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Special Event

Rep. Johnnie Byrd Addresses Florida Legislative Committee Considering Special Session to Appoint Presidential Electors

Aired November 30, 2000 - 11:29 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: As we talk about what might happen at the Supreme Court, let's look at that incredible journey that's being taken by the ballots from Palm Beach County on their way north to Tallahassee. These are the 462,000 ballots cast by voters in Palm Beach on their way to Tallahassee to be ready on standby in case a judge there decides he will go ahead and permit another count of those ballots. All of this in anticipation of that possibility, but there's no guarantee anything will happen there.

And when they arrive in Tallahassee, they will find separate from this action but just as important to the outcome of this election the legislators there discussing whether to hold a special section -- session in which they would choose a whole new slate of electors to send to choose a president.

Let's turn now to Bill Hemmer and Mike Boettcher, who've been following along as legislators meet to discuss whether to go ahead with that session -- gentlemen.

HEMMER: Stephen, thanks again. A lot of moving parts in this story. One of the parts that continues to move is the special committee regarding that potential, again, for a special session next week.

MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And they're having testimony now. Rep. Johnnie Byrd, who is the co-chair of the committee, is now speaking -- a Republican.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

REP. JOHNNIE BYRD (R), FLORIDA STATE HOUSE: It was a daunting task. And it was before the day of the infomercials, members. They had to do it a little differently. They did it through the Federalist Papers. It was a sales manual for the Constitution of the United States of America. And in this scheme, they knew that they must inextricably juxtapose the government of the United States of America with the government of the separate states. They knew that there could not be a president of the United States elected without consent of the legislatures of the separate states.

And it's self-evident. It only took two paragraphs in the Federalist Papers to set this out. It was a given. It was not even a point of controversy. They had gone through too much to make a mistake. And so it is, the president of the United States cannot be elected without the consent of the state legislatures.

Now, maybe as that faded into the mist of history, a hundred years later in the 1800s, in the 1890s, the United States Supreme Court had to pronounce that again in the McPherson (ph) case. And so it was pronounced again that our duty under Article 2 of the Constitution cannot be taken away, can't be taken away by the U.S. Congress, can't be taken away by the president of the United States, can't be taken away by the Florida Supreme Court, nor the governor of Florida. And we cannot abrogate that duty. We can't give it away. And I appreciate the wisdom of the Founding Fathers.

In sum, the experts that testified before the committee all agree that there is some risk, some risk that our votes may not be conclusive in the United States Congress. And it's a two-prong test. We've spent 95 percent of our time worrying about whether our votes will be determined in a timely manner by December the 12th. And I submit to you that it's a two-prong test.

And the second reason that our votes may be rejected by the U.S. Congress is probably more important for the long -- in the long run for this body, is whether or not the vote will be -- was determined by preexisting laws. And I'll give it the U.S. Congress, when they passed Title 3 of the U.S. Code that they probably looked ahead and saw that there's a natural temptation, after the votes are in, to change the rules. Everybody who misses a putt wants to putt again; everybody that misses a field goal wishes the goal was two feet wider. There's a temptation, a natural leaning toward mischief that happens if we begin to change the rules after the game is over.

And so it is that that is the great risk that we face...

HEMMER: Republican member of the house, his turn at the microphone now.

BOETTCHER: That is Rep. Johnnie Byrd, who is the co-chair, Bill. He plays a very important role.

After they finish this debate, they will have a vote at some point this afternoon in which they will recommend by a vote, we believe, of 8-6 -- eight Republicans, six Democrats -- to recommend to the house and senate leadership to call a special session.

HEMMER: All right, we'll continue to track it, let you know what we know, now Day 3 of this special committee meeting.

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