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Bush, Cheney proceed with transition talks

CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) -- As a Florida circuit court heard arguments Saturday over 14,000 disputed U.S. presidential election ballots, Republican candidate George W. Bush met with two congressional leaders to work out details of his transition to the presidency.

"Dick (Cheney) and I felt like we won the first three elections, the first election three times, and we're confident that when it's all said and done that he and I will be honored to be the president and the vice president," Bush said. "That's why we're having these meetings."

Bush, the Texas governor, met with Cheney, his running mate, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert at his ranch. Bush and Cheney say they won the election, while Democratic candidate Al Gore is contesting the vote.

Bush was certified on November 26 -- after recounts in some counties -- as the winner of Florida's presidential vote. Gore has filed a lawsuit to try to compel two counties to complete manual recounts. Leon County Circuit Court was hearing arguments Saturday about the validity of thousands of ballots.

Republicans press ahead

Asked about Friday's arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on Bush's challenge to Florida's manual recount, Bush said, "We'll wait and see what they say."

Democrats have generally supported Gore in his challenge of the results certified by Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, which gave Bush a 573-vote margin of victory. The uncertainty surrounding Gore's contest did not stop the Republicans from acting as though the matter had been all but decided in Bush's favor.

"I can't think of two men that would be better positioned to help us as we go through this transition process," said Cheney about Lott, (R-Mississippi), and Hastert, (R-Illinois).

"I know that we hope and look forward to having the opportunity down the road to meet with counterparts of the other party too," Cheney said.

"We look forward to having the opportunity to work with you," Lott told Bush and Cheney. "The right thing, the responsible thing to do is to begin to talk about how to proceed from here."

'Good relations' predicted

Bush dismissed concerns that the partisan split in the Senate could make it difficult for him to get his legislation -- involving education, Medicare, prescription drugs, Social Security and the military -- through Congress.

Lott called the situation in the Senate, which may have a 50-50 split between the Democrats and Republicans, "very delicate." He said he discussed the situation with Cheney, and told him he would deal with the split "very gingerly, and with your vote."

In cases of tie votes, the vice president casts the deciding vote.

"This isn't a Republican agenda, a Democratic agenda," Bush said. He predicted he would have "good relations" with the Democratic leadership.

Bush said he spoke Friday with Sen. John Breaux, (D-Louisiana), and described the conversation as "just a general discussion about the state of affairs here in American politics."

Bush said there were indications some sectors of the economy, including the automobile sector, "may be slowing down a little bit. We hope this isn't the case."

He said he would be prepared to deal with problems. "The role of a leader is to anticipate, and to prepare a plan that will help keep the economy going."


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Saturday, December 2, 2000

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