Senator Al Franken today caused a stir among his colleagues, breaking from the Senate’s long-held standards of collegiality when the gavel-wielding Minnesota Democrat denied Senator Joe Lieberman an additional minute to finish his remarks.
Lieberman–who has been vilified by progressives for rejecting the controversial public option, most recently by MoveOn today–was interrupted by Franken when his remarks exceeded the allotted ten minutes.
“I’m sorry. The senator has spoken for ten minutes,” said Franken, acting as the chamber’s presiding officer.
In such occasions, members request unanimous consent from their colleagues for an additional moment or two. Such requests are summarily granted.
Franken, however, had little interest in hearing the remainder of the Connecticut Independent’s remarks on Medicare. “In my capacity as the senator from Minnesota, I object,” he said, with an unmistakable smirk.
While Lieberman casually laughed off Franken’s objection, Senator John McCain rose to defend his long-time friend, saying he’d never before seen such gross disrespect.
“I’ve been around here twenty-something years. This is the first time I’ve ever seen a member denied an extra minute or two to finish his remarks,” said McCain.
“And I must say, I don’t know what’s happening here in this body, but I think it’s wrong. I tell you, I’ve never seen a member denied an extra minute or two as the chair just did.”
Franken spokeswoman Jess McIntosh assured the Huffington Post that no disrespect was meant by objecting to Lieberman’s request for additional time and that Senate Democratic leadership is directing all presiding officers to strictly enforce time allotments. The decision, the spin goes, merely reflects the urgency with which Senate Democrats are approaching health care.
Either Senator Franken strictly adheres to Leadership direction, or the junior senator from Minnesota had a substantial axe to grind with Lieberman for taking “hostage” substantive health care reform. I’m willing to bet it’s the latter.
Indeed, so do progressives, droves of which can be found on Twitter celebrating Franken’s rude behavior.