WASHINGTON – As tensions rise in the U.S. Senate over President Donald Trump’s nominations, Sen. Al Franken on Wednesday sparred repeatedly with Sen. John Cornyn in a Judiciary Committee hearing as the Minnesota senator tried to criticize Cornyn’s fellow Republican and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
Franken has been a critic of the Republican attorney general nominee, Sen. Jeff Sessions, and is planning to vote against him. At a hearing last month, Franken confronted Sessions about a questionnaire the Alabama senator filled out as AG nominee, with Franken charging that Sessions exaggerated his leadership and involvement in 1980s-era civil rights cases.
Cruz later called out Franken, saying he thought it was rude. Franken was not present when Cruz made those comments.
“Sen. Cruz misrepresented what happened,” Franken said. “So I would like to take the opportunity to set the record straight.”
Cornyn interrupted him, pointing out that Cruz was not in attendance to respond.
“Well, he should be here, first of all,” Franken shot back. “And, secondly, he disparaged me, senator.”
The back-and-forth continued. “I object to the senator ... I object to disparaging a colleague on this committee and in particular in the colleague’s absence. It’s untoward and it’s inappropriate and I object.”
Franken noted that he, too, was absent when Cruz criticized him. The committee’s chairman, Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, tried to intervene. He told Franken he could finish his remarks.
Franken continued, again critical of Cruz. Cornyn interrupted him and said he objected again.
“The senator apparently can’t get the message from the chairman,” Cornyn said.
“I think the senator from Texas doesn’t get the message from the chairman,” Franken replied.
“You’ve put the chairman at an awful bad position at this point. Could you please leave personalities out of it?” Grassley said.
Cruz eventually showed up, and the committee voted along party lines to advance Sessions’ as attorney general to the full Senate floor.
Allison Sherry • 202-383-6120