CHICAGO (AFP) — Comic Al Franken formally won his battle for a US Senate seat from Minnesota, a victory that enhances Democrats' ability to enact US President Barack Obama's ambitious agenda.
Franken's victory, quickly hailed by the White House, would give Democrats and their two reliable independent allies the 60 votes needed to overrun any Republican efforts to use parliamentary delaying tactics, such as filibusters.
Obama's Democratic allies have a robust majority in the House of Representatives, so a unified, filibuster-proof Senate edge would deal a sharp blow to Republican efforts to block or force changes to major legislation.
Minnesota's Supreme Court ruled in Franken's favor after a months-long legal and political battle with Republican incumbent Norm Coleman over the results of the November 4 election.
Coleman quickly conceded and congratulated his rival, and the state's Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty signed the formal document certifying Franken's victory.
Pawlenty said the document would be faxed to the secretary of the US Senate and the originals would be sent overnight to Washington.
"I'm thrilled and honored by the faith that Minnesotans have placed in me," said Franken, who rose to fame on the legendary Saturday Night Live comedy show. "We have a lot of work to do in Washington."
The developments were expected to have far-reaching implications for Obama's push to approve legislation to fight climate change, reform US health care, and to win Judge Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation to the US Supreme Court.
Republicans looking to derail or modify Obama-backed legislation would likely target a handful of swing-vote Democrats who have indicated discomfort with some of the president's plans.
Obama said in a statement: "I look forward to working with Senator-elect Franken to build a new foundation for growth and prosperity by lowering health care costs and investing in the kind of clean energy jobs and industries that will help America lead in the 21st century."
At a press conference, Coleman conceded defeat and congratulated his rival.
"The supreme court of Minnesota has spoken," he said. "I respect its decision and I will abide by its result."
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement he hoped to seat Franken "as soon as possible," though that would likely have to wait until next week when lawmakers return from their July 4 holiday break.
Franken and Coleman waged a bitter battle for the Senate seat after a series of recounts handed the Democrat a victory of just 312 votes, prompting the Republican to challenge the fairness of the election and the recount's accuracy.
In a unanimous opinion, the court ruled that "Al Franken received the highest number of votes legally cast and is entitled under Minnesota statute... to receive the certificate of election as United States Senator from the state of Minnesota."
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