The Comedy of the Senate

Al Franken was presiding over a sleepy session of the Senate yesterday afternoon and took what AP calls “the unusual step” of denying unanimous consent to allow Joe Lieberman to finish his remarks.

Franken was presiding over the Senate Thursday afternoon as Lieberman spoke about amendments he planned to offer to the bill. Lieberman asked for an additional moment to finish — a routine request — but Franken refused to grant the time.

“In my capacity as the senator from Minnesota, I object,” Franken said.

“Really?” said Lieberman. “OK.”

Lieberman then said he’d submit the rest of his statement in writing.

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona came to his friend Lieberman’s defense, saying he’d never seen such a thing occur.

“I must say that I don’t know what’s happening here in this body but I think it’s wrong,” McCain said on the floor.

McCain said such antics harm the “comity of the Senate” but Michelle Malkin is right:  “comedy” is the appropriate word choice here.  She chronicles the rest of the session and let’s just say the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body did not live up to its billing.

There seems to be bipartisan consensus on this front, with TPM’s Rachel Slajda calling this “a fun bit of drama.”

Think ProgressFaiz Shakir thinks “John McCain (R-AZ), flipped out, erupting in anger at Franken’s move.”  Readers can watch the video and judge for themselves.   In an update, Shakir notes that “A Senate staffer tells ThinkProgress that the reason Franken cut off Lieberman is because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) office has been asking all presiding chairs to enforce the 10-minute rule for both sides. Franken was simply following the direction of leadership.”   That would have been my guess, anyway.

FILED UNDER: Congress, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. steve says:

    I have been waiting for the gloves to come off in the Senate. The Senators now outright lie and are just as uninformed as Congressmen. Makes a parliamentary system look good.


  2. Dantheman says:


    You are leaving off the capper on the McCain outburst, when it was pointed out to him (I think by Senator Levin) that, contrary to his comment that this was unprecedented, it occurs frequently, including about 3 hours previously.

  3. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    I guess no one here has seen McCain angry. I watched the whole thing on the tube. The nut which was ACORN’s gift to the Senate denied a Senator extra time, doing so not as the chair that day but because he could. Schumer calls a flight attendant a bitch, when she asks him to turn off his cell phone. Talk about flipping out? McCain called a boy on his childish behavior in a chamber normally populated with adults and it is him showing anger. WTF is wrong with this picture? I am beginning to suspect this is not very far outside the beltway. I am also beginning to see why the blogger ended a military career to become a political scientist, in the vein of climatology.

  4. steve says:

    A noun and a verb and ACORN.


  5. JKB says:

    Oh come on. This is high Senate theater. The old pro seized an opportunity to school a young punk, grab the news cycle and steer the theme of harassment of a principled legislator.

    It doesn’t matter if it matches reality. What matters is that Franken, a tool of Reid, was made to look petty and vindictive against Lieberman, who had just bucked the Democrats. All over 60 to 120 seconds to complete his remarks.

    This is just another brush stroke in painting the Democrats as being retaliatory against anyone who doesn’t bow down to them on healthcare. It’s a good theme and seems to be working.

  6. Herb says:

    “This is just another brush stroke in painting the Democrats as being retaliatory against anyone who doesn’t bow down to them on healthcare.”

    Ha! Pardon me if I find the idea that the Democrats, who aren’t having much luck getting healthcare reform passed in the first place, are going to be all in-yer-grill retaliatory if you defy them. Ooooooooh, scary.

  7. Our Paul says:

    I have always considered Lieberman the Senator from Israel, rather than the one from Connecticut. There is not a billion or two in aid that he would not cheerfully shovel over there, no armament transfer that he would question, and assuredly no hostile action against Israel’s neighbors that he would not vigorously defend.

    That is okay, I can live with that, as long as it recognized as a behavioral trait which impedes Middle East talk. It must also be recognized that much of Joe Lieberman’s overt animosity to Obama is rooted in the President’s push towards a foreign policy of neutrality in the Middle East, and halting the expansion of illegal settlements.

    The thing that frosts my buns is that Israel has one of the finest and service loaded Health Care systems in the world. Thus we have the “paradox” of the good and gentle US Senator from Connecticut sabotaging health care delivery in our country, while subsidizing Health Care in another country through US aid monies.

    Psst 1#: paradox (noun): a statement or proposition that, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory

    Psst 2#: I am with James on this one, a minor episode in the Senate, nothing more or less.

  8. narciso says:

    I’m sure Think Regress is remiss in pointing out that McCain was not in the majority at the time in 2002, so it’s not nearly the same thing

  9. anjin-san says:

    When Sen. Al Franken objected to Sen. Joe Lieberman’s request for additional time, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said that in his 20-plus years in the Senate he had never heard a senator do that before.

    However, a Political Wire reader sends this excerpt from the Congressional Record from October 10, 2002:

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator’s time has expired.

    Mr. DAYTON. I ask for unanimous consent that I have 30 seconds more to finish my remarks.

    Mr. McCAIN. I object.