WASHINGTON (CNN) - It's only his first Senate hearing, but Sen. Al Franken took the chairman's seat at the Judiciary Committee Wednesday.
When Chairman Patrick Leahy experienced a technical problem with his microphone, Franken volunteered to switch places with the Vermont senator, and sit in Leahy's chair. Faced with little choice, Leahy ambled down to the far end of the dais, and sat in the junior senator's chair to finish his prepared written statement. Franken, meanwhile, sat in Leahy's chair smiling from ear to ear.
Ranking Republican Jeff Sessions congratulated Franken on the move to the chairman's spot: "This is the fastest rise of any senator in history!" But the Minnesota senator's shift was short-lived: he soon relinquished the chair, and waited on the side until Leahy finished his statement. Leahy then returned to the chairman's seat, where a new microphone was in place. And Franken returned to the tail end of the committee seating chart.
Franken is in his sixth day in the Senate.
(CNN) - Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has a warning for Sarah Palin: Don't abandon the Republican Party.
The former presidential candidate and potential future White House rival of Palin's said Tuesday he's concerned about speculation the Alaska governor may leave the GOP to become an independent.
"I hope she remains - let me be real clear - a part of the Republican Party," Huckabee told FOX News. "I'm a little concerned when I hear her say that she may sort of branch out and go third party or go independent. That would be a big mistake because we need to rebuild the Republican Party, not abandon it."
The comments come days after Palin told the Washington Times she intends to spend her days out of the Alaska governor's mansion campaigning for both Republican and Democratic candidates whose ideas she supports. That prompted speculation the onetime GOP vice presidential candidate could consider running for office in the future as a third party candidate.
But Huckabee - who, like Palin, is thought to be considering a White House bid in 2012 - said Palin has an important role to play in the Republican Party.
"I want her to succeed, and I'm delighted to see her continuing to use her voice because I do think that she rallies people," he said. "She brought electricity to the Republican ticket last year, when, frankly, there was about as much excitement as you would see, you know, at a - at a Baptist dance, which means there wasn't any, until she showed up for the ticket. And then there was fire going forth."
Related: Poll: Majority of Republicans don't think Palin's qualified for prez
Huckabee - now a commentator for FOX News - also praised Palin's recent Washington Post op-ed attacking President Obama's support of a "cap and trade" program, saying it shows her "serious side."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - While a boy wizard might have dominated the conversation on Twitter today, Washington was all abuzz about Sonia Sotomayor. The hearings were monotonous at times, funny at others, and interesting now and again - but only those following Twitter really got the inside scoop from people on the inside. Literally (and we hear the temperature was very cold). A select few spent the day typing away on their computers and snapping photos from their Blackberrys.
Two of CNN's producers were in the Hart Senate Building constantly updating their followers on Twitter. And if you were not following @hambypCNN throughout the day a. start now (he will be tweeting all week) and b. we compiled a few highlights of his tweets from today to give you a glimpse behind the scenes:
(Read his tweets after the jump)
WASHINGTON (CNN) – U.S. Capitol Police shot and killed a man Wednesday afternoon near the Capitol campus, a police spokeswoman said.
According to spokeswoman Kimberly Schneider, the man fled in his vehicle after Capitol police stopped him for a routine traffic stop.
As he drove away, the man struck an officer, who was injured, she said.
The man then drove the wrong way down a one-way street. At some point, he produced a weapon and ignored police commands to drop it, according to Schneider. Police then shot the suspect, killing him, she said.
She did not identify the suspect.
The shooting, which occurred shortly after 5 p.m., drew emergency vehicles to the area around the Capitol building and caused police to temporarily seal some entrances to the complex.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor on Wednesday strongly rejected a Republican senator's contention that she had pre-judged the issue of gun control, insisting at her confirmation hearing that wasn't true.
Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked if she would recuse herself from future gun control cases because she ruled in the past that the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment does not apply to state gun control laws.
"I have not made up my mind. I didn't say that I didn't believe it was fundamental," Sotomayor shot back.
She explained that the word "fundamental" in legal terms refers to whether a federal statute applies to the states. Her ruling cited by Sessions referred to a prior case that made the determination, Sotomayor said, so she was following the precedent.
Previously in the confirmation hearing that started Monday, Sotomayor said she recognizes an individual right to bear arms as recently identified by Supreme Court in the ruling District of Columbia v. Heller.
The recent Supreme Court 5-4 ruling concluded that a sweeping handgun ban in the nation's capital violated the constitutional right to "keep and bear arms."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Forgive Arlen Specter if he felt a little confused Wednesday.
The former Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee took his turn questioning Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor as one of the lowest-ranking Democrats - ahead of only the chamber's newest member, Al Franken of Minnesota.
Specter, who has represented Pennsylvania since 1980, switched parties in April and therefore lost the committee seniority accrued in almost three decades as a Republican.
That didn't stop him from raising favorite judicial issues with Sotomayor, including his long-standing push for televising sessions of the nation's highest court.
Noting that both House and Senate proceedings are televised and the "tremendous interest" in Sotomayor's nominating process, Specter said it is time to also broaden access to Supreme Court proceedings.
"Wouldn't it be more appropriate in a democracy to let the people take a look inside?" he asked.
(CNN) – New York Governor David Paterson was outraised by a two to one margin by a state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, a possible challenger in next year's Democratic Party primary.
Paterson's campaign announced Wednesday that the governor raised $2.3 million in campaign cash in the period ending June 30.
"Gov. Paterson spent perhaps two months out of six engaging in fundraising," says Paterson spokesperson Tracy Sefl, who adds that the budget process and the stalemate in the New York State Senate kept the governor tied to Albany, forcing him to cancel a number of fundraisers.
A spokesperson for Cuomo reports that the attorney general's campaign brought in more than $5 million the first six months of this year and has more than $10 million in the bank.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The White House may have quizzed Judge Sonia Sotomayor on endless laws and past court cases, but Sen. Al Franken thinks they might have missed something.
"What was the one case in Perry Mason that Burger won?" Franken asked Sotomayor at the end of his questioning session on Wednesday afternoon.
Franken and Sotomayor discovered earlier that they were both avid fans of the television show, Perry Mason, which featured a defense attorney who specialized in extremely difficult cases. Sotomayor said she couldn't remember the name of this particular episode, in which Mason loses to prosecutor Hamilton Burger, but said she was "struck" that it was the only one in which Mason's client was actually guilty.
"Didn't the White House prepare you for that?" Franken said, to laughs.
But Sotomayor had a good excuse.
"You are right, but I was spending a lot of time on reviewing cases," Sotomayor said. "I do have that stark memory, because, like you, I watched it all of the time, every week as well. I just couldn't interest my brother, the nurse, and my brother, the doctor, to do it with me."