Making it Official
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KWAME HOLMAN: Vice President Al Gore was welcomed with warm applause as he entered the chamber of the House of Representatives Saturday morning. There may have been times during his Presidential campaign when Mr. Gore envisioned someday receiving such a greeting from a joint session of Congress gathered to hear him deliver a State of the Union address. But on this day, the Vice President, as President of the Senate, simply was fulfilling one of the duties of his office, overseeing the tally of results from the Presidential election and certifying its winner, George W. Bush.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: The tellers on the part of the two Houses will take their respective places at the clerk’s desk.
KWAME HOLMAN: Two members from the Senate and two from the House– two Republicans and two Democrats– announced the electoral results from each state as the Vice President looked on.
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD, (D) Connecticut: The certificate of the electoral vote of the state of Alabama seems to be regular in form and authentic, and it appears therefore that George W. Bush of the state of Texas received nine votes for President, and dick Cheney of the state of Wyoming received nine votes for Vice President.
KWAME HOLMAN: The controversy surrounding this past election made Saturday’s tally all the more intriguing, particularly when the winners of Florida’s 25 electoral votes were announced.
REP. CHAKA FATTAH, (D) Pennsylvania: This is the one we have all been waiting for. Mr. President, the certificate of the electoral vote of the state of Florida seems to be regular in form and authentic, and it appears therefrom that George W. Bush of the state of Texas received 25 votes for President, and Dick Cheney of the state of Wyoming received 25 votes for Vice President.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: Is there an objection?
KWAME HOLMAN: There was, from Florida Congressman Alcyee Hastings.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: Is the gentleman’s objection in writing, and signed by a member of the House of Representatives and by a Senator?
REP. ALCEE HASTINGS, (D) Florida: Mr. President– and I take great pride in calling you that– I must object because of the overwhelming evidence of official misconduct, deliberate fraud, and an attempt to suppress voter turnout.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: (pounding gavel) The chair must remind members that under section 18, title iii, United States code, no debate is allowed in the joint session.
REP. ALCEE HASTINGS: Thank you, Mr. President. To answer your question, Mr. President, the objection is in writing, signed by a number of members of the House of Representatives, but not by a member of the Senate. Thank you, Mr. President.
KWAME HOLMAN: But that didn’t stop 13 other Democrats, primarily members of the Congressional Black Caucus, from stating similar objections.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: Is the point of order in writing, and signed by a member of the House of Representatives and a Senator?
REP. CORRINE BROWN, (D) Florida: Mr. President, it is in writing and signed by several House colleagues on behalf of– and myself– the 27,000 voters of Duval County, of which 16,000 of them are African Americans that were disenfranchised in this last election.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: The gentlewoman will suspend.
KWAME HOLMAN: The parade of objections lasted 20 minutes.
REP. MAXINE WATERS, (D) California: Mr. Vice President, I rise to object to the fraudulent 25 Florida electoral votes.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: Is the objection in writing, and signed by a member of the House and a Senator?
REP. MAXINE WATERS: The objection is in writing, and I do not care that it is not signed by a member of the Senate. (Applause)
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: The chair will advise that the rules do care, and the signature of a Senator … (Laughter and applause)
KWAME HOLMAN: Through it all, the Vice President tried to remain businesslike, but he couldn’t ignore the irony of the situation in which he found himself.
REP. JESSE JACKSON, JR., (D) Illinois: And it is a sad day in America, Mr. President, when we cannot find a Senator to sign these objections. New Democratic Senators will not sign the objection, Mr. President. I object.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: The gentleman will suspend. The chair thanks the gentleman from Illinois, but — hey — on the basis previously stated, the objection is not in order.
KWAME HOLMAN: Finally, Congressman Hastings stood one last time to inform the Vice President his supporters had done all they could.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: (Laughs) The chair thanks the gentleman from Florida. (Laughter)
KWAME HOLMAN: With that, members of the Congressional Black Caucus quietly left the chamber. The vote tallying continued, and George W. Bush was certified as the President-elect without further interruption.