United States Senator
July 7, 2009[note 1]
Serving with Amy Klobuchar
|Preceded by||Norm Coleman|
Alan Stuart Franken
May 21, 1951
New York City, New York, United States
|Spouse(s)||Franni Bryson (m. 1975)|
|Alma mater||Harvard College|
Alan Stuart "Al" Franken (born May 21, 1951) is an American comedian, actor, politician, and writer. He is currently the junior United States Senator from Minnesota. He became well known in the 1970s and 1980s as a writer and performer on Saturday Night Live. After several decades as a comedic actor and writer, he became a prominent liberal political activist and was elected to the United States Senate, narrowly defeating incumbent Republican Senator Norm Coleman in 2008. Franken is a member of the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (DFL), an affiliate of the Democratic Party.
Born in New York City, Franken moved to the Twin Cities and attended Harvard College. With his writing partner Tom Davis, with whom he had developed an interest in improvisational theatre in high school, he was hired as a writer for SNL at its inception in 1975. He worked on the show as a writer and performer until 1980 and returned from 1985 to 1995. After leaving SNL, he wrote and acted in movies and television shows. He also hosted a nationally syndicated, political radio talk show, The Al Franken Show, and authored six books, four of which are political satires critical of conservative politics.
Franken ran for the U.S. Senate from Minnesota in 2008 and after a close race, he trailed Norm Coleman by 215 votes. After a statewide manual recount, required because of the closeness of the election, Franken was declared the winner by a margin of 312 votes. After an election contest and subsequent lawsuit by Coleman, the Minnesota Supreme Court unanimously upheld Franken's victory on June 30, 2009 and Franken was sworn into the Senate on July 7, 2009. He was re-elected to a second term in office in 2014.
- Early life and education 1
- Saturday Night Live 2
- Post-SNL 3
- Political activism prior to election 4
U.S. Senate 5
- Elections 5.1
- Tenure 5.2
- Committee assignments 5.3
Books and CDs 6
- Non-fiction 6.1
- CDs and compilations 6.2
- Filmography 7
- Electoral history 8
- Personal life 9
- See also 10
- Notes 11
- References 12
- External links 13
Early life and education
Franken was born on May 21, 1951, in New York City, to Joseph Franken, a printing salesman, and Phoebe (Kunst), a real estate agent. His paternal grandparents immigrated from Germany; his maternal grandfather came from Grodno, Belarus, and his maternal grandmother's parents were also from the Russian Empire. The Franken family moved to Albert Lea, Minnesota, when Al was four years old. His father had hopes of opening a quilting factory – but after just two years, the factory failed, and the family moved to St. Louis Park, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis. His older brother Owen is a photojournalist, and his cousin Bob is a journalist for MSNBC. Franken graduated from The Blake School in 1969, where he was a member of the wrestling team. He then attended Harvard College where he majored in government, graduating cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in 1973.
Franken began performing in high school where he, along with his friend and long-time writing partner Tom Davis were known for their humor. The two first performed on stage at Minneapolis' Brave New Workshop theater, specializing in political satire. They soon found themselves in what was described as "a life of near-total failure on the fringes of show business in Los Angeles."
Saturday Night Live
Franken and Davis were recruited as two of the original writers (and occasional performers) on Saturday Night Live (SNL) (1975–1980, 1985–1995). In Season 1 of SNL, as apprentice writers, the two shared a salary of $350 per week. Franken received seven Emmy nominations and three awards for his television writing and producing while creating such characters as self-help guru Stuart Smalley. Another routine proclaimed the 1980s to be the "Al Franken Decade". Franken and Davis wrote the script to the 1986 comedy film One More Saturday Night, appearing in it as rock singers in a band called "Bad Mouth". They also appeared in minor roles in All You Need Is Cash and in the Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd film Trading Places.
On Weekend Update near the end of Season 5, Franken delivered a commentary called "A Limo For A Lame-O". He mocked controversial NBC president Fred Silverman as "a total unequivocal failure" and displayed a chart showing the poor ratings of NBC programs. As a result of this sketch, Silverman refused Lorne Michaels' request that Franken succeed him as producer, prompting Franken to leave the show when Michaels did, at the end of the 1979–80 season. Franken later returned to the show in 1985 as a writer, and also as an occasional performer. Franken has acknowledged using cocaine while working in the television business. In 1995, Franken left the show in protest over losing the role of Weekend Update anchor to Norm Macdonald.
In his second stint with the show, one of Franken's most memorable recurring roles was Stuart Smalley, who hosted "Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley."
In 1995, Franken wrote the original screenplay and starred in the film Stuart Saves His Family, which was a critical and commercial failure. Franken became depressed following the movie's failure. With an aggregate rating of 27% on Rotten Tomatoes, Stuart Saves His Family did receive a number of favorable reviews, including from the Washington Post and Gene Siskel.
Franken is the author of four New York Times best selling books. In 2003, Penguin Books published Franken's book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, a satirical book on American politics and conservatism. The book's title incorporated the Fox News slogan "Fair and Balanced" and included a cover photo of Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly; in August that year Fox News sued, claiming infringement of its registered trademark phrase. A federal judge found the lawsuit to be "wholly without merit". The incident with Fox focused media attention on Franken's book and, according to Franken, greatly increased its sales through the Streisand effect. The publicity resulting from the lawsuit propelled Franken's yet-to-be-released book to #1 on Amazon.com.
Franken signed a one-year contract in early 2004 to host a talk show for Bush unelected," he told a New York Times reporter in 2004. Franken's last radio show on Air America Radio was on February 14, 2007, at the end of which Franken announced his candidacy for the United States Senate.
In 2003, Franken served as a Fellow with Harvard's Kennedy School of Government at the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. Since 2005, Franken has been a contributor at The Huffington Post.
Franken has toured Iraq several times with the
Head Writer of Saturday Night Live
Served alongside: Tom Davis
|Party political offices|
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Minnesota
|United States Senate|
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Minnesota
Served alongside: Amy Klobuchar
|United States order of precedence (ceremonial)|
United States Senators by seniority
- Al Franken at the Internet Movie Database
- Senator Al Franken official U.S. Senate site
- Al Franken for Senate
- Al Franken at DMOZ
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Profile at Project Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Legislation sponsored at The Library of Congress
- Al Franken on National Public Radio in 2002
- Al Franken on National Public Radio in 2003
- Al Franken on National Public Radio in 2004
- "Faith on the Hill: The Religious Composition of the 113th Congress" (PDF).
- Jason Hoppin (April 20, 2009). "Coleman asks high court to look again at rejected votes". St. Paul Pioneer Press. Archived from the original on May 9, 2009. Retrieved April 22, 2009.
- "Coleman concedes Minnesota Senate race after court decision". CNN. June 30, 2009.
- Huls, Carl (July 7, 2009). "And Here’s Senator Franken". New York Times. Retrieved July 8, 2009.
- "Ancestry of Al Franken". William Addams Reitwiesner. Retrieved 2014-09-07.
- Colapinto, John. "Enter Laughing". The New Yorker. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
- "CNN Newsnight Aaron Brown". CNN. April 29, 2002. Retrieved November 5, 2008.
- Deborah White. "Profile of Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota". About.com. Retrieved January 30, 2009.
- Douglas Martin (July 19, 2012). "Tom Davis, Comedian and ‘SNL’ Sketch Writer, Dies at 59".
- Davis, Tom (2010). Thirty-Nine Years of Short-Term Memory Loss: The Early Days of SNL from Someone Who Was There. Grove Press; Reprint edition. p. 29.
- Hill, Doug and Weingrad, Jeff, Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live p. 57. (Vintage Books, 1987) ISBN 0-394-75053-5.
- Kornbluth, Jesse (March–April 2012). "Al Franken: You Can Call Me Senator".
- Shales, Tom, Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, as Told By Its Stars, Writers and Guests, p. 191. (Back Bay Books, 2003) ISBN 0-316-73565-5.
- Ana Marie Cox (April 5, 2007). "Don't Laugh at Al Franken". CNN/Time. Archived from the original on September 19, 2007. Retrieved August 19, 2007.
- Wy Spano, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Senate: Franken Vs. Coleman and the Decline and Fall of Civilized Politics, p. 51. (Zenith Press, 2010) ISBN 0-760-33902-3.
- Leopold, Todd (May 7, 2002). "Al Franken's guide to life". CNN. Retrieved 31 August 2014.
- "'Stuart Saves His Family'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 31 August 2014.
- "Stuart Saves His Family (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 31 August 2014.
- Howe, Desson (1995-04-14). "‘Stuart Saves His Family’ (PG-13)". Washington Post. Retrieved 31 August 2014.
- Siskel, Gene (1995-04-14). "`Stuart' Funny Without Making Fun Of Self-help Movement". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 31 August 2014.
- Powers, Retha (2005). This Is My Best: Great Writers Share Their Favorite Work. Chronicle Books; 1st Chronicle Books LLC Pbk. Ed edition. p. 549.
- Susan Saulny (August 12, 2003). "To Fox, 'Fair and Balanced' Doesn't Describe Al Franken".
- "Fox News Sues Humorist Al Franken Over Slogan".
- Saulny, Susan (August 23, 2003). "In Courtroom, Laughter at Fox and a Victory for Al Franken". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Archived from the original on September 22, 2005. Retrieved October 5, 2005.
- "Comedian and Political Commentator Al Franken".
- Shorto, Russell (March 21, 2004). "Al Franken, Seriously So —". New York Times. Retrieved July 9, 2009.
- Al Franken to leave Air America - Radio - MSNBC.com
- "The Huffington Post; Al Franken". Retrieved September 26, 2012.
- Kasindorf, Martin; Komarow, Steven (2005-12-22). "USO cheers troops, but Iraq gigs tough to book". USA Today. Retrieved 29 August 2014.
- Michael J. Carden (March 26, 2009). "USO Metro Salutes Exceptional Troops, Volunteers".
- Diaz, Kevin (Mar 23, 2009). "Franken to receive award for USO service". Star Tribune. Retrieved 8 September 2014.
- Corliss, Richard (February 14, 2007). "Vote for Me, Al Franken". TIME. Retrieved July 9, 2009.
- Jay Weiner (July 6, 2009). "Tuesday, Franken's hand will be on Wellstone Bible, his thoughts likely on the many Minnesotans he's met". MinnPost. Retrieved January 5, 2013.
- "From satirist to senator". CNN. July 6, 2009. Archived from the original on July 8, 2009. Retrieved July 7, 2009.
- Kuhn, David Paul (April 28, 2005). "Senator Franken?".
- Cilizza, Chris (February 5, 2007). "Minnesota Senate: Is Franken the Dems' Dream Candidate?". Washington Post. Retrieved August 8, 2007.
- "Doggone It, People Like Him". Mother Jones. September 1, 2007. Archived from the original on October 12, 2007. Retrieved September 1, 2007.
- Scott, A.O. (2006-09-13). "Comedian Turned Activist, With His Own Campaign". New York Times. Retrieved 30 August 2014.
- """Transcript, "Scarborough Country. MSNBC. December 7, 2005.
- "Coleman and Franken on Iraq: Everything you need to know".
- Black, Eric (2014-08-26). "Franken on fixing Social Security and Medicare — and why repealing Obamacare is a terrible idea". Minnesota Post. Retrieved 30 August 2014.
- Al on the Issues (2008). "Higher Education". Al Franken for Senate. Archived from the original on November 27, 2008. Retrieved December 13, 2008.
- Al on the Issues (2008). "Gas Prices". Al Franken for Senate. Archived from the original on November 27, 2008. Retrieved December 13, 2008.
- Kevin Duchschere, Star Tribune (March 12, 2008). "Franken faces $25,000 workers' comp penalty". Startribune.com. Archived from the original on June 20, 2009. Retrieved July 9, 2009.
- Duchschere, Kevin (April 24, 2008). "Friday: New round of financial questions dogs Franken". Startribune.com. Retrieved July 9, 2009.
- "More furor over Franken's taxes".()
- Patrick Condon, Associated Press Writer (April 30, 2008). "Comedian turned candidate Franken to pay $70K in back taxes".
- "Al Franken Decides He's Good Enough, Smart Enough to Run for Senate".
- Pat Doyle (March 11, 2008). "Ciresi in parting: Choose wisely". Star Tribune. Retrieved January 3, 2013.
- "Franken Raises Over $1.9 Million In Second Quarter". Al Franken for Senate. July 8, 2007. Archived from the original on February 3, 2008. Retrieved February 16, 2008.
- Mulcahy, Mike (July 9, 2007). "Franken leads the pack in second quarter fundraising". Polinaut (Minnesota Public Radio). Retrieved July 17, 2007.
- "GOP Targets Al Franken's Playboy Column — ABC News". ABC News. May 23, 2008. Retrieved July 9, 2009.
- Les says: (June 7, 2008). "It's Franken in One". Star Tribune. Retrieved July 9, 2009.
- Preston, Mark (July 28, 2008). "Preston on Politics: Bueller? Bueller? — McCain needs Rove". CNN. Archived from the original on September 12, 2008. Retrieved July 29, 2008.
- Martin, Jonathon; Kraushaar, Josh (September 20, 2008). "Franken helps craft McCain 'SNL' skit". Politico. Archived from the original on October 27, 2008. Retrieved October 29, 2008.
- Scheck, Tom (September 21, 2008). "Coleman hits Franken for SNL skit". Minnesota Public Radio. Archived from the original on September 26, 2008. Retrieved October 29, 2008.
- Welch, Chris; Hornick, Ed (January 6, 2009). "Franken declares Senate race win after state ruling". CNN. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- "Minnesota Senate Seat Election Contest". Minnesota Courts. January 6, 2009. Archived from the original on December 26, 2008. Retrieved January 6, 2009.
- "Al Franken is the winner of Minnesota Senate Race, court rules". Daily News (New York). Associated Press. April 14, 2009.
- Muskal, Michael (April 7, 2007). "Franken widens lead in Minnesota Senate recount". Los Angeles Times.
- Elizabeth Stawicki (April 24, 2009). "Supreme Court recount timeline called reasonable".
- Minnesota Supreme Court (April 24, 2009). "ORDER for briefing schedule" (PDF). Minnesota Supreme Court. Archived (PDF) from the original on May 21, 2009. Retrieved April 26, 2009.
- "Minnesota Senate Seat ’08 Election". Minnesota Judicial Branch. Retrieved July 7, 2009.
- "Norm Coleman concedes Minnesota Senate race to Al Franken". Houston Chronicle. July 1, 2009. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- Doyle, Pat (June 30, 2009). "Pawlenty will sign Franken election certificate". Salon. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- "Minnesota - Summary Vote Results". Associated Press. August 13, 2014. Retrieved September 8, 2014.
- "The Most Detailed Maps You'll See From the Midterm Elections". New York Times. November 5, 2014. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
- Montanaro, Domenico (July 7, 2009). "Al Franken, The Newest U.S. Senator". First Read (MSNBC). Archived from the original on July 10, 2009. Retrieved July 8, 2009.
- Stassen-Berger, Rachel (2009-07-07). "Minnesota Sen. Al Franken sworn in with Paul Wellstone bible". Pioneer Press. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
- Brunswick, Mark (July 1, 2009). "Emotional Franken vows to honor Wellstone".
- "Senator Franken, at Center Stage, Presides Over Sotomayor Vote". FOX News. August 6, 2009. Retrieved October 18, 2009.
- Chris Steller (July 24, 2009). "Franken’s first bill passes as part of Defense bill".
- Franken works the fair on health care, blogs.usatoday.com
- "TV Guide: Franken Video gets attention". MSNBC. Retrieved October 18, 2009.
- "Franken finds fans and foes friendly at fair". Kare11.com. Retrieved June 13, 2010.
- TV Guide: Franken Video gets attention, msnbc.msn.com
- Hoppin, Jason (17 January 2010). "'"Al Franken on his first 6 months in the Senate: 'I kept my head down and did my job. TwinCities.com. Retrieved 22 June 2013.
- Knobbe, Lauren (22 July 2010). "Franken warns against weakening law on health-care spending". Minn Post. Retrieved 22 June 2013.
- "Sen. Franken’s health reform provision will return $1.4 million in rebate checks to thousands of Minnesotans". Hometown Source. 20 June 2013. Retrieved 22 June 2013.
- "U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 113th Congress – 1st Session: Vote 210". Legislation & Records.
- "Klobuchar, Franken call for repeal of medical device tax". Hometown Source. 8 July 2013. Retrieved 1 October 2013.
- Diaz, Kevin (30 September 2013). "Complicated shutdown votes for key Minnesotans". StarTribune. Retrieved 1 October 2013.
- Stein, Sam (November 10, 2008). "Franken Gets His First Amendment Passed By Roll Call Vote". Huffingtonpost.com. Archived from the original on October 10, 2009. Retrieved October 18, 2009.
- Corkery, Michael (May 13, 2010). "Al Franken’s Credit Rating Amendment is No Joke". Wall Street Journal.
- Larnder, James (June 14, 2010). "Reckoning day for the raters".
- Davidoff, Steven (July 16, 2010). "Finding a Good Financial Bill in 2,300 Pages". New York Times.
- Michael Hirsh (July 5, 2010). "Al Franken Gets Serious". Newsweek. Archived from the original on July 9, 2010. Retrieved July 20, 2010.
- Rachelle Younglai, Roberta Rampton, Kim Dixon and Mark Felsenthal (July 15, 2010). "Factbox: Long to-do list ahead for financial regulators". Reuters. Archived from the original on July 19, 2010. Retrieved July 20, 2010.
- Daileda, Colin (August 6, 2010). """McConnell to Franken: "This Isn't SNL. CBS News (CBS). Archived from the original on November 4, 2010. Retrieved November 11, 2010.
- Alexander Bolton (8/5/10) McConnell scolds Franken for making faces from dais during his speech The Hill
- Raju, Manu (August 5, 2010). "'"McConnell to Franken: This isn't 'SNL. Politico.
- Berman, Matt (Jun 11, 2013). "The NSA Has at Least 1 Liberal Friend Left: Sen. Al Franken". National Journal. Retrieved 8 September 2014.
- Mitchell, Corey (November 3, 2012). "Franken a player in Democrats' plan to keep Senate".
- Hohmann, James (26 May 2013). "Al Franken goes from top target to heavy favorite for Minnesota Senate". Politico. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
- Condon, Patrick (22 June 2013). "MINN.'S FRANKEN HARDLY A GOP TARGET FOR DEFEAT". Associated Press. Retrieved 22 June 2013.
- Toeplitz, Shira; Pierce, Emily (2 March 2013). "Franken’s Goal: I’m Serious Enough". Roll Call. Retrieved 22 June 2013.
- "General Election Results" (PDF). Minnesota Secretary of State. January 5, 2009. Archived (PDF) from the original on January 21, 2009. Retrieved January 6, 2009.
- "Election Reporting". Minnesota Secretary of State. April 10, 2009. Retrieved April 13, 2009.
- "Statewide Results for U.S. Senator". Minnesota Secretary of State. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
- Tim Gihring (July 2008). "Starring Al Franken (as Himself)". Minnesota Monthly. Retrieved January 29, 2013.
- "Thomasin Franken, Brody Greenwald". The New York Times. October 2, 2011. Retrieved August 29, 2014.
- "Steve Franken, 'Dobie Gillis' actor, dead at age 80". OnTheRedCarpet.com. August 30, 2012. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
- Keating, Christopher (30 October 2013). "U.S. Sen. Al Franken Will Receive Stewart B. McKinney Award Tonight In D.C.". Hartford Courant. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
- Franken was elected to the term beginning January 3, 2009, but did not take his seat until July 7, 2009, because of a recount and a subsequent election challenge.
 In 2013, Franken received the Stewart B. McKinney award for his work to fight homelessness..The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis known for his appearances in the television series Steve Franken Franken is a second cousin of the late actor  Their son Joseph works in the finance industry. has degrees from Harvard and the  Together they have two children. Their daughter Thomasin Franken met his wife, Franni Bryson, in his first year of college. In 2005, they moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota.
|2014 Minnesota U.S. Senate Election|
|DFL||Al Franken (Incumbent)||1,053,205||53.15|
|Margin of victory||202,978||10.24%|
|2008 Minnesota U.S. Senate Election|
|Margin of victory||312||0.011%|
|1977–1980||Saturday Night Live|
|1976||Tunnel Vision||Role: Al|
|1977||The Paul Simon Special|
|1978||All You Need is Cash||Role: Extra|
|1980||Grateful Dead: Dead Ahead||
|1981||Steve Martin's Best Show Ever|
|1981||Bob and Ray, Jane, Laraine and Gilda|
|1983||Trading Places||Role: Baggage handler|
|1984||Franken and Davis at Stockton State|
|1984||The New Show|
|1985–1986||Saturday Night Live|
|1986||One More Saturday Night||Role: Paul Flum|
|1987–1995||Saturday Night Live|
|1994||When a Man Loves a Woman|
|1995||Stuart Saves His Family||Role: Stuart Smalley|
|1997||3rd Rock from the Sun||Episode: "Dick the Vote"|
|1997||The Larry Sanders Show||Episode: "The Roast"|
|1998||From the Earth to the Moon||
Role: Jerome Wiesner
|2004||Outfoxed||Role: Air America host|
|2004||The Manchurian Candidate|
|2004–2007||The Al Franken Show||Host of radio talk show|
|2004||Tanner on Tanner|
|2006||Al Franken: God Spoke||Documentary|
- The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: The Truth About Corporate Cons, Globalization, and High-Finance Fraudsters with Greg Palast (2004)
- The O'Franken Factor Factor — The Best of the O'Franken Factor
- The Al Franken Show Party Album
CDs and compilations
- I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!: Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley (Dell Books, 1992) ISBN 0-440-50470-8
- Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations (Delacorte Press, 1996) ISBN 0-385-31474-4
- Why Not Me? (Delacorte Press, 1999) a parody-journal of the fictional “Franken campaign” for President ISBN 0-385-31809-X
- Oh, the Things I Know! A Guide to Success, or Failing That, Happiness (Plume Books, 2003) ISBN 0-452-28450-3
- Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right (Dutton Books, 2003) ISBN 0-525-94764-7
- The Truth (With Jokes) (Dutton Books, 2005) ISBN 0-525-94906-2
Books and CDs
- Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
- Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
- Committee on Indian Affairs
- Committee on the Judiciary
The Associated Press has noted that contrary to expectations, Franken has not sought out the media spotlight: "He rarely talks to the Washington press corps, has shed his comedic persona and focused on policy, working to be taken seriously." In interviews he has expressed his desire to be known for focusing on constituency work, keeping his head down and working hard.
When Franken declared his intention to seek re-election in 2014, his seat was thought to be a top target for the Republicans due to his very slim margin of victory in the previous election. However Politico reported that his high approval rating, large war chest, and the Republicans' struggle to find a top-tier candidate meant that he was a "heavy favorite" to win re-election, a view subsequently confirmed in the election, which Franken won comfortably.
The National Journal reported in 2013 that Franken supports the National Security Agency’s data mining programs, believing they have saved lives, and that "I can assure you, this is not about spying on the American people.”
In August 2010, Franken made faces and hand gestures and rolled his eyes while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell delivered a speech in opposition to the confirmation of Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court. Franken's actions prompted McConnell to remark, "This isn't Saturday Night Live, Al." Following Kagan's confirmation, Franken delivered a handwritten apology to McConnell and issued a public statement saying that McConnell had a right "to give his speech with the presiding officer just listening respectfully."
In May 2010, Franken proposed a financial reform legislation amendment which would create a board to select which credit rating agency would evaluate a given security; currently any companies issuing a security may select which company evaluates the security. The amendment was passed; however, the financial industry lobbied to have Franken's amendment removed from the final bill. Negotiations between the Senate and House, whose version of financial reform did not include such a provision, resulted in the amendment's being watered down to require only a series of studies being done upon the issue for two years. After the studies, if the Securities and Exchange Commission has not implemented another solution to the conflict of interest problem, Franken's solution will go into effect.
Citing the case of Jamie Leigh Jones, Franken offered an amendment to the 2010 Defense Appropriations bill that would withhold defense contracts from companies that restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court. It passed the U.S. Senate in November 2010, 68 to 30 in a roll-call vote.
During the debate on health care reform, Franken was one of the strongest supporters of a single-payer system. He authored an amendment, called the Medical Loss Ratio, to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that required insurance companies spend at least 80% of premiums on actual health care costs, rising to 85% for large group plans. In June 2013, it was reported that the amendment had saved consumers $3.4 billion on premiums and resulted in nationwide rebates of $1.1 billion in 2012 and $500 million in 2013. On September 30, 2013, Franken voted to remove a provision which would repeal the medical device tax in Obamacare from a government funding bill. Although Franken says he is in favor of the provision, he disagreed with it being used as a condition in preventing the 2013 federal government shutdown.
A video began circulating on the Internet of Franken at the Minnesota State Fair on September 2, 2009, engaging in a discussion with a group of Tea Party protesters on health care reform, and soon went viral. The discussion was noted for its civility, in contrast to the explosive character of several other discussions between members of the 111th Congress and their constituents that had occurred over the summer.
On August 6, 2009, Franken presided over the confirmation vote of Sonia Sotomayor to be an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. A year later, on August 5, 2010, Franken presided over the confirmation vote of Elena Kagan. His first piece of legislation, the Service Dogs for Veterans Act, which he wrote jointly with Republican Johnny Isakson, passed the Senate with unanimous consent, and established a program with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs to pair disabled veterans with service dogs.
Franken was sworn into the Senate on July 7, 2009, 246 days after election. Franken was sworn in with the Bible of late Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone, whose old seat was set aside by Senate leaders for Franken.
Franken was re-elected to a second term in 2014. He faced primary challenger Sandra Henningsgard, winning the nomination on August 12, 2014. He won the election against Republican Mike McFadden with 53.9% of the vote.
On June 30, 2009, the Minnesota Supreme Court unanimously rejected Coleman's appeal and said that Franken was entitled to be certified as the winner. Shortly after the court's decision, Coleman conceded. Governor Tim Pawlenty signed Franken’s election certificate that same evening.
On January 6, 2009, Coleman's campaign filed an election contest, which led to a trial before a three-judge panel. The trial ended on April 7, when the panel ruled that 351 of 387 disputed absentee ballots were incorrectly rejected and ordered them counted. Counting those ballots raised Franken's lead to 312 votes. Coleman appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court on April 20. On April 24, the Minnesota Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. and oral arguments were conducted on June 1.
Preliminary reports on election night, November 4, had Coleman ahead by over 700 votes, but the official results certified on November 18, 2008, had Coleman leading by only 215 votes. As the two candidates were separated by less than 0.5 percent, the Secretary of State of Minnesota Mark Ritchie, authorized an automatic recount stipulated in Minnesota election law. In the recount, ballots and certifying materials were examined by hand, and candidates could file challenges to the legality of ballots or materials for inclusion or exclusion with regard to the recount. On January 5, 2009, the Minnesota State Canvassing Board certified the recounted vote totals, with Franken ahead by 225 votes.
During his campaign for the Senate, Franken was criticized for advising SNL creator Lorne Michaels on a political sketch ridiculing Senator John McCain's ads attacking Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election. Coleman's campaign reacted, saying, "Once again, he proves he's more interested in entertainment than service, and ridiculing those with whom he disagrees."
On June 7, 2008, Franken was endorsed at the DFL convention. In a July 2008 interview with CNN, Franken was endorsed by Ben Stein, the noted entertainer, speechwriter, lawyer and author who is known for his conservative views and generally supports Republican candidates. Stein said of Franken, "He is my pal, and he is a really, really capable smart guy. I don't agree with all of his positions, but he is a very impressive guy, and I think he should be in the Senate."
In late May 2008, the Minnesota Republican Party released a letter regarding an article Franken had written for Playboy in 2000 entitled "Porn-O-Rama!". The letter, signed by six prominent GOP women, including a state senator and state representative, called on Franken to apologize for what they referred to as a "demeaning and degrading" article. A Franken campaign spokesman responded that, "Al had a long career as a satirist. But he understands the difference between what you say as a satirist and what you do as a senator. And as a Senator, Norm Coleman has disrespected the people of Minnesota by putting the Exxons and Halliburtons ahead of working families. And there's nothing funny about that."
On July 8, 2007, Franken's campaign stated that it expected to announce that Franken had raised more money than Republican opponent Norm Coleman during the second quarter of the year, taking in $1.9 million to Coleman's $1.6 million, although in early July 2007, Coleman's $3.8 million cash on hand exceeded Franken's $2 million.
On January 29, 2007, Franken announced his departure from Air America Radio, and on the day of his final show, February 14, Franken formally announced his candidacy for the United States Senate from Minnesota in 2008. Challenging him for the Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party endorsement was Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, a professor, author, and activist. Other candidates were trial lawyer Mike Ciresi and attorney and human rights activist Jim Cohen, who had dropped out of the race earlier. Franken won the nomination with 65% of the vote.
During the 2008 election, New York state officials asserted that Al Franken Inc. had failed to carry required workers' compensation insurance for employees who assisted him with his comedy and public speaking from 2002 to 2005. Franken paid a $25,000 fine to the state of New York upon being advised his corporation was out of compliance with the state's workers' compensation laws. At the same time, the California Franchise Tax Board reported that the same corporation owed more than $4,743.40 in taxes, fines, and associated penalties in the state of California for 2003 through 2007 because the corporation did not file tax returns in the state for those years. A Franken representative said that it followed the advice of an accountant who believed when the corporation stopped doing business in California that no further filing was required. Subsequently, Franken paid $70,000 in back income taxes in 17 states dating back to 2003, mostly from Franken's speeches and other paid appearances. Franken said he paid the income tax in his state of residence, and he would seek retroactive credit for paying the taxes in the wrong states.
Franken favors transitioning to a universal health care system, with the provision that every child in America should receive health care coverage immediately. Franken objects to efforts to privatize Social Security or cut benefits. He favors raising the cap on wages to which Social Security taxes apply. On his 2008 campaign website, he voiced support for cutting subsidies for oil companies, increasing money available for college students, and cutting interest rates on student loans.
Franken initially supported the 
Franken said he learned that 21% of Americans received most of their news from talk radio, an almost exclusively conservative medium. Said Franken, "I didn't want to sit on the sidelines, and I believed Air America could make a difference." In November 2003, Franken talked about moving to his home state of Minnesota to run for the Senate. At the time the seat, once held by Wellstone, was occupied by Republican Norm Coleman. In 2005, Franken announced his move to Minnesota: "I can tell you honestly, I don't know if I'm going to run, but I'm doing the stuff I need to do in order to do it." In late 2005, Franken started his own political action committee, called Midwest Values PAC. By early 2007, the PAC raised more than $1 million.
According to an article by Richard Corliss published in Time, "In a way, Franken has been running for office since the late '70s." Corliss also hinted at Franken's "possibly ironic role as a relentless self-promoter" in proclaiming the 1980s "the Al Franken Decade" and saying, "Vote for me, Al Franken. You'll be glad you did!" In 1999, Franken released a parody book, Why Not Me?, detailing his hypothetical campaign for President in 2000. He had been a strong supporter of Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone and was deeply affected by the Senator's death in a plane crash shortly before the 2002 election. Wellstone was a mentor and political and personal role model for Franken, with Franken stating his hopes of following in the late Senator’s footsteps.
Political activism prior to election