By Dustin Hurst | Watchdog.org
HELENA – Minnesota U.S. Sen. Al Franken, the former TV comedian and American lawmaker critical to the success of the 2010 controversial health care reform law, is raising funds for fellow Democrat and U.S. Senator Jon Tester in a new letter.
The letter reveals Franken’s trademark humor. “Minnesota and Montana aren’t so different — beautiful, friendly, windy,” he writes. In another place, he observes that Tester has never complained about campaigning, “even when he had been out on the trail all day and was really tired and the office was completely out of Diet Pepsi.”
But beneath the humor is Franken’s determination to raise cash for a man fighting to save his U.S. Senate seat while tied to a lousy economy and a controversial health care bill.
“He had a close election in 2006,” Franken wrote of Tester in a letter posted Wednesday by the Democratic Underground. “He’s gonna have another one this year. And he needs us today.”
The Franken message features a link sending willing donors to Tester’s contribution site.
The Franken campaign — he’s up for re-election in 2014 — didn’t respond to a request for comment.
More than anyone in American politics — maybe more than any other comedian except Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, everyone in Upright Citizens Brigade and several others — Franken is responsible for the health care reform law’s passage.
Franken gave Senate Democrats the 60th vote they needed to kill any GOP filibuster attempts in the U.S. Senate.
While Republicans and outside conservative spending groups cast any of the 58 Democrats and the two independents who supported the president’s health care law as the “deciding vote,” Franken fully embodies that distinction.
In the fall 2008 general election, Democrats swept the polls, grabbing the White House and holding a large majority in the House of Representatives. On election night, Democrats increased their Senate majority to 57, or 59 including the two independents that align closely with the chamber’s left wing.
But Franken’s race didn’t end on election night. The morning after, Republican Norm Coleman led by 725 votes out of more than 2.9 million cast. After eight months of recounts and lawsuits, Franken took the contest by a mere 312 votes.
The Senate seated the former Saturday Night Live cast member on July 7, 2009, more than 6 months after his colleagues who prevailed in contests on the same election night.
The victory represented a hard-fought triumph for Franken and Democrats: It gave the party the 60 votes they needed to enact their legislative agenda sans Republicans interference.
And that’s just what they did.
A few months after Franken took his place in the Senate, on Christmas Eve 2009, Senate Democrats used that 60-vote majority to pass the president’s health care law and send it to the House for approval. Tester and Franken supported the legislation on the Senate floor.
The House passed it March 21, 2010, and the president signed the measure two days later.
Of course, this isn’t the first assist Tester’s received from his Democratic Senate colleagues. California U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein hosted a high-dollar fundraiser on Tester’s behalf at her home in June.
Contact Dustin Hurst via email at Dustin@Watchdog.org. You might also catch him on Twitter using the @DustinHurst handle.