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CNN International




Simple majority vote in Congress could overturn Florida decision

Gore and Lieberman could cast decisive Senate votes

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Members of Congress are examining constitutional procedures that will allow Congress to reject any or all electoral votes, by a simple majority vote in both chambers, when it convenes for a joint session January 6, 2001.

Gore, Bush

The constitutionally mandated session, which is typically ceremonial, could prove confrontational if members use the procedures to challenge Florida's disputed 25 electoral votes.

If that happens, Democratic Vice President Al Gore, as president of the Senate, and his running mate, Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Connecticut, could cast deciding votes in the Senate.

The 12th Amendment requires Congress to meet in joint session in early January following a presidential election to accept and tally the electoral votes, according to two memos -- one written by House Republicans at the request of Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, the other by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, for Senate Democrats -- circulating this week on Capitol Hill.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle claim that preparing these memos does not signal they intend to challenge any electoral votes.

After the state court session on Florida's hand recounts, Gore attorney David Boies spoke with the press (November 16)

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Punch-card ballots are notorious for inaccuracies. CNN's Brooks Jackson takes a look (November 16)

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Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman calls Harris' conduct 'troubling' (November 16)

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College students studying the election talk about the presidential fight (November 16)

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Watch all up-to-the-minute video of Election 2000

Jonathan Barron, a spokesman DeLay says his office prepared a two page memo on the subject at the request of several Republicans but said the congressman is not "recommending or pursuing the strategy."

A spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Missouri, criticized House Republicans, saying it is too early even to speculate about the process of challenging electoral votes.

"The House Republican members are not legislators, they're full-time investigators," said Gephardt spokeswoman Laura Nichols. "I guarantee if Bush wins we will not be hearing about this."

According to both memos, any one member of the House joined by any one member of the Senate could object to the disputed Florida electoral votes during the joint session. At that point, each chamber would meet separately to debate and vote on the merits of the objection.

Both chambers must agree to reject the electoral votes while only one chamber is needed to accept them, the Republican memo says.

If the Senate is tied, as it might be if Washington Democratic Senate candidate Maria Cantwell wins her still-unresolved race, Gore could cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate.

If Florida's 25 votes are rejected, neither candidate would be able to reach the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. In that case, Congress again would be required to settle the matter.

Each state delegation in the House would have one vote to cast for president and the delegations would not be bound to vote in keeping with the popular vote from their respective states.

However, Republicans have the edge because they have majorities in 27 state congressional delegations while Democrats control only 17. Four delegations have an equal number of Democrats and Republicans and two delegations are awaiting recounts in House races that will determine the make-up of their delegations, according to the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call.

The Senate, joined by Gore and Lieberman, would choose the vice president.

In addition to potential objections to electoral votes, Congress may also have to decide what to do if they do not receive any of the Sunshine State's electoral votes, or two sets are sent.

Rep. Bill Thomas, R-California, who chairs the committee that oversees federal elections, says he ordered up a study on the issue this week to be prepared in case the election is thrown to Congress, which he still thinks is doubtful.

"I really believe this issue will be settled in a way that the House of Representatives and the Senate will move forward more in a ministerial capacity than in a partisan legislative capacity, but our job is to find out everything we can historically, from a constitutional and legislative point of view so that we have the knowledge in front of us," said Thomas.

A spokesman for Leahy said the senator drew up the memo simply to explain the rules to his colleagues, something he also did during the impeachment proceedings two years ago.

The Senate Republican leadership is also quietly looking into the situation. "We're doing our duty to be ready to count the electoral votes," one aide said.


Thursday, November 16, 2000



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