July 13th, 2009
05:19 PM ET
13 years ago

'I know I have a lot to learn from each of you,' Franken says

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/13/art.franken0713.gi.jpg caption="Sen. Franken was the last senator to give his opening statement Monday as the Sotomayor confirmation hearing got under way."]
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.

Filed under: Al Franken • Sonia Sotomayor • Supreme Court
soundoff (71 Responses)
  1. Buddy Gilmour

    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.

    July 13, 2009 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  2. please don't listen to any of them

    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

    July 13, 2009 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  3. JOHN

    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!!!

    July 13, 2009 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  4. Jeff

    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".

    July 13, 2009 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  5. C.C. Independent

    Chubby writes:
    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.

    July 13, 2009 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  6. cramit

    People calling conservatives HATERS .........please read your own comments. I rest my case.

    July 13, 2009 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  7. obongohuffsjenkem

    Frankenstein is joke, just as the groid empty suit

    July 13, 2009 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    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!

    July 13, 2009 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  9. anon

    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!

    July 13, 2009 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |

    FRANKEN? This is a joke, RIGHT???

    July 13, 2009 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  11. Stephen M. in Bedford, TX

    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.

    July 13, 2009 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  12. Rob

    I love Al Franken. Period.

    July 13, 2009 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  13. jaye

    He will be a great senator!!

    July 13, 2009 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  14. Dawn Ada, Ohio

    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!!

    July 13, 2009 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  15. mo nada

    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!

    July 13, 2009 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  16. svs

    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.

    July 13, 2009 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  17. Stephen

    He's going to be great. God blessed America last week.

    July 13, 2009 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  18. Lauren

    Go Franken! it was nice to see and hear you at the hearing on Sotomayor today.

    July 13, 2009 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  19. Ethel in Florida

    Show them what a great senator you will be. With you all the way.

    July 13, 2009 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  20. Abby from Minnesota

    RE: southerncousin
    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.

    July 13, 2009 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
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