“YEARS”… It’s already astounding that the Norm Coleman-Al Franken Senate recount has taken this long to resolve. Franken has won the first recount and Coleman’s lawyers even acknowledge that he will win the case before the Minnesota Supreme Court when the verdict comes down shortly. But this is the first time I’ve heard the word “years” to describe the timeframe for resolution.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn is threatening “World War III” if Democrats try to seat Al Franken in the Senate before Norm Coleman can pursue his case through the federal courts.

Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, acknowledges that a federal challenge to November’s elections could take “years” to resolve. But he’s adamant that Coleman deserves that chance – even if it means Minnesota is short a senator for the duration.

The big question concerns certification of the election. Democrats say that the Minnesota Supreme Court will grant certification after their ruling, regardless of an appeal. Cornyn thinks that Minnesota will be unable to certify if Coleman seeks a review from the US Supreme Court on the matter. Of course, the real “decider” in this case may be Republican Governor (and possible 2012 Presidential candidate) Tim Pawlenty.

It could takes months – or longer – to resolve a petition for review from the U.S. Supreme Court and even longer if the loser before the Minnesota Supreme Court files a new case in a U.S. District Court.

What happens in the meantime could come down to Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican who was on John McCain’s vice president shortlist and is contemplating a run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012.

So far, Pawlenty isn’t saying what he’ll do once the court rules.

“The recent Minnesota Supreme Court decision indicated that an election certificate could be issued once the state courts process is complete,” said Brian McClung, a spokesman for the governor. “However, if one of the parties appeals to a federal court, a question will arise whether the federal court might stay the issuance of a certificate.

“We’ll see what the courts determine,” he said.

20 guesses what the guy who may want to top the GOP ticket in 2012 will decide.

I’ve been saying for a while that this recount battle obstructing Franken from the Senate was a sweet deal for Republicans. They get to expend some resources and shockingly little political capital in exchange for denying Democrats a key vote on issues like health care and energy and the Employee Free Choice Act. There was some hope that the “losers pay” law in Minnesota, combined with Norm Coleman’s campaign inadvertently revealing thousands of their donors’ personal information online, would make it difficult to raise the necessary funds to continue the court battle. However, a little-remarked-upon FEC ruling allows both candidates to return to former maxed-out donors to pay up to $30,400 per individual into a party recount and trial fund. Even PACs can give up to $15,000. So it would take a relatively small amount of wealthy donors to keep this going as long as possible.

What I cannot understand is why Coleman has taken such little heat for prolonging what by all accounts appears to be a losing battle, and for nakedly political reasons besides. Once the Minnesota Supreme Court rules in a matter of days, Democrats need to loudly call for Franken’s seating at every possible opportunity.

…Ian Milhiser at Overruled Blog has an interesting strategy for Franken – AGREE to let the Supreme Court hear Coleman’s appeal in an effort to fast-track the case.

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