Clinton sets up transition council, but no aid yet
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With the results of the presidential election now before a Florida court and awaiting a U.S. Supreme Court hearing, President Clinton offered Monday to set up a special council to aid whoever is declared president-elect.
Clinton announced the move Monday during a meeting of his Cabinet, saying he was trying to "ensure that we are as prepared as we can be for an orderly transition to the new administration."
The move is largely symbolic at this point, while Vice President Al Gore contests the Florida decision awarding the state's 25 electoral votes to Texas Gov. George W. Bush. It also allows the White House to deflect charges that they are aiding Gore's effort to claim victory by denying Bush's request for help in providing money and office space for a transition.
Clinton said he had no involvement in a decision by the General Services Administration to withhold from Bush access to transition facilities until a winner is firmly established. The GSA will not provide funds "until the results are clear, and as long as both sides are going to court, the results are not clear yet," GSA spokeswoman Beth Newberger said.
The 1963 Transition Act gives the GSA administrator, not the sitting president, the power to decide which candidate may receive the transition resources. White House Chief of Staff John Podesta sent a memo to federal agencies on November 8, noting that transition assistance would not be available "until a president-elect is clearly identified."
Bush's running mate, former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, said Monday the campaign would seek private donations to defray the cost of setting up a new administration.
Clinton sounded a sympathetic note in comments Monday about his vice president's struggle to come out ahead in the Florida recount.
"It is easy to lose what is really important, which is the integrity of the voter -- every single vote," he said. "Every single person who voted had a vote that counted just as much as mine, and so they have to sort that out in Florida."
Bush, in an address Sunday night, urged Gore to put aside his challenge to the Florida results, which the vice president argues were incomplete.
"I think they are doing what they think the law requires while this
election challenge plays itself out. It won't be long now," Clinton said.