TALLAHASSEE, Florida, AP
Florida’s Senate leader was considering dropping the Legislature’s historic effort to ensure the state’s electors would be loyal to George W. Bush in the hours after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a recount of the state’s ballots.
Senate President John McKay, who has urged the Legislature to proceed cautiously, was planning to decide Wednesday morning whether to call off plans for his chamber to vote on the pro-Bush resolution that was passed Tuesday by the House.
“It appears we have finality and perhaps our cautious approach has paid off,” McKay spokeswoman Karen Chandler said late Tuesday night after the nation’s highest court issued its opinion foreclosing on Al Gore’s last best chance to capture the White House.
House Speaker Tom Feeney put the resolution on a fast track in the House, which passed it Tuesday, but McKay and other Senate leaders hoped the Supreme Court would make the decision for them. They may have been granted their wish Tuesday night.
No state legislature has selected electors since Colorado did it in 1876. The last time the Florida Legislature picked an Electoral College slate was during the reconstruction of the south in 1868 when a Republican-controlled Legislature gave three electoral votes to Ulysses S. Grant.
Republicans muscled the Bush resolution, which would not require the signature of his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, through the House 79-41 hours before the Supreme Court decision. Two Democrats voted with the Republican majority.
“I would hope that the United States Supreme Court may render moot what we did today,” Feeney said after the House vote, but before the court ruled. “I hope the Senate does not render moot what we did today.” The wording of the House resolution includes a clause stating that the Nov. 7 election failed to determine a winner, a clause not in a version that cleared the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee on a straight 4-3 party line vote Monday.
Chandler said the Senate panel probably would hold a meeting scheduled Wednesday to take up the House resolution before the full Senate meets — unless the session is called off. Senate Rules Committee Chairman Tom Lee said the Senate, where Republicans have a 25-15 majority, probably would remove the clause before passing the House resolution. Both chambers must approve the same language for the resolution to be valid, so the House would have to meet again. Feeney told representatives to be prepared to reconvene Thursday.
During five hours of debate, the House defeated a Democratic resolution calling on the Legislature to stay out of the disputed presidential election by the same 79-41 margin.
Democrats accused Republican lawmakers of illegally substituting their will for that of the voters, while Republicans claimed Bush was the victor and that it is wrong to use different standards to determine a voter’s intent when recounting ballots by hand.