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Congressional Republicans 'digging in' for the long haul on Florida recount

Most see post-court battle in Florida legislature, not Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The ruling by the Florida Supreme Court to allow hand recounts in the state's final tally of votes has strengthened the resolve of congressional Republicans to fight what one called the "cut-throat" tactics of the Gore campaign.

But Republicans also are saying that if Vice President Al Gore wins the state -- and with it the White House -- it may be more effective to challenge the Florida electoral votes in the GOP-controlled Florida legislature than in the narrowly divided U.S. Congress.

Congressional sources say rank-and-file Republicans are "digging in their heels" and remain "united" in a "higher willingness to proceed forward," after what they described as the Florida Supreme Court's partisan decision.

Sen. Pete Domenici  

"It truly was obvious that this court was joining in an effort to try to take this election away from Governor [George W.] Bush," said Sen. Pete Domenici, R-New Mexico.

Domenici said the solid support for Bush among Senate Republicans was apparent during a conference call of 15 senators and Bush campaign officials. Domenici said there was a unified sense of outrage he had not seen before.

Congressional Republicans said they fully expect the Republican presidential nominee "to pursue every avenue in the courts and the Florida state legislature" to win the election.

Several GOP congressional sources said it was too early to know if Congress would assert its constitutional power to block Florida's 25 electoral votes if they are awarded to Gore. Others said they wanted to see the Florida legislature strategy play out first.

A Democratic leader, Rep. Martin Frost of Texas, warned Republicans against using the Florida legislature to turn the election.

Rep. Martin Frost  

"Nothing could be worse for the country right now than that type of cynical, dangerous partisanship," Frost said.

Several members on both sides of the aisle have been studying consitutional options that could result in the House electing the president and the Senate electing the vice president.

One Republican aide told CNN the GOP is concerned it will not have the majority in the Senate needed to block the electoral votes because Washington State Senate Democratic candidate Maria Cantwell is leading Republican incumbent Senator Slade Gorton in a lengthy vote counting process still under way in that state.

If Cantwell wins, the new Senate will be split 50-50 giving the tie breaking vote to Vice President Al Gore who would still be President of the Senate January 5th when congress is required to approve the electoral tally.

"A lot of things still have to happen," one aide who has been examining Congress's constitutional duties said. "There will be a recount and certification. There's the state legislature, will they be silent? All that has to happen before Congress seriously considers its role."

"But yesterday's decision motivated our base to redouble our effort to make there this was done in a proper way," he said.

"January 5th is a lifetime away right now," another aide said. "Our resolve has grown everyday. Last night made people very, very angry."


Wednesday, November 22, 2000



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