- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 30, 2000

House Republican leaders have called President Clinton's transition manager to a congressional hearing to defend his denial of $5.3 million in presidential transition funds to the Bush-Cheney team since Florida's vote certification.

General Services Administrator David J. Barram has refused to release the funds appropriated by Congress until Vice President Al Gore has exhausted his legal challenges to the Florida outcome, which pushed Republican George W. Bush over the needed 270 electoral votes to become president Jan. 20.

"While it was perhaps justified to withhold these funds pending the outcome of the Florida election, the Florida election results were certified on Nov. 26, with Gov. George W. Bush being declared the winner," the Republican chairmen of the House Appropriations and Government Reform subcommittees told Mr. Barram in a letter Tuesday.

"The committees believe the transition funds should be released immediately," Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona, the Appropriations panel chairman, and Rep. Steve Horn of California, the government reform subcommittee chairman, wrote in their letter to Mr. Barram.

They said the GSA administrator's continuing refusal to finance the government changeover "jeopardizes the ability of the president-elect to implement an effective transition" and may violate the law.

The two panels have called a joint hearing Monday on Capitol Hill to grill Mr. Barram and hear from leaders of prior transitions for former presidents going back to Jimmy Carter.

A presidential transition law, enacted by Congress after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, requires the GSA administrator "to ascertain the apparent successful candidates" for president and vice president and release transition funds to an incoming administration following a national election.

In their letter, the congressmen said, "For the purposes of the Presidential Transition Act, the certification of the vote in Florida and the awarding of a majority of the electoral votes to Gov. George W. Bush makes [him] the apparent successful presidential candidate. Does GSA agree or disagree? Why or why not?"

GSA released a statement Nov. 27 that the election results were still not clear, despite the Florida vote certification. "Today, both sides are continuing with their stated plans to seek legal remedies with respect to this election so the outcome remains unclear and unapparent," the statement said.

House members discussed the possibility of an unclear election outcome during debate on the transition legislation on July 25, 1964.

Rep. H.R. Gross, a conservative Republican from Iowa, said some states have independent electors, even though they may be pledged to a particular candidate, according to the Congressional Record proceedings.

Mr. Gross asked whether "those designated by the present administrator of the General Services would be given psychological and other advantages by designating them as president and vice president?"

Rep. Dante Fascell, Florida Democrat and floor manager for the transition legislation, responded: "I do not think so because, if they were unable at the time to determine the successful candidates, this act would not be operative. Therefore, in a close contest, the administrator simply would not make the decision."

Mr. Fascell said nothing in the presidential transition law required the GSA administrator "to make a decision that, in his own judgment, he could not make. If he could not determine the apparent successful candidate, he would not authorize the expenditure of funds to anyone; and he should not."

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