Franken's Senate Career Begins, Ends in Spotlight

December 07, 2017 06:26 PM

In what may end up being his last speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Al Franken acknowledged Thursday the slim margin that launched his political career nearly a decade ago.

"I won my first election by 312 votes," Franken said about his 2008 recount victory over Republican Norm Coleman. "It could have gone either way."

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More than eight years later, Franken's career ended the same it started – with him in the spotlight.

RELATED: Franken Resigns: Feels Work as Senator has 'Improved People's Lives'

Franken announced his resignation amid a growing list of sexual harassment allegations and mounting pressure from his congressional colleagues to step down.

During his eight years in Washington, the junior senator from St. Louis Park earned a reputation as one of the most liberal members of congress.

He has often been credited – and blamed – for casting the deciding vote in the passage of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

"That was the most consequential vote he cast during his entire senate career," said Steven Schier, an analyst and political science professor at Carleton College.

Franken sponsored more than 160 bills, according to the website GovTrack. but only three were enacted into law – including the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act of 2015 that was intended to improve mental health treatment in criminal justice and veteran services.

Franken championed his legislative record during his resignation speech.

"I know the work I've been able to do has improved people's lives," he said.

In 2014, Franken enjoyed re-election in Minnesota even as democrats surrendered their Senate majority.

RELATED: Franken Battled Charges of Sexism from GOP During 2008 Campaign

The longtime comedian's voice grew louder during his second term, peaking this year as Franken became a fierce critic of President Donald Trump and his cabinet and agency nominees.

His pointed questioning of Attorney General Jeff Sessions played a role in Sessions' recusal from the ongoing investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

"I think he'll be remembered as a partisan warrior," Schier said, adding Franken will also be remembered for this photo, the sexual harassment allegations and his resignation while in office.

"That will be an important part of his legacy."

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