Text: Sen. Joseph Lieberman
Thursday, November 30, 2000; 1:36 PM
Following is the
transcript of a news conference held by Democratic vice presidential candidate
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, following a meeting with Vice President Al Gore at the
LIEBERMAN: Good afternoon. It's a pleasure to be here.
I wanted to make a comment on one aspect of the continuing developments in
Florida which really does trouble me, and then I'll be glad to try to answer
a couple of questions if you'd like.
I am very disappointed and disturbed about the continuing movement by the
Florida legislature, now encouraged by Governor Jeb Bush, to consider choosing
their own slate of electors after almost six million people in Florida voted
on Election Day.
We all know, of course, it was an extremely close election. That is the subject
of the court deliberations that are going on now. There is a process that the
Florida Supreme Court has established, which we are involved in, which is all
aimed at having a decision here which will legitimately produce electors from
Florida in time for those electors to participate in the Electoral College vote.
And for the Republican majority in the Florida legislature, now unfortunately
encouraged by Governor Jeb Bush, to say that they are prepared to put their
judgment in place of the judgment of the six million voters of Florida, as it
is expressed in a process that has been ordained by the highest court of Florida,
is just wrong and sets a terrible precedent.
Because I do think it invites in future elections legislatures in a state
that are controlled by a party other than the party of the presidential candidate
that has carried that state to look for a reason to overturn the will of the
people as expressed in the election and to replace the electors chosen by the
people with their own slate of electors.
I'm not speaking this afternoon as a lawyer, but I've taken a quick look at
the federal statute that the Florida legislature seems to be basing its action
on, and I just don't think it contemplated this kind of situation.
I think what is contemplated is a very unusual circumstance, hard to imagine,
where there might be no electors chosen by a given state on the date set as
the Election Day. And then the legislature of a state is authorized by federal
statute to come up with a new way to select electors, so that the state will
not be unrepresented in the Electoral College.
Now that is not what has happened in Florida this year. And I do think this
action by the Florida legislature really threatens the credibility and legitimacy
of the ultimate choice of electors in Florida. It threatens to put us into a
constitutional crisis, which we are not in now by any stretch of the word. And
I just want to appeal to Governor Jeb Bush and the members of the Florida legislature
to reconsider this action.
We know there's a lot of emotion swirling around the election and the results
in Florida, but we're talking here about the integrity of the selection of a
president of the United States. We're talking about history and the precedent
that everything we do this year will set for those who follow us in years ahead.
I just think it would be a terrible mistake for our country if the Florida legislature
and Governor Bush went ahead and did what they said they're going to do. And
I hope they'll reconsider.
QUESTION: Senator, what evidence do you have that Governor Bush is encouraging
this? He has said that he would sign the legislation (OFF-MIKE)
LIEBERMAN: Let me just say that I thought that Governor Bush--Governor Jeb
Bush--under the circumstances did the right thing and set a very strong precedent
for his own action in this case when he recused himself as a member of the statewide
board that considers and certifies the results of the election in Florida.
And therefore, I was surprised, and I base all this on a statement that I
have read and saw repeated on television in which the governor--I forgot the
exact words--but praised those who were considering taking this action in the
Florida legislature to choose an alternative set of electors, and apparently
indicated that he would sign the bill.
He's the governor, and I hope that he will act in a way that will not put
us into the kind of constitutional crisis that in this very unusual, unprecedented
time in American history we have avoided. And I hope we can continue to avoid
Again, Vice President Gore and I are only asking that the votes that were
cast on Election Day be counted. And when that is done, regardless of the outcome,
this will be over.
QUESTION: When you say, according to your reading of the statute, if the Florida
legislature acts after December 12 there is no problem. Why would it be a crisis
if they did act after the 12th? And how can you be certain now that this won't
be resolved before the 12th, and there may not be a slate of electors?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I would say that we are on a course here, which is ordained
by Florida law, and in accord with the decision of Florida's highest court,
the Florida Supreme Court, which in my opinion, will produce a result in the
Florida election and will produce a group of electors that will be legitimately
And to threaten this kind of end run, if you will--I can't think of a more
elegant term for it at the moment--around that process, is not right. It's not
the kind of temperate action that we ought to have.
In America, when we have disputes, when people feel the government has done
something wrong, we go to court and we go to our system of justice. And that's
what we've done now.
QUESTION: ... before the 12th, is it not? It's only an end run if they act
before the 12th. They're just saying they're preparing themselves in the eventuality
that there's no slate available on the 12th.
LIEBERMAN: Well, I think their action may be motivated more by their concern
about what slate and what candidate that slate would favor, rather than there
will be a slate of electors in Florida. I believe that there will be a slate
of electors. That's the clear focus of the intention of the Florida Supreme
Court. That was one of the areas that the justices of the Florida Supreme Court
focused on in a hearing held a couple of weeks ago. And there's just no reason
to expect any other result.
So to set this precedent, which will appear to be a very partisan precedent--look,
this was an election. It's a partisan matter. But we bring it to the courts
for independent judgment.
And to take it back to the political body, a legislative body, with a clear
partisan majority there, takes us down a road that regardless of which side
we're on in this election, America ought not to want to go down.
STAFF: Thank you very much.
LIEBERMAN: Thank you.