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Special Event

Election 2000: Senators Orrin Hatch and Patrick Leahy Discuss Today's Supreme Court Hearing on Presidential Election

Aired December 1, 2000 - 9:23 a.m. ET

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

FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: And you are waiting along with us for this remarkable event to commence: that is, arguments before the United States Supreme Court. They begin a little over a half an hour from now.

We will have people inside the courtroom. There will also be an audiotape rolling on this thing, and departing with tradition, when the event is over, that audiotape will be run out to a pool drop. That pool, which will share it with all interested networks and participants, will then distribute it. You'll be hearing it.

Now, we are joined right now by Senator Orrin Hatch and Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman and ranking Democratic, respectively, on the judiciary committee. They're outside the court, they're going to be going in today to listen. If they can listen to us now, we will start the questions.

Senator Leahy, first to you: Why are you there, and what are you watching?

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, I want to see what the court does. Obviously, this is a matter of great historical moment, as you've already said. But I also thought this is a time when we should probably lower the rhetoric, let the courts -- especially the supreme courts of Florida and of the United States -- make their statement. In fact, I think Senator Hatch and I, by coming over her together, wanted to express our bipartisanship and say, look, let's quiet down, let's settle back a little bit, and let the courts make a decision.

All of us would like to see something definitive that would allow this matter to come to an end. I would like to see something to allow all the votes in this dispute to be counted. Frankly, I wish that the day after the election, Florida had simply recounted the whole state.

SESNO: Senator Leahy, if it's definitive, though, and it goes against Al Gore, and the Florida Supreme Court intervention is, essentially, ruled out of order, is that it, as far as you're concerned, for Al Gore's candidacy?

LEAHY: You know, I don't want to predict what the Supreme Court does. If they make a definitive ruling, something like we saw in Brown versus Board of Education, something we saw in the Watergate tapes, then that is the final word. But it's hard to know just what they are going to do. We'd all like to have something definitive, one way or another. I would think that both Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore would like something definitive one way or the other. But It may be only into one part of the whole debate.

SESNO: I have spoken with some Democrats in here town, Senator Leahy, that said that, regardless of what happens, if somebody -- if a Republican is able to stand on the steps of the Supreme Court and say that inside this building, they, effectively, sided with George W. Bush, politically, it's over for Al Gore. Are you -- do you side with that perspective?

LEAHY: I'm not going to predict what the Supreme Court does or what comes out of it. I would like, as I've said before, a definitive ruling. I'd like to have the courts be able to speak. I respect the U.S. Supreme court; even when I've disagreed with them, I respect them. I respect the Florida Supreme Court, which is considered one of the best supreme courts -- state supreme courts in the country.

SESNO: All right, Senator Leahy, let's go to your colleague, and your chairman on the judiciary committee, Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican.

Senator Hatch, great to see you, thanks for spending a couple of minutes before heading in.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT), JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN: Nice to see you.

What are you listening for most, first and foremost, inside that building, today?.

HATCH: Well, I'm going to listen for everything. It ought to be one of the most interesting constitutional hearings in history, and I'll be very interested in what the judges have to say and, of course, what the advocates have to say in the courtroom. It ought to be a very, very interesting morning.

SESNO: And as far as the outcome is concerned, as we were talking with Senator Leahy, do you anticipate a definitive outcome, and if it goes against your candidate, the Republican, George W. Bush, then what?

HATCH: Well, it's a very difficult thing to, you know, to apprise at this particular time. I do expect the court to understand that their decision is probably going to be the definitive outcome in this matter. And if they uphold the Article Two, Section One in Title Three, Section Five, basically saying the Constitution the power to the state legislature, and you cannot change the rules after the general election day, then I think it would look -- it would be a final decision that, basically, would put a lot of pressure on Al Gore to withdraw.

But who knows? We'll just have to see. They could also even determine that this is a political matter that they don't have any right to intervene in, but I really think -- I really doubt that they'll do that because this is very important -- the issues are very important, the law is, in my opinion, very clear. And I just hope that they resolve this matter so with have finality.

SESNO: Finality, indeed, Senator Orrin Hatch, we thank you for you time, and your colleague, Senator Patrick Leahy, both of you on the judiciary committee, outside the Supreme Court now, headed inside.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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