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Congress wary of being called on to pick a president

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With continued uncertainty in the presidential election, the scenario that Democrats and Republicans most dread has become more likely: Congress may eventually be forced to choose the next president.

"We are a step closer to it now -- the doomsday scenario," said Sen. Tim Hutchinson, R-Arkansas.

For the past month, both parties have been researching the historical and legal precedents for Congress to determine the presidential race between Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush. If it comes to that, the legislative branch would be selecting the president for only the fourth time in the nation's history.

"It's not a good way to win. We have been given by the Florida Supreme Court a situation fraught with difficulty, no matter who is president," Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, said shortly after the state high court released its ruling authorizing hand recounts of Florida's so-called undervotes.

"It would be a mistake to be decided by Congress," added Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont. "It should be decided by the voters."

Most fearful are Democrats up for re-election in 2002 from states such as Montana, North and South Dakota, Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Georgia, which voted heavily for Bush on November 7.

"I'm hopeful that we will see a decision that is clear and decisive as this recount moves forward that precludes the next president being determined on the floor of Congress," said Democratic Rep. Cal Dooley of California.

One Republican Senator predicts that Congress may be able to count on an unlikely savior: the U.S. Supreme Court.

"While people thought we might settle the issue today, in the end this issue was going to end up in Washington across the street in the Supreme Court and I think that's where it will end next week," said Sen. Phil Gramm, a Republican from Texas.

Associated Press news material shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium.




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Saturday, December 9, 2000

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