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GOP waits for Gore statement after Supreme Court halts recount

(CNN) -- Texas Gov. George W. Bush prepared to speak to the nation Wednesday night as his fellow Republicans prepared for the increasingly likely debut of a new Bush administration in Washington.

Bush's speech was under preparation following Tuesday night's ruling by the United States Supreme Court that the statewide manual recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court was unconstitutional.

By a smaller margin, the justices found that the state court could set standards for a manual recount in Florida, where Bush held a lead of only 537 votes in official results -- but the court found that Florida officials had no time left to get the recount done.

Vice President Al Gore, Bush's Democratic rival in the presidential race, ordered his Florida staff to suspend operations Wednesday after reviewing the court order, and was expected to make a formal statement Wednesday evening at 9 p.m. EST.

Neither Bush nor his top aides have yet made any public statement on the Supreme Court ruling. Bush planned to speak to the nation at 10 p.m. EST: He told reporters Wednesday in Austin, "We'll see what happens, thank you."

His running mate, Dick Cheney, stuck to the discussion of transition efforts as he visited Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

"Things are going well," he said. "I really don't have anything else I can give you at this time."

While many close to Bush hoped for and expected a concession from Gore, some expressed an unusual sort of sympathy for Gore's plight.

  TUESDAY'S U.S. SUPREME COURT OPINION
Read the U.S. Supreme Court opinion in Bush v. Gore (FindLaw)

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Bush campaign observer James Baker reacts to the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the election recounts (December 12)

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CNN's Charles Bierbauer and Roger Cossack analyze the decision (December 12)

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"The Bush family understands how hard losing can be," said one source. "It is time to be gracious and begin healing."

But other Republicans, like Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, called on the vice president to concede Wednesday.

"I would urge him to do that without much more delay," Collins told CNN. "He is really going to determine his legacy by how he approaches the task of unifying the country, and I know it's been very difficult for the vice president, but this has been a very close election. I would urge him to do the right thing, put the interests of the country first and concede today."

Once the campaign was over, Collins said she was confident that a Bush administration would be able to forge ahead even in a Congress split nearly evenly.

"I'm very optimistic that we're going to be able to forge bipartisan compromises on a host of important issues ranging from modernizing Medicare to reforming our education system," she said. "We're working with a group of centrist Democrats, and I think we'll be very valuable to our next president, George Bush."

Added Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi "I would expect Vice President Gore to step up to this task and do what's necessary and say what needs to be said as he can best determine." In the meantime, Lott said, "I pledge my full cooperation to help Governor Bush bring the country together and get our new government in place."

Republican national chairman Jim Nicholson said the GOP was "cautiously optimistic" that the ruling would end the five-week-old election dispute.

"I think we're in kind of a wait-and-see attitude, trying to fully digest this opinion, but feeling optimistic -- particularly good that seven out of those nine justices found that the Constitution was not being followed," Nicholson said.

Bush had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the recount once and for all, a decision that would award him Florida's 25 electoral votes and make him the first president since 1888 to win the office without winning the popular vote. Gore had asked the high court to let the recount go forward, allowing every valid vote to be counted.

CNN Correspondent Jeanne Meserve and CNN.com Writer Matt Smith contributed to this report.


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Wednesday, December 13, 2000

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