With considerable cheer, Congress, following a constitutional requirement as old as the republic, counted electoral votes Wednesday
and Vice President George Bush, in a historical quirk, declared himself the winner of the presidency.In a 27-minute ceremony, the House and Senate met in joint session, counted the electoral votes state by state and found what had been expected - that Bush had won 426 electoral votes, while Democrat Michael Dukakis gathered 111 and Sen. Lloyd Bentsen had one.
As vice president, Bush had the duty to preside over the session and therefore found himself in the strange position of announcing himself as the winner of the race for the White House. That was also a historical oddity because Bush's win last November made him the first sitting vice president in 152 years to rise to the Oval Office by way of election. Martin Van Buren achieved the same objective in 1836.
Earlier, there was considerable laughter when one of the lawmakers given the job of counting the votes, Rep. Frank Annunzio, D-Ill., announced the six votes of Arkansas but did not say who won.
Bush, who carried the state, joked: "The chair wonders who won that one."
The electoral count also certified Dan Quayle as the winner of the vice presidency.
The Electoral College system is one that has sparked controversy almost since it was forged as a compromise by the nation's founding fathers.
Each state has the same number of electoral votes as it has members of Congress, and the winner of a state in a presidential election generally receives all of that state's electoral votes. However, because the electors are normally free to vote as they wish, there sometimes are variations, and this past election provided one of those historical quirks.
Based on the results of the Nov. 8 balloting, Bush won states worth 426 electoral votes and Democrat Michael Dukakis garnered 112.
However, when the electors gathered in state capitals to cast their votes for both president and vice president last month, one renegade elector in West Virginia rejected Dukakis and cast his presidential ballot for Sen. Lloyd Bentsen of Texas, Dukakis' running mate.
That meant the final tally for president left Bush with 426, Dukakis with 111 and Bentsen with one.
Bush, who will take the oath of office as president Jan. 20, swore in 33 members of the Senate Tuesday and was full of cheer - even as he and the lawmakers gave clear signs they could be headed for a budget clash.
After administering the oaths of office, four at a time, the president-elect patiently re-enacted the swearings-in one by one, enthusiastically posing for photographs with each senator and then usually with the senator's family.
However, beneath the smiles there were unmistakable signs that when Congress gets down to serious business after the inauguration, Bush may be in for a rough ride with the Democrats, who hold majorities in both the House and Senate.
Numerous members of Congress insist that the troublesome budget deficit cannot be substantially cut without new taxes, despite Bush's campaign pledge to the contrary.
Tuesday, however, Bush was steadfast in insisting that taxes would not be considered. "Funny, I've just talked to about 33 new senators and not one of them" suggested new taxes, he said.