. I could care less about her life story; a good one I'm sure but her life story will not be making rulings on the court; she herself will and that should be the issue here; nothing else.
So was this Franken'spportunity to psoture and pontificate? Doesn't he realize everyone, including Democrats think he is a clown???
Al, did we hear it right that you are a math graduate from Harvard? You should do just fine unless something about you pops and hit the headlines. Learn as fast as you can, and make the Dems happy.
Well said Senator!
He tries to get serious and talk the talk, but deep down he is a bigoted clown who ranted on the Air America network (I think they had a listening audience of 3 people, me not being one of those three).
What is this Country coming? He joins a long list of unqualified Senators and Congressmen from both sides of the isle.
Bruce.. look in the mirror for grease paint
Franken is going to be great. A solid athlete in high school, a math whiz in college (Harvard I think) and then a succesful entertainer, book writer and major USO supporter and performer. In other words, smart, hard working, regular guy who isn't afraid of a fight (verbal or otherwise) more than I can say for you or I as we sit behind our computers and call people names.
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.
Eh not too many congressman that do not have a lot to learn.
What's going on today? Awful lot of Republicans at home or hitting the keys from work. I don't usually see quite this much comment from the far right on here.
If he expects to learn something "from each of you", geez, we're in trouble! Is there an honest one?
this guy has some great ideas and some not so great ones but overall i think he will suprise all of us
Senator Franken spoke the truth and that is, He has a lot to learn. Contrary to republicans, who after years in office, hasn't seemed to learn much or could care less about the rule of law and how it affects their office.
God Bless Al, lets hope he dousn't learn any bad habits from the GOp.
As a comedy writer he has had great training for office. After all who can twist words for their own advantage more than a politician or a comic?
Just because he made his living being funny doesn't mean he's stupid. If you want to stereotype, let's talk about "dumb jocks" – Heath Shuler, Steve Largent, Jack Kemp, JC Watts...Oh? they're not dumb? But they were jocks, so they MUST be dumb, right? Oh. That's a stereotype. Oh gee, well maybe Al Franken, Harvard-educated as he is, might be ok too. Maybe the stupid people are the ones who insist that because someone's smart enough to be funny he's too dumb to be in Congress.
I also like this guy. If you've read any of his books, then you'd know that he's a smart guy.
I have tried to look at the blogs on several occasions and on several issues but a lot of what I read just adds up to nastiness – think I will stick to PBS.
Haters will continue to do what they do best, which is to "hate". However, Mr Franken will make a great senator.
Did he say anything about how more people voted in Minnesota than were registered or how he won those votes? Probably not, he is a liberal democrat.