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Election 2000: Sen. Chafee Discusses Agenda for Meeting with Cheney

Aired December 13, 2000 - 11:16 a.m. ET

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

DARYN KAGAN. CNN ANCHOR: Vice President Al Gore has suspended his recount effort in the state of Florida. With reaction to that, let's go to Capitol Hill and our Chris Black, who has reaction from both sides of the aisle -- Chris.

CHRIS BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Daryn, I'm standing here in the Senate Press Gallery with Senator Lincoln Chafee, who is a Republican from Rhode Island. He was appointed to the Senate seat last year after his father John died, and he just was -- he was just reelected to his first six-year term in the Senate.

But most important today, he's one of the moderates that Dick Cheney will be meeting with later today. The five moderate senators invited Cheney to have lunch with them.

Thank you, senator, for being with us today.

Tell me, why did you invite him to lunch and what do you hope to accomplish?

SEN. LINCOLN CHAFEE (R), RHODE ISLAND: Well, obviously, with the Senate divide 50/50, the moderate votes are going to be so important. But I think also that we have experience working with Democrats, and I think that is the message we'll give to the vice president, in order to work with the vice president. We have experience -- work with Democrats we have some experience in that, and that's going to be very, very important.

BLACK: Why will that be important, particularly important this next year?

CHAFEE: I think the public is so fed up with the gridlock in Congress, and Governor Bush did run on "I'm a uniter, not a divider," and we want accomplishments out of our Congress, we want some things to get down for our country, and they have to be done in a bipartisan manner. So far, it has just been partisan gridlock for the last several years, and we want to break beyond that.

BLACK: Now, there are very few moderates in the Republican Caucus, as you know. Do you expect that your role will change in this next Senate?

CHAFEE: Well, there's five of us, yes, there is not too many. Five moderate, most of us northeastern Republicans, and I think we're going to be important votes, and look forward to our meeting with Vice President-elect Cheney.

BLACK: On the House side, the Republican whip, Tom DeLay, has been very critical of House moderates that want to work with centrists over there. Do you expect to have that kind of problem with the most conservative Republicans here?

CHAFEE: Yes, I do assume there will be some tension, but the leadership will come from the top. If it's coming from Governor Bush, President-elect Bush than that will make all the difference. I think then the Republicans will fall in line, even the most hard conservative Republicans will fall in line, to get to the president's agenda.

BLACK: As you know, Vice President Al Gore is expected to at least withdraw from the race tonight, if not concede openly, in a televised address. What are you hoping to hear from him?

CHAFEE: Well, that's going to be a tough call for him. I'm sure the Democrats are tempted to have one more display of drama on January 5th, when the electors are presented to the joint session of Congress and to force some of the Republicans to vote for Governor Bush, those Republicans from Gore states, such as myself, to vote for Governor Bush in a hotly contested and highly visible vote. And so I'm sure that the temptation from the Democrats, and it's interesting to see whether Vice President Gore will concede, or really just give a tentative withdrawal and encourage that drama January 5th.

BLACK: Now, you come from one of the most Democratic states in the country, and from a state actually where I think Al Gore got his highest percentage of the vote.

CHAFEE: Yes, he did, yes.

BLACK: Representing those kind of people, what do you think would be best for Al Gore tonight?

CHAFEE: Well, I'm sure he's still thinking about his experience election night, where he conceded prematurely, and doesn't want to repeat that. I'm sure that's going through the back of his mind, what could possibly play out? I mean, we didn't expect the Florida Supreme Court to issue their decision, so what could possibly play out in his favor? I'm sure he's got some reticence because of that experience election day, election night.

BLACK: Thank you, senator. Daryn, that is Senator Lincoln Chafee, who is a Republican from Rhode Island, and one of the five moderates who will be meeting later today over lunch to talk about next year's legislation with Dick Cheney -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Very good, should be an interesting lunch indeed there. Chris Black, thank you very much.

Also we can tell our viewers for sure, Al Gore will address the nation at 9:00 p.m. Eastern tonight, that would be 6:00 p.m. on the West Coast. Of course, you will be able to see that live here on CNN.

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