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Florida electoral battle reverberates on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill rallied around their parties' presidential candidates Tuesday as the battle for Florida's crucial 25 electoral votes played out in the state courts.

After a visit from William Daley, the campaign chairman for Democratic Vice President Al Gore, congressional Democrats reiterated their support for the vice president's plan to pursue all legal options to guarantee a full recount of votes.

"Are we willing to accept an approximation of who the voters actually wanted, or are we going to insist that every reasonable step to determine who the voters actually wanted be taken?" Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh asked. "I clearly think it needs to be the latter. That's the very foundation upon which our democracy is based."

Sen. Tom Harkin  

Senator-elect Bill Nelson, the Florida Democrat elected last week to replace retiring Sen. Connie Mack, gave Democratic senators a rundown on Florida state law and the history of recounts before Daley arrived to brief the group.

Several Democratic senators argued that all of Florida's presidential ballots should be recounted, reflecting their belief that more voters in the Sunshine State cast ballots for Gore on Election Day.

"If we can have a real recount in every county, it may take a few weeks, but it's worth it," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.

Many Democrats said that recounts are a routine part of the nation's election process, and the presidency should be treated no differently than other contested seats.

Sen. John Breaux  

"Recounts are provided by the law. We need to make sure we follow the law," said Sen. John Breaux, D-Louisiana. But Breaux repeated his concerns about legally challenging questionable votes in Palm Beach County due to confusing or faulty ballots.

In terms of the timing, lawmakers from both parties said that neither side needed to concede yet. But former Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, speculated that public patience could wear thin if the election drags on without a conclusive result.

"I do believe that there has been a lot of patience, but at some point we will run out of patience with this thing," said McCain. "Whatever party is seen as needlessly dragging out this thing will suffer the consequences."

"We're not in a constitutional crisis," he added. "...But if it continues to drag out, particularly with litigation, I think both parties could suffer."

Sen. Orrin Hatch  

Senate Republicans said that the Gore campaign was employing the recount strategy to engineer the final results that favor the vice president over Republican nominee George W. Bush.

"When you have no evidence of impropriety, no evidence of fraud ... to just count and count until someone wins one way or the other just isn't the way to do it," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

As Daley met with Democrats, Senate Republicans were given a pep talk and update on proceedings from a staff liaison from the Bush campaign at the GOP's weekly policy lunch. To show solidarity with the GOP presidential contender, Republican Senate staffers sported tiny red, white and blue ribbons on their lapels calling for "Justice for George."


Tuesday, November 14, 2000



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