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Text: Fla. House Minority Leader Reacts to Special Session
Wednesday, December 6, 2000

Following is the transcript of Florida House Minority Leader Lois Frankel's reaction to an announcement by Republican leaders of the state's legislature that they have called a special session to pick electors for George W. Bush on Friday.

FLA. REP. LOIS FRANKEL: Good afternoon.

This is a very sad day for the state of Florida and the Florida state legislature. We have just witnessed a proclamation of the ultimate partisan act. And I'm just sorry to see my Republican friends take this extraordinary action that is unnecessary, unfair and unjust. Six million Floridians went to the polls to vote, and this action is a blatant attempt to go around the will of those voters.

Sadly, I have to say that I believe this is orchestrated, and the only thing missing from the proclamation today was the postmark from Austin, Texas.

I want to say again that 77 House members and 25 Senate members should not be--I'm sorry, 25 Senate members should not be substituting their will for the will of six million voters.

Any questions?

QUESTION: What kind of tactics will the Democrats employ? Will you try to slow it down or legislatively with maneuvers or will you just fight it verbally in debate? Or both?

FRANKEL: I think that, you know, we will, with every ounce that we have and every breath that we have, with strong and reasoned voices, try to convince our colleagues that it's wrong. You will see most Democrats, if not all, voting against this resolution. But, quite frankly, they have the votes if they want to push it forward.

QUESTION: Do you think there are Democrats who will vote for this?

FRANKEL: I don't know. You know, we haven't counted votes. I know that they have enough members, one way or the other. I mean, there's no way that we can stop the votes.

QUESTION: Is there anything legally that can be done to stop a special session from convening?

FRANKEL: Well, I've heard from some lawyers that there is the potential of the action being enjoined. I don't know if that is--whether that's appropriate or not.

But I do want to say that the members of the House and the Senate received yesterday, from 37 constitutional scholars around the country, a very, very firm statement saying that this action, after a lawful election had taken place, would be illegal and unconstitutional.

QUESTION: Why?

QUESTION: ... the Republican leadership was saying that they were concerned about the long-term effects of this.

What do you see as the long-term effects of this action if it's carried through to the end and it leads to a new slate of electors than was elected?

FRANKEL: I think this will set a dangerous precedent for this country. What if any state legislature that was dissatisfied with the results of an election would call their members together to go around the will of their voters?

And I believe that would create a very chaotic situation in our electoral process.

QUESTION: What about the concerns they expressed, Representative, if they did not act? It's possible that Florida's 6 million voters will not be represented.

FRANKEL: Well, I can tell you again--and I have to reiterate the words of people far smarter than I and the really--the dozens of constitutional scholars who were not bought or paid for by anyone, who have said to us that you already have a certified election; the electors have been sent to the Archives in Washington, and unless/until Al Gore has certified electors sent in those place would there be any change in that status.

So there really seems to be no possibility that we will be without electors. But even with that said, what we have been told, as I said, by constitutional scholars who were not paid for by any one party, that once there has been a lawful election and the voters have made a choice, that the legislature has no legal authority to be involved in the election.

QUESTION: Lois, could Democrats boycott the session?

FRANKEL: No, Democrats should not boycott that, this session. We have, I believe, a legal duty, if there's a special session, to be here and the to be the voice of reason and to represent what I think are the millions of Floridians who would be against this legislature trying to decide the next presidency of the United States.

QUESTION: Leader Frankel, it's my understanding that Speaker Feeney had dinner with Jeb Bush last night and this topic, it's my understanding, was raised. Speaker Feeney, if I heard correctly, said in the past 24 hours he's had no contact with the Bush campaign, which implies he has before.

Is this action more objectionable to you because of those facts that this is being, sort of, connected to the Bush brothers, or is it no big deal, it's happening anyway?

FRANKEL: Well, let me answer it in two ways. Number one, whether Jeb Bush was our governor or not would be irrelevant as to my response, because I believe this is an unlawful action that we've been asked to take. And I think it is unreasonable and unfair to ask the Florida legislature to become the political arm of the Bush campaign.

I think it was obviously because of the connection of our governor and Governor George Bush, certainly the communications would be easier.

QUESTION: Lois (OFF-MIKE) to do this, in effect, why are they doing it?

FRANKEL: Well, I believe this. I believe that if, in fact, Al Gore gets some traction in the courts, if he's able to get his recount, and he wins as a result of that recount or something happens in the Seminole County case or the Martin County case, and where Al Gore would eventually be declared the winner, I believe that this Republican legislature has decided that they would not accept an election where Al Gore was certified the winner by the courts. And that they would want to send up another set of electors, and therefore, really, send to the Congress two sets of electors.

QUESTION: Are you telling us the situation, come Tuesday or Wednesday, that you could end up having two slates of Bush electors, if the courts haven't decided yet?

FRANKEL: Well, now I don't think the problem in the end, from a practical point of view, having two sets of Bush electors, probably would not be problematic. But, having a set of Gore electors and a set of Bush electors would be problematic.

QUESTION: Legally, you already have a certified slate officially.

FRANKEL: Yes.

QUESTION: Wouldn't this create a second slate, and then which one gets ranking (inaudible)?

FRANKEL: Well, my instinct is that they're going to just name the same electors. The problem's going to be, this action is going to be unlawful, but it's going to problematic if Al Gore eventually wins the election of Florida and we have two set of electors up there.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

FRANKEL: Yes. The question is, "What changed the urgency?"

Look, you know, I say this with a great deal of hesitation, because we all have to live together here in this state when you all go home. But I have said this from day one. I believe this is orchestrated. We are talking about a presidential election where the future of the world is at stake, where hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent. And, really, I think it would be naive to believe that the speaker of the Florida House and the Senate president are really calling the shots here.

I think that they waited as long as they could, in hopes that the courts may have decided in Mr. Bush's favor or that Al Gore would have conceded. And that hasn't happened. And I think what we see is just them following through something that they have predetermined.

QUESTION: You spoke about an action here in Florida. How serious are you about this?

FRANKEL: Well, it would not be an action that I would be taking, but I mean, I have heard that as a possibility.

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKEL: Pardon me?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

FRANKEL: Look. If anyone who thinks this would be--they threw around the term "conclusivity" the other day. I don't think anybody in America should think that any action by the Florida legislature would be conclusive, because I think it is pretty clear that it would be further litigated, and we would have another round of court challenges.

QUESTION: Lois, do you think that this action comes on this night because it's an effort to intimidate the state Supreme Court?

FRANKEL: Well, you know, this legislature--this Republican legislature has a history of a hate relationship with our courts. And, you know what? You're going to have to ask that to Mr. Feeney and Mr. McKay.

STAFF: Two more questions.

QUESTION: Does the legislature have--the Democratic side of the legislature have counsel on this issue? Have you hired lawyers?

FRANKEL: We have not--the House, we have not hired lawyers, but I can tell you that, you know, we have--there have been constitutional scholars around the country who have been watching these proceedings on television, who have contacted us, who have e-mailed us, and have spoken to our members and our Democratic caucus.

QUESTION: Strategically, would it be better for the Democrats, from your view, to, of course, argue verbally against this debate, but not use any means available by the rules of the House and the Senate to slow it up?

FRANKEL: I think we have to fight with every ounce of our strength against this. It is the wrong thing to do. It is circumventing the will of 6 million voters in this state. And it is just plain wrong for the Florida legislature to elect the next president of the United States.

I don't think we should be game-playing. I believe Democrats have a right and a duty to fight this hard.

QUESTION: Speaker Feeney referred to this giving the legislature a "short-term black eye," was his term. Would you agree with that?

FRANKEL: I would just--I think I would put an addendum to that. I think it's a long-time black eye. Because I'll tell you, I don't think the history books will treat us kindly.

That's it. Thank you.


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