Florida Legislature Halfway to History

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Florida state legislators debate the selection of electoral delegates

"I would hope that the United States Supreme Court may render moot what we did today," said Florida House Speaker Tom Feeney after orchestrating a 79-41 passage of a resolution anointing George W. Bush's slate of 25 electors as the people of Florida's choice.

Feeney, like the rest of the country, wouldn't have minded if the U.S. Supreme Court had swooped down from Washington to save him from this particular spot in the history of partisanship. But the bell never rang, and Feeney's House stayed right on schedule.

Two Democrats defected to the winning team. One of them, State Rep. Dwight Stansel, said his district's constituents, who went for Bush, were his conscience on this one. "If you don't listen to them, you'll be home," he said. "And somebody else will be listening to them." The other, Rep. Will Kendrick, said he voted with the Republicans to "do the right thing for the people we represent."

Republicans insist the resolution, which does not require Jeb Bush's signature in case he wants to recuse himself, is merely "an insurance policy," having been told by hand-picked constitutional experts that with litigation still simmering in the courts, Florida could go elector-free if they didn't step in.

Democrats call it a fix. "The only thing missing is a smoke-filled room," fumed Rep. Ken Gottlieb. "The special session is about accomplishing one goal and one goal only — to ensure that George W. Bush is the next president of the United States. This is brass knuckles partisan politics at its very worst." (To which Republican Rep. Carlos Lacasa replied: "Partisan politics is democracy in action. Rather than hiding from my partisanship, I will use it like a beacon to guide me in this vote.")

It'll be official by Wednesday afternoon unless the Supreme Court says stop. So far, Republicans say only Al Gore's concession can stop the Senate from following through on the House and making Florida's the first state legislature in history to name its own electors. The Supremes, from their lofty perch, may not be particularly rushed by that prospect, but if they choose they have until Wednesday afternoon to stop the clock. Feeney, for one, sounded ready to play along with the nation's biggest band.

"I hope the Senate does not render moot what we did today," he said, smiling, "but I hope the United States Supreme Court does."